Over the past four decades I have celebrated Christmas in three U.S. cities, and in four countries on three continents.
My least favorite flavor of Christmas is the crass, commercial version I seem to experience here in the U.S. Black Friday, Cyber Monday... Yech! I find the U.S. version frought with obligation and expectation. Who do I have to give a gift to? Who must I send a card to? Rush, rush. Buy, buy. Wrap and stack and send and ... I end up frazzled and unhappy.
My favorite flavor of Christmas (so far) is the hand-made, gluh-wine, Weinachtmarkt German version. Granted, I lived in a very small town in Germany three decades ago. Perhaps Christmas in Berlin is very different. But in Jülich, I found it gratifying to focus on the beautiful hand-made gift-wrap and not just the gifts. It was lovely to sip warm, mulled wine while meandering through quaint outdoor markets packed with local artisans. Thoughtful, relaxed, meaningful shopping during the gift-giving season.
Buffalo actually offers markets like those I so fondly remember. Holiday Open Studios last weekend was reminiscent of that magical Christmas in Germany (and equally lacking in snow), right down to the scent of hot cider. But if you missed that annual tradition, don't despair. There are still several small, artist-oriented options coming up.
On Saturday (December 9) Buffalo Sem continues its traditional Holiday Bazaar on Bidwell Parkway in its elegant Collegiate Gothic style school building, and the annual UUCB Holiday Arts & Crafts Show takes place that same day in the historic English Country Gothic design Unitarian Univeralist church on Elmwood and West Ferry. The following weekend, there's the Western New York Book Arts Center's Last Minute Panic Holiday Marketplace, with its letterpress and broadsides and handmade cards (Friday and Saturday, December 15 and 16). Although these markets are all indoors, two are nestled in the heart of the historic Elmwood district, and the other is right on Buffalo's new Literary Corridor, on the corner of Washington and Mohawk. And don't forget about the historic Broadway Market, full of artisans and a chance to have a picture taken with Santa every weekend throughout the holiday season, featuring the annual Train Show on Saturday (December 16).
Still have shopping to do? Instead of a department store, why not head to the Burchfield Penney, the Albright-Knox or the Buffalo History Museum? Give yourself a cultural break and then quietly browse at the fabulous little gift shops hidden in these gems. For Buffalo-themed goods to make your favorite folks homesick, shop at Thin Ice or at any of the four BFLO Gallery & Gifts - these BFLO stores are one of the few good reasons I can find to brave a trip to a mall. The flagship BFLO store is at the Eastern Hills Mall, and there are now satellite locations in the McKinley Mall, the Boulevard Mall and at the Fashion Outlet Mall in Niagara Falls - but they're all 100% Buffalo.
Prefer to shop online but still want to buy local? Find lots of beautiful gifts cleverly disguised as books at BuffaloHeritage.com. There's something special for sports fanatics, just the right note for music afficionados, a look to our illustrious past for history buffs, treasures for BuffaLovers of every ilk (those who are here AND those who just wish they were), and plenty of delightful literary options for the little ones of every age on your holiday list. Books make great gifts!
Shop, but also stop. Take a break, bake some cookies and drop them off at the City Mission. Hang some spare mittens and scarves on a few trees in our parks for those in need. Stop by your favorite house of worship, just because. Take some time to share and give thanks.
'Tis the season in the City of Very Good Neighbors.