Thursday, July 05, 2018

A childhood memory: The Methodist Church Christmas Fair

When I was growing up, our family attended the local Methodist Church.  Each year the church held a Christmas fair that I recall as the festive event which got all of us in a celebratory spirit.

There were some years, I remember, when my mother was heavily involved in projects to be sold at this annual event.  I 'm sure she was usually called upon to make plenty of her maple fudge, for which she was locally famous.  It was a very tricky recipe, and no matter how good a cook she gave the recipe to, the fudge would seldom come out right.  Boiling, candy thermometers, cooling to the exact right point, and then what seemed to be hours of beating were all required for the proper preparation of this delicacy.  Yes, it was delicious, and it certainly was a triumph for my mother to be able to produce something so difficult that no other living woman (other than the neighbor lady who gave her the recipe) had ever done.  But it always looked like a lot of trouble to me!

As I recall, the baked goods and candy table at the Christmas fair was usually presided over by a tiny, pink-cheeked, white-haired lady named Mrs. Hudson.  The candies, cookies, breads, and other goodies were always displayed so enticingly!  I remember in particular little spritz cookies in the shape of wreaths.  I think these were probably made by a Swedish woman who attended the church.  The little wreaths were decorated with green sugar and tiny bits of candied cherries, and always looked so festive to me.  When I grew up, I learned to make these myself.  You can find my recipe here: Christmas Wreath Spritz Cookies.

This table also held many different kinds of fudge in addition to my mother's maple variety.  I especially liked the look of the thick, pure white squares of divinity fudge, some of them topped with walnut halves.  Not being a fan of egg whites at that time, though, I didn't care for the taste.  It reminded me too much of meringue.

Along with fudge, my mother sometimes made crafts for the Christmas fair.  One year, I remember she made some lovely pins from mostly natural materials.  The base for each pin was a smooth oval of wood.  This was long before the days when such wooden shapes could be purchased pre-cut; my parents, as I recall, cut out the shapes themselves and then sanded them smoothly.  Then tiny hemlock cones, yellow tansy heads, and red-orange bittersweet berries were artfully arranged on the wooden base. We had tansy bushes nearby, but I seem to remember a family drive of quite some distance to locate the bittersweet!

Anothe year my mother made small coin purses for kids out of felt.  The purses buttoned closed.  They resembled kittens, and I think there may have been bunnies or puppies as well.

And once, there were some very intricate-looking Christmas ornaments made out of cardboard into sort of a three-dimensional diamond shape.  These were covered with felt and trimmed with, if I remember right, gold braid, sequins, and colorful embroidery.

I also thought I remembered making a fad of the 1960s called ice cube candles, but when I asked my mother about this some years ago, she couldn't remember it.  A quart milk carton was used for the mold.  One filled the carton with crushed ice, then poured in the hot paraffin wax.  This left the square finished candle full of holes.  They were quite interesting-looking.  I think a taper candle may have been secured in the center before pouring in the wax, thus providing the necessary candle wicking.

At the end of the Christmas fair every year, Santa Claus would come.  I can't remember if there was some sort of meal first, or not.  The Methodists were famous for their all-you-can-eat smorgasbord suppers, held every Saturday night throughout the summer.  So I wouldn't be at all surprised if, as I seem to recall, a supper like this was held at the conclusion of the Christmas fair.

Anyway, at the end of the evening we would all listen for the jingle of bells, and in would come Santa, ho-ho-ho-ing as he came.  Even though most of us knew it was really Charlie Morse, who owned the school bus company in town, he made a very convincing jolly old elf.  There may have been time, though I can't remember for sure, for very young children to sit on Santa's lap and have a Polaroid picture taken.

I know that there was time for photo ops throughout the fair, when kids could have their Polaroid photo taken with various Christmas props.  The photo at the top of the post is one of these, and so is the one just below.↓

And I think that every child received either a net bag full of popcorn or a popcorn ball, and a cute little cardboard box full of hard Christmas candy.  This is the kind of Christmas candy that is very pretty and colorful, but tastes all the same.

The boxes were decorated with holiday scenes and each box sported a little string handle similar to a shoelace.  I actually found a bunch of these unassembled boxes in my sorting at my childhood home, and have listed a number of them for sale in my Etsy shop, A New Hampshire Attic.

One year, I remember,  we all received tiny plastic manger scenes, sprinkled with sparkly glitter and made to stand alone or hang on the Christmas tree.  I still have mine.
Not my manger scene (I forget where I found this photo) but it looks identical.
Oh, it was such a very simple time, compared to today.  But the memories are wonderful.  It's really not surprising that there's so much nostalgia about the 1950s and early 1960s.  It was a much more innocent time -- and, in many respects, a happier time.

Thanks for joining me in a trip down memory lane!


  1. Oh my! What a wonderful trip! My family began tts church going in a Methodist Church before attending the Baptist Church. Loved reading about the specific wares and treats. Do you remember that 60s craft with Readers Digest, which when folded a certain way created a squat Christmas tree? Of course one had to spray it gold or silver and then decorate. 🎄

    Fun, fun post...

    1. Now how is it that I am just responding to these comments? Life was busy back in 2018 too, I guess!

      I do remember that craft and I think I remember seeing one of those trees back in the day. And Vicki (see comment below) remembers them too.

      How interesting that our families had similar journeys in our church going.

      I am so happy that you enjoyed this post so much!

  2. I remember the reader's digest trees that Vee mentioned in her comment! I also had the glittery nativity you showed in your post. What wonderful memories from childhood. I have similar memories!

    1. We sure do have similar memories! So much fun!

  3. those are such precious memories! Like you said simpler times but great times

  4. What a lovely trip down memory lane - I love church Christmas fairs.

    1. Thanks so much, Pamela! I am so happy that you enjoyed the trip.

  5. Anonymous10:22 PM

    That was delightful!


    1. Thanks, Les! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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