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A handmade holiday: How my neighborhood’s scrappy annual crafts fair became a seasonal tradition

Enchant Christmas, which features a light maze — such as this one, seen in an overhead view, in Arlington, Texas, last year — comes to Safeco Field starting Nov. 23. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

In a sea of company vacation celebrations, community-oriented crafts festivals just like the Phinney Neighborhood Affiliation’s Winter Pageant, operating 38 years robust, can convey us right down to earth.

For those who reside on Phinney Ridge, you realize the guts of the neighborhood isn’t one among its manifold espresso outlets or yoga studios, however the hulking light-blue constructing at North 67th Road and Phinney Avenue North that, together with an auxiliary brick constructing to the west, homes the Phinney Neighborhood Affiliation (PNA).

From the morning hours — when households swarm the playground and joggers cease to stretch — to nicely after most of us have headed residence from work or faculty, the PNA is a hub of fixed exercise. Its lights keep on lengthy into the night, because the sounds of line-dancing courses or orchestra apply echo into the neighborhood past.

The PNA is, actually, my neighbor — I reside virtually subsequent door and may see into it from my kitchen — and like one of the best next-door neighbors, it’s the right busybody hedge-talker. It all the time tells me what’s happening within the neighborhood, and its nighttime lights are a consolation.

Once I moved again to Seattle final April, I didn’t know the place I’d stay. I’d spent a part of my early 20s on Capitol Hill, however the noise and lightweight air pollution disrupted my sleep, and with the inflow of weekend crowds and stories of hate crimes, I not acknowledged it because the neighborhood the place I’d gotten my begin as a journalist years earlier than. I appreciated Georgetown, however it was too removed from North Seattle, the place my mother and father have made their residence for over 30 years. So I did what may be unimaginable for many single 31-year-olds: I made a decision to maneuver again to the neighborhood the place I grew up, mere minutes from my mother and father’ home.

Vacation Occasions Information 2018

Enchant Christmas, which features a light maze — such as this one, seen in an overhead view, in Arlington, Texas, last year — comes to Safeco Field starting Nov. 23. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

Enchant Christmas, which encompasses a mild maze — comparable to this one, seen in an overhead view, in Arlington, Texas, final yr — involves Safeco Area beginning Nov. 23. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

And once I noticed the condominium subsequent to the PNA — the property supervisor, it turned out, was pals with my fifth-grade instructor — I knew I’d made the fitting determination. I liked it. It was a studio, however an enormous one, with out the sterile look of the brand new builds within the neighborhood, and surprisingly low cost for the situation.

Now, searching on the PNA from my kitchen, I felt like I used to be waving to an previous good friend. I had spent my childhood strolling its traffic-warped stairs to drama actions or the upstairs artwork gallery, slotting quarters into the merchandising machine on the entrance for a coveted root beer, enjoying pickup basketball beside the playground, attending political conferences with my dad and searching ahead yearly to the vacation craft truthful that flooded the constructing with native arts and crafts every December.

As I took within the condominium’s dark-wood paneling, the odd previous fixtures and incongruous sweeping view of the Cascades over Inexperienced Lake, I felt like Nora Ephron falling in love together with her condominium on the Apthorp in New York Metropolis for the primary time. Solely as an alternative of a divorce, I’d been by way of one failed cohabitation adopted by a string of various roommates and a garret-sized basement condo in Portland, Oregon, the place my concept of vacation cheer had been consuming Rainiers in Christmas cans with my fellow alt-weekly staff after placing two problems with the paper to mattress within the area of 1 week.

My earlier houses had been shared, typically contentiously, however the condo subsequent to the PNA can be mine. Regardless of its proximity to my childhood house and all of the sense reminiscences that entailed, the condo can be the primary actual place of my very own. It might be a spot the place I might write and prepare dinner and skim, and, if I received lonely, I solely needed to look out the window on the blue constructing to see what the neighborhood was as much as.

A DIY sleeper hit

Even when I hadn’t grown up on Phinney Ridge, the PNA would in all probability nonetheless really feel like a second house. From the farmers market in summer time to the Día de los Muertos fundraiser for its bilingual preschool to the secular Phinneywood Phestivus celebration, and all method of group breakfasts and beer tastings, the PNA brings a decidedly Stars Hole vibe to this sleepy nook of the town sandwiched between Inexperienced Lake and Ballard.

However my favourite PNA custom is the Winter Pageant, an annual vacation craft truthful now getting into its 38th yr. (This yr it takes place Dec. 1-2.) As a child, I might climb the middle’s creaky previous stairs clutching a cup of scorching chocolate, able to admire all of the stuff that could possibly be felted.

My household finds my affection for craft festivals baffling, and I don’t blame them. Till the nonetheless comparatively current ascent of widespread craft festivals just like the City Craft Rebellion, on-line sources like Etsy and the reemergence of conventional crafts like knitting amongst city feminists within the early-to-mid-2000s, craft appreciation hasn’t all the time been a very fascinating pursuit. Earlier than Debbie Stoller made knitting cool once more, to say you liked craft festivals can be like admitting you had made small animals out of pony beads as a toddler, or boiled toothbrushes to make into bracelets as a rejection of your classmates’ capitalist choice for Claire’s. (I did each.)

However I’m not alone in my appreciation. In response to Ana Maria King, the PNA’s advertising director, between four,000 and 5,000 individuals attend the Winter Pageant & Crafts Truthful throughout its two-day run, making it one thing of a sleeper hit amongst extra ostentatious vacation fare; it’s come a great distance from its DIY origins. The primary yr, it was introduced as “kind of an ‘open home,’ ” stated King. “It was very properly attended, so we determined, why not make it a fundraiser?”

The Winter Pageant is simply one of many area’s quite a few vacation craft festivals, a pleasing, homespun various to all the garish entertainments that invade our theaters and group areas through the vacation season. I like a festive beverage and a Christmas carol as a lot as the subsequent Seattle child who grew up in a household of holiday-loving, religion-skeptical Christmas-and-Easter Unitarians. However one can solely see so many productions of “A Christmas Carol” — and even “The Santaland Diaries” — earlier than one dangers mixing some existential despair into one’s vacation cheer.

However in contrast to the customer’s regret that always trails Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchases, Seattle’s craft festivals are a refreshingly noncorporate strategy to ring within the season. You gained’t get a deal on a big-screen TV, however you’ll probably be reinvesting in your area people. Proceeds from the Winter Pageant go to the Greenwood Senior Middle, a tool-lending library and assets like baby care and scorching meals for people within the neighborhood, amongst different group initiatives.

King, who occurred to be sporting a hat she’d bought at a earlier Winter Pageant once I stopped by unannounced on a current weekday, stated that the PNA additionally makes an effort to maintain the pageant reasonably priced for distributors. It’s well-liked with them, too — annually, stated King, the PNA has to show candidates away, and retains a waitlist of alternate sellers.

This yr, 125 distributors — all from Washington — are slated to hawk their wares contained in the PNA’s two buildings the primary weekend of December. Of these, 87 have participated earlier than. King says she even hears from some distributors that they get extra gross sales out of the Winter Pageant than main touring craft festivals.

And since the group owns its area outright, the truthful has comparatively low overhead prices. Admission is simply $2 for members and $four for nonmembers, and attendees are inspired to convey food-bank donations as nicely.

It’s a labor of affection, stated King, and “you possibly can type of really feel that if you come to the occasion.”

A spark of vacation cheer

Like many youngsters raised secular, I grew up loving the vacations in an uncomplicated method. I beloved singing “Silver Bells” throughout my elementary-school vacation assemblies. I beloved going to go to my mother and father’ school buddies, who actually have been household, to mild candles on their menorah. I performed my mother and father’ Bing Crosby Christmas CD till they discovered the repetition unlistenable. I pressured my relations by means of repeat viewings of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Although my grandmother and I weren’t all the time shut — I’m among the many youthful of seven grandchildren — she was a champion with a spritz cookie press, and we might often see eye to eye over a mixing bowl.

However as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten more durable to disregard the hard-edge fact — that for lots of us, this time of yr could be difficult. The vacations may be lonely for many who don’t have shut household networks, fraught for many who do. It may be a season of impossibly excessive hopes for good household gatherings and obligatory togetherness. For introverts, for single individuals, for households divided over politics, it may be a minefield, a harsh collision between expectation and actuality.

It’s been a very long time since I might sing Christmas carols from one other period with out guile or self-consciousness, or take heed to Bing Crosby’s croon with out listening to the sorrow in it. My grandmother died my junior yr of school. I don’t know what occurred to the spritz cookie press.

However maybe as a result of it was by no means meant to be an enormous deal, or maybe as a result of a day spent wanting however not essentially shopping for stays uncommon in a season marked by rampant business exercise, a craft truthful nonetheless delivers a spark of vacation pleasure for me. There’s a quiet subversion in a vacation occasion that has nothing to do with any social obligation or predetermined consequence, however as an alternative invitations discovery.

So when the Winter Pageant arrives the primary weekend of December, I do know I’ll be strolling these worn stairs on the PNA, as soon as once more reveling within the probability to see what my group is making. I’ll pay my $four, decide up my cup of espresso and make the rounds, chatting with artists right here and there, and in doing so, proceed a vacation custom that’s older than I’m.

Then, once I’ve seen sufficient, I’ll stroll the few ft it takes to get house.


Phinney Neighborhood Affiliation 38th Annual Winter Pageant & Crafts Truthful, Dec. 1-2; 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle; $2/PNA members, $four/nonmembers; 206-783-2244, phinneycenter.org

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