Point Loma church to bring European-style Christmas market to local shoppers and music lovers
If you love the traditions and crafts of Europe but don’t think you’ll be traveling to visit in person anytime soon, All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Point Loma has something for you.
The Christmas Marketplace and Festival previously was an additional draw for the Point Loma Christmas Home Tour, held for 70 years and known as the oldest Christmas home tour west of the Mississippi.
Now the focus is on the marketplace and holiday choral groups.
“We needed to reinvent ourselves and we wanted to go with our strengths,” said Mary Brown, chairwoman of the Christmas Marketplace and Festival scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3.
Those strengths include music, a campus providing a beautiful, child-friendly venue and some of the church’s own “master cookie bakers,” Brown said.
With many homeowners reluctant to host large crowds for home tours in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, event organizers started making changes.
“In 2020, we were already thinking about what we needed to change,” Brown said. “So in December that year, we did everything online.”
Using the website ptlomahometour.com, organizers presented a collage of home tour photos. The online Christmas Marketplace featured pictures, descriptions and prices of everything being sold.
That year’s event was billed as the “Christmas Home un-Tour and Christmas Marketplace.”
“Even though no one had to pay to use the website, we still had lots of donations,” Brown said.
“The event allows us to make money for our many outreach programs, ranging from helping out schools in Mexico to our many local ministries,” she added. “It’s our gift to the community.”
Last year’s market was in person, though the home tour portion was not.
“Because of lingering concerns over COVID, it just wasn’t the right time to ask our homeowners to open their houses for 400-plus folks to walk through,” Brown said.
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But demand for the craft items at the annual market didn’t waver.
“Historically, especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, making the Christmas arts, decorations and gifts became even more important,” Brown said. “Volunteers would work on their crafts all year in order to have them ready for the event.”
Artisans and vendors from outside the church have been invited to participate, in addition to the volunteer crafters.
Valerie Belsky has been attending the event the past five years, selling one-of-a-kind scarves, shawls and throws through her wholesale company, Vicky La Jolla.
“Our items are all handmade and come from France, Nepal, India and Italy,” Belsky said. “Our line from France also includes fingerless gloves and beanies. We work with fair-trade small family-owned businesses.”
Belsky praised the market for getting the community involved.
“It’s amazing how much people appreciate the goods, and some people come back every year to buy more,” she said.
Belsky said she and her husband, Bruce, look forward to the market, despite being busy all day. “The people are the nicest. It’s a good cause and we really just enjoy it,” she said.
Part of the fun for regular shoppers is seeing old favorites and traditions return in new forms.
“For those folks who have known us, they are aware that every year we feature a special Christmas mouse,” Brown said.
The highly detailed mice figurines are about 4 inches tall, made of felt and stand upright on their own two feet. One year the mouse was red and held a red Christmas ornament. In other years, the mouse represented a choir member, a construction worker and even Queen Elizabeth II.
“They are darling, and many people collect them because they are unique and really detailed,” Brown said.
Traditional teas, coffees and beverages are served a la carte, along with heaping plates of Christmas cookies, including large, elegant St. Nicholas cookies that make an appearance every year.
Hundreds of jars of canned fruit also are available, all made locally.
And this year, Music on the Point is expected to be a big draw.
“The music includes our very own choristers, a classic guitar set, a carol sing-along and more, all with a Christmas theme,” Brown said. Ruben Valenzuela, director of music and organist at All Souls’, has set up the musical event.
A chorister program is singing associated with a cathedral or parish in the English tradition, in which children receive musical instruction.
The All Souls’ chorister program for youths ages 8-18 is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music America. The program includes music theory instruction, basic vocal technique, music and church history and more. The training is one of very few such programs in the San Diego area.
Children at this year’s Marketplace and Festival will be able to make ornaments and other crafts, as well as receive Christmas surprises. A professional photographer will be on hand for family portraits, and a taco cart will be available for lunch.
For shoppers who miss the days when sales took place in the gardens of tour homes, a vendor will offer plants and garden art.
Sandra Lee began offering her planted container gardens before COVID. Since the reimagining of the event, she has started making and selling pottery under the name Petals and Pottery.
“My pottery is locally inspired,” Lee said. “I press flowers and herbs from my own garden into the pieces.” She also sells outdoor plants and succulents.
“The tour always meant a lot to me, especially because it supports so many charities,” she said.
Though this will be her first time selling at the Christmas Marketplace, “I believe it will be really good, and I expect to be inspired,” Lee said.
Christmas Marketplace and Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
Where: All Souls’ Episcopal Church, 1475 Catalina Blvd., Point Loma