(Eds. note: This article is being re-run due to a change in schedule for the St. Williams Church)
For many residents of the Tewksbury area, a sure sign of the beginning of the Christmas season is enjoying an evening with family and friends at the annual Holiday Pie Social hosted at the Tewksbury Congregational Church, followed by a day of shopping at one of the many church fairs that usually take place on the first weekend of December.
Church fairs have been going on longer than I can remember. In fact, church fairs date back to the early Christian era when the church took an active part in sponsoring fairs on important feast days. As this became a regular practice, the sponsoring of fairs became a source of revenue for the church.
It is logical to assume that the modern day church bazaar is an extension of the religious fairs of ancient times.
This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, many churches have opted out of having this long standing tradition.
However, in the hopes of bringing a touch of normalcy to this very unconventional upcoming holiday season, one local church is offering an alternative shopping experience.
The Tewksbury Congregational Church, located at 10 East St., has long counted on their Christmas Fair to raise a bulk of their annual fundraising.
In recent years, the church also added a Friday night Pie Social to usher in the holiday season and
to preview the Christmas Fair for the following morning.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, church members found it impossible to have the annual pie social fundraiser, but members were able to come up with an alternative to the annual Christmas Fair.
The most popular items sold at their annual fair have been the fresh Christmas wreaths and baskets made by a group of church members known as the Holiday Friends.
In order to keep church members and patrons safe, members of the Holiday Friends, led by church member Pat Takach, have organized an “order and pick up” type of sale in place of this year's fair.
Fresh cut Christmas greens will be made into custom decorated baskets and wreaths that can be ordered ahead of time, and be picked up on Dec. 5.
Basket prices are $15 for small, $20 for medium, and $25 for large. Wreaths are $20 with a bow, or $30 fully decorated.
“We hated to see the church lose out on their biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Takach, “and we also did not want to disappoint the loyal people that buy from us every year.”
Members were in agreement that taking orders was the safest way to carry on with this annual tradition.
The Holiday Friends will be hard at work creating festive holiday decor to enjoy throughout the upcoming Christmas season. To place an order please call Pat Takach at 978-851-4770. Pickups will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Tewksbury Congregational Church.
The St. Williams Church, located at 1351 Main St., which usually has their Christmas Fair on the same Saturday as the TCC, was hoping to offer an alternative to their annual fair.
The St. Williams Christmas Fair board, led by chairperson Debbie Deputat, tried to come up with a way to still have an “in person” fair while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.
They had hoped to have visitors be required to register online to control the number of people entering the fair, and only groups of four family members or friends would be able to enter together at one time. However, church members just found out this week they were unable to make this work within the confines of town COVID-19 guidelines.
Items to have been sold at this year's fair were limited to four raffles and the plant sale, which has now been rescheduled for an unspecified date in May of 2021.
Deputat noted, “This is the only annual fundraiser we have, and it took a lot of work by many of the church members to come up with a safe solution to have a Christmas Fair this year. But in the end we decided it was better to be safe than sorry, and wait until we can do this safely outside.”
Anyone who has already purchased raffle tickets for one of the four raffles should keep them in a safe place, as they will still be good to use for the raffle in the spring.
There is no question that the 2020 holiday season will not be like other holiday seasons of the past, but with a little planning, and a lot of patients, this can still be the season of goodwill. While we may miss the hustle and bustle of the traditional church Christmas Fair, the message of love and support for our community and neighbors will not go unsaid.