That Christmas feeling: FUMC continues longstanding tradition with Holiday Bazaar

FRANKLIN LIVING— In the 1970s Red Bay First United Methodist Church began developing a reputation for its annual Holiday Bazaar, a grand market bursting with handicrafts and homemade gift items. By the 1990s, however, the once-vibrant bazaar had dwindled to just a bake sale.

The scaled-down event has continued until this year, when mother-daughter pair Hannah Fowler and Jean-Marie Moore, 13, decided to get involved and inject new energy into the holiday event.

Once upon a time, members of FUMC used to gather in the church’s fellowship and work for months on end to create all the items for the bazaar. Fowler said the slow loss of that tradition is largely a sign of the times. “People stopped crafting and doing the woodwork, basically,” Fowler added. “With technology and Internet and all this iStuff, the newer generations don’t do this anymore.”

Fowler said she couldn’t bear the thought of the bazaar possibly fading out “because of what it means to the community. My mother has always looked forward to it every single year – and I didn’t want it to die out for my children. I want them to continue it on. It’s just too important; it’s a beautiful thing … Rather than see that tradition die out, Jean-Marie and I – she loves everything about Christmas and decorating, and she’d start in July if I’d let her – we talked about what we could do. I told Teresa our idea, and she said, ‘You can have it.’”

Church secretary Teresa Fears has been involved with the bazaar for years. She said the event has always been held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, giving attendees the chance to purchase some of their Christmas baked goods from FUMC. “There really isn’t anything else like this in this town,” Fears said.

This year’s bazaar will be held Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the church’s fellowship hall. Fowler and Jean-Marie are planning a little extra pizzazz as they revive the tradition, including abundant decorations, activities for children and a hot chocolate/hot apple cider bar.

“I thought it would be really good to not let it die out and to keep it going and help get younger ones more excited about it,” said Jean Marie. “This church has kind of gotten famous for always having this.” It was easy for Jean-Marie to take her passion for Christmas and funnel it into the Holiday Bazaar. “I just think when it’s around Christmas time, and you’re seeing a house that’s really well decorated, it makes you a lot happier and excited and makes your spirit bright. It gets people in a lot better mood and gives them a lot of joy, and they spread that around.”

It wasn’t long before Fowler had recruited another crafter to join herself, Jean-Marie and Fears in their cause – Cris Cashion, who’s involved in floristry and has made numerous wreaths for the bazaar.

“Christmas is my passion. I’ve been doing Christmas professionally since I was in my 20s with a shop in Tupelo,” Cashion said. “It’s a stress reliever for me. I can see things in my head that I want to create, and I’m not happy until I do it – until I achieve the look that I want.”

Jean-Marie and Fowler have also been busy crafting. Jean-Marie will sell handmade hairbows, and Fowler is creating superhero ornaments, soup mixes, lip balms and more. Other members of the church will also bring their creations – whether that’s Christmas ornaments or homemade pickles. HM’s Bath Candy will have bath bombs, sugar scrubs, lotions and other bath products. Fowler said items for sale will be priced affordably.

For Fowler, her desire to keep the bazaar going is also rooted in her own memories of attending the bazaar as a child – memories tied up in, for example, items purchased at the bazaar, like a treasured piece owned by her mother. “My mother bought, probably 20 years ago, this Christmas tree puzzle that was all cut out of wood and painted, and you could take all the ornaments out – they fit like puzzle pieces. We were not allowed to touch it; her grandchildren were never allowed to touch it. She bought that here at the bazaar,” Fowler said. She said the bazaar captures the spirit of Christmas. “A lot of people remember having the Christmas feeling and they miss it, or a lot of them have never had it – that warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling.”

Fowler isn’t the only one who cherishes childhood memories of the bazaar. “I can remember coming with my grandmother as a child. It was something that we always did,” Cashion said. “There are things she kept forever that she would get here, and it was always the anticipation of getting her and see the things ladies had made. I want people to take that away from it.”

Money collected from the bazaar goes to United Methodist Women’s fund, which buys items for the church and supports different ministries of the church.

Reviving the bazaar has also given Fowler and Jean-Marie a valuable chance to spend time together and develop their mother-daughter relationship. “We’re a team in a lot of ways,” Fowler said. “She and I share the same passion for tradition, keeping things going and reviving the little special things that get forgotten about. We love to decorate, and we like pretty sparkly things. It means a lot to me to work with her and instill this in her, to continue this on.”

Jean-Marie said she feels the same. “We share the same feelings about keeping stuff going and spending time together … I like that it’s me and my mom, and we have our special thing, and we’re able to share the love for stuff like this with each other.”


PHOTOS BY MONTANA HESTER

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