knitted bears

5 Best Indie Holiday Craft Fairs

Unique gifts can be found at craft fairs. To avoid kitsch, attend an indie craft fair this holiday season. Support local artisans, feel good about giving gifts from the heart, and have fun shopping!

What is Indie Craft?

The indie craft movement began online in 2006. According to Crafty Superstar, it is “… the visual contradiction of combining granny craft techniques with punk sensibilities.” Traditional craft skills blend with modern, unconventional style and materials to blur the lines between art and craft. Indie craft holiday fairs feature items that combine contemporary art with traditional craft techniques.

San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium 2017

November 25-26, 2017 @  Pier 35, San Francisco

Etsy is the online marketplace for handmade items and vintage goods. It can be overwhelming browsing crafters on the internet. Etsy local events allow you to “shop in your backyard” and support local indie crafters. The San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium is held at Pier 35 in the Embarcadero. The SF Etsy team has curated over 200 local artisans for the event. There will be small batch food sellers. Admission is free. Some of the featured vendors are Birch & Brush wooden bowls, Rocky Body Leather laser cut bracelets, and POPup foldOUTs‘ intricate paper cut art. This is the fifth year of the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium.

Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show

December 2-3, 2017 @ Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, Seattle

Seattle’s Urban Craft Uprising helps vendors turn their hobbies into full-time careers. The winter show features over 150 curated and juried makers. 16,000-holiday shoppers attend the event looking for “unique, high quality, hand-crafted alternative to ‘big box’ stores and mass produced goods”. It is the largest indie craft fair in the Pacific Northwest. Olander Earthworks, Kind Apparel, and Moo-Young are just a few of the extraordinary crafters exhibiting at this event. Admission is free.

Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair

December 2-3, 2017 @ Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago

Over 250 indie craft makers will vend at the Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair. Renegade Craft Fairs are the “world’s largest curated showcase of independent craft and design.” Chicago is the home city of the first Renegade Craft Fair. RCF has now spread to 12 different major cities including London, San Francisco, and Denver. The “vibe” of the fairs is:

Equal parts entrepreneual incubator and community gathering space, it all culminates in a lively celebration of contemporary craft and design culture. Our Fairs feature hundreds of makers, interactive elements, inspired locales, artisanal food and libations, great music, and good times.

The Chicago RCF includes DIY workshops in addition to modern indie crafts. From jewelry to apothecary, unique creativity abounds. Indie crafters such as Grayling Ceramics, Peoples Garment Company, and Ply are sure to make holiday shopping easy.

Crafty Supermarket

December 2, 2017 @ Music Hall Ballroom, Cincinnati

Featuring local Ohio makers, the Crafty Supermarket expects 6000 shoppers to attend their holiday market. Local food and demo tables are just a few highlights of this popular event. This juried show is best attended at the beginning or end of the day to avoid large crowds. The Crafty Supermarket Holiday Show is the high point of holiday shopping in the Midwest. One-of-a-kind gifts can be found from makers like Paper Acorn, VintageLiz Leather, and Circle Circle Jewelry,

Indie Craft Experience Holiday Market

December 10, 2017 @ Yaarab Temple, Atlanta

Indie Craft Experience (ICE) Holiday Market is an intimate shopping experience. More than 50 craft and vintage vendors will be on hand while DJ Zano spins the tunes. ICE thinks it’s important to support local artisans. Part of their mission is to educate consumers about how buying crafts is impactful.

Guys. To be abundantly clear: we want for you to buy handcrafted gifts this holiday season. We think it’s really important. Imagine your hard earned 💵 going directly to a super talented person who works really hard. Way better than sending it off to a chain of middle men and a big box store.

The first 100 shoppers get free swag bags. Admission is $5. Big C CopperEmNyx Metal Studio, and Hollerbach & Tompkins are amongst the exceptional makers on hand.

Indie Holiday Craft Fair 2017 Dates

  1. San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium-San Francisco, CA; Nov. 25-26
  2. Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show-Seattle, WA; Dec. 2-3
  3. Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair-Chicago, IL; Dec. 2-3
  4. Crafty Supermarket-Cincinnati, OH; Dec. 2
  5. Indie Craft Experience Holiday Market– Atlanta, GA, Dec. 10
christmas tree lights

Macy’s Christmas Light Show, a Philadelphia Holiday Tradition

If you’re anywhere in the Philadelphia region between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there’s a holiday tradition in Center City at the historic Wanamaker Building, occupied by Macy’s, that’s a must-see. The Macy’s Christmas Light Show has delighted young and old since 1956, and it’s completely free.

The Light Show

In the Grand Court of Macy’s, a four-story high light board twinkles with over 100,000 LED bulbs, surrounding the 40-foot Macy’s Magic Christmas Tree. Julie Andrews narrates the stories of The Nutcracker, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and more accompanied by music at the beginning and end of the show from the Wanamaker Grand Organ. It’s difficult to take your eyes off the show when it’s on, but if you can look around for just a moment and catch a young child wide-eyed with awe, it’s worth missing a scene or two.

Visitors can stand or sit on the floor of the Grand Court to look up to see the show that runs about 12  minutes. They can also head up to the second or third floor and grab a spot along the railing overlooking the Grand Court. In fact, the railings directly across from the Light Show on the second and third floors are some of the most coveted viewing locations.

The Wanamaker Grand Organ

Built for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the Wanamaker Grand Organ was transported to Philadelphia and installed when the building was built. It’s now a National Historic Landmark. The organ is played regularly Monday through Saturday throughout the year. If you can catch a noon performance of the Light Show on those days, you’ll be able to hear the opening and grand finale played live by an organist. At most other times, the organ music is recorded.

On Saturday, December 9 only, Macy’s will hold its annual Christmas in the Grand Tradition Concert in the Grand Court. The concert features Peter Richard Conte on the organ with flugelhornist Andrew Ennis and singer Jillian Patricia Pirtle. The concert is free, and the 8pm showing of the Light Show follows.

Meet me at the eagle

A large statue of a bronze eagle, also created originally for the St. Louis World’s Fair, sits in the center  of the Grand Court and can’t be missed. For over 100 years, it’s been the meeting place for people who want to find each other in the building. It’s tradition to say to others that you’re meeting for The Light Show, “Meet me at the eagle.” It’s also tradition to take your photo in front of the eagle before or after the Light Show.

What to do next

The Light Show, grand as it is, lasts only about 12 minutes, but that doesn’t mean the holiday experience needs to be over. Head up to Macy’s third floor or out of the Wanamaker Building for other Philadelphia holiday events.

  • Dickens Village: On the third floor of Macy’s is a free, 600 square foot walk-through “A Christmas Carol.” Wander through various scenes from the classic holiday story, reading aloud passages as you go.
  • Visit Santa: Also on the third floor of Macy’s is a Victorian Santa, who hears the Christmas List of those who sit on his lap. He is always up for taking photos that can be purchased on site. Santa’s  last day at Macy’s is Christmas Eve.
  • Reading Terminal Market Holiday Trains: An interactive, 500-square-foot model railroad display has 17 working train line and a little more than one-third of a mile of track. The free train display is in Reading Terminal, just a couple of blocks from Macy’s.
  • Comcast Holiday Spectacular: One of the world’s largest highest resolution LED displays is at the Comcast Center, a short walk from Macy’s. During the holidays, it presents a free, 15-minute video performance featuring dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet and a magical sleigh soaring through Philadelphia’s skyline.

Where to eat

Center City Philadelphia has no shortage of great casual and fine dining locations, but here are two that seem particularly suited to a day of holiday activities.

  • Reading Terminal Market: Just a couple easily walkable blocks away from Macy’s is the famous public market with over 80 vendors and a wide variety of restaurants and food counters under one roof. You can get a Philly Cheesesteak, a DiNic’s Roast Pork Sandwich (which the Travel Channel says is the best sandwich in the country), seafood, burgers, Amish baked goods, Po Boys, ice cream and more. (12th and Arch Streets)
  • Magiano’s Little Italy: This upscale Italian chain restaurant is a perfect place for a family lunch or dinner after walking the chilly streets of Philadelphia. You can order individual dishes or order a family-style dinner. (1201 Filbert Street)

Locations, dates and times

  • Macy’s Christmas Light Show: Top of every even hour from open to close. November 25-December 31. 1300 Market Street.
  • Macy’s Dickens Village: Continual during stores hours. November 25-December 31. 1300 Market Street.
  • Macy’s Visit Santa: Continual during stores hours. November 25-December 24. 1300 Market Street.
  • Reading Terminal Market Holiday Trains: Continual during market hours. November 24-December 31. 12th & Arch Streets.
  • Comcast Holiday Spectacular: Daily, at the top of the hour, 10 am-8 pm (except 5pm on weekdays). November 23-January 1. 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
macy thanksgiving day parade

16 Surprising Facts About Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

On November 23, Macy’s will hold its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. You probably know it as the loud, bright, slick event broadcast on TV before dinner is served and football starts. But the parade’s history is a pretty interesting walk through American history. An annual tradition since 1924, each year it gets a little splashier. The 2017 line-up will feature 25 giant character balloons, numerous floats, and more than 1,000 cheerleaders, dancers, and clowns and tons of people cheering in the streets. So hold on to your balloon strings, here at 16 weird, highly amusing, and fun facts about this only-in-America spectacle.

Four new balloons will debut this year.

New characters being added to the lineup include Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” a new version of the Grinch (he’ll be a “ballonicle,” or balloon that’s attached to and moved by a vehicle), and characters from “Super Wings” and “Paw Patrol.”

Balloons are inflated the night before the parade.

During the afternoon and evening before the parade, the balloons are inflated near the American Museum of Natural History just off Central Park West. The chore has become a spectator event, with people lining the streets and restaurants to watch the entertainment.

No seats or tickets are sold.

There are no designated seating areas for the parade, and no tickets are sold for it, making this a free event. (The bleachers you see on TV are for Macy’s employees.) To get a good viewing spot from the sidewalks, many spectators arrive by 6:30 a.m.

Some floats require as many as 90 handlers.

Hello Kitty looks sweet as candy, but she’s as tall as a 3-story building. It takes 90 handlers pulling her ropes to walk her through the parade.

In the early 2000s, Macy’s added a contemporary twist to the parade.

The retailer worked with artist Jeff Koons to feature funky balloons by contemporary artists such as himself, Takashi Murakami, and Keith Haring; the floats are now known as the Blue Sky Gallery.

Marching bands face stiff competition to get in.

Approximately 300 bands apply to appear in the parade each year, but just 12 are selected, making it quite a point of pride to be chosen.

Goodyear used to make the balloons.

For nearly six decades, Macy’s partnered with rubber company Goodyear to design and make all of its balloons. But in 1984, Macy’s took the job in-house. The Superman balloon – one of the last made by Goodyear – was also one of the longest at 100 feet.

In 1971, there were no balloons.

A torrential downpour grounded all of the inflatables for the first time ever. NBC aired clips from the previous year spliced in with the live feed.

President Kennedy was shot and killed just four days before the parade.

Macy’s grappled with canceling the event in 1963, but apparently the Kennedy family called to insist that the show must go on.

A nationwide shortage of helium once caused the parade to be held up, literally.

In 1958, the U.S. government asked Macy’s to forgo using helium due to a severe shortage of the gas. (It’s also used by scientists.) Macy’s agreed, but planners didn’t let that stop the parade – they used cranes instead to hold up balloons, which were inflated with air.

The parade was canceled during World War II.

The helium shortage wasn’t the only time Uncle Sam came calling. In 1942, the parade came to a stop when World War II broke out and rubber from the balloons was donated to the war effort. It didn’t start up again until 1945, after War’s End.

Bounty hunters once vied for balloons after the parade.

For the first few years of the parade, Macy’s had no plan for deflating balloons; they were simply released at the end of the route. From 1929 to 1932, the company attached tags that offered $25 gift cards to anyone who returned them. The crowd went crazy: Bounty hunters shot them down; two aviators caught balloons them mid-air. But when a 60-foot tiger balloon landed on a house on Long Island, a vicious tug of war erupted before the animal was shredded into pieces. The next year, parade officials corralled balloons themselves.

The first parade was thought up by employees.

It was 1924 when a group of Macy’s workers first asked the retailer to put on a parade about giving thanks and in celebration of the forthcoming Christmas season. “Many in the group [were] first-generation immigrants wanting to show pride in the new place their families [called] home,” explains Macy’s website.

In 1928, some balloon handlers floated off the ground, too.

Helium was used for the first time in 1927 to keep balloons afloat. But getting the technicalities right was still a work in progress. As a result, the following year, some balloon handlers were lifted 10 feet off the ground, and stayed that way for the length of the parade.

Each balloon fits into a 12-by-8-foot box, and takes just 15 minutes to deflate.

Because the parade’s floats and balloons have to be stored at a warehouse (an old Tootsie Roll factory) in New Jersey, the balloons come apart in sections and then are folded up, placed in boxes, and shuttled across the Hudson River to wait for their next appearances.

Snoopy has appeared more times as a balloon than any other character in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Charlie Brown’s famous canine pal first appeared in the 1968 parade. Since then, seven balloons have been made in his likeness, and Snoopy has appeared 40 times in the famous parade.


Creative Spark

Creative Spark Winter Market for Handmade Holiday Gifts


With Black Friday coming up, you may be preparing to “shop until you drop,” getting the perfect gift for every single person on your list. But have you considered something a bit more… unique. The Creative Spark Winter Market is December 2nd and it features 34 artists showcasing their unique handmade items. It’s a great way to support your local community. Admission can be a modest monetary donation or a non-perishable food item for those in need. Make sure you don’t miss the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble who will be performing.

Photo by Klim Levene and Creative Commons.
Photo by Klim Levene and Creative Commons.

Loi Krathong, Thailand’s Festival of Lights

If ever there was a magical-looking festival, Loi Krathong in Thailand is it. A celebration to celebrate the release of any grievances from the past, the holiday, sometimes also called the Festival of Lights, is an enchanting event. Held annually across the country (this year on November 3), the festival’s origins are somewhat obscure, but the primary origin story calls it an homage to the country’s many rivers and goddess of water, which run like veins through the land.

Today, the holiday marks a ritual of absolution, a time to say goodbye to any misfortunes of the past year, and hope for upcoming luck. Participants create small boats – float-like structures made from banana tree trunks, bread, or sometimes Styrofoam – then make a wish and set them free, with a lit candle and incense upon their back. Celebrants often place locks of hair, nail clippings, or even bits of old clothes on the “boats” as a symbol of sending off the past. If the boat floats off out of sight, it’s a sign of good things to come.

Photo by John Shedrick and Creative Commons.

Made in the shape of lotus flowers, the krathong, or boats, represent symbols of Buddhism, Thailand’s primary religion. The candle represents knowledge and wisdom, the incense is purity, and the flowers stands for praying monks.

Regardless of religious affiliation, though, anyone is invited to participate, and visitors can join local revelers at various rivers and ponds and other waterways. Hotels also offer rituals, too, often right in the pools on their properties. In addition to Bangkok, the island of Sukhothai holds a massive celebration. In Chiang Mai, and across northern Thailand, Loi Krathong, which is held all over the country, coincides with the lantern festival called Yi Peng, where thousands of floating lanterns are released into the sky.

Each year, Loi Krathong is held on the night of the full moon during the twelfth lunar month (usually November by the Western calendar), at the end of the rainy season and the rice harvest. With its thousands of floating, flickering candles, dancers, and flowers everywhere, it’s a mesmerizing sight.

Photo by Klim Levene and Creative Commons.

Photo by Klim Levene and Creative Commons.