The holiday season begins a week earlier this year for the members of a Kingston church, who will continue a traditional holiday sale of handmade goods that dates back to 1932.
This year’s Silver Bells Fair at First Parish Church in Kingston will take place at the church’s Beal House on the Nov. 16-17 weekend.
Fair organizers said the “new” Silver Bells Fair will run for two days instead of one and will take place a week earlier than in the past to avoid a conflict with the Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth taking place the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
A major fund-raiser, called central to the operations of the church by its members, the Silver Bells Fair helps sustain the church’s commitment to social justice, providing funds to support projects locally and abroad.
An old-fashioned church fair with new additions, the fund-raiser offers handmade crafts, home-baked foods, crafts for kids, “the church ladies’ awesome apple pies,” and “Grandma’s attic treasures and antiques.” New this year is an International Bazaar featuring handicrafts from around the world such as handmade items by women and fair-trade products such as chocolate and coffee. The church’s Social Justice Committee, led by Charlotte Simpson of Pembroke, organized the bazaar.
Coffee, tea, and hot cider are free. Also free is a raffle ticket to everyone who shows up, plus an opportunity to buy more.
Susan Garland, a recently retired kindergarten teacher and a First Parish Church member since 1988, describes herself as part of the “next generation” of retirees who will keep the congregation’s weekly sewing group going. The sewing group produces handmade items for the fair.
“I learned to sew from my dad,” she said. “We make quilts, sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves, pot holders, place mats. And some fancy things like vests and jackets,” all of it for sale. They will also host a knitting workshop during the fair.
The process of getting together to make things for the fair has been going on for more than 80 years. It’s a tradition that now involves the fourth generation in the case of some local families, Garland said.
The proceeds benefit charities such as the Renewal House in Roxbury, the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry shelter for women and children. The support has enabled a 15-year connection between church members and the 100 mothers and children who have passed through Renewal House, including summer camp days in Plymouth. Other charitable beneficiaries include the ARC of Greater Plymouth and Habitat for Humanity.
Even relative newcomers such as the church’s minister, Dan King, and his wife, Nina Benedetto, were inspired by the fair’s traditions.
“Dan and I jumped right in. We’re both hands-on,” Benedetto said last week. “I come from a big family and I love being part of something. I work in the kitchen,” making food for lunch on fair day. She also takes part in the group craft sessions.
“We had greeting cards night,” Benedetto said. “We did everything. One woman made mermaid cloth dolls; her daughter made catnip toys.”
An artist, illustrator, and preschool teacher, Benedetto made origami earrings and cards with an Asian theme on which to display them.
Painter Carole Bolsey, who moved to Kingston 25 years ago, became involved with the church five years ago and embraced the traditions of the fair.
“I love making things. It’s women getting together, sitting, knitting, embroidering, making note cards,” Bolsey said. The “larger story” of the fair is the degree of active cooperation by church members to provide handmade goods and homemade food for the fair. Back in the ’30s, the first group called themselves “the Gleaners,” a rural term that meant those “who pick up the seeds overlooked in the harvest,” she said.
“Such a camaraderie,” she said. “It draws people who don’t have time to find it, to make baby clothes, doll clothes. It’s so nourishing.”
The fair’s homemade apple pies are produced communally as well. Men and women members get together to create an assembly line for making the pies, dividing the jobs into coring and cutting the apples, mixing them with sugar and cinnamon, making the crust, putting the crusts and the filling together.
You can walk around a whole roomful of things made by hand, including fudge, note cards, and arrangements of greens.
“It grows out of the community,” Bolsey said. “It benefits everybody who takes part, from time spent interacting with neighbors.”
In a world where people say they don’t have time to do the things they need to, the age-old togetherness of working together exerts a spell.
“My whole take on the Silver Bells Fair is it’s just such a community builder,” Benedetto said. “It’s so much fun to do this together.”
Behind the Scenes
Silver Bells Fair
First Parish Church
222 Main St., Kingston
Nov 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Nov. 17, noon to 2 p.m.