A Christmas Made in the Hills
My wife Susan and I decided to double up on the challenge by restricting ourselves to gifts not only purchased locally, but also produced locally.
For a long time I dreaded the days of Christmas shopping. Thoughts of the drive to the city, parking at the malls, and wading through the crowds hung like smog over something supposed to be joyful. That all changed last year when we decided to shop locally.
There are all kinds of fabulous independent retailers on the main streets of our towns and villages – enough choice to satisfy anyone on your list, but my wife Susan and I decided to double up on the challenge by restricting ourselves to gifts not only purchased locally, but also produced locally.
Our first day was one we still talk about. Serendipitously, it was also the day of the Christmas Country Sale at Inglewood Community Centre and the open house at Spirit Tree Cidery.
In Inglewood we walked into a warm and happy buzz of conversation, vendors and visitors alike, talking as neighbours do. We sampled and bought red and green pepper jelly, as much for the colours as the delightful tang. I surreptitiously purchased lavender soap for Susan’s stocking, resisted the baking, bought some frozen lamb shanks for a hearty dinner and admired the jewel-coloured preserves in mason jars. Unannounced, a group took to the stage, tuned guitars and fiddles, and started singing. A happening happened.
At Spirit Tree the aromas of fresh bread and coffee, hot cider and cinnamon soon warmed us from the chilly wind outside. The sizzling pizzas made us wish we hadn’t already had lunch. There were vendors there too, selling cheese, preserves and handmade magic wands. We warmed our hands around mugs of coffee and tea, and nibbled on muffins that overflowed the tins.
In an adjoining room someone stared singing. The Orange Peel Carollers, members of the Orange Peel Morris Dancers, had come in to sing a set of pub carols – traditional Christmas songs from the villages of northern England. Rich harmonies and words, both familiar and new, filled the hall. I haven’t enjoyed Christmas music as much since I sang descant of “Silent Night” at St. Jude’s.
Over the next couple of weeks we walked along Broadway in Orangeville, visited the Winter Market in the Town Hall atrium, and took a trip to Dufferin County Museum for the Holiday Treasures show. We explored the main streets of several local towns and villages: Erin, Caledon East, Hillsburgh, Alton, Creemore, Cheltenham and others – and found many one-of-a-kind stores to explore.
When we talked to the people who actually made the gifts, we heard the stories behind them. We found preserves made using “Great-Grandma’s recipe” and discovered that the wood used to craft one bowl came from an ancient stand of lilacs beside the barn. We also kept a lookout for open houses at artists’ studios. (They always have great coffee and cookies, or wine and cheese.) And we met the nicest people!
We’re shopping locally-made again this year. We’ll go to the shows and markets, revisit the studios and stroll down main streets. We’ll stop in for warm cider or coffee and see what’s new, and talk to the people. If we’re in luck, someone, somewhere will get up and start singing.
To get you started on your own local shopping adventure, we’ve put together some ideas on this and the following pages, but they represent only a small sample of the wealth of the creative gift ideas available in Headwaters. There is so much to find in the hills, and so much fun in the finding.