Like Christmas carols on the radio, church fairs are an early indication that the holidays are coming.
Today and for the next few weeks, churches and other nonprofits across the North Shore will be selling crafts and home-baked goods, gifts, wreaths, Christmas greens and seasonal decorations.
In most cases they will also be serving lunches and snacks featuring traditional recipes and menu items that have become local favorites over the years.
“We have always had haddock chowder,” said Barbara French, who organizes the fair at Calvary Episcopal Church in Danvers. “We do quiches, homemade chili, apple pie and pumpkin pie for dessert.”
Calvary is merging with St. Paul’s of Peabody to form All Saints Episcopal Church of the North Shore, and this season’s fair has grown in size to reflect that addition.
“Because this is going to be our last one (as Calvary), I’ve increased it twofold,” French said. “I’m hoping this would be a combination of ‘last hurrah’ and ‘come see us now.’ We’ve had a lot of interest because of the merger, and it’s a good way for (people) to come see us.”
The money raised goes to the church’s operational budget, but also to help fund charitable events, such as a Christmas party for foster children on the North Shore.
At St. John Lutheran Church in Peabody, the fair has always been held on the first or second Saturday of November, and features a Finnish sweetbread called nisu.
“I grew up in the church, and my mother was Finnish. The Finnish women have passed it down to their children,” said Linda Phyles, whose husband, the Rev. Raymond Phyles, recently retired as pastor of the church. “It’s a braided loaf, covered with butter and sugar.”
Phyles works with the church women’s group to organize the fair, and they will take orders for nisu at a table today.
The women’s group uses money from the fair to continue its charity work, especially on behalf of Haven from Hunger.
“We collect mittens and gloves and hats for the Haven and provide gifts for children at Christmas,” she said.
A number of other fairs will be held today, and a listing follows. Church fairs will start up again next Friday and continue through December, and can be found in the daily calendar — and each Thursday’s entertainment calendar — of The Salem News.
Shoppers who visit even a fraction of these events may want to follow Barbara French, in her plans to patronize one of the vendors at Calvary’s fair.
“I have a gal from the Cummings Center who does seated massage,” she said. “I’m going to be her first, and her last customer.”
Church fairs today
St. Peter’s Church, 24 St. Peter St., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Holiday and ceramic items, baked goods, children’s items, silent auction and a lottery tree.
Second Congregational Church, 35 Conant St., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food table, handcrafted items, baked goods, books and a variety of international handicrafts.
St. John the Baptist Church, school gym, 17 Chestnut St., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Continues Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Holiday gifts, sports collectibles, fair trade items, fried dough, wheel of fortune, Dominican lunch.
St. John Lutheran, 32 Ellsworth Road, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Baked goods including Finnish coffee break, jewelry, white elephant table.
Maple Street Congregational Church, Danvers Square, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., plus bean supper from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Hand-quilted wall hangings and place mats, handmade scarves and gift cards, bakery shop (including gluten-free items), and gift tables.
First Church Congregational, 41 Centre St., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jewelry, jelly, toys, crafts and a quilt raffle.
Calvary Episcopal Church, Holten and Cherry streets, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Forty-one vendor tables, including Discovery Toys, Mary Kay cosmetics, Tupperware, more. Homemade lunch.
Our Lady of Hope, Linebrook Road, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Teapots and teacups, candlesticks, knitted goods, Christmas decorations, handbags, scarves and jewelry.
Church of St. Andrew, 135 Lafayette St., 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., opening reception for holiday marketplace. Sweaters, paintings, artworks and hand-painted home accessories available daily until Nov. 29.