Holiday Spirit
The German Holiday Market in downtown Mountain View takes place in City Hall Plaza on Dec. 14.
Courtesy of German International School of Silicon Valley.

Seven holiday pop-up markets you don't want to miss
Midpeninsula artisan fairs celebrate culture, handmade crafts

by Melissa McKenzie

Those looking for the feel of an authentic European-style holiday market don't necessarily need to travel beyond the Midpeninsula. The region is home to a growing number of holiday pop-up markets, each with its own cultural flair and one-of-kind handcrafted items.

Looking for handcarved nutcrackers from Germany? Head to downtown Mountain View's German market, where you might even encounter the mythical Krampus roaming the outdoor vendor booths looking for children who have misbehaved. Craving Parisian breads or looking for handmade scented soaps? The French market in Palo Alto includes an array of imported foods and crafts from the City of Lights. And those looking for the opportunity to learn a Russian jig while browsing booths for gift items will likely find an opportunity at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula Annual Holiday Faire in Los Altos.

From the music, specialty foods and children's activities to the imported handicrafts and one-of-a-kind items from local artisans, these pop-up markets provide shoppers more than a place to find unique gifts — they provide a chance to participate in the holiday joys of giving with proceeds from many of them benefitting various local nonprofits.

"People enjoy the festive atmosphere; it puts them in the holiday spirit," said Fanny Retsek, director of the Palo Alto Art Center Studio, which holds a ceramics and jewelry sale during the holiday season. Proceeds from the event benefit the nonprofit's programs. "People can pick up the work, hold it or try it on to see how it looks. (It's) not like buying something online where you don't really know what it will be like when it arrives."

According to the organizers of these European-style fairs, there's a sense of belonging and inclusion that comes from attending the markets.

"In a postmodern society that has always been a melting pot, people seek authenticity," said Father Andrew Smith of Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Menlo Park, which hosts the annual Russian Christmas Bazaar. "They might not have an idea of what their own authenticity is, and I think it's comforting and nostalgic to find that somewhere else."

Elisabeth Michel, who organizes The French Fair, believes culturally focused fairs serve as an introduction to a particular country's customs and a meeting place for native transplants. The fair, she explained, started 15 years ago as a way for the French community to celebrate and support French products and locally owned French businesses. Over the years, it's grown well beyond the French community, she said

"For American people or non-French people ... there's an attraction to ... seeing something different," Michel said. "We want to make people feel as if they were in France for a day."

Susan O'Sullivan, director of development and external relations at Filoli in Woodside, believes people come to the historic estate's annual European-influenced holiday market for another reason — to find gifts that are difficult to find elsewhere.

"I think online shopping with the big retailers makes it easy to find items that are widely available, but many folks really try to seek out things that are locally made or artisan made and unique."

Here's a list of some of the pop-up markets scheduled to take place along the Midpeninsula this holiday season:

The French Fair — A Day in France

Launched by a small group of French residents living in southern California 15 years ago, The French Fair has found a growing following in Palo Alto, where it has been held over the past six years. According to organizers, the fair has become the largest Bay Area event devoted to French culture, food and fashion. This year's holiday fair includes more than 60 vendors selling handmade items and European imports; two French singers; children's activities; a fashion show; a French car exhibition; and French imported foods — charcuterie, baguette sandwiches, pastries, cheese — from Sunnyvale's Frenchery market, which imports and delivers hard-to-find food items directly from France.

Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16.
Cost: Free. A portion of the event's proceeds benefit Mentor Tutor Connection, a nonprofit program launched by the Los Altos Rotary Club in 1996 to provide classroom tutors and mentors at Mountain View and Los Altos schools.

Filoli Artisan Market

Visitors can take a stroll back in time to experience the historic Filoli estate decorated as it would have been when the Bourn and Roth families occupied the space between 1917 and 1975. As part of Holidays at Filoli festivities, in which the house and gardens are adorned to reflect the season, Filoli hosts its annual five-day Filoli Artisan Market with a festive French feel. This year's market will include 20 artisans who will be selling soaps, hand-turned wood bowls, jewelry, ornaments, glass items, fine art, notecards and more. Food gift items also will be available for purchase from vendors, including Bert's Bites and Woodside Bakery. Additionally, Filoli's newly developed hard cider — made with apples from the property's orchard — as well as its honey, vinegars and teas will be available for purchase.

Where: Filoli Visitor Center, 86 Canada Road, Woodside.
When: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday - Sunday, Nov. 23-24 & Friday - Sunday, Nov. 29-30, Dec. 1.
Cost: $25 adult, $12 children 5-17 (includes admission to Filoli house and gardens.); $35 adult, $18 children 5-17 for evening market, which includes illuminated grounds and holiday-themed entertainment. Proceeds benefit the historic, nonprofit property.

Waldorf School of the Peninsula Annual Holiday Faire

More of a holiday event with items for sale than a vendor-focused bazaar, the Annual Holiday Faire is a community-centered, activity-focused day of fun for students, their families and members of the community. Curated items for sale include wooden puzzles and toys, wreaths, locally made bath and body-care items, shawls, jewelry and handmade items crafted by parents. Activities are ticket-based and include beeswax candle dipping, wreath making, hair braiding and face painting. Pocket fairies roam the grounds, musicians perform traditional Russian jigs. Puppet shows and storytelling areas keep children entertained. There is also a gnome adventure crawlspace for kids and holiday trees are placed throughout the winter wonderland-themed event. Additionally, Ce Patli, a food truck focused on organic, non-GMO Mexican cuisine will be onsite and hot chocolate and horchata are available for purchase.

Where: Waldorf School of the Peninsula, 11311 Mora Drive, Los Altos. Shuttle available from Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer, 380 Magdalena Ave, Los Altos.
When: 6 - 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6 (adults-only boutique); 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, (all ages — boutique and activities).
Cost: Free. Proceeds benefit the school.

The Art Center Ceramics and Jewelry Sale

Jewelry artist Barbara Carman initiated the idea for the annual Palo Alto Art Center Ceramics and Jewelry Sale four years ago as a way for the studio artists to show and sell their work, as well as to showcase the caliber of artwork being created at the nonprofit center — managed by the City of Palo Alto — which is open to the public for art activities of all ages. The sale provides an opportunity to purchase unique, handmade, high-quality gifts and objects ranging from functional plates, bowls, platters and mugs to sculptures and jewelry made of precious metals and stones designed and fabricated by the 46 professional artist vendors. The Art Center Gallery also is open during the event.

Where: Palo Alto Art Center,1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7
Cost: Free. Proceeds benefit the participating artists, the studios and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Annual Christmas Market at Allied Arts Guild

Menlo Park's landmark Allied Arts Guild, which for decades has housed shops and artist studios in its 1920s-era Spanish-style buildings, hosts an annual Christmas Market that includes an eclectic mix of artisans selling everything from spices, Peruvian crafts and handsewn items to wool and knitted goods, jewelry, mosaic art, linen items, leather and wood gifts, natural soaps and lip balms and locally made toffee spaced throughout its 3.5 acres of gardens. Entertainment includes a visit from Santa, carolers and live music throughout the day. Guests are encouraged to make lunch reservations at Cafe Wisteria, (650-838-9002). As part of the festivities, some shops give out small gifts and treats to visitors, others hold drawings.

Where: Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7
Cost: Free. Proceeds support the Packard Children's Hospital.

Russian Christmas Bazaar

For more than 50 years, Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Menlo Park has brought a little bit of the Russian tradition to the holiday shopping season. This one-day event contains a rummage sale, two local artists selling artwork, church tours and honey from the Holy Assumption Orthodox Monastery in Calistoga. Live Russian music and a Russian puppet show will keep visitors entertained while they dine, a la carte, on traditional Russian cuisine handmade from recipes passed on from generation to generation, including cabbage rolls, piroshki, borscht and a variety of sweet desserts. In addition to the food, one of the biggest draws to the bazaar is its "Lucky Barrel," where for $2, guests can purchase a wrapped children's or adult gift without knowledge of what's under the paper.

Where: Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Churchm 1220 Crane St., Menlo Park.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7
Cost: Free. Donations accepted. Proceeds benefit the parish's religious sisterhood of nuns.

German Holiday Market

In every village, town and city in Germany, an open-air Christmas market, Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt, is held every holiday season. In 2013, the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) developed the German Holiday Market in downtown Mountain View to bring the German cultural tradition to the Bay Area. In striving for an authentic experience, GISSV places wood facades on booths to create a village atmosphere representing those found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and sells German food and sweets, as well as holiday market hallmarks, such as Gluhwein (warm mulled wine) and Kinderpunsch (hot cider). Only vendors offering handcrafted goods or items imported from Germany and other parts of Europe are chosen to participate in the fair. "It's an authentic German Christmas market which you (typically) can't find here in the Bay Area," said vendor Dennis Olarte, who helps his wife, Conny, sell her handmade, natural soaps called Essence of O.

"It's so much fun. You have the Christmas lights, you have the food, you have the drinks, you have the cookies and pretzels they serve in Germany, and you can't find that anywhere."

Where: Mountain View City Hall Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14.
Cost: Free. Proceeds from the event benefit the German International School of Silicon Valley.