It’s a holiday tradition that’s more than 20 years old on the east side of Madison. This weekend, S.S. Morris Church’s Annual Christmas Bazaar will be the place for people in the community to come to look for arts, crafts, and jewelry and other unique holiday gift ideas and eat traditional homemade foods and desserts … all while helping to raise money for S.S. Morris Church.

“It’s normally a one-day event, but this year we are hosting it for two days. It will be open after church this Sunday, too,” says Barb Thomas, a retired O’Keeffe Middle School teacher and longtime member of S.S. Morris Church who is helping to organize the event.

The Annual Christmas Bazaar will take place at S.S. Morris Community African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, located on Milwaukee St., on Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9, 1-4 p.m. The bazaar is open to the public.

People in the Madison community probably remember the annual event as the Bethlehem Community Marketplace Bazaar, a unique opportunity to be immersed in the same sights, sounds, and smells that Mary and Joseph encountered over 2,000 years ago. The bazaar was always a unique chance for people to walk around and talk with the townspeople while perusing arts, crafts, baked goods, and food.

“This has been a longstanding event at S.S. Morris and it has changed names and it has changed how it looks over the years because different people have been involved,” Thomas tells Madison365. “We started out over 20 years ago and we called it Bethlehem Marketplace. The people dressed up in old world costumes and we had King Herod walking around and other Biblical characters. We made the place look like it was Bethlehem and had little marketplaces like the pottery, the bakery, all of the places that you would see on the streets of Bethlehem as you walked around.”

Andrew McKinney (King Herod) hangs out with kids at a S.S. Morris Bethlehem Bazaar back in the day.
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)

Over the years, that has changed and the Bazaar is more of an arts and crafts space that includes various vendors from the greater community; not just parishioners from S.S. Morris.

“It’s a great place for people to come and get presents for Christmas. We’ve opened up the event a little bit over the years so it’s more than just the people from S.S. Morris,” Thomas says.

At this year’s Christmas Bazaar, guests may also purchase their lunch and enjoy it in the festive dining room.

“We also open up our kitchen and have a big table of homemade baked goods that people really love. Those have always been a hit – red velvet cake, banana bread, homemade pies … all kinds of stuff,” Thomas says.

“We also open up our eatery and we will have four or five different kinds of soups that people can come and enjoy,” she adds. “At lunch, we’ll have brats and hot dogs and nachos for the kids.”

The Bazaar, first organized by S.S. Morris Church in 1998, is always a big hit.

“It’s a great community event to come together and share some holiday spirit,” Thomas says. “It’s also a fundraiser for S.S. Morris and we have our own crafts that people have made and donated for us.

“It’s a family-friendly event. It’s fun,” she adds. “It’s all about community spirit and fellowship. Obviously, we hope to make a little money for S.S. Morris Church, too.”

S.S. Morris is also currently accepting vendors who would like to participate in the Annual Holiday Bazaar. For more information, contact Barb Thomas at (608)294-0228.