Forget stinky perfume sets and novelty socks this holiday season—give gifts that speak to what your loved ones really love. The best way to find something truly extraordinary—and support local artisans and businesses—is to make tracks for one of these unique holiday markets. Bonus: there will be homemade treats and quirky entertainment to enjoy as you browse the booths and steer clear of the downtown shopping scrum. Here are some of my favourite Canadian holiday markets this season.
Hannukah Haul in Montreal, QC
Now in its third year, the Museum of Jewish Montreal Hannukah Market is a wonderful place to find artisanal holiday gifts—think wooden toys, menorah and elegant jewellery pieces, while sampling seasonal treats like rugelach, doughnut twists and poppyseed sugar cookies. While the market’s on, the museum will be open for extended hours, and shoppers will also have access to the Return to the Fortress exhibition, featuring work by artist Julie Gladstone. Little holiday gift hunters take note—there will be a special kids’ booth.
When: 8 + 15 December 2019, 11am – 6pm
A Taste of Africa and the Caribbean in Mississauga, ON
The Black-owned Holiday Market brings together local Black entrepreneurs, selling all kinds of gift-able goodies. Created by social enterprise Black-Owned Unity, the market combines live music, DJs, comfort foods—think Jamaican rum cheesecake, Afro-fusion soups and hot pepper condiments—and of course, independent shopping. Pick up organic shea butter skin- and haircare products, stylish mama and toddler tees, picture books with heroes of colour, and African-print everything.
When: 14 December 2019, 12 – 8pm
Cost: Optional donation to support Black youth entrepreneurs
Indigenous Art in Winnipeg, MB
Winnipeg’s 2nd Annual Indigenous Arts Market promises unique Indigenous-made arts and crafts that would make thoughtful gifts for your friends and family. Put your holiday dollars towards boosting the local economy by shopping here for cozy moccasins, gorgeous bead- and birchbark jewellery, and welcoming hand-painted signs for the home. You’ll find an interesting mix of traditional artisanship and contemporary design.
When: 14 – 15 December 2019, 9am – 5pm
Artisans of All Abilities, in Saskatoon, SK
On United Nations International Day of Persons With Disabilities, makers of all abilities will be selling their handmade arts and crafts at the Northern Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre’s (NSILC) Holiday Craft Sale. Find wintry nature photography; artworks combining hand drawings and computer art; and a humorous line of “salty and spicy” greetings cards, as designer Nicole de Gooijer puts it. There’s also a photo booth, holiday cookie decorating station and silent auction at this market to boost fundraising for NSILC.
When: 3 December 2019, 4 – 9pm
Cost: Suggested donation of $3
A Meditative Market in Toronto, ON
At the HYGGE Holiday market, in Toronto, you can have a super-chill winter shopping experience, browsing eco-conscious gifts and soaking in the Zen vibes. This is a great place to pick up soft winter handknits, botanical skin serums, or upcycled jewellery for your loved ones. One of the perks for shoppers is the chance to escape the stresses of the season: join in a group meditation session, indulge in a mini spa treatment or make time for the conscious conversation circle, where you can pick up tips on surviving the holidays. This market was created by Mindful Collective, a team of four women entrepreneurs, who believe in community, sustainability and the transformative power of meditation.
When: 7 December 2019, 11am – 6pm
Witches’ Market in Edmonton, AB
Hey, Pagans—this one’s for you! For the ninth year, Yule with the Original Edmonton Witches’ Market will be heralding the Winter Solstice with a mix of shopping and sorcery. More than 35 vendors will be there, selling things like botanical soaps, quirky skull-shaped candles, and crystals that shimmer like crusted snow. You can pick up seasonal preserves too—don’t worry, we’re talking fruity jams and canned pickles, not puppy dog’s tails. Can’t wait to see what Santa brings? Get in line for a reading with a fortune teller.
When: 14 December 2019, 10am – 10pm
Find The Weirdest Gift in Vancouver, BC
Weirdos Holiday Market is just the place to find something special for the, um, special people in your life. When you’re not busy picking up gifts like mouth-shaped ceramics, real bone necklaces, and doll’s head cacti planters, you can stop and enjoy the (kind of) festive entertainment, which includes sword-swallowing, a puppy teeth art installation and fabulous performances by drag queens. The kooky market is hosted by This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven, an indie business with a store, gallery and workshop space for quirky classes in things like butterfly mounting and beginners’ taxidermy.
When: 14 – 15 December 2019, 10am – 6pm
Header image credit: Museum of Jewish Montreal/Gabriel Opas