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75 Years of the Christmas Shop

75 Years of the Christmas Shop

Written by Kaitlin Hill 

“It’s historic and hip,” says Linda Wine, manager of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church Christmas Shop. She adds, “And you’re shopping for a good cause.” Celebrating its 75th year December 8 through 10, the shop offers gift seekers a curated collection of vendors, two floors of shopping, wall-to-wall holiday cheer, and the chance to participate in a local tradition with a long history of community engagement. 

Anne Marstiller, a member of the church for 30 years who ran the shop for four years, explains, “It was started by the church women 75 years ago to allow people to shop locally rather than having to run to D.C., New York, or Philadelphia. At that time, it was harder to find curated, lovely gifts.” 

“They were called ‘the women of John’s Parish’ then and they had an annual Christmas Bazaar,” shares Wine, adding, “One of the ladies had a friend over who was doing a big Christmas shop in Wilmington, Delaware. So she deputized two ladies to drive to Wilmington and find out how they did it, get notes, and see what works. The leader of the ladies was Betty Furness.” 

From that scouting trip, Furness and the women of John’s Parish brought the concept to Middleburg. “For their first one, I think they had one shop,” Wine admits. “They were open on Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Community Center, which had just opened.” She continues, “They cooked a big roast beef for supper for the husbands and men in town, and they had wine and everything. They expected them to go out and buy some gifts. 

“That first year, they made a little over $1,000,” Wine adds. “For years, it kept growing and growing.” 

From one vendor the first year to 30 at one time, the Christmas Shop now invites roughly 20 vendors (this year 19) from all over to attend and sell eclectic, handmade, and one-of-a-kind gifts. 

“People more or less apply to the shop,” explains Marstiller. “They send their literature or products to the person in charge. This year it’s Linda.” She continues, “Then she has three or four people, I wouldn’t call it a committee, but a group of people take a look and say, ‘Is this what we are looking for?’ or ‘Is this up to snuff?’ and the [vendors] are allowed in after that.” 

When asked if it’s a stringent process, Martstiller says, “It is. But with love and affection. There are so many interesting vendors and people.” 

This year will be a mix of vendors old and new, from near and far. “We’ve invited some old-timers back,” shares Wine. “Leslie Jewett is from Georgetown; she brings her own creations. And we have Judy Casey from Philly, [who] used to have a store next to Uppercrust. She comes back and brings all kinds of good stuff for us to sell. And Barbara Sharp, she’s a local artist and florist, [and] she’ll be back with her designs.” 

And the list goes on: “Julliet Huber [of] Bonjour Juliette. She does beautiful cards with this funny little rabbit who is either skiing or driving a Jeep. Patty Craighill, who lives in Paris, is a much loved artist in the community. She does these fabulous, big flowers. And we do have men’s stuff. Untucked is coming back, and he’s a men’s favorite for casualwear,” Wine shares. 

Needless to say, there is something for everyone, and all for a good cause. “The proceeds go to a lot of outreach programs,” Martstiller says. Father Gene LeCouteur of Emmanuel Episcopal adds, “Since I’ve been here, we’ve tried to stay really close to home with grants: Windy Hill, A Place to Be, Seven Loaves Food Pantry, LAWS (the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter), and Blue Ridge Hospice. And then some of the funds go to what is called the Rector’s Discretionary Fund … that I have to help people who have immediate needs. Rent, utilities, people who are going to get their electricity cut off or need their medicine and can’t afford it — the money goes to those [causes] as well.” 

The proceeds are put toward the maintenance of the church, too. “A percentage of the proceeds go to the upkeep of our 1842 church,” Wine says. She expands, “We try to keep it maintained for the community, because the doors are always open. People are welcome to come any time to sit, to read the book of Common Prayer, to pray, to meditate, or to just get away from the news.” 

For those who have never experienced the shop, Martstiller says, “It’s very festive. It’s a beautifully decorated, festive experience. And it’s really fun.” And LeCouteur adds, “I am excited that we are once again having the Christmas Shop in our Parish House. Not only do visitors get to shop at the many boutique shops, but they also get to see our beautiful Parish House.” He finishes, “It’s a great place to shop, not only for last-minute gifts, but you can also shop for yourself!” ML

Published in the December 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

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