On November 22, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the New Jersey Chapter of SWEA International is having its 30th Annual Christmas Fair at the Commonwealth Club, 26 Northview Avenue in Upper Montclair. The entrance fee is a donation of $1 per person.

The fair will feature traditional handmade and imported holiday decorations, linens, books and wood items. Swedish delicacies such as open-faced sandwiches and pastries are available in the Café. Herring, cheese, bread and homemade cookies and cakes are available in the Food Shop. A raffle and activities for children are additional features. Members will be dressed in traditional folk costumes.

Members’ children and students from the Swedish School of New Jersey will perform a Saint Lucia procession at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. Saint Lucia, also known as the Queen of Light who wears a crown of candles and has attendants and star boys, will sing traditional Swedish carols. Lucia is a much-revered tradition still celebrated in Swedish homes, schools and workplaces as it is a beloved custom of bringing light into the darkest part of the year.

The Swedish Christmas Fair got its start in November 1985. A group of Swedish women from central New Jersey formed a SWEA (Swedish Women's Educational Association) chapter, a friendship organization to promote Swedish culture. Anita Berger of Montclair became the first president. While she was busy preparing the initial paperwork to establish a chapter, Elisabeth Mörch, mother of current President Camilla Mörch, took it on with Monica van Tassel, the project of hosting a Christmas Fair. Monica Van Tassel remembers that first year fondly:

“Elisabeth was the heart and soul of that first Christmas Fair. I was her assistant. After the fair, we had a thank-you party at Anita’s house. Elisabeth and I got a large bouquet of yellow roses. Even though I am 79 years old, I still remember wearing a purple silk top. It is documented in a photo.”

Thirty years later, many of the founding members are still actively involved in the fair. Among others, Anita Berger, Marianne Brody, Gun Eklund and Monica Van Tassel still play a central role.

In order to make the fair more festive and authentic, it was decided that the members would wear folk costumes. Elisabeth Mörch and Irene Andersson started a class to teach the members how to make these traditional garments. Back then it was customary to wear the one from your region. Anita made one from Skåne, Gun one from Borås and so on. Nowadays, the national folk costume in yellow, blue and white is a popular choice; Sweden's royal women wear it on national holidays.

Monica Van Tassel recalls: "Sewing is not my specialty, instead I helped spread the word. A few of us took poster board, decorated them, and hung them in and near Montclair. We also made smaller posters. As the optimist I am, I hung one in my hometown library, Watchung. Not exactly close.”

Maybe not close by 1985 standards, but today travel distance is not an issue. So we welcome all of you from New Jersey to come and visit our Christmas fair and to celebrate our 30th anniversary.