Each and every year we ask the same thing: “Already?”
Yes, folks, it was already time for the annual Christmas Bazaar at the Swedish Church in New York City. This year we wanted to honor the volunteers, who really make the entire enterprise soar ... and walking into the church building on 48th Street was like walking into an Advent Calendar: Everything was red and merry with all you could ever wish for a great, Swedish-style Christmas.
Preparing for the Christmas Bazaar takes time and commitment, and the church couldn’t do it without plenty of volunteers. What is it, we wanted to know, that makes these volunteers give their time and energy?
Photographer Michael Skoglund has helped sell Christmas table linens the last three years, and says that though he likes everything involved with volunteering at the bazaar, the best is the glögg.
Mona Johnsson has been volunteering at the Christmas Fair every year since 1973. She was also selling Christmas linens.
“I began as a ‘glöggdam,’” she says. “That’s when Gunnar Granberg was pastor here. Up with the vodka from underneath the table whenever someone said the glögg wasn’t strong enough! In those days we made all the food ourselves. We made the gravy for the meatballs; there was red wine in it. Oh, it was fun! It still is. I meet people here that I don’t meet during the rest of the year.”
Monica Oscarsson has been involved as long as Mona. “It’s a great tradition. We want it to continue, so we help out. Every year I meet the same people, but there are new ones, too. It’s great.”
“Yes,” adds Mona. “It’s a tradition I hope will always continue. Whether there’s money made or not, it’s great. It’s like a great big family here.”
Anne Rudolph sells lussekatter and cinnamon buns. “I do this to help the church—I want to keep this bazaar going, so I do my share. What’s best about the event? That everyone’s happy, there’s a positive atmospehre. I just told Gunhild Ljung, who is always here with me: ‘I can’t believe it’s a year since last time!’”
Carin Friberg comes in from Mount Kisco, in Westchester, to help; it's her third year. “It’s great to meet other Swedes,” she says. “I come to the church a lot. I usually am here for Träffpunkt* every Wednesday.”
Artist Bert Alexander is back in New York after living a while in Malmö. Bert took some time off from painting to help out at the bazaar: “Why am I here? Because it’s a lot of fun!”
In January, you’ll be able to see Bert’s paintings of famous Swedes exhibited at the Swedish Church—paintings that are unique as well as affordable, he says.
At SWEA's table we met Madeleine Ribbing, who calls the Christmas Bazaar an "injection" of Christmas. "For me this marks the beginning of the Christmas celebrations," she said.
Hollister North’s father is American. She grew up in Sweden but is now back in the U.S. “I’ve been here for the past 15 years,” Hollister says. “What’s best about it? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the dinner they give us volunteers at the end of it. It’s also fun to talk to the people stopping by.”
Gunilla Lindblad comes from Malmö. She likes to volunteer at the Christmas Bazaar because it’s a great way to meet good friends.
“It’s always fun to sell things. And this gives a nice taste of Christmas. My bestseller? The candles and the tomtar.”
And then there’s Lena Fleischmann, who isn’t a volunteer but the administrator at the Swedish Church. Nevertheless, Lena has been working at the Christmas Bazaars for the past 33 years.
“I always say it’s a bit like giving birth,” she says. “It takes nine months to prepare, and then when it actually takes place you have to have just a bit of glögg to make it easier. But not too much, or it will get you in trouble.”
For more information about the activities at the Swedish Church in New York: Svenska Kyrkan i New York

*Träffpunkt is a weekly event at the church, where you meet for "fika" and conversation.