The Holy Family Church in Manayunk, which celebrated its 125 anniversary this year, knows how to keep a tradition alive.
Even the oldest members of the parish struggle to remember when the annual Christmas Bazaar began, yet they are certain that they have been attending since they were children.
The Christmas Bazaar predates their earliest memories, but just like their Catholic faith, it’s been with them their whole lives.
Cass Lewis, 80, remembers coming to the Hermitage Street church for her confirmation, education, marriage, and the funerals of her family and neighbors.
Raymond Becker, 80, was baptized here in 1930. Despite having moved away from Manayunk years ago, he returns every year to the Christmas Bazaar to reminisce with old friends and meet new generations.
Over the course of a week volunteers took over the cafeteria of the Holy Child School, and completely decked the halls.
By Friday night there was a tree, a sleigh, a fireplace, and about two dozen game booths with gifts ranging from toys to groceries to alcohol.
The booths were staffed by volunteers from all over the Northwest Philadelphia community.
Paul and Jamie Torna, who have been members of the church for ten years and were the head coordinators for their first time, were overjoyed when a group of college students from the neighborhood unexpectedly showed up Friday night to volunteer.
“There were lots of new faces here,” Mr. Torna said with pride.
“It’s all about getting people happy and involved, especially the younger generations,” his wife added.
Students of the school were given community service credit for volunteering.
After having breakfast with the children on Saturday morning, Santa Claus roamed the crowd as parents placed bets at the tables on his behalf and announcements came over the P.A. requesting: “Will such-and-such please report to jail.”
For the first time this year you could pay fifty cents to have someone locked away for two minutes in “Grinch Jail”, a chair surrounded by tall gift-wrapped boxes.
On Friday night a member of the parish, who works for the Philadelphia police department, loaned a pair of real handcuffs to keep prisoners in the chair, but after someone put a toddler in jail, the father had to be imprisoned, just to calm her down.
By the next day the metal cuffs had been replaced by the toy plastic variety.
The jail was so popular that when Taylor Mathews, a student at the school, got in trouble with her mother she asked that she serve her time-out sentence in “Grinch Jail”.
The holiday bazaar is a rite of passage, for young and old alike.
Children meet Santa Claus, munch candy canes, and win prizes, all while comprising gift wish-lists in their head.
The elders watch children giggle and gawk at Santa with the knowledge that in a lifetime from now, those kids will have memories of Christmas that are nearly the same as the ones that they reflect on now.
The traditions that their parents, and grandparents began, in 1885, live on for generations to come.