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San Francisco Estonian Community Choir, courtesy of Lisa Trei


After a year's hiatus, organizers of the San Francisco Baltic Christmas Fair were very happy to open the doors of the Latvian Hall to vendors and visitors once again this past December 4th.


Over a dozen sellers, some from as far away as Los Angeles, offered tasty Baltic Christmas foods, local handcrafted gifts, and Baltic imports to several hundred holiday shoppers.

For entertainment, the San Francisco Estonian Community Choir took the stage to sing Christmas carols, under the capable substitute direction of Ellen Simm.


This was the choir’s first opportunity to perform since February 2020, after resuming rehearsals this fall outdoors.


Guests also enjoyed hot food prepared by the ladies of the Latvian Lutheran Church, benefiting children’s charity projects in Latvia, as well as hot mulled wine and Baltic beer.


Raffles were also held throughout the day.

A few concessions to pandemic safety were necessary: masks were required in the marketplace shopping area, and vaccination cards and tests were checked at the door.


With local attendees largely now accustomed to these kinds of restrictions, there were very few issues and little impact to the spirit of the event.


Many guests expressed how much they enjoyed seeing people face-to-face once again.


In spite of the changing times, 2021 proved to be one of the fair’s most successful years so far.

This was the seventh year for the Baltic Christmas Fair, which began in 2014 when members of the three Bay Area Baltic communities began discussing the possibility of hosting a joint Christmas fair.


In earlier times, Bay Area Estonians and Latvians had hosted similar bazaars on their own, but those events were no longer being held.


The hope was that among the three communities, and with the generous use of the Latvian Hall space granted by the Latvian Lutheran Church of Northern California, there would be enough interest to make the fair a worthwhile endeavor.


Vendor fees started low and have remained there, to make it easy for community members to share their talents.


Over the years, the fair has gained a following that looks forward to the homey, neighborhood atmosphere of the event in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.


It has also attracted local neighbors who are curious about the activities at the Latvian Hall and who enjoy international Christmas traditions.

The San Francisco Estonian Society, Northern California Latvian Association, and San Francisco Lithuanian-American Community collaborate on multiple events throughout the year.


Prior to the pandemic, the Baltic Picnic had been held for 13 consecutive years, most of them at Kennedy Grove in San Pablo, where games of tug-of-war and volleyball and plates of roast pig were enjoyed.


The group had also twice held an end-of-summer bonfire at Ocean Beach in San Francisco for The Night of Ancient Lights, and in 2019 also held a Baltic Film Festival that featured six contemporary Baltic films over two weekends.


After the pause in activities, organizers are considering how to restart these collaborations and bring them up-to-date with current interests.


Anyone interested in contributing their ideas or energy is invited to contact the Estonian Society.

Linnea Bartling


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