One of the most popular Virginia bazaars is the annual Christmas Corner at Christ Church in Alexandria. There, is a site that represents the old, traditional Alexandria, the Junior Friends of the Y brought together on a recent weekend artists and exhibits from all over the country to support the most up-to-date community projects - day care and Headstart, prisoners' programs and halfway houses.
Theirs was a kind of "professional" bazaar, where the booth of homemade goods was only one among many. The quaint and the costly were side by side - wooden soldier tree ornaments and $250 deluxe Cuisinarts, miniature furniture made on the spot by Fred Laughn and name-label suedecloth sportswear.
From Kites Aweigh in Annapolis came a white silk unicorn shield trailing 40 feet of rainbow, from Thai-Noel a square-yard of batique scarf, from Gow Bee Farms of Katy, Tex., a mysterious honey-mustard sauce passed out on tiny squares of cheese.
At the Alexandria bazaar, the food was limited to sandwiches. The majority of bazaars, however, not only include food, they depend on it, especially the "ethnic" events.
The Sons of Norway bazaar in McLean was a small, one-room display most notable for the baked goods and for the heavily embroided outfit, something like a pinafore, worn by Brit Aabakken Peterson. It is called a bunad, and in Norway the particular designs of the embroidery are linked to families and geographical areas somewhat the way Scottish tartans are, although not so strictly.
Hanging from a belt by a great silver clasp is a purse of matching material, in which she keeps not lipstick or money but an antique pewter spoon.
"It is my joke," she laughs. "In the old days, if you were invited to a wedding you would stay four or five days. So I bring my own spoon."
The Washington area is a melting pot of these ethnic bazaars, which in a single weekend may include Hungarian, Greek and Finnish as well as Norwegian.
The best are the ones you can smell blocks away. The sharp lemony smells of lamb and olives wafting out of the tents around Saint Sophia Cathedral in the District have established its annual Greek feast as a "must."
Here you could run the gauntlet of trys to compare the soft, heavy texture of the malted milk bali-colored Royal olives to the firmer body and brimy bite of the marinating "cracked" green olives, or the puckered Cretan fruit or the huge Calamatas from Peloponnesus.
Here too were the cheeses with names like a Greek chorus: kefalotiri, kasseri, feta and fontanella. And jars of taramcosalata - caviar whipped with olive oil into a pale pink spread - and pints of hot green peppers. And licorice-flavored ouzo, and bottles of Greek wine and beer.
Great piles of chicken origanato, moussaka, menestra and shiskebob vanished during the three-day event, but the pastries are the real stars of a Greek bazzar. Baklava, kadaifi, koulourakia and others with mouthfuls of syllables as big as the deserts themselves were baked by the hundreds. Like many bazaars, the Saint Sophia feast is a fund-raiser for the church.
The Christmas bazaar of the Hungarian Cadinal Mendszenty Society benefit that organization's social projects - Boy Scouts, Hungarian senior citizens, etc.
Brilliant and crowded inside a placid stone building on the grounds of the Franciscan monastery in northeast Washington, the Hungarian bazaar included a crowded exhibit of handiwork and art from private collections.
Arpad Sayko, a solid, humorous man who has lived here since 1937, waved his hand toward a manikin wearing a dress so heavy with embroidered flowers that the black material is all but obscured.
"In Hungary, there's no hanging around the drugstore," he joked. "The grandmother is the babysitter, and she starts by teaching the little ones how to thread a needle . . . telling stories and sewing . . . then they're 50 or 60 years old and can do that."
According to Sayko, the present Hungarian government "goes out of its way to encourage art," often buying examples of work for its collections.
The food as always, was a strong selling point - goulash, stuffed cabbage and chicken paprika. But the main attractions were the delicate Christmas tree ornaments made of blown-out eggshells lacquered and handpainted, or the more expensive porcelain "eggs" made like them.
There are, of course, bazaars at which the main attractions are books and art, such as the gian Stone Ridge bazaar in Bethesda. Last Year, the event netted $54,000 for the school, making it probably the most successful in the area.
The book sale alone - which this year included approximately 70,000 volumes - took up the entire gymnasium. Like an auction, a good book sale requires an exact sense of timing. As the clock crept toward closing hour, the prices of books dropped until, at 10 novels for a dollar, you could fill a carton with books for lunch money.
There are smaller bazaars with less grandiose goals, like the Hillandale bazaar which benefitted the Centers for the Handicapped in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. This was a more personal bazaar, where the notepaper, caps and mittens, and jars of pepper jelly and cantaloupe pickle were laboriously and loving homemade.
It was pervaded by a warm sense of humor and by the modesty and friendliness of the handicapped men and women who found chairs for tired workers and carefully smoothed the handmade comforters.
"This morning I was upset because everything wasn't the way I wanted," said co-chairman Bess Smith. "But then (the man playing) Santa Claus said, 'Why did you think you were going to be perfect?'"