Christmas gifts from around the world

The Prague Post

Diplomatic bazaar again offers exotic fare for a good cause

Cash may not be flowing as freely this holiday shopping season, which is another good reason to do your Christmas shopping at the annual International Christmas Bazaar hosted by the Diplomatic Spouses’ Association (DSA). Now in its eighth year at the Hilton Prague hotel, it’s become a perennial favorite in the Golden City.

“People like it and always come back if they can,” says Jenny Antoniades, DSA president and wife of the Cypriot ambassador. “I think it’s a nice experience, and it may be the biggest charity event in Prague.”

Indeed, the Bazaar raised more than 5 million Kc last year. DSA members use the funds to support a variety of charities across the Czech Republic. This past year, a total of 18 charities received money from the Christmas Bazaar proceeds. Committee members hope to help around 20 charities in the coming year.

“We used to support a larger number, but we are focused on targeted projects and a smaller number of charities so we can keep in touch with them and follow up during the year,” says Daiga Bondare, Bazaar coordinator and wife of the counsellor from Latvia. “A reasonable number of charities also allows us to give more money for larger projects.”

The focus changes every year as well, with committee members looking to help children, women, the elderly and the disabled in 2009. “We want to focus support on specific projects, for instance buying a handicapped [-accessible] van or furniture for an apartment,” Antoniades says.

Admission to the event is only 50 Kc ($2.50), which also buys you a raffle ticket for great prizes like airline tickets, hotel vouchers, gift certificates for local restaurants and trips within the Czech Republic. Each raffle prize has a minimum value of 3,000 Kc. And let’s not forget the shopping.

If you’ve been to the bazaar in years past, you won’t be disappointed with what’s on display this year. A total of 47 countries will be selling goods, including two new additions: Azerbaijan and the State of Palestine. There will also be a formal Czech table this year.

“There’s a wide variety of things being sold,” says Bondare. “Fresh fruit, homemade ethnic foods, desserts, wines from many countries, traditional liqueurs, traditional handicrafts, typical souvenirs, jewelry, watches and more.”

Latvia is promoting itself as a source of natural goods, so at Bondare’s booth you’ll see items like sugar-coated cranberries, special Latvian rye bread and linen. Antoniades plans on selling wine, silver jewelry, Cypriot cheese and traditional sweets.

And it’s all fresh. Latvia plans to fly in the bread, and Bondare expects that edibles from other countries, like oranges from Spain, will arrive the same way. Other embassies will be cooking up homemade treats here.

If you’re feeling the money pinch this year, Bondare urges you to come anyway.

“You’ll get these items for a lower price than you would in the country they came from — it’s a bargain,” she says. “If you’re looking for Christmas presents, it’s a good opportunity.”

Getting a bargain and helping someone in need? Now there’s a Christmas wish that should be on everyone’s list.