It's the season of giving, and for those who survive "Black Friday" -- notoriously the busiest shopping day of the year -- it remains the season of shopping for at least a few more weeks.
Thankfully, Washingtonians shopping for holiday gifts after Friday, Nov. 27, which is gearing up for major mayhem thanks to myriad retailer enticements, don't have to worry about getting trampled at Target, or worse, settling for what mediocre item is left on the shelves.
Washington is home to the annual Downtown Holiday Market, beginning Friday, Dec. 4 and this year featuring more than 180 vendors setting up shop at 8th and F Streets NW, where they'll sell one-of-a-kind antiques, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, art and clothing.
''Belts and dog collars are our signature product,'' says Jonathon Wye, a vendor bound to entice pet owners and leather lovers. Wye is popular in D.C. for selling artist-made belts, each costing $65. ''We're going to have a ton of new patterns. Patterns like plaids and stripes are becoming very popular on belts,'' he says.
Wye will also be selling trendy T-shirts ranging in price from $25 to $30.
But the art available for sale at the Downtown Holiday Market is not limited to clothing. High-end buyers can look to Caos on F.
''We have fine art,'' says Michael Berman, of items ranging anywhere in price from $200 to $5,000. ''We have furniture, fabric, paintings, collages, ceramic pieces and more.''
Berman is one of the organizers of the festive outdoor market and says that in years past it has attracted people from all around the region. ''It's a great mix of everything that D.C. has to offer,'' he says.
While Alexandria's Torpedo Factory Art Center is not setting up shop at the Downtown Holiday Market, the store is having its own Holiday Open House on Thursday, Dec. 3. Featuring large artist-made snowflake decorations and live jazz, the event is free and open to everyone.
''Sometimes holiday shopping can be a chore for people, but this is something that is just really a good time, and you get to pick out really original special gifts that people are going to remember,'' says the center's Claire Mouledoux.
Those special gifts include creations made by Torpedo artists accommodating nearly ever price range.
''You're going to find everything from handmade mugs, running around $20, to enameled jewelry that would be under $100. We have $40 scarves, and paintings that might be thousands of dollars.''
And in keeping with the notion that the holidays are about giving, Torpedo Factory will also be collecting non-perishable food items for an Alexandria-based homeless shelter.
''You don't have to RSVP to attend,'' Mouledoux adds. ''Just show up.''
The fifth annual Downtown Holiday Market, is begins Friday, Dec. 4, and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 23, from noon to 8 p.m. daily at 8th and F Streets NW. Visit downtownholidaymarket.com. Torpedo Factory Art Center's holiday market event runs from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 3, at 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. Visit torpedofactory.org or call 703-838-4565.