It’s so discouraging to see the holiday season starting earlier year after year. It was only Halloween last week and already store windows featured Christmas trees and decorations to put us in the mood to spend early and freely.

I prefer to get the holiday spirit in a more personal way. This year, I intend to make the rounds of several holiday art fairs to find my presents. These smaller events sport a more festive air and nearly always provide better opportunities than department stores to find distinctive, handmade creations.

While nearly all such fairs start the first week of December, I’m going to begin my holiday search at Artisan Market Streeterville next Saturday, November 9th (It also runs November 10th). It’s held in the atrium at Northwestern’s Lurie Research Center, 303 East Superior. It’s a hidden jewel! This community fair features a select pool of 50 juried artisans offering wares in categories such as clothing, jewelry, ceramics and home decor. Last year, I got a free stylish booklet featuring recipes from select chefs just for showing up and I hear this year that all attendees will receive a free booklet of a dozen specialty drinks from Streeterville mixologists.

Many Chicagoans make the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart their default destination. I went a few years back but have avoided it lately because it has become so big (500 artists) that my head starts spinning and I walk out empty-handed. But if you must try it, it will be held Dec. 5-8. I’d suggest going the first two days or else many good items will be gone by the weekend.

You can find me December 7th or 8th at the Renegade Craft Fair Winter Market just because it sounds like fun. More than 150 artists will be on hand with craft  demonstrations and entertainment. It’s at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 West Blackhawk.

Architectural Artifacts at 43 25 North Ravenswood is a massive warehouse featuring fabulous antique and novelty artifacts the rest of the year but on Dec. 9th, 75 artists will be on hand showing their creations. I love the venue and will definitely check it out for the holidays. Their antique wares are fairly pricey but I hope the holiday won’t bust my wallet.

Finally, on December 14th and 15th, the 15th annual Bucktown Art Fair gets underway. This seems like a good spot if you are getting near Christmas and still haven’t found that right gift. 100 Exhibitors will be on hand at the Holstein Park Fieldhouse, 2200 North Oakley Avenue.

Of course, countless churches and boutique shops will be hosting their own holiday events. Don’t get frazzled in fighting hurried department store crowds. Keep it simple, stay in the holiday spirit by remembering that phrase Small is Beautiful!

For more information, like hours of operation, check the following websites:  Artisan Market–www.artisan.soarchicago.org; One-of-a-Kind Show–www. oneofakindshowchicago.com; Renegade Craft Fair– www.renegadecraft.com/chicago-winter-home; www.architecturalartifacts.com; Bucktown Art Fair–www.bucktownpromotions.com