From Russia with Gifts: Celebrate the Holidays

What to get for your friends and family at home?  The holiday shopping frenzy is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re trying to get something with St. Petersburg or Russian flavor. Here’s my totally subjective top six list.

Photo credit: Bestrussiandolls on Etsy.com

Matryoshka dolls. Ok, this might sound trite but a matryoshka - a nesting doll - is still a Russian icon. I get requests for it from just about everyone I know. Matryoshkas come in all shapes and sizes, as works of art, keychains, measuring cups, you name it.  Last year, I got one with paintings by the Russian impressionists (at the stall by the Russian Museum), two just pretty ones with lots of details (at Bykvoed bookstore by Passage Mall) and a bunch of bulk ones as stocking stuffers at the metro underground pass on Nevsky Prospect (you can also get them online). 

Pryaniki, candied cranberries and other delicacies. If you’re going home for the holidays, how about getting a gift you can share - and sample - with your friends and family?  Consider sugar-coated cranberries, tart and sweet at the same time and oh so addicting, pryaniki - a honey gingerbread - that looks like a print art, local chocolates and other Russian favorites. 

Photo credit: DeinLaemmle
Photo credit: DeinLaemmle

Scandinavian-style knitted hats, scarves and booties. Maybe it’s the cute reindeer, or the soft lining, or the promise of hygge - the Scandinavian take on cosiness. Maybe it’s because I own them and wear them and love them, and people around me want one too. My favorite is a hat that looks like a super long triangle - you can look like a gnome or wrap it around your neck like a scarf. You can find all sorts at the outdoor holiday markets and online

Photo credit: Egeriya
Photo credit: Egeriya

Kitchen stuff. I used to get wooden spoons and sugar bowls and such in traditional Russian patterns, like red-black-golden khohloma, but they can be pricey. Lately I’ve switched to hot pads, aprons, and tea towels, also in traditional patterns, and have been finding them at bargain prices in stores like Okey and Lenta. Last year I also got their metal tea containers, with traditional Russian holiday pictures, which made for awesome little gifts under 400 rubles.

Photo credit: Labirint.ru
Photo credit: Labirint.ru

Wall calendars. You’ll say people plan their life on their phone - I too was surprised at how excited my friends were to get them. Maybe we’re moving towards enjoying tangible things again. The surest place to get them would be book stores, where you’ll also find lots of fun postcards and neat knicknacks. To my surprise, I found the cheapest calendars with the views of St. Petersburg at my neighborhood Okey store. 

Photo credit: Imperial Porcelain
Photo credit: Imperial Porcelain

Classy porcelain. St. Petersburg is known for its Imperial Porcelain, particularly for items with a “cobalt net” pattern. But it’s not all just posh golden vases at royal prices. They have contemporary collections and holiday items (think cute mice - the symbol of 2020), and lots of pretty plates and cups with views of St. Petersburg and Russian motives. I discovered their store on Zagorodny Prospect, between ITMO and Dostoevskaya metro station, and couldn’t resist getting my parents two love birds. 

Thinking Russia and school spirit in one? Pop by ITMO.Store and get a khokhloma bow tie!

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