There’s Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. And then there’s Christmas shopping, a cruel fight for every inch of your sanity across a tinsel-coated consumerist hellscape.
Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You plays on repeat from the moment the last Halloween decoration falls, lulling you into a false sense of security. By the time you come to your senses, it’s already 2 December. Your local shopping mall is teaming with desperate parents fighting for the last BTS hair scrunchie, and you’re still scared to order off Amazon after you drunkenly arranged for 33 five-kilo bags of sugar-free Gummi Bears to be delivered to your house. You no longer know where to turn.
Luckily, The Calvert Journal is here with our very best selection of New East-themed gifts to solve your shopping woes and spread some festive cheer. Not only are they sure to be one-of-a-kind underneath the tree, but you’ll be supporting independent stores, artists, and designers.
With kitchen cupboards already groaning with carb-filled seasonal goodies, the festive period sadly isn’t peak season for sour-cream topped pierogi goodness. But thanks to the latest collection of necklaces and rings from Polish designer Hetman Jewelry, you can keep your favourite gold-plated dumpling close to your heart while chowing down on the turkey.
Created by London-based designer Natalia Romanova, homeware label Firmavera uses stained stonework to create vases, fruit bowls, and candlesticks with a brutalist edge. Inspired by Romanova’s experience as an industrial designer, as well as a childhood surrounded by Soviet-era architecture, it’s a strong, striking collection that constantly challenges just what it really means for a building — or even a Christmas decoration — to be “beautiful”.
What time is it? Time to celebrate the bold architectural vision of the ultimately-doomed Bulgarian Communist party? Unveiled by leader Todor Zhivkov as the country’s new party headquarters in 1981, the now-abandoned Buzludzha monument is a staunch Calvert reader favourite. But if putting a framed photograph of your best-loved socialist monument on the wall is a step too far for the family over the festive period, then consider this clock a much-needed compromise. It’s practical. It’s aesthetically-pleasing. What else can you ask for in a Christmas gift?
The problem with Christmas dinner — or, indeed, any dinner — is that there just aren’t enough opportunities to discuss Stalinist architecture. And at this fateful moment, dear readers, is where the Warsaw Palace of Culture pepper grinder steps in. Designed by HelloWawa — surely the only company to describe Warsaw not as a city but as a “state of mind” — this bougie kitchen utensil is made of beech, almost 20cm tall, and shaped to look like the Polish capital’s most imposing landmark. Not only is it a conversation starter, it’s sure to go great with pierogi.
Sure, you could go and visit the ornate metro stations of Kyiv, Moscow, and Tashkent in person, but hear me out: Soviet Metro Stations by Fuel Publishing could be even better. There are no commuters. No elderly ladies who are inexplicably angry at you for sharing the same metro carriage as them. No judgemental security staff asking why you’ve spent all day staring at Soviet mosaics, and don’t you need to be going somewhere? Instead, this cosy coffee table book is perfect for a quiet moment of contemplation and a small window into a different era of mass transportation.
Another brave entry in our ongoing theme of “copious Soviet architecture in your everyday life”, this offering from online store Untitled Story will turn showering (socially-mandated, boring, routine) into a window on Kyiv’s architectural splendour (unappreciated, edgy, eye-catching). And even if your housemates want to complain, just explain that spending the day threading shower curtain hooks is a great festive bonding experience. It’s a win-win all round.
Backed by the Bulgarian Football Union and emblazoned with the words “football for all”, the Scarf of Respect is a direct response to the racist abuse that broke out among a small group of fans at Bulgaria’s Euro 2020 qualifier against England in October. For most of us, the New Year is a time to reflect and commit to change. This scarf is a reminder that something that should bring joy to millions is still tainted by hate and intolerance. It also reminds us that we can all do something about it.
If you’ve been within 50 metres of a Comic Con, record store, or comic book shop in the last year, then you’re probably familiar with POP! Vinyl: cult miniature models of pop culture heroes. The Folqa Collection ticks all the same boxes: compact, cute, and brightly decorated. But instead of celebrating TV characters, the Folqua are spreading Hungarian cheer. Founded in 2011 with the modest aim of being a souvenir that Hungarians would do more than “tolerate” but openly embrace, each of the Folqas represent a region, a profession, and a Hungarian folk motifs. They’ve since become something of their own phenomenon, sparking their own homeware and kitchen range.