My husband and I love Christmas shopping. We skip the malls and go to the small, eccentric, family-owned brick-and-mortar shops that have unique and meaningful gifts. And we fill in with gifts from small online shops.
This year’s going to be different, though. It looks like our shopping will all be online. If you’re shopping online, too, and looking for something special for the little ones in your life, I hope this holiday gift guide will help you find the perfect gift. Books. Icons. Peg dolls. Blocks. Stickers. Most of these items are hand-made. They’re all beautiful, meaningful, and the little ones in your life will love them.
And if you’re shopping for a not-so-little-one (or even for yourself!), you’ll find lovely gifts for grownups, too. Books, of course. Fine art. Tea cozies and kitchen towels. Jewelry. Plenty of variety to suit your taste and your budget.
Jesse Tree set for Orthodox Advent
If you love the idea of a Jesse tree during Advent, but you’re bummed out because all of the sets you can find start on December 1, you need Welcoming the Christ Child. This book and ornament set has everything you need to create a forty-day Orthodox Jesse Tree to count down the days until Nativity.
The set starts with a book written by Elissa Bjeletich and illustrated by Jelena Jeftic. It comes with a set of 40 ornaments, all packed in a tin. For each of the 40 days of Advent, you can read a story from the book, and hang the matching ornament on a small tree or on a pretty ribbon stretched across a wall.
Peg dolls of saints, with chocolate coins
If you want a peg doll representing a child’s patron saint, Emily Neve of Edmund and Ambrose makes two kinds: simple Waldorf-style peg dolls, and detailed icon-style peg dolls. I bought one of each for my St. Nicholas collection as soon as I saw them.
These gorgeous peg dolls are available from Paidea Classics. At this time, you can get an icon-style peg doll of St. Brigid or Panagia, or a Waldorf-style icon of St. Nicholas or a nun holding a St. Nicholas icon. Each peg doll comes packaged in a little organza bag with six imported chocolate coins.
Yes, I think books are a perfect gift for any occasion! I’ve got books that your little ones will love, and some ideas for older readers.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow is not about Saint Nicholas himself (although he appears on every page); it’s about how best friends Catherine and Elizabeth celebrated a particularly snowy St. Nicholas Day, when Elizabeth’s Nana was in the hospital.
Father and Son by Geraldine McCaughrean tells the story of the Nativity from St. Joseph’s point of view. It is a picture book, of course. And it is also an extended meditation on the incarnation.
The Adventure of Father Evangelos follows Father Evangelos as he makes his way to the Upper Village for the Christmas liturgy. There’s snow. His car breaks down. He gets lost. But a star, and the forest animals, show him the way.
If none of these are quite what you’re looking for, see my list of 17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids.
Books for older readers
With Two She Flew is Catherine Bodega’s debut middle grade novel. It’s the story of a refugee family on the run from border agents, a church committed to offering them radical hospitality, and an autistic girl who sees the world full of angels and saints and divine threads that hold everything together.
If you love YA novels, you’ll want to read Susan Cushman’s Cherry Bomb. The protagonist is a teen graffiti artist called Mare. After emerging from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her cult-leading father and foster parents, Mare encounters a famous artist, a reclusive nun, and a weeping icon of St. Mary of Egypt.
Cherry Bomb is available on Amazon.
Is Outrage! is a classic of Orthodox humor. In its pages you’ll meet Father Vasiliy Vasileivich, an Orthodox priest who manages to be both endearing and exasperating. He comments on (and sometimes exemplifies) the foibles of Orthodox Christians with the exclamation, “Is outrage!”
Darkness is as Light is a nine-week devotional for women persisting in hard places. Written for women going through hard times, by women who have experienced God’s presence in suffering, it is a perfect length for the fall and winter holiday season or any season of hardship.
Darkness is as Light is available on Amazon.
Handmade gifts from Cozy House Curios
Matushka Anna offers a range of handmade gifts at Cozy House Curios. Everything is absolutely amazing and utterly gorgeous. She’s got play censers. Monk and nun stuffed dolls for babies with or without ribbon tabs. Priest, monk, and nun dolls. Bishop or saint dolls. Orthodox child dolls. Miniature (1:12 scale) poseable priest, monk, and nun dolls that can stand on their own, perfect for a doll house.
Priest, monk, and nun dolls
Clergy and monastic dolls come in two sizes. The smaller ones, intended for babies and toddlers, come with everything stitched down tight, with no small parts that your little one can remove.
The last day to order the ready-made dolls is December 13.
She also makes custom clergy and monastic dolls, so your child (or your priest!) can have a doll that looks just like the priest at your parish. The last day for ordering custom dolls is November 29.
Orthodox child dolls
Matushka Anna also makes Orthodox child dolls. The dolls are mostly little girls. Every one is different. Each little girl doll comes with a complete outfit, her own tiny nun doll, a neck cross, and some form of head covering.
Besides the ready-made dolls, you can order a custom child doll that looks like your little one. The last day for ordering ready-made dolls is December 13, and the last day for ordering custom dolls is November 29.
Crocheted censer for liturgical play
Add liturgical play to your child’s dress-up corner with these beautiful crocheted censers. Matushka Anna makes the censers in silver and gold, with and without bells (or with detachable bells!). Toddler-sized censers have no bells. And you can even get tiny censer keychains!
The last day to order a crocheted censer, if you want it for Christmas, is December 10.
Wooden saint blocks and playsets
I love Little Saints blocks and playsets! They have a Saint Nicholas block, of course. The one in the picture I bought for my St. Nicholas collection. They also have a wide range of other saints, so you can likely find your godchild’s patron saint. And if they don’t offer that saint yet? For $24.95, you can sponsor adding the saint to their collection! That will take between 6 and 10 weeks, so if you want to do that for Christmas, don’t delay.
They’ve also got lots of wonderful playsets, from the Nativity to Joshua and the battle of Jericho. The 1.5 x 3 inch blocks are just the right size for little hands. They’re made from maple, with images printed directly on the wood. The edges are nicely rounded. The images are inspired by Orthodox iconography, and there’s a simple prayer to the saint printed on the back of each block. But these blocks are toys to play with, not icons to venerate.
You may think it’s just too expensive to commission a real hand-painted icon for a child. Peasants in 19th century Transylvania couldn’t afford icons, either. So they created their own, painting the icons on the back side of a piece of glass. Glass icons created in this tradition have the vividness and immediacy of folk art, while still being icons in the aid of prayer.
And they are much less expensive than conventional icons painted on wooden boards. A 5X7 icon is $75 (plus $10 shipping). Other sizes are available. Details are on iconographer Randi Sider-Rose’s website, Immanuel Icons. If you want to commission a glass icon for Christmas, you must order by Sunday, November 22.
I have one of the lovely embroidered icons by Kayla Marie Sophia. I just love it. The icons are in a 5″ embroidery hoop, and you can order any saint you like. That means that you can get a beautiful embroidered icon of your godchild’s patron saint (or yours!), even if you need one of the more obscure saints.
You can also order a custom embroidery of your church, in a 5″ embroidery hoop. The saints and churches are custom items, $80 each, and you can order them at any time through the contact form on Kayla’s website, Meaning of the Melody. The last day to order custom items for Christmas is November 2.
While you’re on the site, you’ll want to check out the ready-made items, from Waldorf-style lovies to an adorable embroidery of St. Lucia to pillowcases with an embroidered icon of St. Anna and the Theotokos on the corner.
The website will probably show “sold out” for all of these items. You can’t order them; you just have to catch them when Kayla lists them. The best way to do that is to sign up for emails and updates (the signup form is at the bottom of the contact page), or follow Meaning of the Melody on Instagram.
Stickers and prints
ArtofMarza brings the world of icons and stickers together to make creative, unique, and witty products. She’s inspired by iconography, anime, graffiti, and street art, seeing God in places where people assume we can’t find Him. She has a variety of stickers and prints on her website.
ArtofMarza’s durable vinyl stickers are water resistant, durable, and peel off clean so you don’t have to worry about what they get stuck to. You can safely use them on an array of surfaces.
Weighted blankets make people with low proprioception and sensory processing issues more comfortable, reducing baseline anxiety and fidgeting. The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket can also make it easier to sleep. They’re often recommended for people with autism, ADHD, and other neurological differences. My autistic kids (who are now adults) rely on weighted blankets.
Of course, people who need weighted blankets are often picky about textures of fabric against their skin. You can get a completely customized weighted blanket in time for Christmas. Just message Applehouse Cottage Quilts on Facebook. Diane will work with you to get the size, weight, and fabrics that will work best for your child (or for you!).
Fine art prints and original works.
Jocelyn Mathewes is a mixed-media interdisciplinary artist. She creates cyanotypes of feathers and cicada wings, on water color paper or on metal. Like this one:
I’m imagining giving one of the metal prints with a copy of With Two She Flew. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You can see more of Jocelyn’s work at her website, Jocelyn Mathewes.com.
Dr. Tatiana Nikolova-Houston creates fine art inspired by Slavic medieval manuscripts. They are breathtaking. Even the prints are adorned with Swarovski crystals. I love her peacocks best. She also offers illuminated Scripture verses, prayers, and poems.
You can view more of her work in the gallery on her website, Sacred Illuminations. Her original works are available at prices appropriate for these incredible pieces. You can also get prints starting at $50. She takes custom orders, so if there is a prayer or Bible verse you want, or if you have other questions about her work, email her at email@example.com.
You can learn a bit more about Tatiana and her work in a recent article in Veritas Journal.
Embroidered Christmas ornaments, made by you!
Tracy Thallas created the ornament designs for The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. If you work them in red, they’ll match the ornaments on the tree in Catherine’s living room. But you can work them in any color you like.
Tracy’s counted blackwork patterns are incredibly easy. If you can count, and do a backstitch, you can do them. If you’re not sure of your skills, you can try one, absolutely free. It’s called Snow Day Star.
These would be fun to tuck in someone’s Christmas stocking.
Bracelets and earrings from Rebeckah Rose
Check out these cross bracelets and matching earrings. To talk about colors, sizes, costs, and the like, contact the maker at Rebeckah Rose Creations on Instagram.
Jocelyn Mathewes offers gifts and encouragement for creatives at jocelynmathewes on Etsy. I like her enameled pins for writers, painters, and artists.
Soft saint doll pillows
When Anelia encountered the religious art of a talented Romanian artist by the name of Iosif Ioan Chezan, she got his permission to convert his icons into soft dolls for her children. Her children loved them, and now you can get one of the dolls for your children, too! They’re about 7 1/2 inches tall.
Right now, Anelia has St. George, St. Michael, and the Thetokos available in her shop on Etsy.
Gifts for your kitchen
Keep your tea warm in a sweet tea cozy from Diane at Applehouse Cottage Quilts. It’s a thoughtful gift for any tea lover.
The Sunday Lake shop on Etsy has all sorts of wonderful embroidered linen bags: reusable tea bags (to go with one of Diane’s tea cozies, perhaps?) to embroidered linen bags for antidoron or prosphora to bags for everyday use in the kitchen and around your home.
Pin cushions embellished with embroidery and lace. Knotted cord crosses. And Christmas ornaments!
You’ll want to explore the Sunday Lake shop to see everything that’s there.
This and That Homestead Etsy has added a Christmas Shop to their Etsy page. They’ve got kitchen items, ornaments, stocking stuffers, and more. I particularly like this kitchen gift set with the Orthodox Christmas greeting, “Christ is born!”
Valerie Eagan makes tea towels and other items from salvaged materials. She has a few sets of towels, like these, available now.
Because availability varies, the best way to find out what she has available is to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wynter, at The Acorn Collection on Etsy, offers a variety of lovely, useful items, including reusable muslin coffee filters, aprons, coffee cup cozies, and more. Many of the items come in Christmas colors and prints, like these pot holders.
The All Merciful Savior Wood Shop offers custom wooden items for the Orthodox Christian community. They are perhaps best known for making traditional wooden coffins. For Christmas, though, you’ll want to check out their beautiful cedar chests. They are simple and rustic, allowing the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.
There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t get paid for promoting any of these gifts. The list is my gift to Orthodox makers and Orthodox families. I hope you find something you love!
Build your own St. Nicholas Day gift bags: Here’s everything you need to put together sweet St. Nicholas Day gift bags for the children in your family or your parish.
Book activities with The Saint Nicholas Day Snow: Extend the book with cooking, crafts, academic activities, and Advent devotions.
Looking for the real St. Nicholas: When you see old men in red robes with white beards, how do you know if they’re intended to be Santa Claus or St. Nicholas? Check out the symbols and tropes in this post, and you’ll (almost) always be able to tell.