A Guide to Great Gifts for Under the Tree

MTAt the New Year's Fair at Kuznetsky Most, several small booths offer everything from these dolls to hookah pipes, knives and swords, jewelry, mobiles and Santa costumes.
If you're worried about finding the perfect gifts for the people on your list this holiday season, take heart. It's easy to play the part of a generous St. Nick -- with the help of a few well-stocked gift shops and fairs. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, Old New Year's or New, the right gift is out there.

A good starting point is Amato, a gift shop on the middle level of the Okhotny Ryad shopping center. Filled with whimsical, funky gifts, Amato sells fancy soaps, fashionable women's clothing, children's toys and more practical items like picture frames and lamps.

The soaps are by Primal Elements (250 rubles, or just under $8, and higher) and are available in various shapes -- umbrellas, poodles, teddy bears, hearts and more -- with pleasant aromas. If you're not sure what to give Dad or Grandpa, why not brighten up his morning with soap in the shape of golf balls or golf clubs? For Mom or Sis, Amato has unique women's sweaters and accessories by Twinset and Liu-Jo. The sweaters are on sale this week; prices start at 3,000 rubles.

Other gifts available at Amato include stocking stuffers like picture frames, hanging mobiles, papier-mache desk ornaments, hair accessories and other knick-knacks (from 200 to 4,000 rubles). The mobiles (1,500 rubles) are made of cloth and consist of witches riding airplanes, bicycles and broomsticks, while the picture frames (prices start at 200 rubles) come in all shapes and sizes and include plain white varieties and frames made of shells.

The New Year's Fair (Novogodnyaya Yarmarka) at Kuznetsky Most also offers an extensive selection of gifts. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until New Year's Eve, the fair's vendors peddle everything from hookah pipes and porcelain and cloth dolls to jewelry and hanging mobiles.

Near the fair's entrance, shoppers will find several stands offering all manner of women's jewelry, both domestic and imported, mass-produced and high-end, gaudy and understated. Opposite these are booths offering unorthodox candles in all colors (from 25 rubles), blown glass vases (from 800 rubles), metal hookah pipes inlaid with enamel and glass (from 2,200 rubles), as well as very elaborate hanging mobiles of original design (see above photograph).

If you're in the market for a gift with an Asian flavor, one stand near the fair's entrance offers Pashmina shawls starting at 1,000 rubles, as well as Buddha busts and Chinese-style fans. Another offers a wide selection of Chinese lanterns -- just the thing to brighten up a holiday party. There are also booths selling sushi sets, ornaments for a Christmas or New Year's tree and chunky turquoise, amber and coral jewelry.

In the next room, another vendor offers swords and gun holsters (from 5,000 rubles), a wide selection of knives (from 700 rubles), sets of silver shot glasses (500 rubles) and a portable bar (1,600 rubles) for the person who prefers to drink his eggnog on the go.

Don't leave the fair without visiting a booth near the entrance where employees will gift wrap your purchases with colorful paper, ribbons and bows (prices depend on the size of the gift and start at 100 rubles). Or, if you plan to impersonate Santa Claus this holiday season, costumes are available there too -- complete with hat, fluffy beard and plastic mask (2,000 rubles).

If you don't find what you're looking for at the fair, head next to the Christmas Fair (Rozhdestvenskaya Yarmarka) at the Central House of Artists. There, local artisans sell their work from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, until Sunday.

A stand near the entrance to the fair is stocked with handmade jewelry -- made mostly of turquoise, in retro and art deco settings. Because most of the stones are imported from Armenia, prices are relatively low. A set of turquoise earrings and a matching ring, for example, sells for 2,300 rubles.

Around the corner, another booth offers quilted vests for adults and children. The vests, made of felt and boiled wool, are the booth's main attraction, but handmade wool purses and skirts with woven landscape scenes are also available. Prices start at 300 rubles.

At the fair's Svechnoi Dvor, or Candle Courtyard, unorthodox candles in a rainbow of colors abound. There are tall candles, small candles, round candles and more. Most of the candles are made with varicolored pastel stripes and bows made of wax. Prices for the candles, which are also available online at www.candles.ru, start at around 200 rubles.

One of the fair's busiest booths is the one that sells Yaga scarves, which are made of a combination of wool and a thinner, cobweb-like yarn. The scarves come in a variety of lengths and widths and start at 3,000 rubles.

A final must-visit shop for holiday gift-givers is a world away from these city-center locations, but upscale boutique and gallery Dacha, in the village of Zhukovka, is well worth the trip.

Dacha, part of which is housed in a two-story white izba, or log cabin, sells a great deal of imported merchandise as well as domestic goods. In addition to the original paintings and other works of art available for sale at the gallery, the boutique has imported wooden furniture from Indonesia and India. Small pieces start at 30,000 rubles, while larger items like heavy chairs and armoires are priced considerably higher. Dacha also offers refurbished domestic antique furnishings at prices comparable to those of the imported items.

If you're looking for something smaller than a chair or cabinet, Dacha also has handicrafts aplenty, including children's toys such as bronze bells and antique dolls. Toy prices start at just under 800 rubles.

Amato is located on the middle level of the Okhotny Ryad shopping center, 1 Manezh Square. Metro Okhotny Ryad. Tel. 737-8323.

The Christmas Fair continues to Sun. in Halls 2 and 3 at the Central House of Artists, located at 10 Krymsky Val. Metro Park Kultury, Oktyabrskaya. Tel. 238-4059.

Dacha is located at 70 Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, in the village of Zhukovka. No nearby metro station. From Belorussky Station, take an elektrichka train to the Ilyinskaya stop. Tel. 778-1486.

The New Year's Fair continues to Dec. 31 and is located at 11 Kuznetsky Most. Metro Kuznetsky Most. Tel. 924-2450.