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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jump On the Passion Wagon

I think St. Valentine's Day came to Russia at the perfect moment," said 28-year-old Natasha, who's been celebrating St. Valentine's for six years. "We didn't want to mark those stupid socialist holidays anymore. We needed a special holiday to satisfy our emotional human side, that was why we were so enthusiastic in joining the rest of the world and marking this holiday." In the early '90s, when most of the communist-era holidays lost their meaning, the only favorites to survive were New Year's and birthdays. Just about that time, the local Moskovsky Komsomolets daily ran a big story about the famous Western holiday for sweethearts and proposed its readers start the same tradition in Russia.

So, in just several years, St. Valentine's Day has become a new favorite holiday - as well as an element of city life when, for one week in February, red roses are the most sought after flowers in town, restaurants feature special menus, night clubs host special parties and lovers prowl around in search of romantic gifts.

Any congratulations start with cards and, although you can find them this week even in your neighborhood grocery store, the cutest and wittiest of them are on sale at the Hallmark stores ($1.50 to $3) together with beautiful paper and bags for wrapping your presents. "In Europe, everyone is content to give each other cards and chocolate, and I think that's enough. But Russians are indefatigable and irrepressible in everything, including presents," 26-year-old Lika said. A young woman on the hunt for a gift to please her husband at Kalinka-Stockmann thought that "in contrast to the feminist International Women's Day and the militaristic Army Day, St. Valentine's is a unisex holiday and it's nice for both sexes to get one more present in the year." Her 25-year-old friend Irina continued, "St. Valentine's Day is a good occasion to give a memorable present to someone you love."

And some of Moscow's big stores can help you make a choice.

Forget about jewelry from Chopard or Bulgari, where the prices on heart-shaped accessories start at $1,000. We're talking about some moderately priced goods that won't leave you penniless, but can help make the holiday memorable.

In case you can't think of anything special for your valentine, the wide array of cosmetics and fragrances at Articoli promises to be a fail-safe solution. Take note of the scents with designs featuring red hearts, for example, Oh! from Moschino and Vice Versa from Yves Saint Laurent. The Rivoli perfume store has a special holiday offer until Monday: Buy any two perfumes with a 10 percent discount and get the chance to win a special prize for lovers from Emporio Armani.

Swatch has created special watches that not only sport roses but even smell like them ($46)! And Benetton has joined the Valentine's craze with its red-heart-covered underwear collection: bikinis and nightgowns for her, boxers and T-shirts for him ($12 to $35). Or, if those are too intimate, check out the "United Lovers of Benetton" T-shirt, complete with a heart-shaped box ($27).

Kalinka-Stockmann offers a wide spectrum of special St. Valentine's Day goods, and don't think you'll get by without hearts here. The store's assortment can satisfy all your needs for this special night. Of course, candles are an inalienable attribute of St. Valentine's: The various heart candles ($2.20 to $6.90) and metal candle-holders decorated with carved hearts ($2.50) will help set a romantic atmosphere. If you feel like whipping up something sweet for your loved one, take a look at the heart-shaped cookie-cutters ($1.20). Or maybe you prefer the store-bought stuff? No problem - cookies can be served right on their original heart-form plate ($15.90). Napkins at the holiday dinner can be neatly tucked into heart-shaped holders ($3.50), and a lone flower can decorate your table in a vase on a red heart pedestal ($12.90). Finally, why not sip champagne from special crystal glasses with two frosted hearts ($11.90 each)? Don't despair: If the shopping gets you down you can take part in a special St. Valentine's lottery instead, with the final drawing to be held at the store Sunday at 5 p.m.

Oh yes! What about after the champagne? Although one Internet survey showed that nearly 79 percent of young women feel St. Valentine's can be celebrated without sex, just in case some of them change their minds, Kalinka-Stockmann has gorgeous bed linens with light-red hearts on a dark-red background ($105 to $169) that can intensify their passion. And don't forget to switch off the red heart lamp from the Payle salon ($109).


Stores featured in this article:

Benetton/Furla/Rivoli: Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center, 1 Manezhnaya Ploshchad, Metro Okhotny Ryad

Benetton: 13 Novy Arbat, Metro Arbatskaya

Hallmark: 21 Novy Arbat, Metro Smolenskaya

Kalinka-Stockmann on Smolensky Bulvar, Metro Smolenskaya

Payle salon: zero level of Smolensky Passazh, Metro Smolenskaya

Articoli Gallery: GUM on Red Square, Metro Okhotny Ryad

Swatch: GUM or Aktyor Gallery on Tverskaya Ulitsa, Metro Tverskaya