Small gifts tucked into stockings is a holiday tradition that has been handed down through the centuries, a custom born of a gentle saint and wishful children who placed great store on putting shoes and stockings by the fireplace.
Stockings are still hung by chimneys with care, with the expectation of a mystical bounty. Small books and gifts that might otherwise get lost under the tree find a happy home in the stocking, along with clever toys, magic tricks and jewelry. A clementine in the toe, nuts and sweet treats are tradition.
Just look out for the coal.
Time hasn’t changed the rules for stuffing a stocking much, although many have been known to bend them for their own purposes. But as any traditionalist knows, the most beloved stocking stuffers are earthy bits and bobs and the unexpected item, especially if it's handmade. A stocking is not the place for a gadget that requires batteries.
Holiday craft markets--such as Handmade Arcade
this weekend--and card, gift and specialty stores are brimming with great items. Museum stores also offer a bounty of booty, from comedic to classical, and part of the proceeds usually benefit local artists as well as the institution. All are local and online.
For the connoisseur of Pittsburgh memorabilia, look no further than the Heinz History Center Museum Shop
, the keeper of pickle and ketchup pins, tees and ornaments. Imagine the surprise when your loved one bites down on a dill pickle candy cane or mint.
Does a box set of Christmas clothespins suit your fancy? You’ll find those at the Heinz Shop along with hand-blown glass earrings, jewelry and paperweights from the Pittsburgh Glass Center
The Mattress Factory Shop
goes artsy-techy with artist-designed tees, buttons and jewelry. There are cool laser-cut, felt bracelets and necklaces in the binary code. Or plastic pendants, if you prefer. Choose from an array of snap and velcro bracelets in retro prints.
Little ones will enjoy the colorful toy tops made of tin, the wind up Kikkerland robots or the E-Z Chopsticks, bamboo sticks joined at the top, not a bad idea for the dexterity challenged.
For fans who want a little sporting flair, Pittsburgh’s Sharon Massey of Jewelry N’at
has designed Jagoff and Stillers tie clasps, cufflinks and earrings. Find all this and more at The Mattress Factory's holiday shopping event on Dec. 15 featuring artwork by local artists, staff, volunteers and educators.
Support local artists with a visit to the newly expanded Holiday Shop that now fills the entire first floor of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
Handcrafted ornaments, pottery, jewelry and objects are available here by your favorite Pittsburgh artist.
Looking for more in the way of pop culture and humor? The Andy Warhol Museum Store
is where to find mints for your cat, Bad Ass cologne and ridiculous stocking-sized books like “point it, the traveler’s language guide.” This is where to pick up Warhol artwork for your iPhone, iPad and MacBook, iconic prints like the Brillo soap box, Marilyn Monroe and the Banana.
Too glib? The classical art lover might prefer the higher-end stuffers from the Carnegie Museum Shop
or The Museum Shop at The Frick
, both offering items like unique jewelry, specialty teas, small art books and gorgeous decks of playing cards.
For the best collection of vintage comic books, unique sound, prints and local literary work, look no further than the copacetic comics company
. Located on Polish Hill above Mind Cure Records, this hidden treasure contains a fabulous collection of images, text, sound and art that will empower any sock.
Which brings us to some of the random stocking stuffer offerings from the card, gift and specialty stores.
in Lawrenceville is a one-stop shop for some of the coolest trinkets in town, including wool-yarn bangles, Forbes Field post cards and darling crochet perogies, safety cones and smiling light bulbs by Pittsburgh artist Alicia Kachmar
The travel mug coffee cozies are cute too. Or how about Steelers hero playing cards?
On a sports note, it’s no secret that the best Pittsburgh sports paraphernalia lines the streets of the Strip District any time of year, long tables filled with logo-emblazoned chapsticks, keychains, shot glasses, headwear and other tchotchkes.
And while you’re wandering the aisles, don’t forget to peruse the fruits and nuts at one of many produce stalls along the way.
In Shadyside, check out the Shadyside Variety Store on Walnut Street. A throwback to the five- and-dime days before inflation, The Variety Store is where to find toys that have withstood the test of time: yoyos, Kadamas, Silly Putty, Fiki Football, boomerangs, wooden blocks and paddle balls.
Down the street at Kards Unlimited, there’s stuff you never knew anyone needed: delicious colored pens, tiny joke books, tin whistles and wind up music boxes.
For the foodies in the family, look no further than Pittsburgh Public Market, purveyors of fruits, nuts and dried cured sausages as well as rich homemade jellies and jams and spice blends. One hot seller this season is the “Cute As A Button Tree,” a hanging ornament that comes in several colors, sold through the eco-friendly Design Your Bag shop. The black and gold button trees are going fast.
, sold in single serving bags, is always a great addition. For the coffee drinkers, a bag of a favorite Strip District blend is welcome, or check out the new small batch roaster Zeke’s
And last but certainly not least, with the New Year upon us and a reduction of calories in our future, what better way to do it than with Canonsburg-based Sarris Candies’ convenient snack pack? Dark and milk chocolate pretzel slims, just 100 calories each, is a delicious single serving way to cutback without sacrificing taste. Available at your local Giant Eagle and Walgreens.
Happy stocking shopping. And if nothing else, a bottle of Wigle Whiskey
will surely do!
Writer + Photographer: Deb Smit
Photos top to bottom:
Holiday clothes pins, Heinz Museum Store
Glass earrings, Heinz Museum Store, Pittsburgh Glass Center
, Heinz Museum Store
Crochet string of smiling holiday bulbs, Alicia Kachmar, Etsy
Cute as a button tree, Pittsburgh Public Market
Pittsburgh Football Heroes Cards, Wild Card
Andy Warhol's New York City, Kards Unlimited
Wind up robots, Mattress Factory Shop
Point It, Andy Warhol Museum Store