2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Presents from Philly

The holidays are upon us, and things are, well, admittedly a bit different this year. But that does not mean one cannot find a way to celebrate, albeit in a socially distanced way. Although the year has been difficult, there are things to be grateful and thankful for, and there are ways to end 2020 on an upbeat note. 

So if you are looking for ideas on how to tell lovers, spouses, friends, and family members that you care for them — because it is truly the thought that counts — here are some gift ideas that might make folks feel special. Please note that many stores are open with social distancing, and some stores offer curbside pickup. 

For folks who feel stressed out (or need some self-care), comfort them with products from Duross and Langel. Steve, the owner, recommends the hand-picked, handmade soaps in “The OG – Soap Box.” The package contains three bars (ocean, mojito, and blood orange) that were among the store’s most popular items this year. If you’re feeling festive, there are also “holiday cocktail soap stacks,” which offer four “flavors,” including a “spiced old fashioned” (clementine tangerine with clove and cinnamon) to “horny drunken goat” (double barrel bourbon with nutmeg). And for folks that overdo it, there is always “The Hangover” gift box, which includes assorted bath items such as a rosemary bath bomb, stress relief bubble bath, a bath soak comprised of basil, peppermint, and lavender oils, as well as a bar of rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint soap and aromatherapy oil. 

At Verde, Mary, the store manager, says that hair accessories are popular right now as folks need to look good on Zoom meetings. The store offers stylish clips, Turban-style headbands in solid colors or patterned fabrics, as well as some hand-beaded ones from India. Verde also has artisanal, Philly-themed chocolates available for anyone on your list. The Philly Sports boxes — designed to represent the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers — include hazelnut praline, peanut butter pretzel, dark chocolate vanilla ganache, and dark chocolate raspberry ganache. They are available in boxes with 9, 16, or 32 pieces.

Verde’s sister store, Open House, is also promoting Philly sport teams. Manager Joelle recommends the store’s exclusive local beanies and face masks (please mask up!) as well as its “Sundays are for the Birds” cooler and various hooked wool pillows that showcase Philly’s teams, Gritty(!), or concepts, like “jawn,” “215,” and “PHL.” The store also features some fun holiday ornaments, featuring Gritty, Cher, and David Bowie, and other celebrities. 

Jo, the manager at Omoi Zakka, another local business, is suggesting notebooks and pens as gifts this year — since planners and organizers are perhaps less practical in these lockdown days that seem to blur together. (Though they sell them if needed). The starter fountain pen set offers a rainbow of ink colors so folks can get creative. Jo also recommends the store’s Elemense Incense products (there are four different boxes) that consist of multiple fragrances designed to appeal to all five senses. Jo describes the aroma as “perfumey, but not overwhelming,” assuring that they will make any home smell nice. 

For bibliophiles, Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room is promoting “queerbook,” an anthology of 30 winning writers’ entries — fiction, non-fiction, and poetry — from the store’s first-ever writing contest. Contributors include local poet Glorious Piner, Corey Qureshi, Abby Cohen, Cooper Kidd, and Andrew B. Spiers. Sales from the book go to help people living with HIV/AIDS. A coffee-table book that might be worth gifting/getting is “Rainbow Revolution,” by photographer Magnus Hastings which features images of more than 300 LGBTQIA+ folks, like fashion designer Rey Ortiz posing with a mannequin and a rainbow of fabrics, or drag performer Ongina in taffeta and a crown on a swing in a giant white box. 

For those folks needing something new to watch, TLA Releasing offers the Brazilian import, “Dry Wind” which will provide some heat on a cold winter’s night. Sandro (Leandro Faria Lelo) and Ricardo (Allan Jacinto Santana) meet for raunchy trysts, but Sandro soon falls for the sexy, leather-clad Maicon (Rafael Teóphilo). However, Maicon couples up with Ricardo instead. The film is pretty explicit, and often hypnotic.

Wolfe Video has the lesbian title “Good Kisser” about Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) and Kate (Rachel Paulson) who open up their relationship when they “go on a date with another woman,” Mia (Julia Eringer). Wolfe is also offering a discount on “Cloudburst” the 2011 comedy-drama starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple that goes on a road trip. 

For anyone who wants something old but new again, earlier this year Criterion released a restored and digitally remastered edition of “Paris Is Burning,” Jennie Livingston’s seminal 1990 documentary on ballroom culture, with hours of additional outtakes and commentaries.

And one more thing to consider. Given the needs of both charities and small businesses this year, there are ways to be generous during the holiday season. It is certainly important to support LGBTQ-focused organizations such as Philadelphia FIGHT, The Attic Youth Center, the Mazzoni Center, MANNA, GALALEI, COLOURS, Philly Asian Queer, Philly AIDS Thrift, and the William Way Center as well as organizations such as the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, Equality PA/Garden State Equality, HRC, and the ACLU. It is also worth donating to local libraries, museums, theaters, and other arts organizations that are in need of support. 

Here’s to happy holidays and a bright 2021.