In the Russian North, lavishly decorated towels were traditional gifts for many occasions, and especially for weddings. Gift towels often contained wishes of happiness and health embroidered in Cyrillic lettering. One of the towels on display reads, “To the one I love, I give this. I love dearly, I give for ever.” For her future wedding, a bride prepared between two dozen and a hundred homespun, hand-woven towels embroidered with the ancient symbols of protection and good fortune.

For example, a gift towel was put into the groom’s hat when he picked up the bride to go to church. In the church, the hands of the bride and groom were wrapped with a towel to signify their newly forged union. A small-sized white towel was put under the couple’s feet as they stood before the altar in the church, and both vied to step on it before the other. Whoever put his or her foot on the towel first had the opportunity to become the leader in the family. Wedding towels were often embroidered with the initials of the bride and groom, or hand woven with imaginative patterns in red.