If you are invited to a small holiday gathering or even invited to visit overnight with a friend or relative, you may wonder if a gift is necessary or even appropriate. The etiquette experts all agree that it is. You were chosen by your host and hostess to be included on their guest list. They are spending a lot of time and energy, and money to provide an entertaining experience with good food and drinks. A gift to show your appreciation, like plant gifts or an arrangement of holiday cookies, is not just appropriate—it’s both kind and thoughtful.
Choosing a hostess gift is easy if you know the host and hostess well. If these are new acquaintances or know them from work but have never been to their home, it may be a little more difficult. Please don’t bring a gift of food that they may feel you expect them to serve at the get-together. They have a menu planned, and your food may not fit. If you want to bring a food item, perhaps choose some breakfast bakery for the next morning. Also, avoid a gift that will require the hostess to spend time with. A bouquet is lovely, but your hostess now has to take the time to find a vase, cut the stem ends, and arrange the flowers. She needs to be able to devote her time to greeting other guests and preparing food.
Here are some suggestions that will make great hostess gifts.
- A lovely selection of quality chocolates would be a perfect gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. Your hostess can choose to serve them to the guests or save them for a later time. If you have a chocolatier in your area, you have access to wonderful chocolates, including some only made for the holidays.
- An assortment of high-quality nuts is a wonderful gift choice. Choose to select different types of nuts, like pistachios, almonds, pecans, or selecting the same nut flavored in different spices.
- A Potted Christmas Plant. We talked earlier about the problem with gifting cut flowers, but a beautiful potted Christmas plant doesn’t require any immediate care. Choose blooms like amaryllis, poinsettias, or Christmas cacti for seasonal blooms. Your hostess can place it anywhere in the home, and it will provide beauty immediately. One thing to keep in mind: some of these plants are not cold- If the temperature is below freezing, protect your plant from the cold when transporting it to and from the car.
- Cutting Board. A cutting board is a useful gift. Choose a cutting board made by a local artisan or have the board personalized with the host’s and hostess’s initials or last name.
- If you know the hostess well, choose the type of book she prefers to read. If you aren’t sure, give a copy of the latest book you read and fell in love with. Another option is a beautiful coffee table book of someplace they love or a place they want to visit.
- A selection of artisan cheese is a great gift during the holidays. Your hostess can serve it to guests or save it for a later time. Many artisans make specialty cheeses only during the holidays, making your gift that much more unique.
- There is no such thing as too many coasters. If your host and hostess like to entertain frequently, they will appreciate a new set. There are all sorts of styles of coasters–from contemporary designs to plain stone. Materials range from agate to marble to wood and cork. They can be very colorful or soft natural colors.
- If your host or hostess likes to spend time in the kitchen, they will enjoy sampling a selection of salts from different regions of the world. Each has a slightly different flavor and comes in colors like pink and grey, and white.
- Choose a specialty cookbook that celebrates an ethnic region’s cooking or a time period in the past. The Downton Abbey Cookbook contains information about the PBS series with lots of pictures and actual recipes for the show’s dishes.
- Aprons went out of favor for a while, but with many people returning to making home-cooked meals from scratch, the apron is again essential. Choose an apron that not only looks good but will do a good job of protecting the cook’s clothes.
- This is a welcome gift for the winter months. Fresh herbs that will grow indoors can be a great gift for someone who loves to cook. Gift a windowsill herb garden with several different herbs. If you aren’t sure if this is something they would love, there is the option of a rosemary Christmas tree. It has decorative value during the holidays and, afterward, can provide fresh rosemary for months.
- Maple Syrup or Honey. A collection of different maple syrup flavors or honey will be a real treat for your host and hostess to try. Honey can change flavor just because of which flowers are available to them. Maple syrup can be a light flavor if boiled for a shorter time, and the flavor will intensify as it continues to cook.
- Olive oil pourer. These glass containers make it easier to pour the exact amount of oil. They can be very plain, or the glass can be an exceptional one-of-a-kind artisan piece. There are also spray bottles for oil, making it easier to coat a pan for cooking or baking. Combine this gift with a collection of gourmet oils.
- Coffee or Tea. If you know your host well enough to know whether they prefer coffee or tea, gift a selection of either. If you are not sure, gift some of each. Add a French Press or teapot with your selection.
Give your gift to your host or hostess when you arrive. Rather than gift wrap, use a holiday gift bag so that your gift can be opened easily. They will enjoy your gift and know you are happy to celebrate the season with them.