Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Host/Hostess Gifts

Hey Meg,

I am an avid reader of your blog, and I really appreciate that you answer serious questions that I always feel like I can relate too. Anyway, with Thanksgiving coming up so soon, I was wondering if you could recommend hostess gifts or what's appropriate to do in these occasions. It could be going home with the family of a boyfriend (in my case) or a friend from school (in the case of my sister), what would you recommend doing/bringing/sending?



First, I want to commend you for thinking about hostess gifts at all in these situations, I think far too many young people underestimate the importance of proper etiquette- it will go a long way, especially when you're trying to impress another person's family.

But before you start thinking about a hostess gift, I think it's always a good idea to call or e-mail the host or hostess in advance, thank them for the invitation and ask if you can bring a dish to share. If you like to cook and you have something you usually make for your own family, you could offer to bring that. Most likely, the hostess will say that she's got everything under control and that you don't need to bring anything. Of course, you should always ignore this statement.

My favorite gifts for these situations are the personalized variety. If you can find out the hostess's interests or hobbies in advance and bring something related, you're in. Alternatively, you can bring something that is personal to you, it's a nice gesture. I'm from Michigan so when I'm home I'll stock up on things like chocolate covered Michigan cherries or cans of local preserves for hostess or thank you gifts.

Most of the time when I'm invited to dinner or a party, I'll bring some homemade cookies or candies (I like to make those decorated chocolate dipped pretzels- they're easy and impressive), but I would shy away from bringing more food to Thanksgiving. The hostess and her family will already have tons of leftovers and another plate of cookies won't be appreciated. If you want to go the food route, candy or anything that will stay fresh for weeks is better, since they can enjoy it when the holiday craziness is over.

Unless you know that the family doesn't drink (definitely check in advance), a bottle of wine is always a nice gift. The New York Times has a great guide to the best wines under $10- perfect for the poor college student's budget. Unless your host is a connoisseur, they'll never guess you spent so little, just don't forget to take off the price tag.

Flowers are another hostess gift staple, but I'm hesitant to recommend them for Thanksgiving, since it's likely that the hostess already has some flowers set out. My other issue with flowers is that bringing them requires the hostess to take time out of her hectic schedule to trim and arrange them when she's trying to finish dinner. You could always send flowers the next day as a thank you, or bring them pre-arranged in a vase.

Finally, there's a category of generic hostess gifts that never fail. Candles, soaps, candies, chocolates, bud vases, picture frames, Christmas tree ornaments (obviously, make sure the family is Christian first), nice tea or coffee or a wine stopper are always appreciated.

And don't forget to send a hand-written thank you note within a day or two of the event! Happy Thanksgiving!

Anyone else have suggestions for Thanksgiving host or hostess gifts?


Anonymous said...

would you share your pretzel recipe?
sounds great!

thanks for making people aware that not everyone celebrates christmas and not everyone would appreciate a bottle of wine -- and thanks for the alternative suggestions.

Cate said...

Actually, wine is not an appropriate hostess gift--it implies that you don't think they are capable of selecting good wine!

Regardless of the gender, I almost always default to flowers in a nice glass vase. The vase is then reusable, and everyone can find a spot for an extra bouquet--even if it's on the bedside table!

Chocoholic said...

I think the local items are a great idea. Sometimes when we go to visit family, we bring wine from a local winery or boxes of chocolate from a chocolate shop on the way, but still in our state. I think those items work because they aren't something that person will get unless they visit that area and it's also a little bit of your home area that you brought with you.

Anonymous said...

I tend to bring regional gifts and send a thank you note as soon as I get home. Also, sometimes music is an appropriate gift. A fried of mine who visited my home during the holidays made a CD of new Christmas music (I had mentioned that we play the same music every year and it drove me nuts!) from one of his favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens). Problem with bringing candles and those kind of things is that they don't require a lot of thought and require space. A burned CD is both thoughtful, free, and easily stored.
As for food gifts, non-alcohol items such as gourmet hot chocolate mix are welcome, that can be made now or later. A more gourmet drink item, like homemade hot apple cider, could be a nice food-item, especially if it doesn't compete with another specially made drink by the family. My family is Mexican, so we were impressed when a family brought homemade sangria to one of our holiday parties.

Anonymous said...

I don't think music is a good idea at all. I know I would find a burnt cd quite a cheap gift, and would feel insulted. They take 2 minutes to do and are not the least personalised. At least buy the darn cd, do not offer an illegal copy! Odds are, beside, that it will not be appreciated, unless you know very well the host's tastes. Just go for food that can be kept for a while (chocolate boxes, candies, fruit jams, home-made canned goodies, etc).
Much better!

Also, *do not* give wine bottles (or any alcohol whatsoever), unless you know the host's tastes very well. You risk picking something that your host will not enjoy. Wine is like underwears: you'd rather choose it yourself. Beside, as it was mentionned, many peope don't drink.

Marie_R said...

While I always try and bring something food related to special events (we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in New Zealand) I would recommend saying "I love making xxxxx at Thanksgiving" or "I've always helped my Mom/Great Aunt Betty/Poppa to make the xxxxx and I would love to make it for you" This way you aren't outright ignoring the hostess's "you don't need to bring anything" line but not feeling like a freeloader at the same time.
Since there is a bit of discussion about wine - it is the thought that counts and if you are a student or have a low budget then buy the best you can. At the very least your hostess will just serve it to you. :)

Cari said...

I agreed about bringing food that can be eaten later. A hostess may have her menu all planned out (I'm not one of those that's all "but it doesn't fit the menu!", but some are) and you don't want to add the trouble of getting yet another dish ready to serve.

I've brought already-arranged flowers and potted plants. And I've always, secretly, wanted to receive cooking stuff as a hostess (like a cute apron, fancy herbs i wouldn't buy myself, or a pretty serving piece, all of which fit in that poor graduate student budget if you do some digging).

Chocolate is aways appreciated. :-)

Tokyo Scene said...

If you want to go the wine route, but are unsure of whether there will be children, guests who do not appreciate alcohol, etc. I would recommend doing what my ex-boyfriend did and bringing a nice bottle of sparkling grape juice or something of that variety.

He did that when he came to my family's Thanksgiving party and it went over real well--he was the first guy to charm my brother with just that one simple gesture because it proves you are thoughtful enough to take stock of the whole situation (instead of just thinking of one person, in that case it would have been me because I love wine).

Also, local/regional goods like candies are always a good bet. Same with flowers in a vase (saves the hostess trouble of finding and putting them in a vase).

Anonymous said...

Regional gifts or gourmet coffee/tea are great ideas. Not everyone wants to pony up the money to get some really good coffee or some exotic tea, so if a hostess drinks that, I'd definitely go for it.

Re the burnt cd's...mostly that says you are cheap. Toss some songs together, burn it onto some ugly cd and put it in an ugly jewel case, blah. Even though it's the thought that counts, whenever I get one I can't help feeling like the thought wasn't there. Especially considering I don't pop cd's in very often.

Kai Jones said...

Although I approve of hostess gifts, I'd much rather receive a thank-you note after and skip the gift. Or send flowers the next day--that also used to be traditional.

I know my guests, and I know whether they can afford to spend money on something. Their appreciation means more to me than any gift.

Natalie said...

My sister and I both decided to bring tea that Origins sells (I fell in love with it at the Smith College Museum of Art Cafe), and it was a huge hit.

We both also brought flowers, which I think was a nice touch.

Thanks Meg for the lovely ideas!