When you're invited to a Christmas party or family holiday dinner, it's polite to bring a modest gift for the host and hostess of the gathering. Arriving with gifts adds to the festive nature of the party, while rewarding the hosts who have worked for days to prepare for the holiday soiree.
The most common gift brought by guests is a bottle of wine, which is a can't-fail offering that may either be added to the party's bar supply and served to fellow revelers, or kept by the hosts for their own enjoyment at a later date.
If you wish to be unique and creative with your hostess gift, bringing something other than wine, here are a few suggestions to liven up your gift-giving repertoire:
--A bottle of Prosecco, an affordable sparkling wine with a sweet taste.
--A six-pack of micro-brew, seasonal beers, ciders, ales or lagers.
--Organic sodas in unique tastes, such as pomegranate or black cherry (try DrinkGus.com, FizzyLizzy.com, BlueSkySoda.com).
--A basket filled with hot chocolate mixes in different flavors.
--A basket filled with an assortment of organic teas in different flavors.
--A basket filled with an assortment of spiced ciders in different flavors.
--Chocolate truffles in holiday flavors such as eggnog (Godiva.com) or chocolate-covered almonds, walnuts or cashews presented in a decorative holiday tin.
--Homemade pumpkin bread or nut bread, presented on a decorative plate that is also part of your hostess gift.
--Baked Brie en croute, a crowd-pleasing dish that may also be filled with apricot or cherries. It's easily heated up by the host and added to the buffet.
--A tray of homemade cookies, including the newest trends in holiday cookies: iced shortbreads and macaroons.
--Gourmet snack mixes, including wasabi peas, Cajun-spiced nuts, Asian rice crackers and others, all also served in a holiday tin.
--A basket filled with artisan breads, such as grissini or rolls with pepperoni and garlic baked inside; the basket becomes the "keeper gift."
--A platter filled with artisan cheeses, including havarti, fontina, blue cheese and other flavors, plus several boxes of unique gourmet crackers; the platter becomes part of the gift as well.
--A pretty wine bottle stopper. KateAspenWeddingFavors.com offers one with a silver heart shape on top. A cobalt blue, glass sphere top, or a fun holiday-themed bottle stopper would also work great.
--A pack of notecards featuring the host's last initial monogram, in a classic, elegant color and design. These can be used long after their party ends.
--Potted herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, chives, dill, parsley and other kitchen garden greens, any of which could be given in a terra cotta pot or as a trio in a larger planter.
*Sounds Like a Great Gift, but...
--Many people are reporting that they'd prefer not to receive scented candles as gifts. The main reason is that scent is a very subjective preference. Not everyone loves vanilla, and some may even be sickened by a candle's berry scent. Some people prefer organic soy candles with no scent, and some are simply not candle people. Of course, if you know that the hosts love their scented candles, there are plenty of holiday-scented brands on the market, as well as top-selling traditional scents like vanilla and lavender.
--Gift cards may be a popular gift to everyone on your list, but they can seem like an item you're regifting or an item that didn't require much thought or effort.
--Floral bouquets are normally lovely gifts, but a busy party host would then have to search high and low for an available vase, cut the stems, add the bloom-saving powder, arrange the flowers and then find a place to display it.
There's a lot of work attached to that gift, especially when a host is in the middle of hectic party tasks such as timing food preparation and cooking. Instead, give already-potted flowers or a potted green plant such as ivy or a ceramic vase holding several stems of lucky bamboo.
"We come bearing gifts" can then turn into "We come bearing wonderful gifts that you'll enjoy."