If you haven't yet been to your first holiday party of the season, chances are that it is coming up this week! We recently went to an open house party from a new neighbor of ours, so I can say that we've already started our merry-making outside of trimming our own tree. Also, it is about time for those work parties to celebrate the end of the year, but that's another story altogether...
I want to talk today about visiting friends and family, or accompanying your significant other on their visits to friends and family for holiday parties. Today's important subject for discussion: The host/hostess gift.
Let's turn back the clock a little bit so I can give you a full picture on my relationship with hostess gifts. I started throwing my own parties in college, where I was quite involved with international exchange students and getting them acclimated to Louisville. Whenever we would have them over for a big dinner or any get-together at our house, most of our guests would bring over a small token of their appreciation...mostly in the form of wine. There is even a word for this gift in German: Mitbringsel. It means something to bring with you. I'm just going to go right out there and say that this is a dying yet necessary art in our culture, so let's bring it back!
If you have ever thrown a party you know how much time, energy, and resources goes into gathering up your loved ones and having a successful soirée. If you are going to one of these planned soirées, it is a nice idea to bring a little something to pay back the hosts' investment in your happiness, right? Most people usually throw in the required "Can I bring anything?" line, but a sincere thought into a small gift can go beyond just absorbing the gluttony of a mob of holiday guests.
When I spent my time abroad and was considered an exotic foreigner (laughable, I know), I would bring something from Louisville to share with my friends. This still holds true for those of us who have to travel outside of Kentucky to celebrate the holidays with family. It's really easy for us to gift things from our hometown...the home of Bourbon...please. I also got creative and painted a plate from Louisville Stoneware, brought a small bat from Louisville Slugger, and basically raided WHY Louisville and took the store in one of my suitcases.
If you are spending the holiday in Louisville though, here are some suggestions for small gifts that you may give to your hosts during your many holiday party runs. I recommend edible gifts for this time of year, and you really don't have to overdo it--it's not a Christmas present, it is a hostess gift, so it is meant to benefit that person and his/her partner or immediate family. Thus, keep it small and sweet. Some of the smallest details are the best remembered.
If you are into canning, you can simply gift one of those half-pint jars with a sweet ribbon and a label telling your friend what is inside the can, who it's from, and perhaps how to use it. Some seasonal ideas for this could be apple butter, homemade applesauce, pumpkin butter, Green Tomato Chutney, Tomato Jam, etc. Also...I have found that gifting a jar of my Homemade Cozy Granola (in whatever combination I had made that week) is always well received, and often freaked out about.
If you have a favorite brownie or cookie recipe, you can easily measure out the dry ingredients in layers in a pretty jar and attach your recipe (just add egg and milk, etc!) on a ribbon around the jar. If you are one of those people who guard their recipes like Fort Knox, and I have a bone to pick with you, this will keep your magical ratios to yourself (please, get over it...good food needs to be shared!).
I have often seen this done with cocoa by mixing up their special homemade hot chocolate recipe and gifting it in a jar as well. The great thing is that it is a cinch to personalize, it is going to be enjoyed no matter what, and it is easy to whip up. Seriously...dumping stuff into a jar and tying a ribbon on it...can I make it any simpler for you? No. If you want to get fancy, here's an idea for you: Take dark cocoa powder, mix it with sugar, chili powder, and cinnamon, and gift that little Mexican-inspired hot chocolate surprise...of course you need to test out the ratios to see what you like--and then it's your recipe, not mine!
Have you ever made a house seasoning? This is a cute little gift to give, and it is impressive to boot. If you have a certain combination of herbs and spices that you think rock out together, throw them in a little tin with sea salt, shake it up, put a bow on it, and label it as your house seasoning....bet you didn't think you had one of those. Now your host does too!
If all else fails, your life is a mess, you are working overtime, and you just want to get to that damn party and blow off some steam, do me a favor and hit up the drive-thru at Old Town Liquors on your way to the party and at least pick up a bottle of wine. If you don't know what to get, those guys can help you out with anything, so you don't even have to worry about it!
It kind of makes sense to gift to the host during this time of year...the time of great gift-giving. However, host gifts should be brought to all parties where the host actually orchestrates an evening of well-planned frivolity. You can start now!!!
Happy Holidays and stay safe during all that merry-making!