This is the most wonderful time of year and many of us have already started attending holiday parties. I try to never arrive empty handed. My usual gift is a nice bottle of wine in a pretty long gift bag or some of my homemade cookies festively wrapped. I try to be sure to label the gift so my hosts know it’s origin because I know in the confusion of setting out refreshments, greeting guests, hanging coats (or the coat pile on the bed upstairs; I always ask for a black sable yet never fail to get back my actual wool coat … bummer) the host could never possibly remember who gave them what.
Here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:
If you bring a bottle of wine do not expect the host to open it. It is nice to write on the outside of a note card “Do Not Open Until: ____________. Here you could say “you are in your jammies” or “the next time you grill burgers” or something that you know your host would enjoy. On the inside of the card you could tell them why you chose this particular bottle. It may be your new favorite, you know it is their favorite or you want them to try something new. I keep a silver Sharpie
If you are asked to bring wine be sure to get some guidance from your host. Do you want red or white? How many bottles of each would you like? If you are the host asking for a guest to bring wine, be sure you know them very well. It is not polite to ask a guest to bring either a main dish or main beverage. That is your responsibility as host.
If you bring food, whether it is cookies or any other type of food, do not expect your host to put it out for their guests. Assume your host has put a great deal of planning and preparation into their menu and does not have room on their table for your gift, no matter how yummy. Be sure it is labeled and does not need refrigeration because they have likely used every micrometer of space for the party. A fancy jam and bread mix for a weekend morning or jar of stuffed olives for a martini lover are very thoughtful gifts.
If you are attending a family party and are asked to bring a dish be sure to bring an appropriate serving vessel. If you bring the salad, try to bring the dressing mixed in advance. Try to do as much preparation as possible before arrival. If you need to use the oven be sure to ask if oven space will be available. A few years ago I purchased a tableside oven and it has saved me more than once when I need to cook the roast at the same time I need to bake the rolls.
Also be sure you bring all parts of the dish (cheese and crackers without the crackers is just…cheese). It is always appropriate to bring the host a gift whether you are related or just work acquaintances.
But if you really want to stand out, write the host a nice thank you card the next day. You will never know how much they will appreciate it…and it will likely keep you on the guest list for next year.
I send blessings and good wishes to all of my Jewish friends as Hanukkah begins at sunset on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.
Have a yummy day!