Monday, December 24, 2007

The Hostess Gift

I was surprised pleasantly by one of my guests with a hostess gift. I have often taken hostess gifts, which are things of a small, but thoughtful nature--perhaps a scented candle, a vase of flowers, some packaged food, a photo frame, fancy soaps, or just whatever I could find or had on hand in my home. I noticed it seemed to be a dying art amongst the younger generation and wanted to pass on some of the delights obtained by hostess gifts.

The pleasure of giving such things is so uplifting that it ought to be included along with chocolate, as a mood lifter. I've given things when my children were at home, which made us sing all the way home. Giving certainly brings you more exhuberance than getting.

If you have no money you may be able to retrieve some things from your home that will make excellent gift baskets, gift bags, or gift boxes. I must insist that the container is part of the charm of the gift itself. When I am looking for some kind of bath product in a discount store, I always consider the container. If it looks like something that could be used in the home as a useful item, or something beautiful to put letters in, or has any kind of appeal to it, I am more likely to buy the product. I believe that one of the reasons for the success of the bath and body products is the containers.

There are so many ideas for containers that they cannot be counted, but here are some:

-a gift bag

-a gift box with a lid

-a small bucket

-a basket

-a wall pocket or planter

-an old drawer or silverware divider

-an attractive bowl


-a hat is a great container

-any altered container such as a paint can, cleaned up and repainted with flowers or scenes, an empty tea box altered with pretty papers and scrapbook objects, and any hand made container from fabric such as a drawstring bag or a cloth box.

-Zipped plastic containers that once held sheets are great.

To fill them up, there is also no end of ideas:

In the spring: seeds, a little trowel, a recipe for garden produce, a towel

-bath products that suit the season are always welcome. These days, unlike days of old, women are actually using up the soaps and bath gels, and depend on these gifts to keep them in supply.

-ingredients to make a special cooked dish

In the summer: a picnic basket filled with special things

-bath products that make a person feel refreshed and cool since they are more apt to head for the shower in hot weather.

-flowering plants, flowers

-things that help the recipient with their efforts at showing hospitality--such as special gadgets and plates that provide more space for serving, or fancy paper napkins.

In the autumn: Everyone likes spices that smell like cinnamon, - cookie cutters, mixes for special breads, table cloths, and placemats.

In the winter: Reading material of high quality, CDs and DVD's of a soothing nature, slippers, towels, little blankets to use while sitting, writing materials such as good pens and papers, and baskets full of skin care products.

I've never tired of giving a hostess gift and learned that you do not have to be invited in order to do so. YOu can just make something up in a container and take it to someone. They enjoy it and hopefully be spurred on to repeat the action to someone else.

The recent hostess gift that I received was a bag full of all kinds of things, and not related to one theme. She gave me a book she had read that she knew I would like, a tea recipe cookbook, a tea cup, fancy paper napkins, a classical CD to listen to, a box of specialty tea, some notecards and a pretty ornament that would suit any season. It was all packed inside of a glossy gift bag with matching theme decorations on it.

It does bring a concern to the minds of older women for the younger ones to follow suit. They need to realize that after a period of time, they should grow up and behave as adult women. To prove their maturity and responsibility, they can adopt the practice of the hostess gift


Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I am only 31 and am often shocked by the behavior of my peers and those only a bit younger than me. I have often run into 33 year old women who speak and act the way I did when I was 13. I have entertained many who never thought to even offer to bring a dish and never offer to entertain us. A hostess gift has only happened once that I can think of when a lovely women brought a candle set to me when we had a big bbq.

It is as if people put off so much in their life (getting married and having children) so they can indulge their perpetual 2 year old inner child. And they keep sayin "I deserve it, I am a princess". Well, the real royalty never acted like such a brat and were raised to behave and sacrifice from an early age (the good royal families). I see these horrible shows about over the top weddings and sweet sixteen parties and the little horrid people on it and think of what kind of husband or wife will they be? My GOD, what kind of Mother when they think only of themselves!

It is sad and I pity their future mates and poor little babies. And it really isn't such a shocker that many of these Women find that no one wants to marry them.

Lydia said...

Your comment is so right, and it makes me thing an entire article needs to be written on the subject. It is alarming that there are young women out there who do not want a home and furniture and nice things and they do not want to be good mothers who teach their little ones to say their prayers and who make hot meals for them and clean house and make a safe environment at home for the children. I've seen house after house, nice places, deteriorate after a few months of young people living in them. They care nothing for the property and they care less for their children. One girl leaves her children with someone else while she goes to the bar. Another leaves her children in the house, and goes out. They are not settling down to marriage, home and family. They've been in schools all their lives and those schools are not captilizing on the womanly instinct to marry, have a family and keep house. By the time they leave school they have no desire for these things. When I was young all we thought about from childhood was having our own husbands and children and we often named our children even when we were just imagining them. We had little brooms and little baby beds and we swept our floors and rocked our pretend babies. This is all drummed out of girls in school where they learn to socialize and please the group. They no longer have hope chests because of the snobs that sneered at such a notion years ago. They no longer go to finishing school where they would learn to sew and speak and become human beings in the highest sense of the word. The elitists pushed that away from them...anything that was good for woman was almost banished from society. Slowly but steadily there is a segment in our society that is restoring the home by ressurrecting the good things that make a home a home and a family a family.

Anonymous said...

I agree, there seems to be an endless childhood going on with many people these days.

People headings towards the age of 40 still wanting to act like teenagers. They don't want children or to get married because it might interfere with their "lives." And then they seek and seek for meaning in their lives by spending money: money on clothes, travel, restaurants, bars, yoga classes, gadgets, anything to fill the void.

And of course, anything their mothers did for them is disparaged, including staying home for them, and cooking for them, and making a home for them, even seeing her life as "wasted."

Perhaps if they grew up in a broken home where no one had done those things, they might appreciate the hard work of their parents a bit more.

~ Ann

Lydia said...

Ann, you could really contribute a lot on my Guard the Home blog for parents of grown children. We talk a lot about how they need to honor their parents throughout their lives...that there is no age limit on that.

I regard to your comment, I was just leaning over the stove to check on something I was cooking and one of the little pans had a lid on it where I had put some sliced apples and cinnamon, to pre-cook them for an apple pie. I wanted it to be like the canned pie apples and be thoroughly cooked before putting them in the pie. I was just leaning over and got a whiff of that scent and I thought "The most wonderful scent is the smell of apples and cinnamon," and immediately thought of the young women I know who have no desire to embrace those moments when you are cooking and getting ready to serve your family, or even just yourself. I see they have eaten out so much that they have not developed a desire for the process of picking apples, peeling them, cooking them, putting them in a pie, serving it with tea or ice cream. Everything they know is already created for them and they miss the scents and the feelings and the surge of happiness that comes from creating something, from the process itself. One woman I know cares nothing for her house because when she gets home from work she doesn't want to play with it and clean it and arrange it and make it into a homey nest. She got an education and that education doesn't allow her the time to really be a homemaker and get in the mood for it.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lady Lydia,

This is so true! It is getting to the point that the Boomer generation (of which my husband, family and many friends are) simply do not even wish to be shown hospitality. We have friends who see it all as just hard work for nothing that they refuse our offers of hospitality because they see it as such a burden and have forgotten the grace of simply accepting and saying 'yes, thank you'. Our home is simple and not confronting in any way; the Australian tradition over summer is barbecue and this makes no mess at all (smile). They insist on going to restaurants (and are like this with most folk nowadays) I love hosting lunches, dinners; even a simple pot of tea and biscuits (cookies) for folk on their way through...

As for the gifts, in our family, (especially with several of them being vignerons, chocolate and farmhouse wine have featured strongly. With the post Christmas sales, you've inspired me to pop along to 'the Body shop' and pick up a lot of little things - guest soaps, scented drawer envelopes and so on. As a marmalade and jam maer, I've been palming off my wares onto anyone who comes my way (smile).

In mid January, we'll be hosting an Indian supper for close family friends and their relatives out from England (there's a curry score to settle re whose nation produces the better dish (big smile).

If its hard for folk to get into the shops to pick up bath products etc (as it can be for me) baked goods are also well received (i was given two little baby pound cake tins for my birthday earlier in the year) it takes no time at all to make these.

Europe, the US/Canada and Australia all have 'mouth and foot artists' associations (these are not charities but bonifide independant businesses run by artists who through accident or illness do not have the use of their hands); they produce lovely blank cards, calendars, bookmarks, gift cards and so on that make beautiful pick me ups for your hostess or anyone at any time. Their art is bright, vivid and beautiful.


Mrs. E.,
PS: what did ever happen to finishing and deportment schools?? they only seem to cater for models nowadays and don't focus upon hospitality and the feminine arts as they once would have done (not to mention the fact they're ridiculously expensive) This may well be a calling for many a lady here (especially the homeschooling sector) who could organise for groups of half a dozen young ladies from their local HS community?? or perhaps an older lady who is in a different season of her life? Just a few thoughts.

Even in my late 30's, i am sure I could learn a thing or two.

Elizabeth Joy said...

I was very touched this past Friday evening when hosting a Christmas supper and vespers in my home, that one lovely young lady, age 21, brought me a hostess gift, a bouquet of winter white flowers. She is a joy to know! A gem among the common.

Anonymous said...

Even more horrifying is when Women who have given their whole lives to themselves and a career realize that now that they are retired they have nothing and no one. I had a friend who wanted to stay home like me but had spent over a decade in college and the debts were crippling her family. All so she could fulfill a "dream" that now left them with 30 of payments high as a mortgage. I told her several ways to help get more financially stable and leave her job and she said they couldn't do it without her. COME ON! You will be replaced the next day at work, your family is the only place you can't be replaced.

If you do a google search you will see that many women are walking their DOGS in strollers. I saw one show where the couple decided to not have children but created a very costly nursery for a puppy. In japan, women go to exercise classes with their dogs. And here is something to make your skin crawl. The Japanese sell a robot that is a baby because many women have no grandchildren. How sick and sad is it to come to the end of your life and have to bounce a robot on your knee cause you spent the whole of your life running desperatly from anyone who in anyway would bother you. Sick and sad.

The Proverbs Wife said...

Hello, Lady Lydia

I really enjoy reading your blog. It transports me to a time that seems to be long since forgotten.

I am so glad that you posted on the topic of hostess gifts. This is a courtesy that I've learned from my mother-in-love.

She never visits anyone without putting together some sort of gift for the person that she is visiting. Whether it's fruit from from her table or a fresh baked pie.

She is such a pleasant women and I have learned a wealth of information from her in the time that I've been her daughter-in-love.

This hostess gift giving lifestyle is one that I myself need to take more seriously. I admit that I sometimes I visit friends empty handed. I sometimes talk myself out of bringing something in fear that it will be looked upon as cheap or silly. This is an area that I certainly want to improve in, because if not then this way of life will be forgotten within my family and it will be my fault.

Thank you again Lydia. The post was very thought provoking.

KTHunter said...

I enjoy taking at least a dessert or a bottle of wine to someone's home if they have me over for dinner. One thing that does bother me, though, is that some people were never taught how to graciously accept a gift. They usually appreciate it, but then fall all over themselves being embarrassed that they didn't have one to give me in return. If it is truly a gift, then the giver does not expect one in return (in fact, the invitation to come over is really a gift in itself, if you think about it). Otherwise, it is a barter or an exchange and not truly a freely given gift. One friend had such trouble with the fact of a gift that I was soon sorry that I had given it to her. It made me very sad to feel that way, because I brought it to her to make her feel good, not guilty.

I agree that ladies need to adopt the practice of giving such hostess gifts. It's a wonderful tradition. By the same token, we need to learn how to receive such gifts from others in a gracious manner. Giving gifts is a blessing, and everyone needs a chance to feel that blessing. Please, let's not rob a giver of that.

For your readers that live in the U.S., Bath & Body Works has sales throughout the year where you can buy several bars of their wonderful scented soap for a dollar each. I usually buy a handful or two at a time when they are on sale and save them up and use them to supplement other gifts throughout the year. Everyone enjoys them. Lindt truffles are another good idea. A handful in a pretty box or a mug is a lovely gift for any lady.

Emily said...

Dear Lady Lydia, I've not commented on your writing before, but have been reading it for some time, and being inspired and spurred on by your words of encouragement to us ladies at home. I just love bringing a hostess gift when I visit others! Recently I hosted an appreciation brunch for a small group of lovely ladies with whom I have spent many hours in a weekly Bible study. One kind friend walked in with a big bouquet of Christmas flowers. What a pleasant surprise, and I could tell by the big grin on her face that she was blessed as well. I shop at so many thrift and antique stores that I can "shop" at my home for a gift to bring when I go to someone's home, and I also make my own journals, notecards, and bookmarks which are wonderful to add to a basket or bag of special treats. Thank you for this post, and I wish you the most blessed of New Years! In Christ's love, Emily Darling

Mimi said...

Great ideas for hostess gifts. I agree that many people seemed to have forgotten this custom, as well as neglecting the "bread-and-butter" note after receiving hospitality.

Do you take a hostess gift if it's in the case of someone whose home you visit quite often, and they visit your home quite often? My solution has been to take a gift when I'm first invited to someone's house, and, then, maybe gift them a little gift every once in a while "just because". I also volunteer to bring something for the meal, even if it is someone at whose house we dine frequently.

What do you do in this regard?

Meredith said...

Wonderful suggestions!

~~Deby said...

Amen to this....
I always come loaded down with either a gift for two...or extra food, helps....whatever....

and yes......I agree...the grown children situation, it was much easier when I could just ground them......

When we lived overseas..for 11 years...hospitality through our church friends was such a blessing and done all the time. We return to the states, and no one has time or inclination. I do think this breeds a level of a lack in relationships, and also people do not want to have any accountablity to anyone, everything feels almost like a MASK that is worn and no one is REAL.

Don't know if this makes sense or not.

Anonymous said...

In Australia it is traditional to bring something along that will contribute to the meal being provided. If it is morning or afternoon tea I usually take home-baked goods of some kind, or at very least some bought biscuits (cookies). I might also take some produce from my garden, flowers, or some home-made jam.

When invited to a dinner party it is usual here to bring wine and something to have with coffee such as chocolates. We also routinely ask if we can bring a course, such as horsdouevres, a salad or dessert, to make the host's or hostess's job easier.

Rosemary UK said...

There are few things nicer than receiving or giving a hostess gift,flowers,chocolates,a nice bottle of wine or something for the kitchen.I always take some little present when visiting for afternoon tea or a meal.Also I often take a gift of our home produced free range eggs or fruit and vegetables from our garden.Homemade preserves are another good idea.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with this post and many of the comments- bringing a hostess gift is a lovely gesture that has unfortunately gone by the wayside. I was raised always to bring a little something for the hostess when invited to someone's home. I also liked the you specified brining a vase of flowers and not just loose flowers. My mother always insisted on bringing pre-arranged flowers so that the hostess would not have to stop what she was doing or entertaining in order to arrange the flowers. The other night I was at a holiday party for 80+ people and was shocked that someone brought loose flowers. The poor hostess had to stop everything, which was not a small feat for during such a large party. I am a big fan of the Celebrity Designer collection at 1-800-Flowers ( ). I like to give flowers because they are agreeable to most people. I don't want to run the risk of bringing them a scented candle in a scent they abhore. You can send the flowers ahead of time or have them sent to yourself to bring with you.

Lydia said...

Having grown up in a "practical" way, many young women have not experienced receiving hostess gifts, such as candles, flowers, or other luxuries. They may neither understand nor care about the significance of receiving or bringing something. I do not think we have to bring something each time we see someone that we see often, but I do think that when visits are long between, or first time, we should bring something. As far as the scent goes, there are people who are very allergic to flowers. I think some flowers are sprayed with extra scent and this bothers the recipient. A small plant, however does not seem to bring the same reaction. It is easy to give up on the idea of taking something because the person you are visiting sometimes seem to object to just about everything. Old people are on special diets and can't have salt or sugar, some people hate scents of any kind, others have color preferences. It makes it "no fun" when the gifts are received with the spirit they were intended. It is the thought that counts, we were always told, as children, so the hostess should always keep that in mind and be gracious about receiving things. I have always taken gifts in bags or boxes (in fact, I love the altered oatmeal box because it looks like a miniature hat box when cut down, and covered, and when it is filled it is most charming) I do it for myself as much as for the other person. Whether or not the other person really likes it, I think everyone should try to do it because becoming a giving person is very good for you. According to the Bible, we are supposed to be generous givers and whatever we give will be given back tenfold. I think the recipient lately has become quite contrary and picky and makes it hard for people to just be the givers they are supposed to be. I remember when I was first married, and my husband, being a preacher, was used to gifts from members of the church. Sometimes those gifts seemed so sacrificial or expensive that I wanted to tell people they didn't have to do that. My husband said that I had to accept them because it was good for them to give. It helped them to be givers. They would be blessed by it. To refuse the gift would be to deny the giver the blessing they would get from it. So even if it is not the right scent or color or taste, the gift can be graciously accepted and passed on to someone else.
When I was growing up on the homestead in Alaska, my mother took lilies from the lake in a tin bowl to someone whom she visited, and the lady broke down and cried, as she was so greatful. Having sufferred isolation and cold winters and run low on many supplies, summer brought a happy brightness, and visits from neighbors. People have become so sophisticated that it is impossible to give them anything that will please them, as they just go and return it or buy their is as if they don't need us. I am for a return to the simple gifts and the lovely things that don't cost much but do take a little thought. A hand made card, or a bunch of picked flowers put in a bottle, are just fine, as well as a loaf of home made bread!! Yay...if someone would give me that, I'd be happy! But the young women need to be taught what to do, and they need to observe the reaction of people so that they understand the importance of bringing joy to others.

Lydia said...

those who read my book about the life in the wilderness, "Just Breathing the Air" will know what I mean by "lilies." They were short stemmed waxy flowers like a huge magnolia, in white and yellow and sometimes pink. Mama floated them in a bowl of water for a centerpiece. I think it would be nice if every home had a cutting garden grown especially to make cut bouquets for people. Collect old bottles and jars, just a few, for the arrangement. I like jelly jars and bottles that once held flavorings like vanilla. When I shop for groceries, I always consider the containers to see if I would like to use them for something else, such as flowers.

Diane Shiffer said...

What a timely and wonderful article! When I have brought a hostess gift the recipient usually seems bewildered, I think because the practice is such a rarity these days. I loved the ideas you presented...especially the one of redoing a paint can! I would have never thought of that, but now I will repaint and decorate every one I can get my hands on, lol!

You are such a blessing:-)

Cherish the Home said...

What a lovely post!--And the comments were excellent as well. (o:

There is actually a name for this new phenomenon of adult kids who won't grow up...They're called 'Kid-ults'.

Lady Lydia, you said:

It is alarming that there are young women out there who do not want a home and furniture and nice things and they do not want to be good mothers who teach their little ones to say their prayers and who make hot meals for them and clean house and make a safe environment at home for the children.

I'm seeing this in many young men as well. I wonder if it's because parents have spent a great deal of the child's life indulging every whim with material gifts instead of taking the time to build a real relationship with them. They've been served and spoiled their entire lives and they don't want to give it up. I don't know for sure, just a thought I had.


Lydia said...

Mrs. B.

I am going to do a little personal research and inquire about the homes these children came from. I suspect, though, that even without research, we can figure it out. They've spent 12 years in public schools day in and day out, and they may have an unknown number of years in college. Education doesn't necessarily provide success in life. These children know how to get jobs but they do not keep them long. They know how to find a place to stay but they usually leave that place damaged and leave the town owing people money. They know how to latch on to old people who have money, and use up their money and destroy their property while living there. They know how to get boyfriends, who in turn live off them. They all may have had good parents who despaired of their ways and will not shelter them. One thing that goes first is cleanliness. Many grown children will not bathe or shower, wash their clothes, or clean up after themselves. It could be that they were indulged in their lives and everything was easy, but they also spent most of their youth away from home. I do not see this same trend in the home school young adults who were immersed in the family and the home. Most of them are quite serious about life and love homemaking.

Cherish the Home said...

Lady Lydia, you said:

It could be that they were indulged in their lives and everything was easy, but they also spent most of their youth away from home. I do not see this same trend in the home school young adults who were immersed in the family and the home. Most of them are quite serious about life and love homemaking.

I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head.

I have never been a parent but I've worked in daycares and been a preschool teacher and have observed parents feeling guilt for not spending very much time with their children so they don't discipline them (when I've asked them why, they mostly say it's because they don't want to spend what little time they have with them fighting.) and try to make up for it by buying them things.

I think that's part of the reason why most home schooling families turn out such great kids. The parents have the child's heart which in turn knits the child's heart to the parent's for life.

In a long-ago post you mentioned something from the movie Wives And Daughters that stood out to me when I finally was able to watch it. The contrast between the two daughters in the movie is very obvious as were their upbringings. But you quoted the indulged daughter (I think her name was Cynthia?) saying...."If mother wanted me to love her she shouldn't have sent me away to school all of those years."

After reading your observation I kept that in mind while watching the movie and I believe you were quite correct.

But I'm sad to say that I have observed even in a home schooling family that if the parents aren't careful they can rear children who never wish to leave the nest. They give their children such easy and indulged lives that they have no ambition to go out and work for a home of their own. At least that's what happened in the family I'm thinking of. Well I should say in one of the children.--The daughter is quite ambitious but the son isn't.

I will say however that in this particular family even though they home schooled they did not have a culture of home. More time was spent outside of the home than in it. They did things as a family quite a bit, but most times the activities were done outside of the home. Maybe that's a big part of it all. Staying home more often.

Anyway.....I'll stop as this comment has become an epic. Great discussion, thank you.


Lydia said...

Mrs. B., since homeschool families often come from liberal schools and colleges, they do not always know how to go. Lacking home teaching and home training themselves, they sometimes try to pattern homeschooling after the public school methods, which have failed in many areas, largely the family. When they do not have the example of a mother running a home, they have to pick up what they can from what they have experienced. Many women get their ideas from books and from schools. When these highly schooled people decide to homeschool, they tend to use their school experience and their social experience to form their values. Homeschool is as varied as the world, and there will always be those who do not act the way we think they should. I too meet many spoiled homeschool children who do not feel the necessity of cleaning house, because their mothers concentrated more on book work, trying to impress doubters with the value of homeschool. There is no use making our children intellectually smart if they cannot manage the home and the family, which is the stability of life.

Anonymous said...

I was blessed by your post and your blog. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had seen this BEFORE Christmas. Honestly, I have never experienced or heard of giving a gift to a hostess prior to this.

While many are stating that we do not want to grow up, etc. I will be 40 in a couple of months and wish I had known of such a tradition. Such a kind and lovely idea.

We entertain because we like to, not because we expect/want/desire people to give us a gift when we do so (even if we are functioning like a B & B for some of our guests) and thus, having never experienced it, I would never have thought to do so.

It is a lovely idea and I obviously need to take care of the person whom we stayed with (having stayed with my "new" step-sister - my father remarried after my mom died 3 years ago).

Thank you for making me aware of such a nice tradition that I can practice and pass on to my children.

Lady M (who is still in the learning stages, even at my advanced age, of such things)

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
Thank you for constantly drawing our attention to the virtuous ways that were so prevalent in the days of our grandmothers. Your article regarding the hostess gift reminds me of the rule of thumb that past generations also embraced: Never return a dish empty.