You may get invited to one or more holiday gatherings this year, and whether it’s one person, or many, each event or party is hosted by someone. While the origins of this gifting tradition aren’t clear, the purpose of the hostess gift is obvious to most people; gifts are a token of appreciation for welcoming others to celebrate an occasion.

Selecting just the right item might seem like a tall task, particularly if you just have no idea where to start. Considering how much time and energy goes into making a holiday party festive, most people want to find the gifts that say they recognize all the host has done. Great gift giving needn’t be too complicated to show that host or hostess you care.

Be personal!

The holiday season provides ample opportunities to show our appreciation to those who open up their homes to us. While the list of possible gifts can be long, Jessica Cote, of Auburn, said making a gift choice that’s personal, ensures its recipient will enjoy it. She gets her ideas from careful consideration.

“I usually try to get ideas by thinking about my host’s home, and what sort of things they surround themselves with,” Cote explained. “Perhaps they are a wine connoisseur, avid reader, or gardening enthusiast. If I don’t know my host well, Pinterest would be my go-to for ideas.”

Tammy Randall, of Lewiston, also likes to put a bit of thought into choosing gifts for hosts and hostesses alike.

“I think about the person, and things that are meaningful,” Randall said, adding, “things that are useful, and are not going to end up on a shelf, unused.”

She’s come up with a number of ideas for people whose interests range from collectible knick knacks to sports, and she said some of her favorite giving moments come from themed basket ideas she’s created.

One such themed basket is to think of “things families can do,” said Randall. “I buy some movie tickets, and throw in some candy, gift certificates to go out to eat to Pat’s Pizza or Sam’s, and that’s a night out for them.”

If you think of creative and practical ideas, the hostess gift possibilities are endless!

Shopping in a tough economy presents challenges, but Randall believes that it isn’t impossible to find something for that special host or hostess, even on a tight budget.

“Pictures. You know, when someone puts together a photo album of things that’ve happened in our lives, things that are meaningful to our connection,” Randall explained. “If somebody knows me, and goes out of their way to find something they know I like, that’s meaningful.”

Cara Sardella, of Auburn, agreed.

“A friend of mine used a picture from my Facebook page, and had it printed out and framed for me,” Sardella said.

Sardella has given hostess gifts of specialty dessert goodies, personalized mugs and wine bottles, and gift cards. Her go-to, no-fail gift of choice, however, is wine. Since the chances that you know the host or hostess are fairly good in most cases, she says a bottle or two of their favorite wine is a safe and easy way to show your appreciation. And it isn’t hard to add a personal touch, Sardella added.

“I once scraped the label off a bottle (of the hostess’s favorite wine), and replaced it with a personalized one from”

Gift certificates and basket ideas. What’s the low down?

Cote said her reason for opting for gift certificates is that even after the party is over, the hosts will get to enjoy something they might not do for themselves otherwise.

“I like to treat a host to something they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves,” Cote said. “Some people think they’re impersonal, but I love gift certificates for any and every occasion.”

Other ideas that Randall has used include filling a basket with items for a family meal, topping off her gift with knit hats and gloves, particularly in the winter months, and $5 gift cards to various places.

“For a guy, beer is always great. You buy beer, stick it in a tub that they can add ice to later, and there you go,” Randall added. “Maybe add some hand towels: guys don’t always think about buying towels.”

Spread holiday cheer, one hostess gift at a time

A good host or hostess puts a lot of time and effort into ensuring their guests are enjoying themselves. From planning and decorating, to making sure their guests have everything they need, the perfect host, Cote said, is able to spend time with guests and makes their “visit feel special.”

These individuals deserve a warm gesture of appreciation and thanks, and coming up with a gift that conveys those things doesn’t have to be difficult.

Cote suggested asking yourself a few questions if you’re not sure exactly what gift will bring a smile to a hostess’s face.

“Does your host have a special collection you could add to? Do they always have a fragrant candle burning when you visit? Do they have a cup of D&D in hand every time you see them? Is their dog their pride and joy?”

Whatever gifts you opt to give, make this the holiday season for hosts and hostesses, and keep the spirit of giving alive.

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