The custom of gift-giving goes back thousands of years, pre-dating human civilization. Whether a symbol of appreciation, love or admiration, gift giving is a time-honored tradition cherished by every culture around the world.
Since the earliest times, the bestowing of gifts has been symbolized as a token of love and appreciation. For primitive man, gifts from tribe and clan leaders symbolized status. Later, Native Americans celebrated the presence of others with a potluck. By the Middle Ages, gifts were used to secure the personal favor of a king or show allegiance in times of war. In other instances, heads of state and other important dignitaries gave gifts as a sign of good will and peace. Gifts are also given to express love. When cunning Count Gregory Orlov of Russia gave Catherine the Great a 198-carat diamond to win her back, the bar established was certainly set high for all others.
Undeniably, no other type of gift more perfectly displays admiration and appreciation than that of a gift given to a host or hostess.
With the Holiday season close at hand, selecting the ideal gift for your host and hostess can be daunting. As a lovely way to thank someone for their hospitality, the ideal gift for your host or hostess is one that is both personal and meaningful. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but rather a reflection of the nature of the occasion and local custom.
Over the years, gift giving traditions have evolved to reflect changes in social norms. In some countries, a hostess gift is considered obligatory, while in others, the gesture is reserved for the most special occasions.
Let’s navigate the different customs of hostess gifts below:
In China, a home or party guest typically gives their host any item related to tea. In this culture, tea holds an ultimate social and spiritual importance. In fact, it is so vital that there is never a day when a cup of tea is not consumed! Symbolizing spirit and wisdom, tea represents the depth and weight of a friendship between two people, making it the perfect token of appreciation to bring to your host. Note: a guest in this culture should never gift a clock, as the word for clock in Mandarin has the same phonetic sounds as “terminating” or “attending a funeral” and those of Cantonese heritage view the passage of time as a representation of inevitable death.
Synonymous with the finest wine producing regions in the world, it is no surprise that any guest in France typically brings their host a wine-related gift. Indeed, France is practically the pole bearer for the world wine industry. Undoubtedly the tastiest, many of wines from this country are not surprisingly benchmark styles in the wine industry. It is most fitting, then, that any guest bring their host a bottle for the entire company to enjoy, or even any wine-related accessory to fit this custom.
In Italy, there is no other perfect host or hostess gift than that of flowers. Simple, fresh, and delicate, gifting flowers is thoroughly characteristic of true Italian culture. However, like in every culture, some things are simply not done. If you’re ever invited to dinner by a native Italian family, there are certain stipulations when choosing the perfect flowers for your host: avoid chrysanthemums and any stems in red or yellow variations. Ever further, never gift your host or hostess with an even number of flowers. Why? Because these aspects are associated with death and mourning. To play it safe, no matter the occasion, roses are among the most frequently brought flowers.
Considered a country with some of the most sound and long-lasting customs, Russian gift-giving traditions may be described as utterly magnificent. In Russia, one always picks a gift for the hostess, who is typically the female head of the household. When selecting a gift for your host, Russians favor smaller items with care and consideration towards the receiver’s personality and preferences. Favorite items typically include any small, delicate items or gifts associated with sweets, desserts, or perfumes.