When you’re invited to someone’s home for Thanksgiving, it is an honor (and a hearty meal) for which you should show your appreciation. It is traditional to bring along some small offering for the host or hostess in this situation. But what would be appropriate?
People often bring a dish of food, but that can be a bit tricky. Sometimes it’s a fine choice, and sometimes not.
If the meal is intended as a potluck, then obviously a plate of food works. But what if the hostess has the entire menu planned out meticulously, and you show up with a surprise gift of more food? Especially if it’s something perishable, you could just be creating an awkward situation.
It’s best, then, to talk to the hostess first if you’re planning on contributing to the Thanksgiving meal itself. If you ask if there’s anything you can bring, she’ll probably say no out of politeness, and you’ll have to gauge the situation to know if and how much you should insist. If, for instance, you’re doing fine financially but her family is not, and you know it’ll be a huge struggle for her to put out enough food for a house full of guests, then you need to be a little more assertive. You still have to be tactful about it, because otherwise it could come across as patronizing or insulting, but if there’s a way for you to take some of the load off her by contributing part of the meal, that could be really helpful.
If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, local or regional gifts are a nice touch. If you live in an area known for its fudge, or its oranges, or its apple cider, bring some along with you.
Wine is one of the most common host or hostess gifts, and that can certainly be appropriate at Thanksgiving, as that is the holiday when Americans consume the most total wine. You can also get good quality wine from very expensive to very inexpensive, so it’s a gift that fits any budget.
Make sure you’re not bringing wine to a gathering where most of the people don’t drink, however. Actually even if only a small number of the people don’t drink, a nice alternative to wine that will keep the non-drinkers from feeling left out is a nice bottle of sparkling grape juice or something non-alcoholic. That’s also good for any children who will be at Thanksgiving dinner.
Instead of wine, another option is to bring something wine-related, like a wine bottle holder and/or a fancy bottle stopper.
Flowers are another perennial favorite. Autumn colors are nice, like red poppies, yellow marigolds, or deep orange lilies.
Gourmet hot chocolate or exotic teas could be nice for after the meal.
For a hostess that’s doing a lot of cooking for the holiday, a cooking themed gift can be a good choice. Perhaps a set of fancy spices or herbs, or an apron with a funny message on it that fits her sense of humor.
You could also look ahead to Christmas, as long as her family celebrates Christmas. Perhaps a fancy, decorative Christmas tree ornament. Personalize it to make it even more special.
Besides bringing something along as a gift for Thanksgiving, don’t forget you also should send a thank you card to the hostess after the fact.