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The Gracious Holiday Guest

Invitations abound during the holiday season, and it’s always polite to arrive with a gift for your hostess. Here is a list of some of our favorite inexpensive, yet thoughtful, gifts to show your gratitude.





A friend gave me a jar filled with scraps of paper as a housewarming gift. On each one, she wrote an idea for an activity to try in my new home, like “Host a Scrabble night” and “Cook brunch for two” (she included recipes). I was so touched that she had created something that was just for me.
-Maureen Grewe, Columbia, South Carolina



My cousin Sharon once arrived at my house for Thanksgiving dinner with a large bag filled with paper towels and toilet paper. Her reasoning: My 20-plus guests would use up a lot of my supplies. It was an unusual but truly useful gift.
-Joyce Leary Clark, Portland, Maine



Years back, a friend gave me a bottle of great gin, a liter of tonic water, and a potted lime tree because she knew that I loved gin and tonics. I planted the tree in our backyard, and for eight years it provided my husband and me with fruit. When we moved a few months ago, it saddened me to leave it behind. I hope that the new owners like citrus as much as we do.
-Shannon Antepenko, Gilroy, California



Before my last party, I called my guests and asked them to bring nonperishable items for my church’s food pantry in lieu of traditional hostess gifts. I received a bounty of food: canned soup, pasta noodles, chili, beans, cereal, oatmeal, and more. Amazingly, it fed 32 families!
-Carole Williams, Port St. Lucie, Florida



One of my friends is from Germany. When I opened the door to greet her for a party at my house in 2001, she sang me a traditional German song and extended a small, colorful paper lantern with a glowing candle inside. I loved that she brought me a part of her culture.
-Laura White, Oxford, Massachusetts



Early in our marriage, my husband and I lived in Brazil, far from loved ones who could lend us a hand. When friends from back home came to visit us, they insisted on spending one evening babysitting our 10-month-old son so we could go out on a date. It was such a relaxing night—I’ll never forget it.
-Elizabeth Carden, San Juan Capistrano, California



Whenever she came to my annual Labor Day jazz party, my friend Janet (who has passed on to the great jazz party in heaven) brought me a box of sticky buns with pecans to enjoy the next morning. I can’t tell you how much I loved digging into them before cleaning up.
-Judy Allen, Fairview Park, Ohio



About 20 years ago, when our dear friend Sara came to visit, she planted a dozen daffodil bulbs outside our window. Every spring when the daffodils bloom, I think of her and our enduring friendship.
-Bernice Kaufman, McLean, Virginia



When I was on the board of directors of a local amateur cycling team, one of the bikers’ moms wanted to see her son compete in our annual race. I invited her to stay in my home the weekend of the competition so she could cheer him on. As a thank-you gift, she presented me with a beautiful white tea set. I love to bring it out when I have company. It reminds me of a wonderful time in my life, a great houseguest, and our team’s first-place win.
-Betsy C. Allen, San Bernardino, California



I love my wireless weather forecaster, which was given to me by a good friend when he came to stay for the weekend. The gadget displays the time and the temperature as well as a forecast for the next five days. I keep it in my closet and use it to figure out what I should wear each morning.
-Eileen Rappoport, Washington, D.C.



About six years ago, I was hosting a few friends for dinner and could not get a jar of olives to open. Thankfully, one of my guests stepped in and finished the job. What’s more, the next time he came for a meal, he handed me a jar opener. I think of him every time I use it.
-Pat Janes, San Jose, California



List curated from RealSimple.