As an evolutionary trait, the act of giving gifts could be as old as mankind. Men who gave part of their catch would have more easily attracted a mate. Nations, kings and emperors have all used the same strategy—simply think about the Trojan horse or the Luxembourg Gardens, for example.
On a smaller scale, a host or hostess gift is a way to thank your hosts for their hospitality. It does not need to require a great deal of thought or break the bank. It is a simple gesture of appreciation for the occasion.
A gift is always appreciated, but are we always obligated to give one?
Call me old-fashioned, but I am of the school of thought that we should never arrive at someone’s home empty-handed. I enjoy offering unique gifts and even accompanying the classics, such as a bottle of wine or flowers, with a small, unexpected gift that will most certainly be appreciated and that complements the idea of the gift.
Different customs apply to different occasions. Below are a few pointers on etiquette regarding host/hostess gifts:
• A dinner among friends: For the occasion, think about a bottle of wine, goodies, a dessert, flowers (ideally with a vase), spices or a scented candle.
• However, there is no need to bring a gift for an official dinner, especially if you do not personally know the host or hostess.
• A birthday, baptism, graduation or engagement party: Bring a gift for the guest of honour rather than for the host or hostess.
• If you are the honouree, bring a gift to thank the host/hostess for having organized everything.
• A housewarming party: It is customary to bring a “welcome” gift (not to be confused with the tax having the same name) to congratulate the new owners on the purchase of their home. Gifts can vary from a bottle of champagne and a green plant to a cheese platter.
Below are a few suggestions for local host/hostess gifts.
For foodies: Objets Mécaniques
Objets Mécaniques is a “slow design laboratory” based in Montréal whose mission is to design handmade everyday objects.
Offer your hosts a thick and practical cutting board. Made of maple, its handle is covered with a layer of milk paint and a hole allows it to be displayed on the wall. Add a few different Québec cheeses for a guaranteed hit.
For those who love the city, regardless: Main and Local
Montréal souvenirs exhibiting humour and self-mockery. You will find all of the city’s icons here: the Sainte-Flanelle of hockey, mementos of the 1976 Olympics, the Montreal Royals (a baseball team whose years of glory were between 1897 and 1917, and then from 1928 to 1960), the Farine Five Roses building and the Forum, without forgetting orange construction cones and “rue barrée” (no thoroughfare) street signs. Reinterpreted in an amusing and whimsical fashion, these icons can be found in the form of pillows, salt and pepper shakers, wall posters and much more.
For those with a traditional side: Jarre
The mission of Montréal-based company Jarre is design for healthy eating. With a view to contributing to sustainable development and innovating in the field of object design, Jarre’s mission is to provide information on and offer responsible solutions to food waste and healthy eating. Share this vision and taste for good food with your hosts by offering the salt jar, French butter dish or garlic jar. A gift with a soul.
For hidden pleasures: Not made in China
Hugo Didier’s humour is palpable in his original creations of products for the home. All of his pieces, created from hand-made porcelain, are entertaining, practical and current. With messages such as “P’tite Poutine” (small poutine), “Not made in China” and “Cé faitte icitte” (made here) the ceramist strikes a chord with our folkloric side, which pleases both the giver and the receiver.
For the family: TOMA Objets
TOMA is a Montréal-based creative studio that strives to enhance daily living through the humor and wit in its urban creations. The family pack of glasses is a neat gift idea as family reunions and the Christmas holidays draw near.
To celebrate someone’s Mediterranean side: Atelier Tréma
Atelier Tréma, located in the heart of the Eastern Townships, offers products inspired by the coast and seaside. With neutral colours and rounded shapes, its products seamlessly combine traditional and contemporary styles.
Combined with a bottle of olive oil, this ceramic oil dispenser is one of these creations in which the clay used is a unique colour of gray, the result of a mixture of colours from a special recipe. Perfect for aficionados of Mediterranean diets.
For a gift that is pleasing to the nose: Ville Marie
Summers in Québec are often spent on lakeshore. La Sapinière is nature’s call. It’s sipping lemonade on the edge of the dock with your feet dangling in the water. To be lit at the cottage among friends.
With hints of balsam fir, lime and coriander.
Passionate about colour, vintage decorative elements and hand-made items, Vanessa Sicotte celebrates décor in all its splendour. Vanessa is the mastermind behind the Damask & Dentelle blog—and author of a book in the same name—where she has been sharing her favourite décor discoveries since 2009. She is also the host of Sauvez les meubles and Marché Conclu on Canal Vie. Since fall 2015, viewers can reap Vanessa’s valuable advice by watching the Marina Orsini show on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, where she is featured as décor commentator.