10/10/2014 06:06 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST

Sticky Situation: What Do I Bring a Thanksgiving Host?

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Sticky Situation:

For this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, my sister and I will be meeting a long lost aunt. Our family had lost track of her since the beginning of the last century. Can you believe it!

Her son is hosting this long overdue reunion. He lives on the Pacific's West Coast, in Vancouver, British Columbia. We will of course be travelling by plane.

What do you suggest that we bring as a host(ess) gift for this unknown cousin who is opening up his home to us? Preferably something not too bulky to carry, I hope. Or, would it be appropriate to buy something at destination?


The social etiquette rule, for any hosting invitation, is simple: reciprocate. Typically one should host back within the same season, or within three months.

Nowadays, with the shared custody of children, extracurricular activities and overflowing calendars, the custom has evolved where one can automatically discharge his debt by immediately offering a hostess gift, when arriving at the gathering.

Basically, the new and popular hostess gift rite is to remove one's obligation of in turn entertaining back, in one's home.

In your case, given the geographical distance and the recent renewal of your family bond, hosting back in the recommended time is probably not possible.

To avoid being further crammed in flight or of increasing your luggage weight and possibly the price of your baggage, it is quite acceptable to buy your present during your stay. An additional benefit of this practice, is that you will have the chance to see the decor and habits of your cousin and can then customize your gift accordingly.

Actually, for an overnight stay, you can always offer a hostess gift during your stay.

Shopping online and arranging for the delivery of your gift, before your arrival or after your departure, is another option that will free you of having to carry extra luggage onboard the aircraft.

As we say: "You have options."

But, what to get?

Considering the essence of your family reunion, I invite you to consider offering something like an heirloom, such as; a portrait, a photo album or even your family tree. You may also wish to give something that you have inherited or that was made by your parent.

The presentation of such an object will have sentimental value and will be a nice souvenir to commemorate your meeting.

Here are a few other, more generic, suggestions :

• An assortment of hot beverages including teas, herbal teas, coffees, hot chocolate and cider.

• A gourmet basket: oils, vinegars, condiments, spices and herbs.

• A Thanksgiving themed set: tablecloth and napkins, a serving dish and its' utensils, glasses or cups.

• A gift certificate: to a favourite restaurant or a relaxing service, such as a manicure.

• Greens: a bouquet of flowers, a plant or a mini herb or cactus garden.

• Invite his family for a meal or a group activity.

Avoid the traditional bottle of wine. Your host will have already taken care to have done his meal pairings. Also, you do not know if he drinks.

If your aunt's son has children, a delicate attention is to offer them a gift as well; especially if you occupy their rooms during your stay.

Some suggestions for children:

• A board game, a puzzle or something of the arts and crafts nature.

• A treat basket: chocolates, cookies, popcorn and candy. Make sure to check on allergies first.

• A gift certificate for the movies.

Offer your gift as you arrive, when leaving or leave your present on the bed you slept in.

Be sure to accompany your gift with a thank you note; especially on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy reunion and Thanksgiving!

You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help gone will be awkwardness, embarrassment and faux-pas.


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