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The History of the Hostess Gift: A Timeless Gesture of Gratitude


Person in floral dress holding a large bouquet of dried flowers

As the days get longer and the mercury rises, invites for casual get-togethers, BBQs and dinner parties will stream in giving us the opportunity to enjoy a myriad of social gatherings.

While attending these events, it's customary to express our appreciation to the host or hostess with a small token of gratitude known as the hostess gift. But have you ever wondered about the origins of this delightful tradition? Well, buckle up as we dive into the fascinating history of the hostess gift with suggestions of what to bring as a token gift this summer.

Ancient Origins

The practice of bringing gifts to hosts traces back to ancient times. In many cultures, guests would present offerings to their hosts as a symbol of respect and hospitality. In ancient Rome visitors would bring branches of plants and fruits to honour their hosts. Similarly, in ancient Japan, guests would bring thoughtful tokens like tea or flowers to show their appreciation.

Medieval Feasts and Beyond

During the Middle Ages, the hostess gift became more prevalent as feasts and banquets gained popularity. In Europe, guests would bring edible treats, such as spices, jams, or homemade delicacies, to contribute to the lavish spread. These offerings were seen as a way to thank the host for their hospitality and to share in the celebration.

The Rise of Social Etiquette

In the 19th century, with the rise of the middle class and the growing importance of social gatherings, the hostess gift became firmly entrenched in social etiquette. It became customary for guests to bring small tokens, such as flowers, books, or handmade crafts, as a gesture of appreciation. These gifts also served as conversation starters and could be displayed to enhance the décor of the host's home.

The Importance of the Hostess Gift Today Today, the hostess gift remains a vital tradition that fosters connection and gratitude. It demonstrates our acknowledgment of the time and effort invested by our hosts.

So, what to gift?

The history of the hostess gift spans centuries and cultures, emphasizing the timeless importance of expressing gratitude and appreciation. By understanding its origins and evolution, we can embrace this tradition and make it our own.

A gift does not have to be expensive or extravagant, but it should be thoughtful and reflect the personality and interests of the host.

So, what are some modern-day ideas for hostess gifts? Here are a few suggestions:


  1. A plant - A small potted plant is a great gift for a host who loves gardening or enjoys decorating their home with greenery.

  2. A scented candle - A high-quality candle in a beautiful jar is a thoughtful and practical gift that any host would appreciate.

  3. A bottle of wine - A classic gift that never goes out of style, although remember you shouldn't expect to drink the wine at your gathering! It’s up to the hostess what they serve

  4. A fancy cordial - If your hosts are not drinkers then how about a fancy bottle of cordial? Now is the perfect time to start making your own. Or, by taking inspiration from Japan, a fancy (or home made!) bag of loose leaf tea.

  5. A posy of flowers - A small posy from your garden or a bouquet from a florist or shop

  6. A jar of preserves: Homemade jams and pickles are always a winner with foodie friends

  7. Something to relax with: Hosting is hard work, what better way to thank your host than with some relaxing bath salts of a fancy bubble bath for one their guests depart.


The hostess gift is more than a mere token – it's a symbol of gratitude and an expression of our desire to build lasting connections. So, the next time you attend a gathering, remember the power of a small, thoughtful gift.


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