While houses decorated with bright lights, trees trimmed with tinsel and vibrant bulbs and stores packed to the brim with shoppers are all staples of the holiday season, so are parties.
Etiquette experts say it is generally a good idea to give a gift to the hostess of a holiday party; however, deciding exactly what gift to give can sometimes be tricky.
Those at some local stores say party goers shouldn't stress, though, because they have items that are ideal for any party hostess.
"If you want to take something but not a big thing, just a two-piece box of fudge doesn't cost you that much and it makes a nice gift for the hostess," said Asunta Damron, owner of My Favorite Things on Front Street in Marietta.
Damron noted with 30 different varieties available, the gift can be made custom for the host.
Other sweet treats that a hostess might enjoy, she said, include Jelly Belly jellybeans and cookies, both of which are sold in the store.
Gifts for a hostess:
Corkscrew and wine stoppers.
Bars of decorative soap.
Personalized photo coasters.
Source: Redbook magazine, www.redbookmag.com
Being a good party guest:
RSVP on time. When you do RSVP, that is a good time to ask what you can bring, whom you can bring and what you should wear, if this information is not indicated on the invitation.
Unless it's a good friend whom you entertain with regularly or it's a potluck and you're already taking food or drinks, take a gift for your host and leave it with him or her - even if it is food and it's not eaten while you are there.
Do not take uninvited guests because you don't know if there will be enough food for an extra person.
If you promised to take something specific, such as dessert or a salad, then you should take that particular item. Call ahead if you're thinking about switching.
Try to be outgoing. If a friend or couple is standing in the corner by themselves, the host/hostess will feel obligated to spend a lot of time entertaining them, rather than making their way around the room.
Arrive on time, not too early or too late. A host/hostess may be doing some preparation in the minutes before the party starts. On the other hand, it's not appropriate to show up more than 15 minutes after the start time of the party.
Don't complain about the food or drinks. Do, however, let the host/hostess know if you are a vegetarian or a vegan and offer to bring a dish.
Never leave the party without saying goodbye to the host/hostess and thanking them.
Source: Woman's Day magazine, www.womansday.com
Damron pointed out that while a person might give a hostess a gift that is appropriate for sharing, that doesn't necessarily mean the hostess is obligated to do so.
"It's up to the hostess whether they want to put it out or not and I think most of the time, they don't," she said.
According to Woman's Day magazine, unless a person is going to the party of someone they entertain with regularly or it's a potluck party and a person is already taking food or drinks, a gift should be taken for the hostess and it should be left with her, even if it's not consumed during the party.
A person doesn't always have to give a hostess food as a gift. Redbook magazine recommends things like wine glasses, bars of decorative soap and a pot holder
Damron said she has plenty of non-edible gifts for a hostess in her store.
"If you want something that's small, the Willow Tree Angel (figurines) and Camille Beckman hand cream, they make nice hostess gifts," she said.
The figurines each have a different theme and there are dozens of them available, and the hand cream also comes in different varieties.
The Cook's Shop, also on Front Street in Marietta, has a variety of items that would make great hostess gifts, as well, according to owner Ken Kupsche.
"At $10, we've got a whole group of mini recipe boxes with cute little artistic recipe cards," he said. "There are variety of those based on what you think someone might be interested in and they're nicely packaged."
Each recipe box has a theme and includes 20 different recipe cards. For example, the chocolate-themed box includes recipes for holiday fudge, hot cocoa, double tiramisu, monster cookies and other sweet treats.
There is also a dipping bowl available for $18 at the Cook's Shop that Kupsche said would be great for a hostess.
"It's an acrylic bowl you put ice in and a stainless steel bowl drops into that," he explained. "You put dip in it, or anything you need to keep cold."
"You can set it up at party and leave it as a gift, or just give it as a gift," he added.
Kupsche said his No. 1 choice for a hostess gift is the ceramic baker sold at the store for $25. It's a shallow ceramic dish with a lid and handles on both sides which comes in red, white or blue and also includes a packet of leek and onion dip mix.
"There are a variety of dips available, if you want to get more, that we sell," he noted.
Wine is also an "excellent" gift for a hostess, according to Beth Beebe, sales associate at Unicorn Wine Guild on Washington Blvd. in Belpre. She said the store has 42 varieties available, all of which are made there.
"We have for Christmas the White Surprise - it's a white cranberry pinot grigio and it's very good for holiday meals," Beebe said. "And the Draco Roseus is really pretty looking, if you're looking for presentation, it's kind of a pinkish red and has a pink cap."
Beebe noted that there are also many other items sold at the store that would be ideal for a hostess, including teas, coffees, meats, and cheeses.
"We have hand-painted wine glasses and also decorative wine stoppers," she added.