Santa has got to be the perfect houseguest.
He drops in around the holidays, doesn t stay too long, and leaves all kinds of gifts.
If only everyone was so considerate. But there are so many other things to worry about during the holiday season: finding the right gifts, traveling to see family and friends, planning the perfect holiday meal.
Still, if home isn t where you are for the holidays, don t forget to take the time to leave a gesture of gratitude for the hosts you re staying with, etiquette experts say.
Judith Martin (you can call her Miss Manners ) has been quite clear on the matter.
Bringing wine or any other little present is fine, but not required for dinners, although necessary for house visits, either upon arrival or after one has cased the place to see what is needed, she wrote in one of her syndicated columns.
It doesn t have to be anything extravagant, but a hostess gift is always in good taste, no matter who you are or who you re visiting, said Jill Marie Zachman, an etiquette instructor in Waterville.
She recommends things like scented candles or special potpourri, or items that would be of special interest to the host. Be careful, though, not to offend. You wouldn t want to give alcohol to a teetotaler, for example.
If you re not sure, stay away from something that would possibly go against anyone s convictions. A candle would be much less offensive than a bottle of wine, Ms. Zachman said.
Peter Post, author of Essential Manners for Couples (Collins, 2005) and great-grandson of etiquette maven Emily Post, made his hostess gift suggestions to The Blade through an e-mail: A bottle of wine, a new bestseller, or a dozen golf balls are all appropriate gifts for an overnight stay.
When to present your gift is up to you.
You can take a gift with you and present it as soon as you arrive or can buy one during your stay. A third option is to send a gift as soon as possible after you leave, wrote Mr. Post, who is a director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.
Some people like to treat their host to a meal during their stay, which is great, according to Ms. Zachman, whose business is called First Impressions. However, this gesture should be in addition to a hostess gift, not instead of one.
It s totally different, she said.
A few Toledo area socialites shared their own tips on hostess gifts. Cindy Dana, of Ottawa Hills, likes to give gifts with a local flavor.
I really like to either receive or give kind of small items that are reflective of our community. Usually, in this case, it s glass art, she said.
Depending on the host, other Toledo treasures might include something from Tony Packo s or the Mud Hens, which folks from other cities might recognize.
Nancy Robon, of South Toledo, favors traditional choices: wine, chocolates, fancy soaps, and flowers.
In the springtime, I have brought perennials that have some decoration around the pot that I have bought at fancier places, she said. Naturally, around Christmas you could always bring poinsettias.
If you want to take things up a notch, you could follow in the footsteps of broadcaster and political operative George Stephanopoulos. He told Washington Life Magazine in 2003 that the best thing he s ever given a host is a basket of embroidered French hand towels, soaps, and candles. The best thing he s received from a house guest is a box of Maine lobsters.
No matter what you give, remember that your duties don t end when you hand it over. Good etiquette demands a thank-you note not an e-mail.
A handwritten letter is best, said Ms. Zachman. And mail it to them. Do not hand it to them. Put the 37-cent stamp on it and mail it.