Etiquette Questions, Answered: Holidays and Gifts
Real Simple's Modern Manners columnist helps you navigate holiday etiquette.
Q. I’ve often been told that when you visit a new neighbor for the first time, it’s proper to give the host or hostess a bottle of wine. But I do not consume alcohol and do not want to be embarrassed by refusing to imbibe with them. I would love to know what gesture might be an appropriate alternative.
A. What’s most important is that you welcome your new neighbors, whether or not you do so with a gift. If you do choose to bring along a little something, wine is certainly not the only—or even the most customary—choice. Also, you may not be the only one who doesn’t drink. Perhaps your neighbors don’t, either.
Classic house-warmers include a pot of soup (especially nice if the family is still unpacking); a welcome basket with local maps and information; or flowers, a potted herb, or a perennial from your own garden. My family always brings new neighbors something home baked, such as muffins, cookies, or brownies. Partly this is because my kids hope to be invited to stay and have some; partly it’s because when we moved into our house, one lovely neighbor brought us a pie, and we’ve never forgotten cutting it into warm slices on our first night home. (Six years later, we still refer to that particular neighbor as “the pie guy.”)
Whatever you bring, your neighbors are lucky to have such a thoughtful person living nearby.
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