If you aren't hosting Christmas dinner, you are most likely attending Christmas dinner, which means some very nice person has opened up their home and invited numerous people inside. This person deserves gifts.
Wine is the (often last-minute) answer to this gift-giving question, but unless you know a lot about wine - and the kind of wine your host enjoys - it can seem a little impersonal. Candles are another standard here, but I've found scent to be too personal a thing to foist on someone else. (Even expensive fragrant candles can trigger headaches.) That said, you should still bring a present, and that present needn't be pricey. Here are some lovely items I - a person who hosts things - would love to receive:
- Fancy salt: Gorgeous, flaky Maldon salt makes every table feel a bit more refined and mature, and it's very likely that hosting this giant meal has depleted your host of their most basic pantry items. A nice box of good salt, perhaps partnered with a wooden salt cellar, is equal parts practical and extra.
- Holiday kitchen towels (or napkins): Event-specific kitchen towels and napkins can really cheer up a kitchen, but feel a bit too frivolous to purchase for oneself. One can never really have enough kitchen towels though, and some extra pretty ones will make your host pumped to attack that mountain of dishes. (Just kidding, you should offer to help with those.)
- Really good hand lotion: People who cook a lot wash their hands a lot, and washing one's hands a lot dries them out. Eucerin's (unscented) Advanced Repair Hand Creme, Weleda Skin Food and Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve all do wonderful things for dry skin.
- Really good butter or olive oil: Your host is probably out of both of these things and will welcome the re-stocking. Buy a big, impressive block of Amish-style butter, or a bottle of good olive oil that's meant for cooking, not tasting (or you could get both).
- Coffee: Your host is going to be tired, and tired people like coffee. Get them a bag of good beans from a local roaster, and give it to them with this mug, which tells you exactly what you think of them and their hosting abilities.
- Breakfast for the next day: Your host is tired of cooking, and your host does not want to eat Christmas leftovers for breakfast (probably). There are many ways you can give the gift of a morning meal - doughnuts, homemade scones, bagels - but my favourite breakfast to gift is a nice pancake mix with syrup and bacon.
If you really want to give the gift of booze, no one is going to be mad about wine, but you might consider grabbing a bottle of the stronger stuff. A bottle of wine lasts an evening, but a bottle of good whiskey can last at least two.