1 BBB's Guide to Gifting Etiquette - The Battered Black Book

BBB’s Guide to Gifting Etiquette

By Anya Cooklin-Lofting

‘Tis the season to gift and be gifted, and with that comes a cinnamon-scented cocktail of gifter-panic, giftee-grimacing and of course, however rarely, some good old wholesome, festive gratitude. It’s true that the best gifts are thoughtful, often personal and increasingly locally sourced from independent makers, but there is an unspoken language that underscores the entire cultural choreography of gift-giving. It’s formed not of nouns and verbs, commas and colons, but of gift wrap and pricetags, timing and manners. While we may have the basics down (never arriving at a soiree empty-handed, opening the card before the gift, and so on), it certainly won’t hurt to brush up on some of the more complicated subject matter at hand. And while I won’t be able to teach you how to wrap your presents like a pro, I can give you a few hints when it comes to tackling some of those harder-to-buy-for occasions.

Festive Party Gifts

If your diary looks anything like mine each (COVID-dependent) December, your evenings will be largely dedicated to spending time with friends and family in a series of festive gatherings that, by New Year’s Eve, will have blended into a candle-lit continuum of teacups of mulled wine and mainly sourdough-centric lockdown reminiscences. When it comes to a gift for your hosts, keep it classic. Considering the sheer volume of these events over the Christmas period, opting for bespoke, personalised or particularly expensive gifts isn’t sustainable for the many. Bring a good bottle of wine, a seasonal bouquet or a tin of biscuits to hit the mark perfectly, but don’t be alarmed if you don’t see any of your edible or imbibe-able gifts again that evening. It’s important to remember that your gift is just that, a gift, and not a contribution to the evening’s revelries. 

Buying for Your Boss

Finding the perfect gift for your manager or your employer is a tricky business. It is a matter of choosing a gift that shows your appreciation and respect in a friendly, informal manner, artfully combining the professional and the personal. It makes sense to ground your gift ideas in a hobby or interest of which your boss has made you aware, such as cookery, entertaining or gardening. Artisan salts for their kitchen island, a stack of design-led coasters or a stylish set of pruners could be great places to start, resulting in a gift exchange that feels thoughtful and considered but very low risk.


Even the simplest and most generic of gifts (think candles, house plants, bottles of wine) can be elevated with some creative gift wrapping. A bottle of wine in a patterned bottle bag topped with tissue paper will give the exchange more of a sense of occasion, while some lengths of colourful ribbon tied in a generous bow around the lip of a vase of flowers will add a thoughtful flourish. You don’t need to be a dab hand with wrapping paper, matching pattern repeats along the creases and binding corners with velvet ribbon. Simply marking out an item as a present with a gift bag, a tag and some simple paper will bring a bigger smile to the receiver’s face.

Thank You Notes

From giving gifts to gratefully receiving them, the power of a thank you note is immeasurable. A handwritten note in the post is a rare and beautiful thing, especially when its contents is rich in gratitude and personality. You can buy beautiful packs of thank you cards from various online stationers or in local independent book shops, or you can set aside some time to craft your own with a vintage printing block to create unique letterhead paper. This is a wonderful time of year for little projects like this, and coincides with the perfect excuse to begin them. Keeping a list of all of the gifts you receive (from threshold offerings to Christmas Day show-stoppers) over the festive season is invaluable, allowing you to you easily reference the exact bottle of Champagne, candle fragrance or box of chocolate truffles the gifter chose for you in your note.

So, go forth and gift, traversing the treacherous terrain of the etiquette surrounding the ancient practice. Over and above the gifts you choose, be sure to note the swell of emotion between friends under the same roof, or families reunited. Gifting is really only a vehicle for the most fundamental, sensible touchstone of the festive season: meaningful connections to the most important people in your life.