Last Updated on November 14, 2022
News flash: Christmas isn’t the only gifting holiday.
Did you know that there’s actually a ton of gift-giving occasions? You probably suspected, but now you’ll know: Here’s pretty much every time you’ll be expected to bring a gift.
Gifting Holidays (& Other Gift-Giving Occasions)
The only thing better than a holiday is a holiday with gifts. Because gifts are fun! They’re great to receive, and even better to give – especially when you give a really thoughtful present. But when should you bring a gift – or expect one?
It’s not always easy to know what holidays and special events require gifts. So we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you. Read on for our helpful guide to gifting holidays.
Starting with the most obvious ones…
Of course you should come to a birthday party with a gift! This should be a no-brainer.
What to bring? Start with our list of Gifts That Everyone Wants, and if necessary see the menu for specific gift ideas by the recipient’s age.
When: December 25th
The tradition of Christmas as a gifting holiday is rooted in the Christian belief that in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God gave humanity the greatest gift of all. We give gifts as a celebration and reflection of that first – and best – gift.
When: Check your invite!
Weddings are definitely an occasion to bring a gift. What, and how much to spend, however, is entirely up to you. Think about how close you are to the new couple (family, as opposed to barely acquaintances, for example), and then go from there when shopping.
The best part is that they usually make it easy for you to choose a wedding gift: Check the wedding registry, choose a gift, and you’re done!
4. Father’s Day
When: 3rd Sunday in June
What to give really depends on a few things: is he YOUR father? Well, then the sky’s the limit! When in doubt, a sincerely written card will do.
5. Mother’s Day
When: 2nd Sunday in May
Moms always deserve a gift – if you’re stuck for ideas, try a simple handwritten card and a beautiful bouquet of her favorite blooms.
When: Hopefully you remember!
It’s always a good idea to celebrate your anniversary by giving your spouse a special gift. This can be a wrapped present, or it can be an experience – a romantic home-cooked candlelit dinner, a favorite restaurant and a show or concert, a weekend getaway.
If you’re invited to an anniversary celebration in honor of a couple’s silver, gold, or other anniversary, a gift is considered proper etiquette.
When: Between March 22 and April 25th. Specifically, it’s the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox.
Easter is the celebration of the risen Savior for Christians: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter baskets for kids are always fun to put together! Gifts for adults though? Not necessary for this holiday – though it could be a fun tradition to start!
Housewarmings are fun! They’re usually smallish parties where people invite their friends to celebrate the purchase of a new home. Sometimes they’re Open House style, so you don’t even have to worry about arriving on time.
A housewarming gift is considered good etiquette. This might be a bottle of wine, some local cider/craft beers, a potted plant, candles, anything that a new home might be in need of.
When: May/June (end of school year)
Graduations celebrate a student graduating from high school, college, or trade school.
Gifts (like these creative ideas) are usually expected at a graduation party. Ideas that are popular include cash and gift cards.
Related: 50 Hilarious Graduation Gifts
Retirement deserve a party and a gift! Give something that takes into consideration the retiree’s newly found leisure time. Things like gift certificates to the golf course, trips, gift cards for spas or restaurants.
If you’ve been invited over for dinner, don’t show up empty handed! Yes, that means even if they said you didn’t need to bring anything. A bottle of wine is always appreciated, as is a bouquet of flowers for the table.
12. Baby Showers
Baby showers are extra fun to shop for! Whether it’s Mama and Daddy’s first child, or their eleventh, they always need practical things like diapers, lotions, onesies, and bottles.
13. Bridal Showers
Check with the bride before you shop: while you must definitely bring a gift, some showers are more of the “wedding night” variety, while others are more of the kitchen/household type. And always include a gift receipt when you’re purchasing lingerie for someone (tastes and sizes vary).
14. Thank You
Thank you gifts are always appropriated when someone has gone above and beyond for you! We recommend anything from gift cards to plants to something homemade/edible.
15. Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah (Jewish)
Bar Mitzvah: When a boy turns 13
Bat Mitzvah: When a girl turns 12
It’s most common to give gifts at Bar Mitzvahs/Bat Mitzvahs, but it’s also quite common to donate to a charity in their name. This custom is known as “tzedekah.” If you do give cash, give it in amounts equal to 18: that number is numerical for “chai,” which in Hebrew is “life.”
Christenings can be lavish affairs or a simple ceremony, when a baby is dedicated to God. Typically there is a gathering of family and friends afterwards, so if you’re invited be sure to bring a gift for the wee little one.
Baptisms aren’t always associated with gifts, but a handwritten card will be a wonderful contribution to your friend’s important day. However – in celebration of the gift of salvation – why not give a gift? A new Bible, a plaque, a journal, or some Christian books will always be appreciated.
18. Quinceanera (Mexico)
When: A girl’s 15th birthday
A Quinceanera is a very extravagant birthday party for a 15 year old girl, and gifts are most definitely expected! She has likely even registered her desires – so that will make your choices easier! Steer clear of the traditional Quinceanera gifts that you will find by googling: those are reserved for close family members to purchase.
19. Valentine’s Day
When: February 14th
The good thing about Valentine’s Day is you only have to buy for one person! Your sweet baboo.
20. Dinner Parties
Dinner parties can be lavish or simple. Plan your contribution accordingly (but do bring something). See: Hostess Gifts, above.
21. Hannukah (Jewish)
When: The 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, so check your calendar each year.
Silver and blue are the colors of Hannukah, so plan your gift around that!
22. Cinco de Mayo (Mexico and Mexican-American)
When: May 5th
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration, so we think homemade or store bought foods are always the best to bring. If you’re invited to a party, consider a hostess gift, but ultimately any contribution will be appreciated – and consumed!
It’s traditional to give your new fiancée an engagement gift. Sometimes it’s expensive jewelry, other times something to help plan the wedding (like a leather bound wedding planner), or something practical for the home (in anticipation of your life together). Or just something sweet and romantic!
While engagements don’t require a gift from other people (that usually comes later with the showers and the actual wedding), a nice card would be appreciated. If it’s a close friend or family member, your enthusiastic congrats will be the perfect gift!
When: October 31st
Gifts aren’t typically given, in the traditional sense, on Halloween. Rather, kids walk around the neighborhood dressed up in fun or scary costumes and “trick or treat” the neighbors. This is a tradition that began with the idea of “give me a treat, or I’ll play a trick on you!”
Nowadays, it’s mostly harmless fun where the little hoodlums knock on a door, say “trick or treat!” and then hold out their buckets to be filled with candy. Buy a few bags of mini candy bars to give out, and leave your front porch lights on. (It’s a code: Lights on means come and get candy; lights off means we’re not home or don’t celebrate the holiday.)
25. Chinese New Year
When: between January 21st and February 20th.
A traditional gift is a red packet filled with money.
26. New Year’s (or New Year’s Eve)
When: January 1st (or December 31st)
New Year’s Eve is a party night, so plan accordingly! While it isn’t traditional to give gifts, it is traditional to give kisses at midnight!
27. Memorial Day (American)
When: the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day is set aside as a time of remembrance for those who have died in service to their country. It is appropriate to give flowers or some other grave décor to honor the memory of fallen heroes.
28. Veteran’s Day
When: November 11th (in the United States)
Veteran’s Day is a time to honor the living military veterans among us. Whether they are currently serving or retired, be sure to say “Thank you!” to a veteran.
Service members – active duty or retired – do not want or expect gifts on Veteran’s Day. But you can show your appreciation in other ways. Buy them lunch or a cup of coffee. For elderly veterans, mow their lawn, weed their garden, or find some other act of service that expresses your thanks.
29. Earth Day / Arbor Day
Earth Day: April 22
Arbor Day: Last Friday in April
Both of these holidays occur in the last quarter of April each year. Interestingly, while nowadays Earth Day is the “big one,” Arbor Day is actually a national holiday in the USA, while Earth Day is not.
Both special days emphasize taking care of the planet. Arbor Day is more specifically geared towards planting trees, so this is a wonderful time to send someone the gift of a tree planting dedication. Either day, you can certainly throw a party, gather a group to pick up litter or plant trees together, teach how to compost at home, or other eco-friendly activities.
If you’re invited to an Arbor or Earth Day party, we’d suggest coming with the gift of a tree for the host or hostess.
30. Fourth of July
When: July 4th
The Fourth of July symbolizes the freedom for Americans from the English. While not necessarily a gift giving holiday, if you are invited to a party, you should definitely bring something. We suggest BBQ-style foods and beverages. If you’re invited to stay and set off fireworks, bring your own contribution to the fireworks stockpile.
More: 4th of July Gift Guide
31. Purim (Jewish)
When: The 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which is typically between late February to mid-March
Purim celebrates Esther and Mordecai’s victory over Haman, a Persian official intent on destroying the Jews. Traditional observances include dressing up in costumes, reading the biblical book of Esther, and feasting. What to give? Gift baskets filled with home-cooked foods!
32. St Patrick’s Day (Irish)
When: March 17th
If you are invited to a party, bring something Irish inspired! It’s a feast day for Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
33. White Elephant Party
It’s all about the gifts for this one! The fun part? They’re usually bizarre and wacky. So let your imagination run wild! Shop at thrift stores, yard sales, even your own garage for this one.
When someone you know has experienced the death of a loved one, you should express your condolences by sending a card or at least a thoughtful text message. If you’re close to the person who has suffered a loss, a sympathy gift is appropriate and appreciated.
One meaningful gesture of support is to deliver a meal. This is helpful because the family will be dealing doubly with grief and with making the funeral arrangements, so preparing food is often the last thing on their minds.
Oh, hey, guess what your friends want on this day? Your help moving! So, back up that truck, baby.
But seriously, it’s also very appropriate to give a small token of your love and friendship. Whether it’s a card, a gift card, a sentimental keepsake gift, or something practical for their new home, your soon-to-be-distant friend will cherish your gift.
36. Epiphany/Three King’s Day (Christian)
When: January 6th, which is the 12th and final day of Christmas – you know, like the song!
The word epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation,” and the holiday commemorates Jesus’ first appearance before Gentiles. This is when the Magi (the kings/wise men who gave the three gifts to Jesus) came and saw Jesus.
If you’re invited to an Epiphany party, expect it to be at least somewhat if not completely religious in nature. Bring wine or appetizers and you’ll be fine.
37. All Saints Day (Roman Catholic/Christian)
When: November 1
All Saints Day is a day to remember all the saints who have been canonized in the Catholic Church.
Interestingly, this is where Halloween came from: “All Hallows (aka saints) Eve” morphed into “Halloween.” The day before celebrating saints was thought of as a day when evil came out in full force.
38. Boxing Day
When: December 26th, the day after Christmas
This holiday is a time to give to the less fortunate among us. After celebrating Christmas and giving gifts to family and friends, it is appropriate to remember the poor.
Here’s where the name came from: Church parishioners would be encouraged to contribute to the alms boxes in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. On December 26th – Boxing Day – the alms boxes were opened and distributed to the poor.
Sadly, nowadays Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday. Maybe we should aim to bring back the old meaning!
Here’s one way to give: How to make Homeless Care Kits that ACTUALLY help
When: June 19th (a combo of the words).
Juneteenth honors the emancipation of African-American slaves in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, news of the end of the Civil War (and thus the emancipation of slaves) reached one of the last holdouts in Galveston, Texas.
To celebrate, throw a party, support Black-owned businesses, and give food and other gifts to one another in celebration of the abolishment of slavery.
40. Kwanzaa (African)
When: December 26th through January 1
It’s a celebration of African American culture and always end with a big feast called Karamu. So, while you don’t need to bring a gift, you might want to contribute to the feast!
41. Ramadan (Islamic)
When: Between April and May based on the Islamic calendar
Ramadan is a 30 day period of fasting during the daytime hours (not even water), followed by a meal after sundown in which the family breaks their fast together. Gifts are often given at the end of Ramadan, mostly for children. These are typically gifts of clothing and toys.
42. Eid al-Adha (Islamic)
When: the 10th day of the final month of the Islamic calendar
This holiday marks the pilgrimage to Mecca and the sacrifice of Abraham of his son. Gifts commonly include money as well as clothing, toys, food, cosmetics, and accessories.
43. Appreciation Days
There are Appreciation Days for nurses, firefighters, secretaries, teachers, and many more vocations.
These days are important too! If you have a hard working person in your life, remember their special day by taking a peek at the calendar and then going shopping for something you know they’ll appreciate.
When Should You Give a Gift?
Now that we’ve covered about a MILLION (or, ya know, 43) gift-giving occasions, we need to note: Not every holiday needs to find you rushing out with gifts in hand!
If you plan on being at the wedding, for example, you don’t likely need a separate engagement gift. Likewise, if you already attended the baby shower, present in hand, you don’t need to feel pressured to bring a gift to the Christening (just a card will do).
Likewise, some holidays (like Thanksgiving and Halloween) aren’t considered gift-giving holidays, but they ARE fun to shop for anyway! Bringing a little something for whomever is hosting Thanksgiving dinner will be much appreciated, for example, even though there won’t be a big gift unwrapping to-do at the table. And your Halloween candy IS the gift!
Remember that, no matter the occasion, a lovely hand-written card is always a much appreciated gesture. Sometimes even more so than what’s in the gift bag! If money is tight (or you already contributed to the bridal shower and don’t want to purchase a separate wedding gift) a carefully and thoughtfully inscribed note is priceless.
10 Gifts You Should Keep on Hand
If you haven’t yet had a last-minute gift-giving emergency – well, you will. Here are some stellar gifts you should keep on hand for any holiday, celebration, or special day.
1. Blank Cards
We’ve all done it: forgotten someone’s birthday or anniversary and it’s too late to run to the store for a perfect card! Keep a box of blank, generic cards with envelopes on hand for those forehead smacking moments. I always keep a couple of extra Christmas cards in unaddressed envelopes as well, in case of suddenly remembered acquaintances!
P.S. Don’t forget the stamps!
2. Gift Cards
Whether it’s a simple $5 gift card to Starbucks, or a larger amount to Amazon, gift cards won’t weigh down your envelope you’re sending your loved one, and they are always appreciated!
So great too, for occasions like Teacher Appreciation Day, Nurse’s Day, and the like.
3. Bath & Spa Items
These keep for a nice long time and so they’re perfect for stocking your gift closet/drawer/box! Sometimes someone will gift YOU a particular lotion or bath salt that just isn’t your cup of tea. Into the re-gifting pile it goes! Just of course, remember not to give it back to the original gifter (so awkward).
4. Candy & Chocolate
Most candies and chocolate have a good shelf life, so these are easy to tuck into an envelope or to accompany a bottle of wine. Just make sure to store in a dark, cool place!
Having a bottle or two of extra lying around that you don’t plan on drinking is just the thing for a last minute Hostess gift or Housewarming Party. Buying from a local vineyard or brewery makes it extra special, but a regular find at a grocery store is nothing to scoff at!
Blank journals make great gifts! Whether gifted to a sketcher, a doodler, a list maker, or a writer, blank books come in so handy and they’re easy to stock up even at the dollar store. From the creative person to the super-organizer, everyone loves to receive a fresh journal.
Smallish throws are always appreciated as gifts for any occasion, and they’re easy to store until needed. Stock up when they’re less expensive during the summer, and you have Christmas covered!
Candles are always a beloved gift that never goes out of style. Plus they come in so many sizes and shapes and scents!
Pro Tip: Stores deeply discount any leftover “holiday” scents, like Pine, Pumpkin Spice, and Cinnamon right after those holidays. Stock up and you’ll be more than ready for next year!
9. Coffee & Tea
Just double check their expiration date (it should be long off if unopened). A yummy bag of beans or a box of lovely tea make great gifts to have on hand when needed. Otherwise, keep some cute mugs on hand with packs of cocoa – always a good idea!
10. Slippers & Socks
Who doesn’t love a nice new pair of fuzzy socks or comfy slippers? These are simple enough to have on hand and make great gifts for him or her on any gifting holiday.
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