Italy gift giving
The art of gift giving: what to choose and avoid in Rome
Are you puzzled because you are in Rome, invited by an Italian family, friends recently met and get acquainted or old friends? Do you need information about how many flowers to give to a woman, what to choose and avoid for a dinner, how to repay a boss, a collegue or another person for a gift or a favour, what to bring from a travel, if sending cards at Christmas or on Easter-day? Let’s consider traditional Italian gift giving!
In Rome and elsewhere in Italy gift giving is sometimes a pleasure and a spontaneous deed, sometimes a duty to show interest, involvement, gratitude. There are many circumstances when Italians give gifts: parties, birthdays, ceremonies such as babtism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, wedding, special events like graduation, festivities.
If you have been invited to someone’s home for a meal remember bringing something: nothing personal, neutral gifts are preferable. A plant – yule log or a Christmas star at Christmas, a corn plant (Cornstalk Dracaena) which is appreciated as a wish of good luck and happiness – or flowers for the lady of the house are a good choice. In this and other circumstances remember that chrysanthemums are acceptable only for funerals, red roses are reserved for romantic occasions and degrees, yellow roses symbolizes unfaithfulness, grudge and envy. In accordance with the old European tradition except for a dozen bouquet of roses, the bouquet has to be in odd numbers. If the master and lady of the house have children, toys and games for them are also acceptable. Otherwise a good bottle of wine or dry for a dinner, a spumante for ceremonies and festivities are just right for you. Things to avoid: gifts showing your company’s brand, brooches, handkerchiefs, gifts wrapped in black – this is associated with mourning - knives and sharp objects.
Italians like household goods, women take care of their home: so a centre-piece, a vase, a frame or a tray could fit in.
Baskets containing food or drinks are exchanged at Christmas and Easter. Italians also like “pandoro” - a kind of sponge cake - or “panettone” – a dome-shaped cake with sultanas and candied fruits - at Christmas and “colomba” – a dove-shaped cake with candied fruits – at Easter.
For a courtesy visit by Italians you could bring traditional gifts from your country – food and beverage are appreciated but sometimes Italians are prejudiced and you should be sure your friends are quiete open-minded about culinary products.
Souvenirs, white goods, chocolates or coffee are also common. Avoid underwear if you are not close, clothings in general: you could hardly satisfy Italian tastes concerning fashion...
Italians traditionally visit someone after a disease or on a special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries bringing a gift. Cards are attached to presents, they are usually opened at the time they are given and received: it is lucky to unwrap roughly the box. Make sure to cover or eliminate the sticker price from the box. It's against the Italian etiquette of gift giving to show how much you have spent for the gift.
It is typical among southern Italian families to give money as a gift at weddings or on the New Year’s Day, but it is more frequent among relatives.
Another common custom is to give gold or silver jewel for religeous rites such as Baptism or Holy Communion.
Finally if you want to give a gift to someone who has been particularly helpful around the office, good choices include fine pens, a framed print/picture or calculators.
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