It’s one of the most important rules of party etiquette: don’t arrive empty-handed. (Good to note, since between now and 2013, you’ve got a lot of parties.)

In the past, that’s meant showing up with a bottle of wine, purchased last-minute, or an ill-begotten dessert item. But not this year. Because this year, you’re winning the holidays.

As you might recall, we kicked off Kempt’s Guide to Winning the Holidays last week with a little refresher course on your holiday kitsch. Now we’re upgrading your host gift. The real nugget of wisdom here is that you should be bringing something that enhances the evening—which is why a bottle of wine usually works in a pinch, but we’re thinking: more personal, more fun, more ambiance. (Since really, the best gift you can give any host is to help make the party more fun.) So, we bring to you:

The five host/hostess gifts guaranteed to make any holiday party better.

Lottery tickets. Pick up a round of scratchers—enough for the whole party, if it’s a small gathering. The exciting prospect of getting rich before the first course arrives should have everyone in the right mood for the rest of the night.

A Polaroid camera. There’s no denying the fun-power of nostalgia mixed with instant gratification. And luckily, you can still find cameras and film here. (Of course, a checkout-counter disposable camera should do the trick just as well, minus the instant-photo part.)

A fireplace DVD. This is a good one for a host who’s really into the wintry spirit of it all, but lives in a home without a hearth. Pop this in, and voilà: instant homey ambiance.

A holiday playlist. Here’s the do-it-yourself option for the crafty-appreciative party thrower. Put together a holiday playlist on a CD (ask your local electronics store for something called a “writeable CD-ROM,” they might know where to find one) or do it digitally with a thumb drive you can leave behind. Make sure the music is festive, but leaning more toward “Sleigh Bells” than “Jingle Bells.”

The after-party starter. Forget cookies, you need something a little more indulgent and conversation-starting for the post-meal… Like cigars, a handsome deck of cards, Twister or—if it’s the right crowd—a Nerf gun. As with all the gifts on this list, you’ll need to read your audience—but this one especially. Or just show up, guns blazing. You can take names later.

—N.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Najib Benouar