Traditionally, gift giving in Ireland is customary for birthdays and Christmas.
If you are invited to someone's home, do take a gift. Flowers, chocolate, cheese, and wine are good choices.
The gift need not be expensive. Giving something personal and the choice of the gift is more important.
Gifts are usually opened in front of the giver. When receiving a gift it is customary to politely refuse a gift when it is first offered. When giving a gift to someone, expect him or her to do the same.
The same is true when offered a gift of hospitality: refuse it once and maybe twice. The third time it is offered, you should accept. This custom may have come from the days of the Potato Famine. Although people had nothing to offer, they could offer the hospitality of a cup of tea or other without embarrassment. By offering a third time, the recipient was assured that accepting the gift would not cause the giver hardship.
So if you ever offer an true Irishman a quilt, don’t be offended when he turns it down. But be sure to off it again and again so he will take it.
If you have not read The Giving Quilt yet, it will be available in paperback from Plume on April 2nd. I have two copies to give away, as well as a few other prizes which have been given to me by the publisher. If you would like to win one of the prizes, leave a comment answering the question “Why do you give?” I will draw names on Sunday March 31st.