Giving Gifts to Hindu Friends

Christmas came and went last month in an avalanche of family gatherings, tasty food, and happy squeals from my young children.  All of the commotion over presents was a good reminder, though, that the giving and receiving of gifts is an important part of relationships with Hindu people.  In the past I’ve received texts from friends here in the US asking for my advice about gift giving to Hindu people. What to give as a house warming gift to the new Indian family who moved in next door, as a wedding present for a Hindu coworker or college friend, or during a first visit a Hindu family’s home have all prompted questions.  Here are my suggestions for great gifts to give to Hindu families.

  • Flowers, Chocolates, Nuts – These are standard, widely given and received gifts. When we’ve hosted holiday parties in the past with many Hindu families in attendance, by the end of the night we often have collectively received multiple flower bouquets and multiple chocolate boxes.
  • Homemade Snacks or Desserts – We always love receiving homemade goodies from our friends. Especially during the Indian holiday season, it is standard to give and receive tasty treats to eat other. Many Indian families will cook up big batches of desserts and spend the holiday driving around, distributing these delicacies to their friends. You can cook something to give away as well, but be sure to avoid desserts with eggs as an ingredient.  For us, we’ve found Oreo balls to be a vegan treat that our Hindu friends really appreciate.
  • Kitchen and Home Decor Items – Other standard gifts are items for the home or kitchen.  These gifts can come at a variety of price points, but we’ve been given figurines, picture frames, serving bowls, platters, and even an air fryer.  Gifts like these are well received.  As an aside, you may also be given a small idol figurine of the Hindu family’s deity* or a crucifix**.

*We’ve been given many idols over the years, particularly of the deities Ganesh (the elephant-headed god), Krishna (he plays a flute), and Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth). We always receive these gifts with the kindness and graciousness with which they were given, and I would encourage you to do the same. Afterwards, you are free to do what you would like with the idol, but I would encourage you not to tell the gift-giver if you no longer keep it.  

  • **Also, sometimes Hindu people, knowing our devotion to Jesus, have tried to give us something they think we would like and so have given us small crucifixes. I’ve probably received five crucifixes over the years.  It always impresses me how this demonstrates the centrality of spirituality in the worldview of many Hindu people, and also their humility! For comparison’s sake, can you imagine trying to find an idol of Shiva or Buddha to give to someone else, solely because you thought they would like it?
  • We rarely give these gifts, but we have received a variety of India-specific gifts from our friends. Gifts of Indian clothing for ourselves (especially saris for my wife) or our kids, Indian handicrafts and jewelry, and Indian artwork have all been something we’ve received from our closer relationships. As you journey deeper in friendship with your Indian friends, I expect that you might receive these things, too.

Walking down the road of relationship with Hindu people is a lively, warm journey of laughter and shared kindness.  I have found that giving and receiving gifts is a part of what it means to develop strong, close friendships.  In your own journey of alongsiding, consider giving gifts for these occasions:

  • The first time visiting a Hindu family’s home.
  • Greeting a family moving to a home in your neighborhood or apartment building.
  • When attending a “function”, including weddings, anniversaries, or birthday parties.
  • When attending a holiday party.

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