Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holiday Helper - etiquette for holiday celebrations

Since this is the season of family gatherings, office parties, and other celebrations, I thought I'd offer a few humble etiquette tips for the holiday season. I'm no Emily Post, of course, but these are the things that seem to me to be wise and courteous and full of good karma. And yes, I've made some or all of these mistakes in the past, so I do know a bit of which I speak. Lol!

1. Never arrive empty handed. Bring a dish or wine or chocolates or fruit or something. Even if the host says nothing is needed, always bring something even if it's just a token item for having been invited. Yes, this counts for family too. Don't be that guest, the one who brings nothing and contributes nothing. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be something. And if the host asks you to bring something specific, bring that item as if your life depends on it.

2. Do something to help. Your assistance with dinner might not be needed, but maybe you could help keep little children entertained or hold the dog or chat with Uncle Eddie who drives everyone nuts or something. Even if you're not asked, try to be a bit helpful. Clear the dishes, fill the drink of an elderly guest, replace the empty toilet paper roll  - just try to help in some small way without making a big deal out of it.

3. Don't bring a guest without asking. It's rude to show up somewhere with a +1 or +2 and not have asked the host in advance. It jacks up the place settings. It might create a shortage of cheesecake or, God forbid, of wine. Always check with your host in advance before bringing anyone else of the 2 legged or 4 legged variety. Don't assume, even when you're dealing with family.

4. Do arrive on time and leave on time.  In other words, don't make people wait to eat because you haven't arrived yet. By the same token, don't be the last person to leave when your host just wants to go to bed already. In my humble opinion, it's best to leave people 'wanting a little more' rather than 'full up of your company.'

5. Do monitor your alcohol intake. You know the drill. When you've had too much to drink, you're louder than you mean to be, you say things you ordinarily wouldn't, and you might even do things that make others uncomfortable. Limit yourself for safety and for etiquette. Even if you  have a designated driver, I recommend no more than one drink per hour. The rest of the time, drink coffee or soft drinks or water. Pace yourself and enjoy the holiday celebrations with family and friends; you want to be able to look everyone in the eye the following day, right?

6. Don't discuss money, politics, religion, or sex in mixed company.  This is an old standard, right? Don't discuss things that easily offend people, especially in business settings or at family gatherings. I would certainly hate for the annual holiday party to disintegrate into a screaming match between various political parties, nor would I want a family gathering to result in hurt feelings and a rift that lasts for years. Avoiding hot button topics is good manners and good sense. Save your debates for appropriate venues like Facebook. Really, I'm kidding, people....

7.  Do dress up. Maybe it's my Southern upbringing, but I think parties are a good excuse to dress up. Granted, maybe the most exciting person there will be your Aunt Irma who's 74 and blind, but dressing up makes the event feel like a party and shows your host that you respect his/her effort.  Dress up a little; it's fun and can make for great photo ops. Where else are you going to wear that gold lame sweater or that black dress with maribou feathers? A holiday party is the perfect excuse to dress festively.

8. Do RSVP in a timely way.  Leaving the host wondering if you're coming to the event is rude and disrespectful. Call or email or text and let the host know your plans. Ask about the dress and what you can bring; double check about bringing a guest. The RSVP has been largely lost as a matter of etiquette, but I want to bring back the tradition.

9. Don't overstay your welcome. Fish and houseguests stink after three days. It's true. I don't care how much your mama loves you, staying in someone's home for more than three days is asking for conflict. While I've certainly stayed longer, I know rationally that three days is a good limit for a houseguest. If your stay will be for more than three days, consider staying in a hotel or staying with two different family members. You don't want your loved ones dreading the annual visit because you just don't know when to go home. They do want their lives back no matter how much they love you.

10. Do enjoy yourself. Relax. This is supposed to be fun. Let go of past hurts and minor annoyances so that you can enjoy the holiday celebration with the people who are there. Let go of how people should act, should behave, should be and simply focus on who they are at the moment. Let go of the things that frustrate you and irritate you, so that you can simply be together. Have fun with the people who are at the celebration. Love them for who they are. Let the holiday spirit infuse your actions and your words.

I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Holiday Helper; I plan to include this topic as a weekly blog post between now and the first of the year. What is your favorite tip for holiday celebrations?