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5 Holiday Etiquette Tips

Tips to Survive the Holidays with your Manners in Tact


The holidays are stressful. Don't add to the chaos by making an etiquette mistake that may cause you embarrassment.

1. Edit Your Annual Holiday Letters Carefully

Edit your Holiday Cards
Photo / Tinyprints
I love receiving them, but be forewarned that going on and on about your brilliant children, fabulous vacation, or job promotion in your letter leaves you open for recipients to label you a braggart. Keep your audience in mind when writing, and keep the bragging to a minimum.

Bad: "We took a fabulous cruise around the Mediterranean in the first class cabin."
Good: "We were lucky enough to enjoy a trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world."

Bad: "Johnny was accepted to all 5 of the ivy league schools he applied to!"
Good: "Johnny worked really hard this year and is choosing between some great options for college next year. We're very proud of him."

Allow 'gracious' to be your watchword.

2. Assemble Hostess Gifts Early

Holiday Party Invite from Tinyprints
Photo / Tinyprints

You're going to be going to parties, you'll need to organize some hostess gifts ahead of time. I used to wait until the last minute and ended up spending more money than I had planned on -- or worse, was late for the party because I couldn't find anything quickly on the way there.

My All-Purpose Favorite Gift: A bottle of prosecco in a small recyclable grocery bag (the kind they sell at Whole Foods or Trader Joes). This way the bag is re-useable, and everyone likes bubbles, right? Sometimes I will throw in something more personal if I know the host or hostess well, like a CD or book.

3. Tone It Down At Office Parties

Jus de Fruits glasses from Pottery Barn
Photo / Pottery Barn

Here's the thing: even though this event may have "party" in the title, it's still a work event, and should be treated as such. Save your binge drinking and gossip for your friend's holiday gathering instead. Think of this as an extended work meeting. Period.

  • Commit ahead of time to have 2 drinks maximum.
  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Spoil your diet by doing some snacking if you're going to be drinking.


Holiday Party Invite with Ornaments
Photo / Tinyprints
You're not sure if you want to go to a party you've just been invited to, so you avoid responding. Again: Rude. Make it a good time management habit to RSVP immediately upon receiving an invitation (See: How to Manage Mail). This allows the host--who is going to the trouble of providing food, drinks and entertainment--to know how many people to prepare for ahead of time, and more importantly to you, doesn't drag the decision-making out.

If you genuinely do not want to attend, don't, but make sure the host knows as soon as the decision has been made. And repeat offenders beware: hosts generally don't forget the people they had to chase down for an RSVP.

5. Accept Holiday Treats Graciously

Pizza Stone from William Sonoma
Photo / Williams Sonoma

Nothing makes me angrier than when a coworker brings in a plate of cookies, candy or fudge and the the office erupts into a chorus of verbal booing:

"No! You know I'm on a diet!"

"I won't be able to stop myself from eating these!"

"Are you trying to make us all fat?"

This is beyond rude. Think about the effort, time and money your coworker put into baking or buying these desserts. Would you react similarly if it was a non-food gift? Never. So employ some manners and self control here. Thank the person and choose to either indulge or not to indulge, but keep it to yourself. It's not your coworker's problem if you're on a diet or avoiding sweets, you are responsible for your own behavior. No one is forcing the food down your throat.

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