Untarnished etiquette: Holiday etiquette missteps can be avoided
by Zeda Elizabeth Dowell
Dec 15, 2011 | 925 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s Christmas. It’s a special time of year and a very stressful time. So much is expected of us in about a month. To relieve a little bit of tension, here are some protocol and etiquette guidelines, which may be helpful in avoiding some of the typical holiday faux pas.

Christmas cards

The best personal cards should be handwritten and addressed. You can also run the envelopes through a printer from a computer with a script that mimics handwriting. Labeled, typed or metered envelopes can easily be mistaken for junk mail and may be tossed out, unopened.

Have you ever received one of those cards with two or three pages of information? The family’s annual letter! These letters are seldom read. A short, handwritten note, mentioning the highlights of the year, is best. If you still want to send one of the printed letters, then I would suggest you send it to those who will be interested, like close friends and family.

Holiday Parties

The holidays are known as party time. In four weeks, most of us will attend more parties in succession than at any other time of year.

When you are invited into someone’s home for dinner or holiday parties, take a gift for your host: a nice (not cheap) bottle of wine, a special dish, flowers, or a combination of these. Your host will be most appreciative for your thoughtfulness.

Some holiday party invitations come with an RSVP. Short for “répondez s’il vous plait,” the French expression means please reply. Let your hosts know if you are able to attend, or send your regrets in a timely manner.

If you are invited to a formal dinner party, arrive on time, so that everyone may be seated at the same time. If the dinner party is served buffet style, you still have to be on time. If you must be delayed, let your hosts know that you will be late.

When you arrive at the restaurant or homes, greet your host and hostesses. Do not monopolize their time. As hosts, they are busy. Now you should go and meet the others at the party. If you are uncomfortable in these social situations, try to find someone you know to speak with.

Do not head directly to the food table, as if you had not eaten for days, and do remember your table manners. Remember, manners matter.

The office party can be a wonderful opportunity for employers to thank employees for the work done during the year. This is a party where you are not expected to take your host or hostess a gift.

Remember, this party is related to your job. Those people who drink too much at the office party do their professional career harm.

As workplace events are many times held in the afternoon or after work, your work attire is appropriate. Some might feel the need to add a jacket, but make your dress appropriate for an office party.

Home for the holidays

I often have guests stay over the holidays. This means additional preparation for their overnight stay. You want your guests to feel welcome by making preparations, like a clean bedroom and an extra blanket for this time of the year. I make baskets with special soaps, lotions, shampoo, an extra toothbrush and paste, some chocolates, cookies and a bottle of water. Flowers are always a lovely touch. These things will make your guest feel welcome and at home.

One of the most frequently asked questions of the holidays: “How do I deal with a difficult family member during a holiday visit”?

Many will tell you to keep calm and maintain your focus. I say find a place to hide — seriously.

As it’s been said, holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The only person we hurt in doing so is ourselves. Back away, give yourself some space. I hope your guests would honor and respect your home.

Zeda Dowell of Ben Lomond answers questions, teaches classes and provides information about international protocol, dining, being a gentleman and cultural diversity. Contact her at zedadowell@gmail.com.
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