The most wonderful time of the year is filled with social gatherings at family homes, friends’ apartments, and even offices. Some may be staying with their own families, but others may be visiting with roommates or the in-laws. In these and other social gatherings we don’t always know what is expected of us. So, cracking open our figurative book of holiday etiquette, we’ve compiled a few "do"s and "don’t"s for various holiday occasions.
Gift giving and receiving
Do talk to family about limitations. If your family is growing, buying for cousins, brothers and sisters, and their children can become more than you can handle. It is perfectly acceptable to bring up other options such as only gifts for the kids, secret Santas, or a dollar amount limit per gift.
Don’t overextend your budget. If you can only afford $13 gifts per family member, stick to it. Even if you get something more expensive from someone else, don’t feel obligated to price match. There is no need to run up a credit bill you will be paying off well into the New Year.
Do be gracious. Even if your Aunt Clara makes you a homemade pink-bunny onesie, smile and say, “Thank you, you must have put a lot of time into this. The stitches are tiny!” If the item is returnable (sadly you may be stuck with a handmade item like the bunny suit) taking it back to the store is perfectly acceptable later.
Don’t run out and buy a gift when you receive one from an unexpected source. Of course you can accept the gift, and even express embarrassment for not having something in return. Put the person’s name on the list for next year, and don’t stress about what stores are open where you can run out and buy something and have it gift wrapped before they leave.
At the work place
Don’t be overly extravagant. You are not required to give a gift to your boss, although a small token of appreciation is acceptable. If you go overboard, though, you may cause some awkwardness among co-workers who may believe you are kissing-up for a promotion.
Do find out whether anyone at work exchanges gifts at the holidays. If not, don't begin a custom that will make others feel uncomfortable.
For a visit
Do make the visit easy. As the host, sharing details beforehand about routines or traditions will make visits go smoothly for both your guest and yourself.
Don’t leave a mess. As a guest you want to clean up after yourself, fix your bed, tidy the bathroom when you’re done, help clear the table, and offer to help whenever possible.
Do show that you’re enjoying yourself. Being gracious and happy will make the holidays bright as well as make your host happy to have you around.
Preparing and participating in a holiday dinner or party
Do bring a host/hostess gift. Candles, breakfast muffin mix, or even a bag of ice (just in case), would show the host or hostess that you appreciate the work they put into making you feel comfortable at their party or dinner.
Do offer to help. Setting the table, volunteering for a game, or serving dessert--there are many things guests can do to be helpful. But if your offer is turned down, the most help you can give is to enjoy yourself.
Do pay attention. While serving yourself, be careful not to spill or drop food. If you do, immediately dab or pick up the food to make cleanup easier on the host later.
Don’t refuse a dish. It is polite to take a small taste of each dish offered. However, when with a closer gathering of family and friends, a polite “No, thank you,” is acceptable for refusing a dish. When an allergy is the reason, it is never impolite to refuse.
Don’t season your food before you taste. Giving the cook the benefit of the doubt is a great compliment, regardless of whether or not you sprinkle some salt over the dish after the initial bite.
Do make conversation. Being social is the point of Christmas feasts. To reconnect and exude the holiday spirit, don’t get lost in the mashed potatoes; look up and connect with those around you.
Don’t be a lump. Participate in whatever the host has planned, whether it’s charades, new foods, or just chatting with people around you.
Don’t linger. As the guests begin to put on their coats and leave, take that as your cue as well. Typically dinner guests are expected to stay for about an hour after dinner, unless invited to stay longer.