Tis the season for holiday parties, gift giving and family get togethers. From the best protocol on how and when to give a gift to what to do when you’re invited to a party with pets you are deathly allergic to, here are some standard tips on holiday etiquette.
Should I buy a gift?
Whether you are worried about being the only parent who didn’t buy your son’s school teacher a gift, or that awkward moment when your dog walker shows up with a gift for you and you have nothing for her, it’s always safe to air on the side of being over prepared. Consider buying a “token gift” that can be re-gifted if not used. Items like candle gift sets, hot coco or holiday ornaments work well for these purposes. Helpful tip: have the gift pre-wrapped with a generic gift tag such as, “Happy Holidays! From the Jones Family” so you can be ready!
What if they don’t give me anything?
Gift giving should be about giving, not receiving. If you are giving a gift strictly so you can receive one in return, you might want to realign your priorities. However, you don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable because you got them a gift and they did not get you one. Helpful tip: keep a “token gift,” see above, in an easy-to-access place, such as your car or kitchen cabinet, and only take it out if you are given a gift. For example, when your daughter’s piano teacher comes to your house for the weekly lesson with a gift for your daughter, take the “token gift” out of the cabinet as if you planned on giving it to her all along. This way, she will not feel forgotten, but you would not have made her feel uncomfortable had she not considered buying your daughter a gift.
Do I need to send holiday cards?
The simple answer is no. Some families like to send holiday cards every year, others only send them after major events, such as the birth of a child, while others choose not to send them at all. While it is perfectly acceptable to not send holiday cards, it is important that you set a strict policy of either sending them or not. It would not be appropriate to send out cards to a few friends and family and not the rest, as the ones that do not receive them will be hurt. Around the holidays, your family and friends will gather at each other’s homes, and chances are they will see your holiday card posted on the refrigerator. Play it safe and stick with the all or nothing rule.
Should I bring the host a gift?
Family tradition tends to set this rule, however it can never hurt to be over generous. In my family, guests usually bring the host a small gift, such as a festive floral arrangement, candle set or chocolate gift. Often times, the gift is something that can be used or put out at the event. While it is not necessary, it always is appreciated.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I request a special meal?
This is a tricky one. A good host will ask if you have any dietary restrictions when inviting you to their home (or already know that you have them). However, around the holiday season, hosts often are preoccupied with the many tasks associated with throwing a great party and often overlook these details. While it may not be appropriate to request a special meal, asking questions to be prepared can never hurt. For example, “Hey Sarah, by the way, I am a vegetarian. I don’t want you to worry about preparing anything special for me, but I was wondering if you could share the menu with me so I can plan on whether I should bring myself a vegetarian substitution.” More times than not, your host will have several sides or other options for you to choose from. If not, offer to bring your own. During the holiday season, the host has so many things on her mind that she may appreciate your offering to take this concern off of her mind.
I’m hosting a party and my guests smoke. I do not want the smoke near my house or in my garage; what do I do?
Being a good host requires you to accommodate for your guests. However, being a good guest means you respect the rules of the house. That said; see if you can find some middle ground. For example, tell your smoking guests that you do not allow smoking in your home, but that you’ve set up an ashtray outside if they are interested. Set the ashtray in the area you want them to smoke. Often times, smoking guests will understand that you don’t want them to smoke in your house, but will try to smoke in your garage because it is a little warmer than outside. If you don’t want the smoke smell lasting in your car for days, set the ash tray out on the back porch so they get the idea of where you want them to be.
I was invited to a party and the host has pets. I am very allergic to them; what do I do?
Depending on the severity of your allergies and the length of the party, you may be able to just stick it out for the few hours you are in their home. However, if your allergies are severe, you may need to respectfully request that the pet be placed in another room for the party. For example, “Jerry, I know that you have a cat. Unfortunately I am very allergic to cats. I will take my allergy medicine to be prepared but I was wondering if you would mind keeping the cat upstairs while I am in your home.” Most likely, the host will be more than willing to oblige. If not, stop by the party to say hello, and then leave shortly after, once your allergies get the best of you. This way, your host will appreciate your visit, and hopefully get the subtle hint that their lack of hospitality may need to be revised.