Holiday Entertaining Etiquette

With Thanksgiving behind us, our minds are fully set on holiday parties, more family dinners and all the fun Hanukkah & Christmas festivities. To make sure they run as smoothly as possible, here is a mini guide to help you prevent some common holiday faux pas. While they are just suggestions, these are nuggets of insight from etiquette expert, Peggy Post - this sister knows what she's talking about. Read on to insure a classy holiday season.


1. If you're creating a holiday "newsletter" to send with cards, keep your readers in mind. Newsletters should be short (a page or less) and sweet. Keep them upbeat — most people don't want to hear about your dental surgery. On the other hand, avoid turning your letter into a brag sheet. Saying, "Sam and I were lucky enough to visit Europe — at long last!" is low-key and friendly. But "Sam and I spent a week at a deluxe French spa and were utterly pampered" screams "Don't you wish you were us?" Personalize each copy with a handwritten salutation and always sign your name. Also, be sure you're sending the newsletter only to people who are genuinely interested in your family news.

2. When you receive a holiday card from someone you didn't send one to, reciprocation is optional. Send if you wish. But beware of turning the exchange of holiday cards into a table tennis match. Say a card arrives from your cousin Myron on the seventh day of Hanukkah, and oops, you'd accidentally forgotten him. Instead of thwacking a card back across the Web — which may seem perfunctory rather than sincere — wait a few weeks and write him a letter. Or, call Myron to thank him for such a thoughtful note.

3. When Aunt Irma, feeling inventive, brings her cucumber-banana gelatin mold to Christmas dinner, accept graciously (no eye rolling, please). A good host responds to an unexpected — and perhaps unwelcome — contribution with aplomb. Thank your aunt and serve her creation with your spread. You might think cucumber and banana is a disgusting combination — but now's not the time to tell her so, and you'd hurt her feelings if you failed to offer it to your guests.

4. If gift giving with your relatives is getting too expensive, it's okay to scale back — as long as you discuss it with them well in advance. Ending gift escalation is not as hard as you think, if you're willing to be frank. Months before the holidays, bring up the idea of alternative giving schemes. Some options: drawing names, limiting presents to a specific dollar amount, giving gifts only to kids and not to adults. Others will probably be grateful that you were brave enough to start the discussion.

5. When you receive horrible, wrong-size or duplicate gifts, smile, say something polite, extend a thank-you...and then run for the returns line. A collector's plate featuring Yosemite Falls? Really, what was your mother-in-law thinking? Still, you can probably come up with something appreciative to say: "This is so thoughtful! You know how much I love the outdoors." But being gracious about a gift doesn't mean you always have to keep it. Yes, if the item is one of a kind or homemade — like a painting or a knitted scarf — you're stuck with it. Otherwise, you can take the item back to the store and exchange it for something else. And when your friend asks how you like your new hand blender? Don't lie. Say, "I love those so much, I already owned one — so I didn't think you'd mind if I exchanged it for a food mill. Thanks for making my life in the kitchen so much easier!"

6. Regift rarely...if ever. You have a surplus of "stuff," and it seems like the best way to downsize is to pass things on to other people. Makes sense. Problem is, if the truth emerges, two loved ones will feel hurt — the original giver (because you obviously didn't value her choice) and the recipient (who thought you'd take the time to find something special just for her). The basic guidelines for regifting: First, you must be positive that the gift is something the recipient would love. Second, the item must be brand new and in its original package. And third, it shouldn't be something the original giver took great care to select just for you. An example: Regifting a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to a wine lover is okay. Regifting a crystal vase your mother brought you from Bermuda is not.

For the complete holiday etiquette guide, click here!