Emily Post’s 10 Helpful Hints to Get You Through the Holiday Season with Grace

Now that Halloween is behind us, the pranks and tricks associated with it should be a thing of the past as well.  As we get ready to move in to the holiday season, it helps to be prepared with your very best manners, whether you celebrate with friends, family, or the regulars at the all-night donut shop.

October 27 was the 140th anniversary of Emily Post’s birth, a fine reminder that manners and good etiquette don’t ever go out of style.  So why not sit up straight, smile politely, and review these 10 tips to help get you through the holidays with grace?

  • When friends and acquaintances see you out and about, they are sure to ask, “How are you?”  Do not bore them with a list of maladies, money problems, and fruit cakes that make you miserable.  A chipper, “Fine, thank you.  And how are you?” is sufficient.
  • The Nutcracker is a favorite holiday performance.  Please turn your cell phone ringer off and keep it in your purse or pocket.  Neither the dancers nor the rest of the audience will be impressed by your Katy Perry ringtone.  And while I am certain your critique of the ballet will be a point well taken, we can wait until the intermission to see it in a status update.
  • Christmas parties given by your employer can be a lot of fun, but know your limits when it comes to singing and dancing.  Unless you have a career as a vocalist on the side, you probably can’t pull off “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” and you probably don’t move like Jagger, either.  If you drink too much, you might not ever get a promotion, but at least your colleagues will be entertained.
  • Take your sweetheart out for a nice meal during the holidays, and be polite to the restaurant staff.  Why on earth would you ever make life difficult for someone who is responsible for your food?  Do you like being treated like an indentured servant at your job?  I didn’t think so.  Be nice, and tip 15-20%.  If the service is really all that bad, talk to a manager. 
  • If you have to travel by airplane, be considerate of your fellow passengers.  We all know air travel isn’t what it used to be, and the holidays are just plain crowded in airports.  Share your arm rest, don’t bring stinky food on board, and keep your lavatory visits short.  And remember that the mom with the crying baby is about 50 times more stressed out than you are. 
  • When you arrive at your destination, you might be staying in a hotel.  Lucky you!  You won’t have to share the bathroom with Cousin Ricky.  If you want a souvenir of your stay, refrain from taking home the towels.  The shampoo is complimentary, and the gift shop probably has a reasonably priced giant pen that would make you just as happy.
  • It is always a nice idea to bring a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates to your host(ess).  Don’t take it personally if they do not open your gift.  They might want to savor it later.  Don’t take it personally if they take a sip or a bite and spit it across the room.  Instead, remember to get them the latest copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette as a thank you present.
  • Did Uncle Chester make an awkward joke deriding your political beliefs?  Do not engage him in a conversation in an effort to prove him wrong.  No one ever convinced Uncle Chester he was wrong.  No one.  Not ever.  Instead, gracefully turn the subject to a neutral topic, such as how fine Aunt Jeannie’s potatoes au gratin turned out.
  • When you open up a present from your neighbor down the street and see she has gone to great pains to macramé a mauve dog sweater, even though you only have cats, smile politely, and say, “Oh, thank you!  You must have worked so hard on this.  What a lovely color!”  And know that you do not have to write a thank you note if you said “thank you” in person.
  • Wait, people still write thank you notes?  Yes!  Yes they do!  And you can, too.  Look, I’ll even write it for you: “Dear (Gift Giver), Thank you so much for the wonderful/beautiful/intricate/stylish (name of gift).  I/we are looking forward to (intended or suspected use of item) as soon as possible.  You were very kind to think of us this holiday season.  I/we look forward to seeing you soon.  Take care, and Happy New Year!  Love/Sincerely/Best, (Your Name).  Now… copy, paste, tweak, mail.  Extra bonus points if you hand-write it!

And as my gift to you, here is an eleventh tip: Most people want to get through the holidays with as little stress as possible.  We’ll all get to January much faster and happier if we all agree that being polite makes the world a better place.  Have a wonderful holiday season! — Frances

Frances is the District Training Coordinator for Half Price Books in Austin, Texas.

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