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Holiday Etiquette: Dos and Don'ts Around Your Holiday Table

Here are few tips to get you through the holidays while still making them enjoyable and not stepping on anyone's toes!
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The holidays are meant to be a time filled with love, peace and understanding. But we all know that we still live in the real world and getting folks together can be challenging. There are bound to be differences in personalities, beliefs and lifestyles (especially with the stress of travel adding to things). While some holiday gatherings just involve a few hours over dinner, others last a few days. This can induce a whole host of fears and stress for many, so much so that feathers get ruffled and the holiday can be ruined.

This year, here are few tips to get you through the holidays while still making them enjoyable and not stepping on anyone's toes!

  • While conversation is a must, and can be very enjoyable, over the holiday dinner table, specific topics should not be discussed. While no one likes to dine over awkward or superficial chatter, no one likes a meal to turn ugly. Obviously the biggies to stay away from are politics, religion and sex (unless of course your group enjoys those topics). For the most part, not everyone will agree on such topics and it's best to leave them alone. In fact, this includes veganism. The holiday table is not a place to stand on your soapbox unless it has been asked of you. In addition, it is not a place for attack on someone who is different. If a topic comes up that you are uncomfortable with, politely let them know that you do not wish to discuss that particular topic at that time. Shut it down with a smile and offer up a new topic.

  • Never assume that a host will be able to provide everything you need. Always be prepared. It is impossible to make everyone happy and sometimes folks are left out of certain things. If you have special dietary needs, be sure to let your host know ahead of time and offer to bring a dish that you can eat and share with the group. Or to be extra safe, eat before you got to the dinner so that you aren't left starving during the meal. The holidays are about enjoying the company of others so do your best to focus on that instead of what you can and cannot eat.
  • If you are hosting a meal, be mindful of others. In fact, the best way to have a happy gathering is to share the experience. Potluck dinners are the best way to include everyone and then it doesn't fall on you to feed a bunch of folks who may or may not share your taste.
  • If you aren't feeling well or are in a particularly foul mood, admit it. Do what you can to handle your emotions before heading to a gathering. It's not healthy for you or the other guests if you aren't up for it, or worse, taking it out on them. If you can pull through and try to have a good time, great. Otherwise, we all have bad days so do what you need to do to sort it out because nothing ruins your holiday and others like a foul mood.
  • Nobody's perfect -- try to plan ahead. I know this sounds like common sense, but it's really important to remember. If you want to have people over and you're working, don't go crazy trying to make everything -- get some food at the deli or the gourmet shop. A lot of times, people don't mind bringing a salad or dessert. The point is to get together and celebrate with people, rather than trying to make it perfect.
  • Traditions can be changed. This might be hard for people, but there are a lot of people who actually dread the holidays, and some of that may be due to the way they're celebrated. Maybe you don't have to always be at Great Aunt Sue's house, even though she's hosted the holiday for years. Think of these things as being fluid and when they're outmoded or outdated, come up with some new ones.
  • Don't let the details take over. It's difficult to find the time to get everything done during the holidays, but it's the people who are really important to you and those who take care of you, that you must remember. Try not to be so overwhelmed doing things like writing out Christmas cards that you can't talk to your loved ones. Don't brush people off because of the holiday madness.
  • Always thank people. Whether it's in writing or in person, you must put gratitude at the top. There's never an excuse for not thanking someone for an invite or gift.
  • Remember that the holidays are about connection with others, understanding and love. The best rule, year round, is to treat others how you like to be treated, and there is no exception to that rule, especially over the holidays.

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