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San Clemente Journal

Deck the Halls with Holiday Etiquette

Nov 05, 2005 04:39PM ● By Don Kindred
by Kimberly Anderson, Etiquette Instructor

Imagine…a holiday season filled with more happiness than hurry. Can we really have it? There is no better time than the holidays to catch up with family and friends, to show everyone just how important they really are to us. Whether you send greeting cards, throw a holiday party, go caroling in the neighborhood or attend your company’s festivities, you will want to remember a few simple rules that will make you shine bright like a star. 
If you’re giving a party and mailing out invitations, mail one to everyone - even your neighbors and best friends. Don’t verbally invite some because you ran out of invitations; this will only make those not receiving an invitation feel less important. Be sure to include a phone number or email address where guests can respond to your invitation.
These days, RSVP are four important letters many people seem to ignore all too often. Why? Are we really too busy to properly accept or decline an invitation to a special event? Hosting a party (of any type) is no small feat. It’s expensive and extremely time consuming to make sure your guests feel significant and special. As the privileged recipient of an invitation, you owe the host a call or at least an email to say whether or not you will be attending. By responding, you are helping the host plan the details of the event, including how much food, drink and place settings will be needed. It is impolite when you do not RSVP, and simply rude to show up at a party if you haven’t responded to the invitation. For the same reasons, try to avoid any last minute cancellations, short of hospitalization or divorce!
As the holiday party season approaches, start looking now for small hostess gifts. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but never show up to a party without a little something for the host. A healthy plant, a candle, a nice box of nuts, a tin of cookies or anything homemade is always appropriate for a hostess gift. Remember to attach a card with your name on it so the host or hostess will know who brought the gift. And don’t expect a thank you note for your thank you gift!
One important safety note: monitor your alcohol consumption and that of your driver. Nothing is more socially unattractive or potentially deadly than an “over-served” guest. Don’t turn a holiday party into a bad memory or worse.
When visiting others during the holidays, do not thumb through and read the Christmas cards they have received from their friends and family unless you are invited to do so. If the cards are nicely displayed or hanging up for everyone to view, take a look, but don’t open them up and start reading away. 
Speaking of cards, have your Christmas cards become mass-produced? Are we really too busy to personally write our name on each card? What happened to the personal touch we once had? Even if the Christmas cards you send are pre–printed with the entire family’s name, add a little personal side note, such as: “Miss seeing you.” Or “Let’s try to connect over the summer.” Even, “The kids are growing up so fast.” Include something written by your own hand. Receiving a non-personalized card can make the receiver feel like they’re not really important in your life, but just another name on your mass mailing list. Additionally, if at all possible try to refrain from sending e–mail Christmas cards. These top the “impersonal list.” 
It wouldn’t be an etiquette article without a quick review of some simple table manners. The knife, spoon, and drinks go on the right side of the plate. One easy way to remember the proper place settings: Knife and Right have the same number of letters. The forks and all the food items go on the left. Using the same number of letters theory: Fork, Food and Left all have four letters in them, which indicates that your bread plate, salad and dessert are to your left. The napkin also goes to the left of the plate after the meal is over and on the seat of your chair if you have to leave the table during the meal. Butter only one bite of bread at a time and learn to cut your food properly. Don’t look like a kindergartner when using your knife and fork. Kindergartners have a good excuse; adults don’t.
As for that buffet or appetizer table – remember: no double–dipping. The temptation is strong and it may be something you do alone in your own home while watching the football game, but stop yourself. I know the boiled shrimp are tasty, and even tastier with loads of red sauce. But once you’ve bitten into the hors d’oeuvre…be it a shrimp, a chip or a carrot stick, there can be no additional dipping into the sauce. It is unsanitary, and it is gross. 
Finally, during the company Christmas party, remember to hold your cup in your left hand. It’s hard to meet new people and shake hands when you’re holding your drink in your right hand, which no doubt will be cold and wet. Enough said.
Good manners should be part of our everyday routine, like the default on our computer’s commands. However, the holidays call for more advanced social skills, so remember to mind your manners: don’t become a self–absorbed dinner guest, don’t talk about money or how much things cost, don’t move the place cards because you disagree with the seating arrangements, and always take the time to send a thank you note. Have a Merry Christmas. Remember the Reason for the Season! b 
Kimberly Anderson can be reached at 369-9195.