The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

new holiday etiquette, part 2: party preppin' & etiquette-cool

Welcome to part 2 of New Holiday Etiquette! In case you missed it, here is the link to part 1.

Pre-Party Preppin’ Time

Another emerging and perfectly acceptable way to gather for a meal this season is for the host to make a plan and ask each guest to help execute it. In other words, ask each guest to gather a particular list of ingredients and show up at specified time. When each person arrives, give them a festive apron to don (this could even serve as a party favor for your guests to take home! I suggest one from The Hip Hostess.) while they chop, stir and mix their way toward the intended dish and, ultimately, the dinner table. It’s communal, it’s fun and it’s not intended to be perfect. This will create a relaxed atmosphere where stressed out folks can meet new friends and have an easy and entertaining evening. Faux pas are expected with this relaxed approach, so drop the ‘entertaining with etiquette’ and ‘when will I be served’ expectations. Lend your host a hand and have some fun. However, moderation is key. While informal is good, cellphone manners remain firmly in place: Phone is turned off or at the very least put on vibrate (for whatever emergency you are anticipating, have warned others about and asked for forgiveness) and no texting. These are non-negotiable. This is isn’t high school. 
 
Etiquette-Cool Style
While the trend in the etiquette world (and the world at large) is to relax from convention and rigidity, it is still a requirement that you treat others with thoughtful consideration.

 Wouldn’t you prefer the gifts you receive to come with thoughtful consideration? Uh-huh, thought so. I mean, just how many scarves do you want, anyway? So, you gift the way you would like to be gifted. Teachers, for example, would probably love a prepared and frozen casserole they can bring out for their families. Or, when it’s time to find a hostess gift, reach for something applicable to their personality, not just something that happens to be sold on the path from your door to theirs, or the typical bottle of wine. You could even make a donation in their honor to a cause you know they are particularly fond of.

Further, people find it thoughtful and endearing to ask a question before making an assumption.  The original Emily Post might have trouble with this one. Let’s say you are introduced to Mr. Pearson. The lady standing next to Mr. Pearson is his wife, but she goes by her maiden name, Cannon. You have to listen when the intro is made or you’ll miss that one. And, if you do catch the difference in names, it’s ok to simply confirm what you heard. “Your name is Pearson and your name is Cannon. Did I get that right?” People have all sorts of reasons to not share a last name, none of which is any of your business, so just make sure to know their names and move on. Or, let’s say you are invited to a Winter Cookout. Will you really eat outside? Should you dress to be outside for 2 hours?? Rather than feeling uneasy about what to expect or trying to figure it out on your own, just call up the host and ask. It’s ok to ask! That initiative shows you are interested in making the function a success and are ready to come prepared.

 Thoughtful consideration works like a charm. 
 
Your Guests

When you are considering hosting a holiday event, step out of your norm when you are making the guest list. The world is a much smaller place than when it was appropriate to only have intimate family Christmas dinners. Think of the people you know whose family live in faraway lands. Perhaps you have friends who have chosen not to travel to visit family this year. Perhaps you know someone who lost a loved one during the year. Share the wealth of your holiday cheer and invite one and all. Bring them into your fold with the same treatment your usual clan gets by including them in whatever traditions you have. If you each open a small gift, have one ready for your new guests to unwrap. if you work in a soup kitchen in the hours leading up to your own dinner, invite your guests along. 
 
Now, the party’s over, it was a blast and your memories are engrained and ready to be shared. Before you click ‘Enter’ on your Facebook password, remember this new etiquette for this new thing called social media: 
*Posting a remark about last night’s awesome party with a list of people who were especially entertaining will only serve to make someone feel left out and that’s not etiquette-cool. And, you can’t disguise it with a post that starts with ‘Thank you Lisa & Bob for an incredible dinner last night.’ That’s still revealing too much. 
*Don’t post pictures from the event no matter how good your hair looks in the candlelight. While you may be so impressed with your locks, you could be killing the reputation of the guy in the background who is double-fisting his merriment. 
*A Facebook status or Tweet does not take the place of a thank-you note. Be more genuine than that. Drop a note in the mail or call up your host to tell them specifically what you enjoyed so much. 
*Stay positive! People have enough mediums to reinforce their level of stress, so back off comments like, “My co-workers are driving me crazy” or “I’m so sick of Christmas shopping”. Instead, share a golden nugget like an online retailer’s free shipping promo code or where to shop that offers pretty gift-wrapping. 

 Don’t be afraid to try something new – even at Christmas. Your invitation to chop or your just-right-for-them gift may be just what you friend needs.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

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