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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Breaking Holiday Traditions

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

Holiday hosts and petty gripers are upon us questioning traditions of etiquette. How to break a sacred family tradition, how to stop a habit from becoming a tradition, as well as setting a dress code for your holiday bash. Many thanks to all questions this week for Didi Lorillard

Breaking a family tradition

Not to be a Scrooge, but the size of our family has outgrown our budget and some of the joy has been taken out of the holidays. My wife and I are retired. Even though we still live in our family home and can accommodate our children, their partners, spouses and our grandchildren for Christmas dinner, giving everyone a wrapped gift has become an expensive and time consuming chore for both of us. The tradition is that we receive a list of names with a gift idea that we're expected to buy and wrap to put under our tree. How, after all these years, do we break with that tradition?  T.G., Swansea, MA

As soon as possible, send out an email or Christmas card on which you express your distress concisely with humor. It could say something such as this: "Santa called to say he won't be stopping by our home any more the night before Christmas because he feels that our adult children are too old for toys. Since he will still be visiting all of you the night before Christmas, we hope you will happily open your presents at home before you come. We look forward to gobbling with you on Christmas,Much love, ......"
This way you still have time to decide if you want to give the children small presents for their parents to place under their own trees.  ~Didi

Breaking someone else's tradition

For years we've had my voice coach and his wife for Christmas dinner, because we all enjoyed his company. He died two years ago after we had already invited them. Last Christmas while we were helping his widow tie up his affairs, she came for dinner. Today, she phoned to hint that she is free to come for Christmas dinner this year, but none of us want her to come. She arrives too early, stays much too long and the whole time she only talks about herself repeating the same stories. Would it be rude not to invite her? We all dread having to spend Christmas with her.  C.H., Boston

There are two ways to handle this. You could lie and tell her you're going away for the Christmas holiday. However, you might still have to deal with her again next Christmas. Or you can compromise. Invite her with a clear timeframe, to arrive no earlier than just before you plan to sit down to dinner and tell her you will take her home directly after dinner. Just as you're saying goodbye, explain that you and your family will probably not be spending Christmas in Boston next year, so she will have to make a new plan for Christmas dinner.
You've set up a tradition here, and obviously one that she has come to rely on with anticipation. Now is the time to stop leading her on. If nobody enjoys her company and she is not related, you are not obligated to lead her on further.  ~Didi

Dressember Party Dress Codes

We’re looking for a dress code for our holiday party invitation that isn’t intimidatingly dressy, but is not too causal. We don't want guests going over the top, or even feeling they have to wear a tie, but we want them to dress up. What do you suggest?  Holiday Party Hosts, Manhattan

The best hosts hope their guests will be feeling the holiday magic, but don’t want them trying too hard. Looking as though they’ve spent too much time thinking about what to wear and perfecting that look is obviously not cool.

The chic-est eye-catching guests are not overdone, in fact, they are at ease with their fashion statement. Guests want to dress in a special way -- away from the drag of workhorse duds. At the same time they want to wear clothing they already have, butwith a new festive element. Let guests know they can wear with confidence their same-old-same-old all black and add a festive pop of color with a wonderful faux necklace, dangling earrings or tie.

As the hosts it is your duty to encourage your guests to act and look festive for a night. Using the word “Festive” or the phrase “Festive Attire” in the bottom right hand corner of your invitation will work as a dress code for your holiday party.  ~Didi

Complaining during the holidays    

Is it rude to complain? I was criticized at Thanksgiving for complaining about things I knew could not change. And yet, I bond with people over areas of common complaint. For instance, my coworker and I complain about our boss. I didn't really like this particular coworker until we confided in each other about our extreme dislike of our boss. Who, by the way, is the owner's son.  S.W., Providence

Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location. 


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