From Our Editor-in-Chief: Holiday Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

A picture of a home decorated for a Christmas holiday meal

Our etiquette series started out with a tutorial related to basic table manners, and since then, we’ve discussed table settings, buffet fundamentals, and proper titles. Now that we’re in the heart of the holiday season, we want to offer some etiquette tips specific to this special time of year, so we’re sharing some of our publisher Phyllis Hoffman DePiano’s musings on the subject.  

A picture of dining room decor for a Christmas holiday meal

By Phyllis Hoffman DePiano

I love the holidays and look forward to gatherings of friends and family. I have been asked by several people to write some etiquette suggestions for being a well-mannered guest this holiday season. Now, I do not profess to be the holiday etiquette queen, but I have learned a few interesting things in my life. Watching guests arrive and seeing the reactions of hostesses has always been a source of fun at dinner parties and luncheons.

So here are some humorous but true thoughts on being the perfect guest:

The perfect guest always arrives on time.

This is a biggy. Being late to any event where food has been prepared and timed for the appointed hour really drives a hostess mad. If you are going to be late, you probably know about it before the time to be there. Call, let her know, and tell her to go ahead without you. Then jump in at the course they are on when you arrive.

The perfect guest leaves the cellphone off the table and puts it away until after the party.

If you are expecting a call, excuse yourself from the table and check your phone. Using your cellphone at the table is rude and totally unacceptable. One lady I know has a cellphone box that she keeps at the door, and each guest is asked to place their phone in it. I have often wanted to see one phone ring and eight people dive for the box! Common sense should prevail.

The perfect guest does not bring another guest.

End of comment.

The perfect guest usually brings a hostess gift.

However, do not bring food unless the dinner is covered dish, where all guests are bringing food. There is nothing more irritating than when a guest shows up with a dish of food and expects it to be served at the meal. The hostess has planned the menu and isn’t expecting any additions. If you feel you must take food (being from the South, I know some just can’t help it, bless their hearts!), then take something for the family to eat at another time. If you want to make a dessert, then clear it with the hostess before you begin making it. If she says she has everything covered, take her at her word. Great hostess gifts include flowers (already in a container), wine, candy, or a book—something to show appreciation.

The perfect guest knows when to go home.

There have been times when I look back and remember dinners where I was still talking to a guest long after everyone had left and wishing in my heart that she knew how bad my feet hurt from standing and cooking. Not to mention that after guests leave, the cleaning begins. So leave when it’s over. If it’s your very best friend, then tell her to take her shoes off, put on an apron, and help.

The perfect guest writes a thank you note.

Just a few simple lines written by hand mean so much to the hostess who prepared a lovely meal for you.

Have fun, enjoy Christmas, and remember to be the perfect guest!

What do you think makes the perfect guest?