above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom From Want,” 1943. Oil on canvas.
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…because it’s rude!
Well, the holiday season is in full swing, and this time of year would not be the same without a few staples – festive sweaters, scrumptious goodies, delicious eggnog, and rude Uncle Frank.
For many, December is a whirlwind from beginning to end. Holiday parties, midnight shopping, dinner after dinner – it is arguably one of the busiest (if not the busiest) months of the year.
Now, what happens when you take busy, add a little sleep deprivation, and finish with a sprinkle of alcohol? You guessed it – bad manners.
Being on the receiving end of one’s bad manners is unpleasant at any time of the year; however, during the holidays, you will inevitably encounter at least one Grinch before Santa makes his way down your chimney, and while you can’t control the behaviour of others (sadly), the good news is, you can control your own.
Just over a year ago, I published the first installment of Mind Your Manners, in which I disclosed my employment with the “Polite Police”, and offered a few ways to make the world a more polite place. Continuing on in that same vein, with a festive twist, I offer a few ways to mind your manners during the holidays:
Mind Your… Alcohol Intake
For many, a holiday party just isn’t a holiday party without a few beverages of the alcoholic variety, and while partaking in a few “cold ones” can enhance the celebration, overindulging can lead to hurt feelings, an embarrassing Monday morning, or worse – injury and loss of life.
To (responsibly) keep the holiday cheer flowing, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Eat, Drink and Be Merry – high protein foods such as cheese and nuts help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system, so make sure to enjoy some cheese with that wine. If you are the host and intend to serve alcohol, ensuring Uncle Frank has ample snacks to graze on will save you from having to peel him off your laundry room floor later.
Wine, Water and Repeat – alcohol is a diuretic and can cause or worsen dehydration. So, after you enjoy that glass of wine, grab a glass of water and keep that merry pattern going throughout the night. Not only will this ease your head the next morning, but it may also prevent you from sharing your life story with that colleague in the corner.
Call an Uber – securing a sober driver for the ride home is not only the polite thing to do, but more importantly, the safe and responsible thing to do. No jokes here – just do the right thing.
Mind your… Dinner Conversation
The opinions of those seated around your dining table are sure to be diverse, and with diverse opinions come the potential for uncomfortable conversations (I’m looking at you, Uncle Frank).
While you will know better than I as to what grinds the gears of the people you break bread with, below are few topics of conversation to encourage and a few more to stay away from:
Discuss Food – begin the conversation by discussing what you like about the food being served, and if everyone is enjoying the same meal, they can share their thoughts as well. This conversation can evolve pleasantly into sharing favourite holiday recipes or discussing the hottest new cookbook.
Converse about Fashion – (one of my personal favourites) a nice compliment will endear you to others, so find something pleasant to say about someone’s outfit or jewelry, especially if it is festive. This can evolve into conversations around a favourite retailer, designer or the latest copy of Harper’s Bazzar.
Sound off about Music – most people enjoy some genre of music, so it is generally a safe subject at the dining table. Share thoughts on your favourite entertainers, composers or a recent concert that you enjoyed. Who knows? This conversation could introduce you to your new favourite artist!
Discuss Controversial Subjects – while you may be someone who enjoys starting
shit controversy, Christmas dinner is NOT the place to do it (I’m still looking at you, Uncle Frank). I’m talking about politics, I’m talking about religion. If you must discuss President Trump and his wall, Kanye West and his wife, or why religion is the downfall of humanity, I implore you not to. At least wait until the meal is over and find a person who can match you in a debate, or better yet, just save it for another time altogether.
Talk about Medical Conditions – discussions around health problems, especially those that involve in-depth descriptions of bodily fluids, have been known to ruin not only appetites, but friendships too! Unless you are enjoying a meal with emergency room physicians or nurses, save it for after the turkey has been carved and consumed.
Be braggadocious (al la Donald Trump) – if you want to mention something brilliant your child did, that’s wonderful, so long as you give others an opportunity to do the same. While this concept can be difficult for some, try not to monopolize the conversation with you and your family’s accomplishments. Share a few high points and then politely put your listening ears on.
Joyce Meyer once said that, “Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting”, and I could not agree more.
Packing your patience (a phrase coined by my ever-patient colleague) is the single most important thing one can do during this time of year, as so many things are likely to test those patience. The unending line at, well, EVERYWHERE! Screaming children, screaming adults (this happens more often than the children), exhausted employees, the list goes on.
This time of year can bring such joy, but it also brings with it so much pressure and expectation. Do yourself and others a favour by planning ahead, and then when you get in that line, take a few deep breaths and act your age. Remember, while you may not be able to control the behaviour of others, you may be able to influence it by example.
If you mind nothing else this holiday, I beg you to mind this. As I mentioned, this time of year brings much pressure and much expectation.
For many, Christmas can be a sad time, as our losses tend to be magnified (thanks to my Mom for this piece of wisdom). Whether it is the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of one’s health, loss is and will forever be a traumatic event.
The last thing anyone needs, whether they have suffered a loss or not, is your negativity. Do not argue over where Christmas dinner should be held; do not tell someone that they should have made this stuffing over that stuffing; and most certainly, do not tell someone that the sweater they just gave you isn’t really “in line” with your style.
Instead, mind your tongue. Be gracious (thanks to another colleague for the appropriate word). Set that ego aside for the next few weeks and try to remember what is important. If you have forgotten, here’s a refresher:
What is important…
Family – you never know who will (or won’t) be with you next Christmas
Friends – same as above
Kindness – if I have to explain this one,
there is no hope for you take a peek at this post
What is not important…
Where Christmas Dinner is Held – if Jesus, Mary and Joseph spent their Christmas in a dirty barn, then you can have Christmas dinner at your Aunt Carol’s
The Kind of Stuffing Served – frankly, you should be more concerned that you are eating something cooked in a turkey’s behind and less concerned with the ingredients
The Sweater you Just Unwrapped – it is the thought that counts. Be gracious, say thank you, and donate it to Goodwill in the new year if its presence in your closet impedes your ability to function in everyday life
While I expect those of you reading this are already connoisseurs of holiday etiquette, take a moment and think about how you can raise your own bar and make this holiday a polite and memorable one!