Ah Christmas … the season of goodwill! But sometimes it can prove otherwise can’t it? Navigating your way through this ‘must be perfect’ time can be more than challenging. I’m not talking about the food, presents and general busy-ness but about accepting and putting on a brave face when adversity strikes. I don’t believe anyone really sails through this time without the odd mishap but some can be avoided. I particularly liked this advice feature from the lovefood.com team (with the help of Debrett’s etiquette expert) – something for everyone here to read and share…
The team at lovefood.com asked Debrett’s etiquette expert Jo Bryant for her top 12 tips to avoid any potential festive family feud.
The festive season all too often strains good manners to the limit. Everyone is expected to behave well on this much-hyped special day, but claustrophobic family get-togethers and over-indulgence can easily lead to tension, cross words and disharmony. Follow these simple rules to avoid a Christmas Day crisis.
1. Don’t be a Scrooge, approach the day with an unerring smile, an optimistic outlook and positive feelings of goodwill. Remember, it’s only one day out of 365!
2. If you’re the Christmas host, beware the tendency to fetishise your own Christmas rituals (“We always go to midnight mass, open our presents at 11 am, eat our lunch at 2 pm” etc.). Try and make tentative suggestions (“We normally eat at 2 pm, is that OK with you?”) rather than confident pronouncements, so that your guests don’t feel like they’re being frog-marched through a time-honoured routine.
3. Grandparents and members of the older generation, even if they’re doting, will soon begin to wilt if they’re cooped up for hours on end with raucous, over-excited children. Always try and provide a quiet space, where the grown-ups can retreat for a restorative drink and civilised conversation.
4. Christmas is a special day for small children and you should do your best to accommodate their excitement. Don’t inflict agonisingly long meals on them – they’ll be anxious to get back to their presents, and you don’t want to feel frazzled by unhappy kids.
5. Pace the day. Spread out the main events (present-opening, lunch, games, TV) to ensure there aren’t too many hiatuses.
6. Always react with surprise and delight, no matter what you’ve been given. Lack of taste is regrettable but it’s not a criminal offence, so you can take the time to be gracious and thankful.
7. Lay on generous supplies of champagne/sparkling wine for those who can partake of them but don’t forget those that can’t – have plenty of non-fizzy and alcohol-free drinks to hand. Glasses can be dispensed throughout the day when spirits are flagging.
8. If you’re in the panic-stricken last stages of lunch preparation, don’t be a martyr. You might need somebody to help with some pre-emptive washing up or table-laying, so just ask. Most guests will leap to their feet, delighted to have something constructive to do.
9. If you’re a Christmas guest, be punctual and arrive laden with goodies. Offer to help, know when to get out of the kitchen, and be flexible and accommodating.
10. Go with the flow. Whether it’s charades or Cluedo, a wintery walk or the afternoon film, it’s good manners to muck in. Remember, it’s only a day or two…
11. Ban mobile phones from the lunch table. Christmas is all about conviviality, and conversation, and a tableful of screen-fixated guests will instantly extinguish any Christmas spirit. Of course, phones are invaluable for Christmas catch-ups, festive texts and photo-sharing, but make sure that your guests keep their digital communications to themselves.
12. Don’t demand too much of yourself, your family or your guests. Building up your expectations of the day to dizzy heights will mean that mishaps and misunderstandings (however minor) are blown up out of all proportion – and that’s not what Christmas is about.
One from me and the bariatriccookery.com team – don’t fixate on the food, have a little of everything you wish to eat – it’s Christmas Day not week or month!
Plus remember the letters of thanks for hospitality and presents should be sent promptly and preferably received by the second week of January.
This is a slightly adapted classic lovefood article