With the countdown to Xmas upon us, combined with the fact that I am currently unable to eat anything naughty (or my personal trainer will throttle me with her own bare hands potentially!) and of course, the fact I actually forgot to buy myself a calender this year… oops.
I have decided to run an online countdown to Christmas and Advent calender alternative in the form of an etiquette tip each day to keep you entertained, educated and knowledgeable in the face of bad manners this jolly (?!) season.
You may find yourself getting angry in John Lewis or wrestling for the last mince pie in your local supermarket, but fear not, Miss Sue Flay is here to remind you to breathe and behave in equal measures… with a little bit of luck at least!
1st December – A is for “Affection”:
Don’t be overly affectionate this Xmas time, it’s embarrassing and anger-inducing for those around you whilst playing tonsil tennis in a queue or in front of your friends. Holding hands and quick kisses are fine, anything more intimate should be for the bedroom only!
2nd December – B is for “Be Prepared”:
This may mean being organised and able to squeeze in that unexpected guest around your table on the big day, or having a few generic “just in case” gifts to hand in the event of accidentally forgetting somebody – of course, this shouldn’t happen if you are prepared…
3rd December – C is for “Christmas Carols”:
A song whose lyrics are traditionally themed around Christmas, it’s a great way to get into the festive spirit, but if heading to listen or partake, please be on time – don’t be late. And when putting together that office playlist, do bear in mind that the more modern twists on a Xmas song (yes, that one by “The Darkness” for example!) may cause offense to the ears around you.
4th December – D is for “Dancing”:
Now, you may believe that you’re Michael Jackson or John Travolta on the dance floor, however this may be far from the truth after a few drinks and/or hours. You may well be a wild, sweaty mess with limbs flailing and the lack of people around you (or the increased giggles perhaps) would suggest it’s time to retire from the dance floor. And don’t push & jeer at the people who don’t fancy a boogie, it’s their right to decline, don’t make a fuss and embarrass them for this decision.
5th December – E is for “Ebenezer Scrooge”:
Nobody likes a “Scrooge” at Christmas time, so keep your negative thoughts behind tinseled doors. If you don’t like your neighbours Christmas decorations, so long as they are not infringing on your property without permission, is there really any need to be rude? Good etiquette really is as simple as making others around you feel good about themselves, so smile next time you pass a fellow shopper and you may just make their day.
6th December – F is for “Friendship”:
Don’t make your family or friends do all the entertaining and running around this Christmas. If you suggest a meet up, make the effort to throw on some nibbles and tea (or champagne if you are feeling extra thoughtful) and treat your loved ones to an hour or two of quality time & pampering – don’t make the suggestion to meet up and make them host you or travel in order to do so if it’s tricky for them. And, if a friend posts on Facebook that they’ve dropped the mincemeat, so no mince pies for the kids today, do a good deed this holly jolly season & drop a jar round to cheer them up… Karma treats you well if you show your kindness.
7th December – G is for “Greetings Cards”:
It’s surprising how many people worry about how to address and write their Christmas cards each year. Where do you start with kisses versus a more formal sign off? Which way up does the card go into the envelope? How much of a message do you put into each card or do you just insert an annual family newsletter? It’s quite the quandary and the best advice can be found at the following link from “The English Manner” for all your Xmas card & courtesy queries, it provides some fantastic advice.
8th December – H is for “House Guests”:
To be the perfect house guest, you need to follow a few “common sense rules” to ensure future invitations, it truly isn’t rocket science. Don’t cancel unless you’ve been struck down with a nasty virus, but still, plenty of warning is a must where at all possible. Bring a gift for your host that wont need attending to whilst they are in full party mode (flowers need a vase, so not ideal) chocolates or a bottle of something nice as a treat once everybody has left is perfect. Offer your help where possible and don’t outstay your welcome and thank your host the next day, either by letter, or by text or email if you know the host well.
9th December – I is for “Illness”:
Yes, it’s the time of year where we all try to dodge that dreaded lurgy, but we honestly do not need to hear about your bodily functions and which parts of your body are host to your families’ pox breakout. This goes for social media too, if you are ill, use the time you have to curl up under the duvet, catch up on those films you’ve been meaning to enjoy and don’t set another Facebook status updating your friends on the shade of your red nose, relax and leave it to Rudolph. People are more worried about contagious illness at this time of year, so if you have one, stay at home, don’t troop on at work, your colleagues won’t thank you.
10th December – J is for “Jokes”:
With those awkward Christmas parties about to crop up into our lives, be sure to feel comfortable in the silences, should they arise. If you feel the need to talk gibberish and attempt to be silly, keep it to a minimum of you will be the laughing stock for (potentially) the wrong reasons! If cracking a joke is appropriate in the company you are keeping, then be sure not to offend and steer clear of the cheesy one liners, however funny YOU may find them. Of course, lastly, do not humiliate or ridicule anybody, nobody likes a bully.
11th December – K is for “Kissing”:
Does anybody still follow the age old tradition of kissing underneath the mistletoe?… If you do, be wary that the person you are asking may not want to kiss you in return, so be graceful if they say no and don’t push it on them as you will embarrass them as well as yourself. If you don’t want to risk being asked, then check out the doorways and ceilings before you perch and don’t be rude if you are asked, or you could just go with it if feeling brave & join in the festive fun with a peck on the cheek at the least, you might just make somebody’s day/night – you may both have to see each other again, so offending isn’t wise.
12th December – L is for “Loo Roll Origami”:
Who said you had to be serious at Xmas? Loo Roll Origami is a great way to entertain your guests and perhaps even keep the kids (young & old!) out of trouble for a little while on Xmas Eve if you need an idea to calm them down. If you have guests arriving, why not treat them to some toilet paper art for when they use the facilities? A reindeer, rose, candle, bow, even a swan are just a few ideas to spice up your new roll of Andrex… Have a watch of this youtube video for some inspiration, the book is on Miss Sue Flay’s Xmas list to Santa!
13th December – M is for “Matchmaking”:
Even OLD friends can get a pairing very wrong, so do so with caution and don’t match a friend just because it’s Christmas, unless you are asked to do so by the person you are setting up. If you are being set up, you have the right to ask questions & request a photo, even a background check of the date in question, for your safety as well as peace of mind. If you go ahead, ensure that you arrange the date yourselves, once you have been introduced, as it may well get messy with 3 of you arranging it. Above all, have fun, but STAY SAFE, tell somebody where you will be and what times you will be moving around, just because it’s a mutual friend, YOU still don’t know them all the same.
14th December – N is for “Napkins” (NOT serviettes!):
For some of us, this time of year we have the annual airing of our best dinner service and alongside it should be our finest linen too, especially when you are wanting to impress the in-laws. There are traditionally in fact different sized napkins, from 22-26 inches square for dinner, 18-24 inches square for lunch, 12 inches square for afternoon tea and 9 inches square for cocktail (although the latter two are more difficult to find nowadays) and for best results should be starched. Starch is readily available to buy in stores such as Lakeland of John Lewis and just a small amount used (1-2 scoops should do it), you don’t want to be able to cut your lip on the edge of your finest white napkin, but you want to be able to fold them nicely all the same.
15th December – O is for “Office Party”:
Know your limits, your boss may well be there this year and you don’t want to disgrace yourself & find yourself being demoted as a result of your despicable behaviour this yuletide! Get to know your colleagues, yes, you banter a little in the office and you just about know their children’s names, but do you really know much about them and their Xmas plans? Keep the conversation light hearted, avoid topics of religion, money and other such intrusive topics… & don’t be a bore, talking about just your work will soon have everybody thinking there isn’t much to you as a person either, so share some of your personal life. Have a read of my full guide to Xmas Party etiquette with Local Secrets.com.
16th December – P is for “Presents”:
Giving a gift should be a pleasurable experience for both the giver and receiver, it should show thought & gratification and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Choosing a suitable gift shows your affection towards this person (you wouldn’t buy a set of diamond earrings for your boss for example) and time should be taken, don’t rush the buying or it’ll stress you. It’s not a selfless task when carried out correctly, you don’t buy in expectation of a reciprocated gift, but for the love of the giving.
17th December – Q is for “Queues”:
You’ve missed the postie and they have left your much needed last Christmas Present with your local depot, which means one thing… a very long wait in queue & a very frustrating wait to retrieve it. Everybody’s in the same boat, so respect that, you aren’t any more important than anybody else in the line, so try to stay relaxed. Plug in your Ipod (quietly to avoid annoying anybody) to play some of your favourite tunes or bring a book to flick through quietly as you stand. Don’t invade anybody’s space, it can cause anxiety or panic, so try to keep a pace or two behind, there’s nothing worse than hearing the person behind you breathing down your neck, or worse… coughing – if you are ill, stay home and request it to be re-sent at your convenience by Royal Mail.
18th December – R is for “Re-Gifting”:
This is a touchy topic, as you should accept all gifts graciously, however sometimes those white sports socks or novelty loo rolls just aren’t to your taste or style. If you must recycle your Christmas presents, NOBODY must know, especially not the original giver as this could cause great offense to them. The gift must be a perfect match for the new recipient and not just because you want it out of the way, so think carefully before palming it off onto somebody else, “just because you need rid”. The same goes for putting it on a car boot sale or Ebay listing after the festive period, ensure the original giver does not see you selling it for profit. Why not think it through and see if it really would hurt you to put it on display or wear it, even if just once or twice?!…
19th December – S is for “Santa”:
Don’t ruin the magic of Christmas for the believers amongst us. I recently spoke to a 7 year old believer who told me that a lad in his school didn’t believe in Father Christmas and had told everybody in the playground that it was their parents leaving gifts and eating the food left out. His response? This lovely lad told me that he actually felt sorry for this non-believing boy, as Santa doesn’t visit non-believers and he wouldn’t be getting any presents from him this year – I couldn’t have agreed with him more! Now doesn’t that make you want to keep the magic alive for as long as humanly possible?!…
20th December – T is for “Thank You Letters”:
My parents would always ensure that a set of pretty notelets and a box of thank you letters were present in my selection of Christmas gifts each year and I loved receiving them. In fact, I think it’s why even to this day I will buy a lovely card or set of thank you notes if they draw my attention, in my eyes you can never have enough blank cards & writing stationary. We would be asked to keep the labels with each gift in order to know who to thank for which gift and would spend a day or two after Xmas handwriting our personal thank you’s to our nearest and dearest. I feel this is a lost art, lost in the world of email, text and social media – a thank you via Facebook on behalf of your children (or even yourself) just won’t do. It takes a matter of minutes to write a quick note and pop it into the post, no excuses, get exercising those pinkies and take a little time to say thank you.
21st December – U is for “Unwrapping”:
How to be polite when opening a gift, no matter how bizarre or unexpected it may be? Show your appreciation with a smile on your face and a heartfelt thank you, both when receiving the gift and also once you have opened it. If you aren’t opening it in front of the giver, make an effort to let them know ASAP by mail or text (or even a phone call where possible) to show your thanks. Not forgetting the thank you letter from above… always a nice touch and remember to keep the labels by so that you can easily recall who gave you which gift if receiving many.
22nd December – V is for “Volunteering”:
Why not give up your Xmas celebrations & offer yourself up to volunteer for your local charity or organisation in need of a hand to serve food or other items for a few hours. It’s a great thing to do and you may well make for a memorable day, both for you and for the beneficiaries. It goes without saying that discussion of money, wages, gifts waiting at home for you or showing off your health & happiness is not good manners in front of others, so a low profile and not making it about you and your time is a good way to go within voluntary situations.
23rd December – W is for “Wrapping”:
Use simple, but elegant wrapping paper, avoiding any brash patterns, mismatching bows and fancy frilly bits and no corporate packaging or logos for personal gift, nor rude comments are common sense, I would think! A solid colour with a matching or corresponding label or bow, ribbon, etc works well and a handwritten label shows some thought – printed labels are lazy and don’t look in place within a personal gift, so don’t make your dymo label maker do this work. Labels made from last years’ Christmas cards are a great touch and allow you to recycle at the very same time, so save those cards ready for next year.
24th December – X Y & Z are for:
This is a toughie… so it’s time to say Happy Christmas and a very happy New Year!
Instead, I leave you with a link to our newest and most beloved “John Lewis” advert to get you into the festive mood – have a great and well-mannered Xmas!
Do you have any tips or hints to share that help you to keep calm and polite at this slightly more stressful time of year?
Please do leave a comment below to share your thoughts, regrets and stories below.
You can also read the rest of Miss Sue Flay’s “Lost Art Of Etiquette” guides by clicking here.