There’s something about the holiday dinner table that can bring out the best in some and the beast in others.
Good guests and a gracious hostess are as critical to a memorable party as the quality and quantity of the food. Here are some Holiday party pointers to keep your social muscles tuned up.
The Guest List
Do RSVP as soon as possible. Holiday dinners usually require extra planning for food and place settings.
Do arrive with something for the host. Wine, chocolates, or flowers are appropriate (but avoid bouquets that require your busy hostess to stop and look for a vase).
Don’t double dip, even with family. Take the shrimp, dip it once, end of story.
Do inform the hostess of special dietary needs when you RSVP. That way, she’ll be able to plan around your nut allergy or your sudden serious veganism.
Do offer to bring a dish that suits your diet and the occasion.
Don’t use the holiday dinner to announce your divorce, come out of the closet, or impose your political views.
Do bring what you committed to. If you offered to bring 3 pies and show up with a salad instead, there may be too much salad and no dessert.
Don’t arrive with an unfinished masterpiece. Your dish shouldn’t require complicated assembling, use of the stove or oven, or too much of the hostess’s attention.
Do love the ones you’re with. Even if you have a bone to pick that doesn’t involve the turkey, save it for another time. And most importantly, the dining room should be a cell-phone-free zone unless you’re a doctor or fireman on call.
The Hostess List
Don’t wait until the last minute to decide to host the holiday dinner and then be upset that your invitees have already made other plans.
Don’t drink so much that you lose control of the bird. Cooking under the influence is dangerous.
Do be a master of deflection. Don’t let nosy questions upset you. Simply change the subject: "Yes, Uncle Charlie, I was thinner last year. How about those Yankees?"
Do delegate tasks. This leaves you time to make sure everyone, including family, gets the red carpet treatment.
Do create a festive atmosphere. Your mood sets the tone for the party. Be upbeat, then add music, candles, flowers, and a creatively set table.
Do serve killer desserts. It’ll be the last thing your guests will remember.
Good manners never go out of style. Emily Post wrote Etiquette, her manners manifesto, in 1922. Almost a century later, manners are still important, and particularly, around the holiday dinner table.