Christmas Guest Etiquette

Decorating the Christmas tree

Here are our golden rules for Christmas guests:

  • Come laden with goodies. Obviously, you will bring presents for all the family. But also ensure that you also come with plenty of good things to drink and some Christmas treats (a Stilton, box of truffles, Christmas pud, mince pies...)
  • It might be a good idea to liaise with your host over gastronomic contributions - you could suggest, for example, you take resonsibility for cheese, chocolates, or liqueurs
  • If you are playing the guest role, try your best to be flexible.  By consenting to be a visitor you have forfeited your right to run the day as you see fit - just go with the flow, and enjoy it.
  • If you have agreed to be a Christmas guest, you are under a moral obligation to enter into the Christmas spirit - no cynicism, no grumpiness, no sulking.  If you are an irredeemable Scrooge, then don't inflict yourself, or your negativity, on other people at Christmas time.
  • Be assiduous about offering to help, and keep an eye open for signs of panic and hysteria in your host - you might be able to step in and save the day.  But if your offers are refused, remember no means no. For some hosts, a pack of well-meaning guests bumbling around their kitchen making an effort to help is the final straw.
  • Keep your eyes open for potential pressure points and pre-empt problems. If the kids are beginning to blow, take the situation in hand - suggest a short walk, a turn around the garden, an expedition to another room to show off presents etc.
  • Don't make any demands. If there's a tv programme you desperately want to see, try and set the recorder before you leave home.
  • Never comment on your host's way of doing things. You might have your own ideas of the Christmas ritual, but you must accept unquestioningly that your host knows best. So no remarks like "When I was young, we had our Christmas cake at 5 o'clock and were in bed by 8…" Comments like these will always be seen as implied criticisms, and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Don't be a party-pooper. If you find yourself in a household that revels in games of charades, sing-songs round the dinner table, performance of party pieces and so on, grit your teeth and get on with it. This is one occasion where you simply can't bow out.
  • Thank the host effusively for his/her hospitality. This means not just expressing your gratitude as you leave, it also means following up with a proper thank you letter.`

The letter should go beyond the usual platitudes, and mention something particular about the Christmas entertainment (eg "I loved the family charades after lunch on Christmas day, and thought the boxing day walk and pub ritual was a really great antidote to all the feasting…").

You should also reiterate your thanks for the presents you received.

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