Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday gatherings can often be smudged by social dilemmas and misunderstandings.
To avoid these faux pas, we enlisted the expertise of Dr Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, lifestyle coach and principal director of Make Your Mark Consultants that recently hosted the Business and Personal Etiquette Conference.
“Etiquette speaks to standards. It speaks to how we behave with people. How we communicate and the understanding of expectations. During the holidays, it is no different because you have many families and friends coming together who haven’t seen each other for some time. You also have extended family and friends coming together who are from different backgrounds and countries. So just understanding different behaviours, being able to communicate, being able to manage discussions, expectations, and respect are very important at this time of the year, so that people can get together amicably and enjoy the gathering,” says Dr Coke-Lloyd.
Depending on the setting, you should act accordingly. If it is a casual setting Coke-Lloyd says, “People should be allowed to do as they please.” However, “you should dine and use your cutlery as expected and share as expected.” For many, Christmas dinner it’s more casual at this time of year when people will take their plates and move around, but for formal Christmas gatherings “you are expected to follow the rules and use the proper knives and forks, and your napkin”.
Make sure you are appropriately attired for the setting. Hosts should let their guests know the dress code and if you haven’t been told, don’t be afraid to ask. You can also err on the side of caution as Dr Coke-Lloyd puts it, and go “elegantly casual“ . If you are at home, you can determine what you want to wear.
The food is no good
Gratitude is a must. “Be thankful that you have received a meal and that you have been invited somewhere to eat. Eat what you think is palatable and leave the rest. Being graceful and thanking the host for having you is appropriate,” says the Make Your Mark Consultants principal director.
Dr Coke-Lloyd says she always tells people to “listen more than you speak”, and if someone is trying to be confrontational it is fine to simply move away as it is best not to get into any form of quarrel or unsociable activity at Christmas. Nobody needs that type of memory or should want to upset what should be a joyful gathering.
Bring a gift
Even if your host has not asked you to bring anything, it is perfectly acceptable to bring a token such as wine, dessert, or a gift.
Arrive on time
Don’t play the ‘Jamaican time’ game. “People should try to arrive on time. Your host is catering to you and you don’t want to keep them or other guests waiting,” says Dr Coke- Lloyd.
Where is my gift
Please don’t ask where your gift is or try to open any. “If you take a gift you can put it under the tree or ask where you should leave it,” she says.
Make an effort to speak to people. This is the perfect opportunity for family and friends to reconnect. “So many people haven’t seen each other due to COVID-19, so connect, reconnect and keep in touch and also forgive if you need to, and make plans for next year.”
Google is your friend
Should you be in doubt about how to use utensils or want a visual idea of what a dress code entails,you can always do your research online to avoid embarrassment.