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’Tis the Season! Do you know Southern Holiday Etiquette?

A few months back we started what we intend to be an occasional series on Southern Hospitality. After all, when we introduced the series, we made mention of our motto “Southern Hospitality with an East Coast Flair.”

The goal, as we said last time, is for you to be able to impress all your relatives and friends.

So, given that the holidays are fast approaching, it’s likely that you are about to experience a lot more visiting – as a host and a guest – and you may be receiving or giving more gifts than usual.

And here’s our disclaimer and special bonus offer to you. While we may be doing this right now for the holidays, this is useful information for you to consider all year round.

Have you ever received an unwanted gift?

Clearly, the holiday season is the biggest gift giving and receiving time of the year. While you may receive gifts at other times – birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties and more – it’s likely you get and receive more during the holidays. But this etiquette advice is good at any time.

Let’s start with the gift that doesn’t fancy you. We’ve all had it happen. You dive in, get past the wrapping, open the box and nothing. No emotional reaction beyond, I’m so glad they can’t see my face right now.

What do you do? Fake it! No!  First and foremost, acknowledge the gift in love. The person giving you the gift has put thought, time and money into giving you a part of them.

So, how do you acknowledge the gift in love? Through a thank you letter. Find a nice card that resembles the season. In other words, don’t send a beachy thank you card during winter holidays. Write a minimum of four sentences in your thank you card. Start with using the gift giver’s name, then mention the gift and how you plan to use it – and don’t forget to say THANK YOU!

Even if you don’t ever plan to use it, mention how generous the gift is and how thoughtful the gift giver was.

Don’t forget to sign your card with a nice ending like; Fondest Regards, Love, or make it seasonal like Merry Christmas, and then your name. You should also send your thank you card within two weeks of receiving the gift.

So why do we send (not text) a thank you card? Because it shows how much you appreciate the person and the gift you received. It also lets them know you received their gift. They took the time to find a gift for you, you should take the same amount of time, within reason, to acknowledge their gift. A text is less personal since you probably text every day. Think about how special receiving the gift was, receiving a thank you note is just as special.

However, since texting is our way of life, you have permission to text a quick thank you – but you must follow it up with a more formal letter.

And when you are responding with a thank you, here’s the most important thing to remember. Make sure to spell their name correctly.

One thing that is rarely mentioned is regifting an unwanted gift. As an Innkeeper by trade, we repurpose everything including gifts!  If you have not used your unwanted gift, consider giving it to someone that would love it more than you. You may not have that person in mind at the time, simply tuck it away and use it for another time. I know in the South we would consider this a bit apropos, I’m just not one to waste anything. I grew up going to my grandmother’s and every time she took me to her friend’s house, she always gave me a gift from her stash of gifts in her closet! I am convinced she was regifting.

What about holiday visiting?

While gifts may be the biggest thing this time of year, visiting is near the top of the list as well.

Let’s start with responding to the invite. If you get invited for a visit during the holidays or any other time, respond promptly. If you’re coming, this helps your host or hostess plan accordingly especially if it is a party or another event. And if you’re not coming, make that negative response as pleasant and cordial as possible.

Whether it is a special event or a family visit, make sure you arrive at the scheduled time. If you are going to be late due to traffic or some other reason, let your host or hostess know, so they are not worried that something may have happened. And don’t forget to thank your host or hostess for the invite and mention what a great time you had.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Always remember your manners.
  • Display modesty.

Finally, if the event includes meals, remember your table etiquette. To refresh your memory, here’s a link to our previous article about that very subject:

So, whether your holiday plans include visiting, hosting or both, here’s the most important thing. Enjoy!

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