There are so many things to look forward to as we approach the holiday season: the gift giving, the quality time spend with friends and family, the festive food and cocktails. And yet, there are certain pitfalls associated with each of those things. As much as we love this time of year, it’s admittedly a bit stress inducing and we know we’re not the only ones who have struggled with such things as what to give whom, how do deal with the dinner table talk gets political (ugh), and if it’s cool to bring your wingwoman as a date to your office party. Don’t worry, we’ve consulted the etiquette master, Emily Post (via this handy website), to learn what to do—and not do—to be polite and appropriate during all your holiday functions. After you leave, however, that’s totally up to you.
6 Need-To-Know Rules Of Holiday Etiquette
According to The Emily Post Institute, it's appropriate to gift those who provide you with services year-round at the holidays. This could include your hairdresser, housekeeper, trainer, postman, or even your crystal therapy guide (hey, this is LA). Cash gifts are great, but you can also go DIY and whip up a batch of baked goods or something else handmade with love. And don't forget the card—all gifts should be accompanied by one.
Showing up empty-handed to a holiday party is a major faux pas—even if the soiree is held at a home you frequent, it's customary to bring something special on this special occasion. If you know the host's preference (booze always does the trick for our friends), gift accordingly. If you don't, boutique olive oils are always appropriate, as are small home items like a candle or flowers. If bringing the latter, The Emily Post Institute recommends bringing them in a vessel (mason jar, vase) instead of just handing over a bouquet.
Yes, you have to attend this. And sadly, it's not kosher to bring your bestie. This etiquette rule might be discriminatory towards singles and totally old fashioned, but it's not yet socially acceptable to show up to the office holiday party with your roommate. As for the how many cocktails are too many, we think it's important to predetermine your "still in control" limit and stick it to the entire night. One trick to keeping your chill, sip fizzy water or mocktails between boozy beverages.
Here, we are using the term "in-laws" as shorthand to mean your significant other's family. We do not recommend you show up to spend the holidays with them without a gift in hand. If you know them well, it should be easy to tailor the gift to the tastes of the mom (always the mom, if that's an option). If you don't know them well, it's advisable to run gift ideas by your significant other to avoid any potentially embarrassing scenarios in which your seemingly innocuous gift is somehow offensive. And ask your significant other if there's any "dress code" for holiday events in his or her family—some families prefer to dress up at the holidays while others use the occasion to show their sincere appreciation of sweatpants.
Technically, you are not supposed to give your supervisor a gift, as it's considered inappropriate for bosses to be potentially influenced in this way. If your co-workers want you to chip in on a gift, traditional etiquette calls on you to discourage them from the idea of the gift altogether. When in doubt—or when you genuinely want to express appreciation for your boss—a card is always nice.
That said, it is proper etiquette for those who work beneath you. This can vary depending on your rank/their rank and might range from a heartfelt card and box of fancy chocolates to a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
This one really is a judgment call, as well as a case-by-case basis. With your own family, you can do as you please, but just note that this time is meant to be enjoyed and you'll probably never change 83-year-old grandfather's opinions on anything anyway. When with "in-laws" whose political leanings are at odds with yours, we suggest skirting the topic or preparing a few diplomatic responses (unless of course you just don't give an eff, and we think that's kind of amazing too). Either way, prepare your thoughts in advance so you don't find yourself stammering.