Every major holiday on the calendar seems to culminate in a meal and usually one of epic proportion. From a Fourth of July cookout to Thanksgiving turkey dinner, friends and family gather around the holiday table at someone’s home and the majority of the work, by default, tends to fall upon that person or family. Sometimes the Host or Hostess willingly volunteers for the task, however, sometimes…not so much. Out of respect for our Holiday Hosts and Hostesses who so bravely take it upon themselves to entertain and feed the masses this Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember the etiquette of being a Gracious Holiday Guest.
I recently spoke with some friends who love to entertain and often host holiday family dinners. Under the veil of anonymity, they shared some of their biggest pet peeves and offered suggestions on “good guesting”:
1.) Avoid placing multiple calls to your Host or Hostess in the hours before the meal. In the hours and crucial last minutes before the holiday meal hits the table, your host or hostess is most likely in the kitchen figuring out how to make gravy for the first time, trying to use the fire extinguisher or dealing with another culinary calamity. So if you need directions to the house, crank up that GPS on your phone or call another guest at the dinner. A quick call to see if you can pick anything up on your way over is always appreciated but don’t be offended if your call goes straight to voice mail. “One of my dear friends would always want to chat on the phone on her drive over to my house for our holiday meal. I politely had to tell her I was trying to deal with some last minute issues and her feelings would be hurt.” Its best to be considerate and save chit chat for the dessert course and/or the day after.
2.) When bringing wine to a holiday gathering, don’t be hurt if it doesn’t make it to the holiday table. Your host or hostess most likely has all the wines for the evening already selected and possibly even decanted. If you would like to bring a special bottle to share that night, call or e-mail your host/hostess a day or so in advance and ask. They would probably greatly appreciate it just don’t throw them a curve ball the evening of when everything has been carefully planned out. You also run the risk of that special wine getting lost in the stack of hostess gifts as one friend reports, “I once brought a bottle of 1982 Bordeaux to a holiday dinner and it was never opened and I never got it back!” Better to plan ahead than risk losing a gem of a bottle. However, if you really wanted to drink a particular wine that night, go ahead and open it, just don’t leave that task to your host or hostess.
3.) Don’t expect to eat for days on the leftovers you bring home from your Host or Hostesses’ house. After slaving at the stove for a few days in a row to create a Thanksgiving or other holiday feast, leftovers are in many ways the “Chef’s reward.” While it’s always nice to send guests home with a little something, and its always flattering to be asked, don’t expect to be making turkey sandwiches for the better part of the following week from those leftovers. “I once had guests show up at my house for Thanksgiving with their own ‘super-sized’ to-go containers,” says one hostess. “They also brought a case of beer and took home the bottles they didn’t drink rather than leaving them as a show of thanks. I was appalled!” So no matter how delicious the meal was, practice a little restraint in your expectations when it comes to the leftovers.
4.) Always bring a little something for your Host or Hostess. If you’ve ever undertaken the arduous task of preparing a traditional holiday meal, you know the Herculean effort that is often involved. Sure your hostess might play it off like she rolled out of bed at noon and just “threw something together” but let me assure you, that is probably not the case. Aside from the food, the house also needs to look great, the table needs to be set and all family members need to look presentable before guests start to arrive. For those who have never assumed this task trust me, your Host and/or Hostess deserves some serious props! Something as simple as a small flower arrangement (never flowers that need to be arranged!); a bottle of wine or Champagne; or even a gift certificate for a manicure at a local spa all make very thoughtful gifts and you’re sure to get invited back.
5.) Don’t drink too much. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the holiday cheer and we’ve all probably been there once (ok, maybe twice). But please don’t make the mistake of overindulging to the point your Host or Hostess needs to worry about you getting home safely. Don’t get me wrong, tis the season to enjoy each other’s company as well as a few drinks or glasses of wine, however you want to avoid a “Drunk Uncle” type of situation if you can (see video). In order to avoid these episodes, have a talk with said family member before the big day and express how you feel about their behavior. Maybe even assign another family member to keep tabs on them and make sure they get home safely.
I hope these tips help to make your holiday season more cheerful and big thanks to all the Hostesses willing to share their advice. Are there any “pet peeves” you’d like to share? Please do so in the comment section below and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!