Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Keeping The Peace During Holiday Meals

Today's New York Times article entitled "Pass a Drumstick, and an Olive Branch" had some great tips for making your holiday gathering as enjoyable and peaceful as possible.


Here's a quick summary of the do's and don'ts recommended in the article, along with a few tips of my own.

Do:

Bring something for the host. Call in advance to ask what kind of food you could bring, but a small gift or bottle of wine is acceptable too.

Offer to help the hostess with anything she needs. If you're the host/hostess, give people tasks to make them feel needed and to give anyone who looks bored something to do.

If someone says something offensive during the dinner conversation, acknowledge the comment and change the subject. If someone frequently makes rude or offensive comments, it might be worth speaking to them before the big day. If you're not comfortable doing that (or feel that it this will only egg the person on), just be prepared to defend anyone who is personally attacked.

If you're the host/hostess, make it clear when people have to stay at the table by asking everyone to stay until the meal is over. If there are younger children, let them go and watch a movie or play games between dinner and dessert, but often if you let people wander between courses, it's hard to round everyone back up.

Pretend to enjoy yourself. Someone (presumably) worked hard to cook and clean and host a meal for multiple people, so show respect for your hosts by making the best of the situation.

Try to eat what you can if the food is bad or it's not compatible with your eating restrictions (except for those recommended by a doctor). Of course, it's up to you to let the hostess know in advance what you can and cannot eat, so she can plan accordingly.

If someone brings up political or religious viewpoints that are offensive to you, try as hard as possible to avoid fighting. If the person won't drop the topic, excuse yourself to get more food, another drink or to go to the bathroom. Let yourself calm down, and hopefully in a few minutes by the time you return, the conversation will have moved on.

Thank the hosts profusely before you leave. Write a thank you note or call to thank them within a couple of days.

Don't:

Act sullen.

Pick fights (or allow them to continue).

Complain. Save it for the ride home!

Leave the table before the host says you can.

Drink too much.

Do anything that will make the situation less comfortable for other people or show disrespect for the hostess.

Final word: Do what you can to make the event run as smoothly as possible for everyone, even if you're having a terrible time. And if you're hosting, don't beat yourself up if people don't get along. What are the holidays without dysfunctional family dinners? Everyone will laugh about it later.

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