Christmas Etiquette

When referring to the word "nutcracker", what comes to mind? Are there sugar plum fairies dancing  in your head? Holiday magic? Or, do you think about cracking open those nuts ? Whatever the image, Christmas is a nutty time for everyone. There's so much going on and all those parties and family events to attend. While this time of year is stressful, it's not a reason to forget your manners even if you're at a non-family party.

For events outside the family, a different set of land mines are waiting to explode. At the office party, there's the question of just how much "special" eggnog  to drink or how low cut your holiday jumper  should be. At least we're here to help you through some of those questions; for others, you might want to check out this Christmas survival guide . Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Twelve Days of Hosting

Playing host on the big day can be an absolutely horrifying experience. Between keeping an eye on the casserole  and organising presents under the Christmas tree , it can be hard to keep your etiquette in check. So, if you find yourself in charge of the party, here are some tips to ensure this Christmas is a happy one.

Holiday Party Do's and Don'ts


  • ...Decide beforehand if there will be gift giving or a Secret Santa and establish an agreed-upon price range.
  • ...Look up some fun Christmas/holiday games to get everyone in the spirit.
  • ...Try to include vegetarian/vegan friendly foods to be considerate for all palates. 
  • ...Know who your guests are. This may sound obvious, but your friends and family may not share the same views or even celebrate Christmas.
  • ...Make this a team effort. Ask people to bring side dishes or desserts so that your purse  doesn't suffer and neither will you (well, not as much).


  • ...Worry about seating, especially at parties. It is likely that everyone will enjoy choosing their own seats or having a buffet.
  • ...Drink so much eggnog that you disregard all manners and dance on the table. You will be laughed at.
  • ...Go overboard with speciality wines/spirits. Buy a few staples and allow guests to bring anything additional they wish to have.
  • ...Play "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer". Some guests might be sensitive to the subject.

A Christmas Gathering

When family and friends come together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it's important to make sure this time of joy and laughter remains just that--happy. Here are a few helpful tips to keep this festive time argument-free.

  • Get everyone to pitch in. It doesn't matter if your grandmother doesn't want help in the kitchen: find a way to help even if you have to wash dishes .
  • If you're in a miserable mood, try not to bring others down.
  • If you are a guest, bring a gift  to the host's house.
  • Even if you hate the gifts you receive, say you like them. Feelings will not be hurt if you decide to exchange it later because no one has to know.
  • If there are kids, try not to reveal the fact that Father Christmas  isn't real. No one needs the psychological trauma.

Wrong Number

In a time when every minute of our lives is dictated by technology, it can be incredibly easy to forget that your phone  doesn't belong at a holiday dinner table or party. We know it may be hard to pull yourself away from checking those Twitter and Facebook apps, but trust us, it's just rude.

  • Shut Down: When you're about to sit down for any Christmas meal , turn off your phone! Family and friends travelled long and short distances to be there, so interact. Nothing beats a spoken conversation. This rule applies for places of worship. No one on Twitter cares if you're bored at church.
  • Call Period: Christmas only happens once a year, so designate a certain time to make phone calls, and check social media accounts, texts, and voice messages. There's no reason why you should be texting while presents are being opened or the Christmas turkey being carved.
  • Privacy First: If you must ring a friend, do it away from the festivities. You never know when an argument might erupt over the phone or in the background.
  • Out and About: Phone etiquette is not restricted to the home and places of worship. When you're shopping for gifts or food, don't hold up any lines because you're on the phone. Also, don't take calls while waiting for a cashier to complete your transaction. Everyone is in a rush and/or tired, so whatever it is you have to discuss can wait.


When it comes time to deck the halls and hang the mistletoe , you'll want to make sure you follow these guidelines. After all, you don't want a burning tree or set of blown fuses! Keep in mind, no matter what set of decorations you choose, it's a good idea to have a theme. Whether it's Santa's Helpers, a Blue Christmas , or plain old Father Christmas--a theme always helps keep the decorations looking cohesive.

  • Please be tasteful with your decorations . Don't use anything that can blow away and damage your neighbour's property, or something that uses so much electricity the entire neighbourhood short circuits.
  • There is no need to go overboard with decorations. Simple and/or traditional décor  will create a focus and allow everyone to appreciate your handiwork. Don't worry about spending too much on these things.
  • Use a timer  if you have lighted or motorised decorations .
  • When expecting children around during the holidays or at a party, make sure you remove all breakable decorations. If you don't, things will break and someone will get yelled at.
  • Fire Hazards:
    • Real candles are the most obvious fire hazard. Instead, use battery-operated candles , which are made to look like the real thing.
    • Overloading electrical sockets: This is bad any time, but it is more frequently seen around the holidays. Use extension leads  with caution.
    • Christmas tree and decorating lights: Little lights good: big lights bad. The big lights give off more heat and are therefore susceptible to fires.
    • For more safety tips, check out our Holiday Safety guide.


Gifts are a tricky territory to navigate. Different presents may or may not be appropriate, depending on the individual. For instance, choosing the right gifts for the office can be stressful (picture frames  are harmless if you get stuck for choices), while buying perfect family gifts is just overwhelming.

  • One of the most re-gifted present during the holidays is the fruitcake . It's without a doubt your "Plan B"option.
  • Forgetting to buy a gift for someone makes you look really bad. Buy a few versatile gifts  in the beginning of the season in case this occurs.
  • While a specific gift might seem cool to you, there's a chance the recipient will not agree. Make sure the person for whom you are buying the gift will actually like it.
  • Don't buy someone a gift "just because". The gift will either be re-gifted or have a long happy life in the back cupboard, and you will have wasted your money. Either find something they like, give them money, or get a gift card .
  • Cards : This effortless gesture will put a smile on anyone's face. Don't have the time to physically mail a card? E-cards take about one minute to send, and they're found all over the Internet.
  • Gifts for co-workers:
    • Keep it simple with a card and holiday sweet(s) .
    • Don't buy your superiors extravagant gifts. This may come across as trying to buy an advancement.
    • Don't spend more than about £5-£10.
  • Repeat: When in doubt, there's always fruitcake!

If you're still unsure of what to give, check out one of our gift giving guides for some helpful hints.

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