Holiday Etiquette

Local Etiquette Expert Melanie Perko joined us today to help get us through the holiday season without making any major mis-steps.

Q:  Are we supposed to tip our service people extra around the holiday season -- like hairdressers, U.S. Postal Workers, etc – and if so, how much is expected or acceptable?
A:  Tips (monetary or gifts) make people feel valued in their jobs. They are never mandatory. In this economy there is less and less tipping, so they are appreciated more and more. In one's mind a tip should be justified to the vendor or service person. If one has a personal relationship with a service professional, they should tip or gift accordingly to their knowledge of the person. For example, if their stylist or barber likes a special wine, gift that over a check. Or if you feel your service person would rather have the money, there are many guidelines for the usual and customary amounts to tip in each industry.
Another example is some people are very close to their letter carriers, while others don’t even know their letter carrier. Tip if you feel a personal relationship with that service provider.
Another example is to make or purchase cookies or candy and leave on your recycling can or refuse can, for the driver(s) in foil, cellophane or saran wrap, with a large bowl. It will make their day.

Q:  When do we tip? (I.e. close to Christmas, or earlier?)
A:  Most people get “in the mood to tip” around the holidays, but there is no correct time. In fact, it’s nice to gift or tip a few special times throughout the year if that person has gone out of their way, or done a special service for you. (i.e. the stylist who does a complimentary bang trim in between appointments, the barber who trims a man’s beard for no charge in between appointments).

Q:  When you’re invited to more than one holiday party on the same night, do you try to squeeze them all in….or do you stick with the first offer only?
A:  It’s tough on everyone to try to make all parties. The host or hostess has a fragmented guest list and the guests get worn out going between parties. It’s best to decide on one event and make an evening of that event. And, it is also difficult to be popular!

Q:  If someone gives you a gift are you expected to give them one too – even if you weren’t planning on it?
A:  No, you are not expected to return a gift to someone who gifted you. There is an art to accepting a gift graciously. For example, the recipient should never say “you shouldn’t have” or “Oh, I didn’t get you anything.” Those comments are rude. The giver thought from the heart and usually wants you to have their gift, with no strings attached.

Q:  Do you bring a hostess gift if you’re bringing part of the meal too?
A:  As long as hostess gifts are small, inexpensive and useful, I see no problem with them even if you are bringing part of the meal.

Q:  What are some appropriate hostess gifts?
A:  A few great examples (and reasonable) are:

  • 2 towels with a bow,
  • a candle,
  • cookies,
  • candies,
  • home made chocolate or carmel sauces.

Make sure there is a clever handwritten note, too. Flowers are not the best as the host or hostess usually has his or her own flowers out already and must stop and arrange on party night. Always classy to send flowers a day ahead, but this spendy and best to do this if from a group (i.e. staff, etc. prior to a dinner in the CEO’s home).

Q:  What are some other etiquette issue arounds the holiday season?

A:   Holiday reminders:

  • RSVP to all business and social invitations, evites, textvites and phone invites. If someone thought enough about you to invite you, the least you can do is respond “yes” or “no.”
  • Attend the all office parties, it is part of your job.
  • Remember at the holiday office party, you are still working, so do not eat or drink too much
  • At holiday parties, family gatherings and in general, don’t get too offended when asked an awkward question: “why haven’t you ever married” If you are asked a question you don’t intend to answer, use humor and say something like “Oh, Aunt Millie, I have always loved your sense of humor! Now let’s go check out the desert tray.” (ie never be rude but change the subject and take charge of the conversation, and get away from that person)
  • Master the art of small talk in business and socially, it’s key to being confident and networking i.e. tell me about yourself, what’s your favorite childhood holiday memory, do you have any special plans for the holidays, etc. Also, don’t brag or “one up” their story. LISTEN and use humor.
  • Introduce yourself and your spouse or guest to everyone. It’s a confidence builder for all.


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