Tips for effortlessly enjoying holiday festivities.

14 12 22 holiday party

‘Tis the season for celebrating. Holiday parties can be fun, but for many, they can also be overwhelming. From gift gaffes to unwanted guests, the most festive time of the year is also the most nerve-wracking time.

Toronto etiquette advisor Karen Cleveland knows how to navigate the holiday’s trickiest quandaries. Here, she lends her expertise on how to solve common holiday etiquette dilemmas:

What’s an appropriate host/hostess gift?

“It’s never a bad idea to come armed with a housewarming gift,” says Cleveland. Fall back on old favourites, such as a bottle of wine or flowers, or for close friends choose something that reflects an interest they have, such as a beautiful coffee table book on a place they would love to visit. For overnight visits, Cleveland recommends bringing fresh baked goods or a premium blend of coffee to enjoy the next morning.

If someone I don’t know well gives me a gift, do I have to reciprocate?

“Ah, the dreaded gift ambush,” says Cleveland. Receiving a gift without having one to reciprocate with can be uncomfortable, but Cleveland says it’s important to show good taste by accepting the gift graciously with a warm smile. While reciprocating isn’t required, Cleveland recommends those with a guilty conscience stockpile some generic gifts such as candles or bath products to have at the ready for such an occasion.

What do I do if a guest at my party has too much to drink?

Ensuring your guest has the means to get home safely is the first responsibility of the host. Discretion, says Cleveland, is the second. Quietly pull the individual aside to ask if they have a safe ride home so as not to make other guests feel uncomfortable. As long as the individual gets home safely, Cleveland says following up to discuss their drinking habits is in poor taste. “Clearly they had a good time and as long as they got home safely, that’s all that matters,” she says.

My friends don’t know each other. How do I make sure they have a good time together?

Establishing social connections is an important role of the host. If you have two friends who both enjoy skiing, make sure they each know that so they have some common ground to begin a conversation,“There’s nothing worse than being busy in the kitchen and you can hear crickets chirping in the living room where your guests are,” says Cleveland. Preparing a pragmatic menu that doesn’t tie you to the kitchen can also help ensure that you get to spend time with your guests and can make these important introductions.

I’m an introvert and hate attending parties. How do I survive the holiday season?

“Not everyone enjoys the social aspect of the holidays and for an introvert it can make for a really nerve-wracking situation,” says Cleveland. Housing a couple of light conversation questions in their back pocket such as what people’s plans are for the holidays or brushing up on current affairs can help ensure you have something to talk about. Also, avoid saying yes to every party. “We don’t say no enough,” she says. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of holiday events is not only difficult for introverts, but can be rough on anyone with a busy social calendar. “We get ourselves in these jams where we are overscheduled and we’re trying to be at four holiday parties in one night, no one’s having fun and everyone’s stressed,” she says. Avoid the holiday hangover by limiting yourself to a set number of events you can live with and don’t feel guilty about declining a few invites. Just be sure to do it gracefully.