Lately readers have been very forthcoming with their questions about families and holidays. The season will soon be upon us and excitement and enthusiasm can be mixed with anxiety and impatience. Let's see if sharing some of their concerns can help to alleviate some of yours.
Elizabeth wrote in these comments and questions.
Dear Etiquette Guy,
I get very annoyed if my dinner guests (who are often in-laws) do not use their napkins. Is this just a lack of good manners on their part and poor upbringing? I have another question brought on by a situation where a waitress picked up my napkin and placed it on my lap before taking my order. Was this the "proper" thing for her to do? Actually, it was a rather high class eating place and I assumed this must be done at such a place, as I could not imagine it happening at your local Pizza Hut. Perhaps you can set me right as to the do's and don'ts of napkin etiquette. Thank you.
Your in-laws are exhibiting a lack of manners most likely as a result of an up bringing where manners were not as important as they are to you and being taught these basics was not emphasized. As you are noticing, if you teach etiquette fundamentals at an early age, you might well avoid awkward moments such as this later on as children reach adulthood. As far as the placing of the napkin on your lap by the waitress goes, in some high end restaurants this is the custom. My advice to you is of course always to follow the lead of your host or hostess. What should happen is as soon as everyone is seated, the host or hostess should unfold their napkin on their lap and the guests should in turn follow. If there is no host to follow, once everyone (even if it's two) are seated, the napkin should be unfolded on your lap. If this is not done, an attentive waiter will likely do it for you. This is not to be construed as being rude or condescending, but rather as a silent service gesture to indicate that the rituals of the meal are underway. It is a way of communicating to the guest that the staff is now ready to serve you. I hope this answers your question. EG
Another reader wondered, "I was thinking maybe a little closer to the holidays you might do a column about etiquette for children. You know, people drag them everywhere especially at Christmas time, and there’s no time of the year when they’re so spoiled and wound up. You could have fun with that one!"
Fun indeed! Christmas is a time of year when children are the focus. The holiday does after all celebrate the birth of a child. There are so many traditions associated with holiday times which are filled with family memories. Passing these traditions on to our children is important. In order to ensure that these busy times will be filled with joy, there are a few ground rules which may be helpful. The safety of your family and your pets is of the utmost importance. Making sure all electrical wiring and cords are in perfect condition and out of the reach of small, exploring hands is key. Keep poisonous substances such as chocolates and Poinsettias out of the reach
Take time with your children to be together without the hustle and bustle of the mall, bazaar, parade, etc. Decorating the house, baking cookies, reading a Christmas story, watching a holiday film, listening to and singing Christmas songs. Driving through your town after dusk and looking at the Christmas displays are the special times that allow you to do fun things together and to create memories.
Try to plan and schedule your time as well as possible including time for shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, and on it goes. A wonderful way to teach children is to include them in of these activities. This kind of experience is a wonderful way for them to have a hands-on idea of how things are done.
‘Tis the season to think of others. This is the surest way to have the most enjoyable holiday season. This is also a way to teach children about sharing and caring for others. The simple act of putting a can of soup in the Food Bank collection box will become a life lesson, one which they will take and practice throughout their lives. Now you have created a tradition.
Be grateful for the many blessings which surround us - family, friends, delicious food and good cheer. There is a familiar saying - "it is better to give than to receive". This time of year is when this saying comes to life. It instills gratitude in ourselves and others which stretches throughout the year.