Christmas etiquette can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. Throw in the complications of a global pandemic and it becomes a minefield of potential faux pas. This year more than ever, it is time to embrace the true meaning of etiquette, which starts with showing kindness, courtesy and respect to others. Forget about rigid rules, such as passing the port the right way or worrying about tinsel being ‘vulgar’, and focus instead on how you make the people around you feel.
Christmas Etiquette Rule 1: Be kind
Let your words and actions be guided by the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you wish to be treated”. There is no denying that Christmas can be stressful and it is easy to get caught up in the merry-go-round of shopping, cooking and decorating.
Whether you are religious or not, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Enjoy some quiet moments with your family and think about how you can extend kindness to those around you.
If you have elderly neighbours, check on them and see if you can help with shopping or other chores. There may be others in your community who are struggling at this time of year and would also appreciate a helping hand.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Remember the saying “You cannot pour from an empty cup” and make sure you look after your own needs as well as giving support to others.
Christmas Etiquette Rule 2: Be compassionate
Big Christmas gatherings are out this year so your biggest dilemma may be who to invite for your festive celebrations. Communication is key and if you have a large, extended family there may be some tricky situations to resolve.
The rules may have been relaxed but the Coronavirus is not taking a Christmas break. Ignoring the dangers posed by the pandemic is foolhardy and, if you do decide to gather with other households, make sure that you follow the guidelines.
It is perfectly understandable that some people may not feel that sharing Christmas dinner with family or friends is worth the risk to their health. Be mindful and sensitive to the feelings of others and do not try to guilt trip them into changing their minds. Maybe you can find a compromise and meet outside for a mince pie and glass of mulled wine?
Christmas Etiquette Rule 3: Be generous
We’re not talking about showering everyone with lavish and expensive gifts. Being generous is not just about spending money. You can also be generous with your time, kindness and knowledge.
The last few months have been incredibly tough. Many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet, while mental health problems have also increased dramatically.
If you are lucky enough to have money to spare, consider donating a sum to a charity close to your heart. It is also important to be generous of mind: try not to judge people or situations and instead of finding fault, look for the positives.
Generosity breeds generosity. When you give, those around you notice and are often inspired to be generous themselves.
Christmas Etiquette Rule 4: Be Flexible
After such a difficult a year, we are all craving a bit of normality but the truth is that there is nothing normal about 2020. Try to keep an open mind and accept that plans may change at the last minute. A reported spike in Coronavirus case may cause friends or family members to rethink their travel plans.
With everyone on high alert, people are also more likely to be mindful of any symptoms of illness, however mild. A slight sniffle or sore throat that might have been overlooked in previous years, can now result in a cancelled Christmas dinner.
If your guests have to pull out at the last minute, consider connecting over Zoom instead so you can still enjoy each others’ company. If you’ve cooked up a storm and fear you will be drowning in leftovers, you may want to share some food with your neighbours or donate to your local food bank.
Christmas Etiquette Rule 5: Be Grateful
It is very easy to focus on the things that we miss about our pre-pandemic life. There are many things that will be different this year and it is perfectly normal to miss festive traditions such as the school nativity play, Christmas market and carol service. While Christmas dinner over Zoom may not be your first choice, be thankful that modern technology allows us to connect with family and friends both near and far.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will help you appreciate the good things that are all around you. Christmas can be a difficult time, even when we’re not in a midst of a pandemic, bringing forth memories of lost loved ones or past family conflicts.
This Christmas, we encourage you to take a few moments to stop and look around you – to be present in this moment and say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who have made a difference to you in 2020.