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The ABCs of Holiday Partying

It’s party time! “The happ, happiest season of all!”

Maybe you’re hosting or maybe you’re “guesting”, regardless of your role, here is the alphabet’s twenty-six dos and don’ts for holiday party etiquette.

Assigned seating

Use and respect place card holders to prevent disagreements, identify food restrictions or facilitate conversations. The guest of honour sits to the right of the host. If you are hosting, use personalized ornaments that can double up as gifts for your guests to take home.


For B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Booze) partys don’t sample from others’ bottles, unless invited to do so. If your beverage is best served cold, bring a small cooler with ice for your drinks.

Cleaning up

As host, wait until all guests have gone. Bring in used plates and utensils and leave them on the counter. If you need to wash dishes and utensils to serve all your courses, consider using disposable plates or accept a friend’s offer for an extra set. Don’t be afraid to “mix and match”. I love it!


Attending the party solo and not sure how to mingle? Look for people that are having a good time. Ask “May I join you?” Introduce yourself with your first and last names. Add how you know the host. Ask “How are you spending the holiday season?”. Newly met acquaintances eyes will shine as they speak about loved ones and favorite activities.

Electronic invitations

They are eco-friendly and perfectly acceptable. They also make party planning easy, quick and even economical.

Food dilemmas

Allergies are the guest’s responsibility. Inform your host when accepting the invitation. Restrictions that are based on a medical condition or on philosophical values should also be stated, especially if it is a small gathering. Preferences or dislikes should not be mentioned. It is just one meal. Indulge in your favorites when you get back home or eat before the party. If you are contributing a dish, list all ingredients on a card and provide it to your host.


When your host pumps up the volume, encourages you to get up and show your moves, karaoke to carols or play Pictionary, be a good sport and make the effort. Don’t be a party pooper.


We are Canadians, eh! We love being polite. It is perfectly acceptable to ask hosts if they need help. If they say “No, thank you.” Don’t insist. As host, when accepting help, be very specific. Demonstrate what you are expecting; cut a few bread slices or lay one place setting.


Presenting your spouse, children or friends is gracious and avoids awkward moments or questions about a person’s link to you. Use first and last names. Add who they are in relationship to you and the host. Complete the introduction with what the two may have in common or state some cool facts about the two parties some they can connect.


They should not discriminate or offend anyone in attendance or not. They should be good for the ears of your 77-year-old grandma and your 7-year-old nephew. Keep it “G” rated.

Kicking out lingering guests

This is a slow gradual process. 1) Move the party to another room. 2) Offer coffee. 3) Bring down the volume of the music. 4) Blow out the candles and increase the lighting. 5) Ask if anyone needs transportation. And 6), this last step is rarely needed “Well it’s been a great party and tomorrow is a long day for us”, while yawning and stretching.

Leaving graciously

Don’t be the last to go. If fewer than three couples are left, do the full guest-by-guest good-bye round. When too many are still merrying, exit after thanking your host. Thank again the next day by calling or emailing.


Chatting is like a cha, cha, cha. Your conversation should have good rhythm and go back and forth. Prepare topics of general interest, fun facts and positive news. Listen more than you talk

“No” to negativity

Don’t make negative comments. Don’t join in gossip. Point out positives. Compliment people. Spread good cheer.

Offering host gifts

This custom is to disengage you from having to reciprocate an invitation within the season. Host gifts are typically perishable items or seasonal accessories. They should be opened in front of guests. A wine bottle will not be served, unless it was brought as a contribution to the meal. Flowers are best sent before, so they may be included in the decor, or afterwards as a “thank you” gift.

Posting comments and pics

Hosts may not want you to post for fear of offending friends that were not invited. While other hosts may even create a #Hashtag. Ask first, then click and post.

Quitting a group or guest

Is as easy as waiting for a lull in the conversation “It was lovely catching up with you”. Don’t say you are going to the washroom or bar. “Why?” you wonder. They may decide to follow you… You can also choose to introduce that person to another guest and let them get acquainted as you move on.


This is not an option. It is a must. Your host is waiting to hear from you to finalize plans.

Simplify your contribution

When the meal is a potluck, arrive with everything you need to serve your dish. This can include leaving behind newly bought serving dishes and utensils as host gifts.


Don’t arrive early. Give your host all the time they need to open the door without stress and a smile. If you are running later than the acceptable 15 minutes’ grace period, call don’t text to give your host your newly expected arrival time.


The 24-inch rule to set the table. There should be 24 inches from the center of one plate to the others on each side. There is also 24 inches from the edge of the table to the back of a guest’s chair.


Face-to-face moments. Silence your technology. Focus on making real time memories.

What to wear

Hosts, simplify your guests’ choices by stating a dress code on your invitation. Guests, in the absence of a dress code, use your judgment based on: the occasion, the location and the time of day. When in doubt find out and call your host.

X-tra guest

Never show up with an extra guest, pet or children. Check with your host first.

Yule DYK (Did you know)

Definition, as per the Merriam-Webster dictionary: The feast of the nativity of Jesus Christ: Christmas. Origin and Etymology: Middle English yol, from Old English geōl; akin to Old Norse jōl, a pagan midwinter festival.

Zest the party

Throw kindness around like confetti, spread the holiday spirit, be a party energizer not enervator.

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The ABCs of Holiday Partying