woman writing holiday cardsBy Arrica Elin SanSone
Some holiday traditions such as trimming the tree or lighting the menorah haven't changed much. But almost every other long-held custom has evolved. Shopping for gifts? Do it online in your PJs. Sending a card to your BFF? Done in ten seconds from your smartphone. "What doesn't change is our need for kindness and courtesy," says Cynthia Grosso, etiquette expert at the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette, Inc. in Charleston, SC. "Even in our fast-paced world, good manners matter because they make people feel valued, which makes you feel good, too." Here are the new holiday etiquette rules you must know (don't worry; they're more relaxed than the old ones!).
New rule 1: It's okay to send e-greeting cards.
"Many people send online cards because they want to be green and save time and money," says Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18 th Edition. "There's no reason you can't do it, though most of us still love receiving cards by mail." It's fine to split your list, too, sending traditional cards to some people (such as your Internet-averse grandma) and e-cards to others. But avoid sending bulk emails, which may end up in junk mail folders (and feel less personal, anyway).
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New rule 2: You can skip sending a holiday newsletter.
"It used to be standard to tuck these into cards, but this tradition is waning, perhaps because we're updated year-round via technology," says Rosalinda Randall, an etiquette consultant based in San Francisco, CA. If you do send a newsletter, keep it upbeat and brief (one to two pages max), not overly detailed (mention you had surgery, for instance, but not your difficult recovery) and send only to people who are genuinely interested in your family's news. You can also send it as an email attachment or a Facebook note in which you tag the people you'd like to read it.
New rule 3: Online invitations are okay for many holiday events.
"Evite and similar services are fine for casual parties," says Randall. "It also makes it easy for guests to respond immediately." If your event is formal or you want to make it feel more elegant, send invitations the old-fashioned way. "Getting something hand-addressed in the mail makes people feel special and sets the tone for your party," says Randall.
New rule 4: You can toast with water and without clinking glasses.
"It's a misconception that it's impolite to toast with water," says Post. If someone proposes a toast and you don't drink, "lift a glass of water or whatever's on the table in front of you," says Post. And did you know any guest can make a toast? Just keep it brief, thank the host for bringing everyone together, raise your glass and sip. As for the final step, clinking glasses is fun but optional; actually, it's never done at super-formal events, says Randall.
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New rule 5: A bottle of wine isn't the only good hostess gift.
Bringing a small present whenever you go to someone's house is still a good idea, says Post. But that token of gratitude doesn't have to be vino. If you know your hosts well, bring something that suits their interests, such as an upscale bottle of olive oil for cooks and a set of herb seeds for gardeners. If you don't know them well, opt for chocolates, jams, candles, decorative soaps, cocktail napkins or small serving pieces they're not likely to own, like canapé forks. No need to spend a lot, though. "It's not about the price. It's about showing your gratitude for being invited and for your host's hard work," says Grosso.
New rule 6: Regifting is okay in some circumstances.
While this practice causes some etiquette experts to cringe-"You're supposed to accept a gift with the generosity of spirit in which it was given. Regifting kills that," says Post-others admit there are ways to pull it off tactfully. For one, the item must be brand new. For another, you can't pass a present to someone who knows the original giver. You also must remove all traces of tags and cards. Finally, never regift something that was personalized or handmade. On the other hand, it's fine to give away a duplicate or wrong-sized item if you come clean by saying something like: "I received this as a gift, and I already have one/can't use it. Would you like it?" Just don't pawn it off as something you bought especially for that person.
New rule 7: You don't have to rush out to buy something for someone who's unexpectedly given you a gift.
Almost everyone has been in the awkward position of receiving a present when you don't have one for the giver. "Be gracious, say 'thank you' and leave it at that," suggests Randall. "Don't claim you forgot your gift for her at home or it's on back order. The person will know you're lying and that'll hurt her feelings even more." Instead, write a thank-you note and pick up a little something for her next event, like her birthday or a gathering at her house.
New rule 8: Be selective about what you share on social media during holiday-party season.
A well-meaning "thanks for the great party last night" or a photo of the revelry posted on Facebook or Twitter can upset people. "What if your host didn't invite someone and doesn't want them to know there was a party? Or you embarrass someone with certain photos?" says Post. "It's not appropriate to scoop your host's event. She may not want to feel like you're a roving reporter." Besides, isn't it better to live in the moment and just enjoy the party?
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New rule 9: It's fine to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Chanukah."
While "happy holidays" is never wrong, most etiquette experts agree that celebration-specific wishes are acceptable because they're "simply greetings of the season," says Randall. "Most people will respond in a positive way, even those who don't celebrate these holidays." But if anyone's offended by your greeting, offer a quick apology and move on.
New rule 10: A handwritten thank-you card is the best way to show your appreciation.
This rule is so old, it's new again. "These cards make the recipient feel good because you took the extra care to write it," says Grosso. Keep your message to a few sentences: Thank the person for the gift, mention how you'll use it or how thoughtful she is and sign off. If you open a gift in front of someone and thank them in person, it's not necessary to write a note, though it's always a kind response. Emailed thank-you notes are okay if it's your main form of communication with that person, but nothing beats an old-fashioned card.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.