Making the Most of Your Holiday Parties

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
- Oscar Wilde

'Tis the season to socialize. No matter what your faith, this time of year brings with it invitations for both personal and professional parties. With all of the end-of-year and holiday obligations, it is easy to forget that these get-togethers are a time to catch up with friends and family, a time for fun. Here are some suggestions to help with your holiday socializing.

Go On A Party Diet ~ Just because you have been invited to a zillion parties does not mean you need to accept every invitation. Sit down with your calendar to see where these social obligations fall. Choose the ones you want to attend (or must attend). Then fill in other engagements as appropriate. Keep in mind the travel time to each event if you plan to attend more than one in a day.

What To Wear ~ Don't wait until a few hours before the party to decide what you are going to wear! For professional events, be sure you still look, well, professional. I know this seems rather obvious, but some people can get carried away and show a bit too much skin, or wear an outfit not quite appropriate for a work gathering. For other events, consider the venue. If the party is being held at a house that is also home to three white dogs, you may want to reconsider wearing anything black. If you are about to attend a cocktail party, be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes as you will be standing for a few hours. If the party is a 7 course sit-down meal, you may want something loose fitting. Remember, if your clothes are comfortable, you will be better equipped to enjoy the festivities.

Have A Plan ~ Before going to the party, know why you are attending. Is this a professional function where you need to put in some face time? If so, plan to arrive after the party starts and before it ends. Is this a family meal? You may be obligated to stay for the whole event. If you are attending with someone else (friend, date, spouse), discuss your anticipated departure time in advance. You may even want to have a discrete signal to let the other person know it is time to go.

Bring The Entertainment ~ This, of course, is a necessity if you are the parent of small children. The host cannot be expected to have a closet full of age appropriate toys. But this also applies for multi-hour (or in the case of family, multi-day) events. Bring your favorite board game. (Cranium makes a great hostess gift as well as providing some entertainment!!) If you have traveled recently, bring pictures of your vacation to share with the group. Maybe you are musical and can coordinate a sing-a-long. Activities help dispel boredom, avoid fights and pass the time pleasantly.

Play 'Keep The Peace' ~ This game can be played with someone at the party or a sympathetic friend. The way it works is that if you know there will be someone at the party who you truly do not enjoy spending time with, any time you react positively to something the person does or says -- when your first instinct is to scream -- you get a point. On the way home from the party compare incidents, reactions and points. The person who kept the peace, even when instigated, is honored with bragging rights until the next party.

Remember, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of those you love. It is important to make these interactions as positive and as pleasant as possible.

Wishing you and yours all the best this December ~

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I overheard the company party planners talking about hanging mistletoe up at the annual holiday party. I do not want spoil the fun, but there are very few people in my office I want to kiss. How can I handle this situation?

A: You are correct to think that mistletoe has no place at an office party. This is a situation that could result in bad behavior and/or a sexual harassment lawsuit. But since you are merely an attendee, my advice for you is to stay as far away from the mistletoe as possible.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ My wife and I used to split the holiday time equally between our families, but now that we have young kids we do not want to spend the day in the car. How do we choose who to see AND how do we let the other family know?

A: You are facing the classic dilemma. There are many potential solutions; you will need to choose which works best for you. 1. Spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other. Then switch the next year. 2. Choose other holidays to spend with family during the year and keep December just for you, your wife and kids. 3. Offer to host the holidays and invite both sides. No matter what you decide, be sure to let your families know with as much time as possible so they are able to adjust their plans accordingly. You and your wife will need to provide a strong united front and be ready to weather some familial guilt.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ As a recovering alcoholic, this time of year can be tough for me. I do not mind not drinking, but I do mind people constantly asking. What should I tell them?

A: While you may not be drinking alcohol, you certainly can drink another beverage. Make sure to have a glass in hand. People need not know if you are drinking tonic water or a gin and tonic. If they specifically ask you why you are not drinking alcohol, keep your answer vague and brief, and then change the subject. (i.e. "This really is fine for now. Say, I hear your daughter is the star of her track team.")

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ My mother-in-law makes the same bland meal every year. While I do enjoy spending time with the family, I am already dreading having to sit at the supper table. Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes, but life is full of tough choices. The easy answer is for you to eat before you go to your mother-in-law's. This way you are not obligated to eat out of hunger and you can enjoy spending time with family. You can also offer to bring a dish. This way you know there will be at least one thing you can look forward to eating. Or, it could be that your mother-in-law is actually tired of always having to host the holiday. After this year's dinner, pick a quiet time to speak with her and offer to host for the following year. You may be surprised at her answer.