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Holiday Season Etiquette

It's the time for meeting and greeting. The holiday season always brings with it parties, get-togethers and other social dos, necessitating the need for brushing up on one's social etiquette, particularly if the gathering is of a formal or professional nature, as in the case of an office party. Though room for mishaps is aplenty, with a little caution and awareness it shouldn't be so hard for party-goers or party-throwers to avoid the occasional faux pas. Read on to know more about the rules of the festive season

Pre-party Prep

Early Invitations: People's dates get booked very fast during the holidays, so make sure to inform your co-workers of the date, time and location well in advance so that they can plan accordingly. Don't forget to mention in the invitations if they can bring along spouses, significant others and family members.

RSVP: Anyone who has ever planned a party can tell you how frustrating it is when guest don't RSVP. Do your host a favor by informing them at the earliest, if you can make it or not, so that they can plan for the party appropriately.

Multiple Invites: It is quite likely during the holiday season that your social dates will clash and you might be invited to several occasions on the same day. If you choose to decline an invitation, simply say "Sorry, I can't make it." If you decide to double-booked for the evening, let your hosts know in advance that you can only stop by. However, it isn't nice to tell your host that you're leaving his party to go to another one.

Being "fashionably late" -- and showing up "just to make an appearance" can be an insult to your host.

Gifting: It is considered appropriate to bring a gift for your host, something simple preferably. Food is always your safest best, like a bottle of wine or maybe homemade treats like a batch of cookies or a cake. You could also try a holiday candle or a box of assorted chocolates. Flowers may seem appropriate but the downside of such a present is that your host will have to leave her guests to arrange them in a vase.

When someone unexpectedly gives you a present and you haven't gotten him anything, simply say thank you. It's not necessary to reciprocate, but you can send a thank-you card later or get something for that person next year. Don't make a big production of opening gifts in front of the crowd if not everyone has brought one.

Attire: If the invitation doesn't specify the type of attire, you can always call up and ask. You don't want to show up underdressed to a formal sit-down dinner. If it's strictly a professional party, don't go sparkling like a Christmas tree.

Party Powwow

Introducing: If you're bringing your partner or a date to your office party, plan in advance how you'll introduce him or her to prevent any awkwardness. It is perfectly polite to introduce someone by name only, if "partner," "girlfriend" or the like doesn't suit you. When you do introduce people, use their full names and give some background. It's considered good form to stand when meeting anyone new -- regardless of the genders of the people involved.

Conversation: To avoid conversational blunders, always keep a few conversation starters in mind. Think before you speak. Avoid questions that will elicit a yes/no answers. Phrase your questions in such a way that they generate detailed responses. Keep the conversation light and positive. Don't gossip and avoid controversial and touchy topics like politics and religion.

The Toast: The host or hostess offers the first toast at a formal occasion. A guest can also propose a toast and often does so to thank the host for bringing everyone together. Ideally a toast should be short and to the point. A joke or short story is OK, as long as it's clean. Practice beforehand if necessary.

Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol always tops the list of holiday etiquette faux pas. People who drink too much at office parties run the risk of harming their professional reputation. Many people often find themselves in regrettable situations after drinking too much all in the name of celebration. To avoid such embarrassments, it is best to either not drink at all or to limit one's intake and stay in control.

Table manners: The knife, spoon, and drink go on the right side of the plate and the fork and food items go on the left. Napkins go in your lap and are not to be used as handkerchiefs. Absolutely no nose blowing at the table. Learn to cut food properly unless you want to look like a klutz.

Remember to turn off your cell phone or set it to vibrate while eating. If you must make or receive a call, excuse yourself politely and handle it quickly and quietly.

Try to keep one hand free at all times so finish your drink or find a place to set it down before you hit the buffet table. A (clean, dry) hand should always be available to greet new people properly with a handshake.

Post Party Particulars

Thank yous: Write thank-you notes for the gifts you received and those who offered you hospitality during the holiday season. A verbal thank you is sufficient, an e-mail acceptable, but a hand-written note will surely make you stand out. Be sure to thank the host of your holiday office party, as well as any of the people who worked to plan the event

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