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November 23, 2006

In Search for the Secrets of Holiday Etiquette

Tablesetting The fact that I have recently become very interested in understanding etiquette is quite comical because those who know me understand that I don't have time for etiquette. Chasing after three boys makes it hard to sit down for a proper meal, have a proper conversation, send written thank-you notes (I use email instead) and sometimes even have a chance to say hello to my friends. I have resorted to making my own rules. But I found out I am not alone.

In this morning's New York Times, an article titled "Pass a Drumstick, and an Olive Branch" identified the problem:

"Americans as a whole have lost touch with the ritual of a shared homemade meal. Although we eat home a lot, the food is often from restaurants or the prepared foods section of the grocery store. Families eat in shifts and leave the television on......No wonder we have no idea how to behave on Thanksgiving."

The article also mentioned the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont. When I visited the site I realized you can email etiquette questions. I am sure they must have a whole team devoted to family issues! There is a section on holiday manners for children. And just in case that is not enough, Peggy Post (who married into the Post family) recently published the book "Excuse Me, but I was Next...How to Handle the Top 100 Manners Dilemmas".

Another article on the same page of the New York Times, "Cutting Through Holiday Jams With Etiquette as Your GPS," presented a compilation of advice from three etiquette and party specialists. The list even includes updated problems like what to do with electronic gear:

"Avoid the cellphone problem by cheerfully requiring everyone to place electronic gear in a basket upon arrival."   

All of this information completely overwhelmed me. Especially the section on cheerfully removing electronic gear from my guests. Which in Silicon Valley could cause major meltdowns from grown men and children. So I decided to just start with the section on kids and thank-you notes. I did not find any rules on email thank-you notes. Which is probably for the best because that is the one thing I hoped would be acceptable etiquette for busy parents. Or maybe that is just another symptom of my crackberry habit.

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