The holidays require extra kind behavior as a courtesy to our family, friends and colleagues. Here our resident etiquette expert, Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD is on the scene to streamline the awkward process.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

During this time of year, we attend so many holiday events and many occur on the same evening. How’s the best way of attending them all without seeming rushed and party hopping?

Party Pleasers

Dear Party-Goer:

While it’s tempting to party-hop the night away, resist that urge because ‘making an appearance’ is so passé. Instead, ask yourself a few questions. If you are bringing your significant other to these parties, consider who else may be attending. Will you both mingle well with that crowd? Are you both looking to network, or just chill with BFFs and quaff adult beverages while catching up? Your answers will help you decide. If you’re going solo, consider how you’ll interact with guests at each party attend the parties. RSVP to each invitation no later than the ‘reply-by date’ or within 48 hours as a courtesy to the host.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We were planning to share Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s home since we’re unable to travel to our families this year. My parents just informed us they are now instead visiting us. Should I ask my friends if my parents may join?

Giving Thanks

Dear Thankful Guest,

As a guest at your friend’s home, contact the host and explain that you must unexpectedly change your plans and decline the invitation, with the specific explanation that your parents just advised they are visiting you as unanticipated out-of-town guests. Don’t expect an invitation for your parents, unless your friend knows them well and can accommodate additional guests for their holiday dinner table. Your explanation will provide the host with an opportunity to make a decision. If your friend graciously invites your parents, plan to arrive with an extra special personal gift your hostess will appreciate.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

It’s that holiday tipping time again, any quick guidelines for friends, family and colleagues?   

Great Gratuity

Dear Giving Tree,

In the US Americans use the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year to express gratitude with ‘gratuity’ or a holiday tip. In Canada, there’s Boxing Day on December 26th, a holiday that many Canadians use to tip those who make their lives easier.

In Mexico, there’s Aguinaldo (Ah-gee-nahl-doh), an annual Christmas bonus equivalent to at least 15 days wages that companies are required to pay their employees before December 20, just in time for the holidays. The Aguinaldo may be pro-rated if the employee has been with the company for less than a full year.

There’s no designated U.S. American holiday for end-of-year tipping, nor is there a federally-required monetary holiday bonus for employees. However, this time of year in November and December, tipping is standard across dozens of sectors.

Drafting your holiday tipping plan can be daunting, but fear not if you remember there’s no hard and fast rule about how much or who to tip in the U.S., so start with these five suggestions:

  1. Start with a budget: Calculate how much you’re willing and able to spend on 2017 holiday tips. Remember, holiday tipping is not an obligation. Consider alternatives to big spending to soften that January blow to the account balance.
  2. Make that list: Create a list of those you wish to tip, placing those who help you most frequently at the top. Your trusted housecleaner, nanny, or daycare center staff may receive more than an infrequent provider.
  3. Factor in routine tipping: For those you tip regularly at the time of service, consider offering a small present or a gift card to their favorite spot or a nearby café. Keep in mind local and regional customs, service quality and frequency, and relationship length.
  4. Creative alternatives: Handmade cards reflect genuine thoughtfulness. Shop for colorful cardstock and calligraphy pens. Specialty baked goods, luxury candles and soaps, fine tea or coffee, and floral arrangements are excellent alternatives to cash.
  5. Encourage child participation: They may want to make a gift for a babysitter, au pair, or nanny. Encourage them to make a drawing, card, or craft. Suggestions to pair with your child’s gift:
  •           Live-in nanny or au pair: a week’s pay
  •           Babysitter: evening’s pay
  •           Day care center staff: week or a month’s pay