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9 Tricky Etiquette Scenarios for Getting Through the Holiday Season

Family time, traditions, comfort food, lit-up kids’ faces … and, inevitably, drama. Avoid holiday mishaps with this guide to basic etiquette from advice guru Jeanne Marie Laskas.

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“I want to adopt a more low-key approach to the holidays, is there a polite way to tell friends and family?”

Say you’re taking a break from the excess to celebrate the season, and create a gift-giving plan that suits you. You can’t control what others choose to do, but you can feel good about starting a less-is-more trend. These are the tips you need to cut back on holiday gifts without seeming “grinchy”!

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Times are tough. Do I have to give my boss and coworkers a holiday present?

No, but remember: Times will get a lot tougher without that job. Why risk losing your luster? Show your gratitude at holiday time with a small gesture—cookies, a card, or an ornament. Learn some simple tips for navigating the office holiday party.

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I wasn’t invited to a friend’s New Year’s party. I’m crushed! Can I say something?

No. The chance that it’s an oversight does not outweigh the risk that it’s not—in which case everyone will feel icky and you’ll look pathetic. Find something else to do on New Year’s, and keep a curious eye on that friendship in 2019.

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My colleagues always wish me a merry Christmas, but I don’t celebrate the holiday. What do I say?

Say, “Thank you. Same to you.” Think of those wishes as a general greeting akin to “Have a nice day,” another saying that can set your teeth on edge if you let it.

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I received a present that was clearly re-gifted (torn box, missing instructions). Is it rude to say something?

Yes, unless you say, “Thank you for the gift. I love it.” Someone thought of you, and remember what counts: It’s the thought. If you’re considering re-gifting yourself, here’s what you need to know to pull off a shameless re-gift.

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If someone sends me a holiday card in the mail, do I have to reciprocate?

No. Adding people to your holiday card list is about reaching out, not keeping score.

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My kid’s classmate told him there is no Santa. How do I maintain the magic?

Don’t lie. And tell him you believe in Santa (don’t you?) because there’s a little bit of Santa in everyone. Here are some more tips for breaking the news about Santa to your kids.

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I’m not married and have a crush on a new coworker. Is it weird to give a holiday gift?

It’s a risk and could get sticky. But there’s no better time than the holidays to give love a whirl. Get a gift card to a local coffee shop and see if your heartthrob takes the hint and invites you to share a cup.

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I mailed gifts to friends out of state and didn’t get a reply or a thank-you. Can I say something?

If you want to be certain they got the gifts, by all means ask. If you’re trying to teach your friends some manners, forget it. Read on for pieces of gift-giving etiquette everyone should follow.