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20-40-60 Etiquette---Holiday family issues

by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Athey Published: November 11, 2013


 EDITOR’S NOTE: The holidays can be stressful. 20-40-60 etiquette offers some perspective on various questions related to Thanksgiving etiquette.We know holiday situations can be sticky, as seen by one of our first questions submitted for consideration which was “Is it OK to openly wear a loaded gun to family get-togethers?” We didn’t know the answer to that one, but are our answers to others.

QUESTION: Is it time to gather in smaller family groups for the holidays? My grandmother has three children with children and grandchildren of their own, so we also are exchanging gifts with everyone, including second cousins, and the number can be 25 to 30 people. Should individual families host the holiday events on their own and let grandmother go to whichever ones she chooses? If we do that, how do we tell everyone?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: Are you complaining about too many people or are you complaining about buying too many gifts? If it is the latter then I would suggest drawing names for presents. If you would like to have a smaller holiday this year or next year, then you should. No need to get everyone on board, some people might like the big group.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Changing things up sounds like great idea! As much fun as it is to get together over the holidays for many extended families, it gets harder for one person to entertain as families grow. Can you alternate houses each year? Is there a way of getting together without the burden being placed on one person — by going potluck, for example? What about drawing names for gifts? There are ways to bring this up without offending your family; it’s even easier to do that since you’re bringing it up on behalf of the person you feel is shouldering the burden — your grandmother. Start by asking your grandmother and her three children and let them discuss and make recommendations for the next year.

HELEN’S ANSWER: I love the holidays and families are a major part of the celebrations. Some families I know draw names for the festivities. Some set limits on what people spend on gifts. If the size of the crowd is too large to have the event in a home, then check out restaurants for dinner with people paying their own dinner check. Another friend I know has everyone in the family come by an open house from 5 until 7 p.m. with no gifts involved, just family. There are creative ways to get together.

If you are really ready to split the families in smaller group, discuss it with your grandmother, and your siblings. They might be thinking the same way you are and your grandmother might also be ready to visit each family and have quality time with each group. Communicate. You never know what someone else might be thinking.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe, former Miss America and television anchor: Ah, family, the gift that can keep on giving for generations. I grew up going to my grandparents’ home every Christmas along with my mother’s five siblings, spouses and their children. The whole pack of us shared Mama May and Oklahoma Dad’s one-bathroom home. None of us can remember how we did it but memory brands it as one of the greatest growing up experiences.

In time, we had to change because of our expanding families and grandparents’ age. Then, our immediate family gathered at my parent’s home and we managed to continue that tradition until my mother’s death at the age of 93.

Realities require changes in family traditions. Being deliberate and caring in the adjustment process is important. My opinion is that the decisions should come from the three older siblings of this family in consultation with their mother. Hopefully, a unanimous plan could be reached and then each sibling could share it with her children. Consider name drawing for gifts to cut down on expenses.

When our family became more complicated with marriages and sharing holidays, Mother always reminded us that Christmas was whenever we could get together. In other words, don’t let the details of the holiday ruin the most important part — to love each other — and to deliberately strengthen those precious family ties. A big part of who we are is learned in the midst of family gatherings. They’re worth the effort. Blessings!


QUESTION: We are planning to go to an out-of-town relative’s house for the holidays. Do you think it is rude if we ask them if we can bring our dogs?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: I am assuming you have more than one dog and that they are fully grown. Yes, it is rude. I don’t understand why people don’t like boarding their dogs. Leave your dogs at home; they don’t need to go everywhere with you, unless you are my grandmother. In that case, we would love for you to bring Daisy, Grandma!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I don’t think you can show up at a relative’s house with dogs, even though it is costly to board them. The dogs will be out of their routine, as will you, and they can add to the chaos of what should be meaningful family time. Unless your relative has mentioned the dogs are welcome, I would leave them at home.

HELEN’S ANSWER: The dogs should stay at home. They would only add to the confusion of the holiday.

One time, we took a puppy to our in-laws for the holiday and quickly learned that although they had dogs, extra dogs were a chore for everyone. Since that time we have left the dogs at home. Everyone is happier.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Chuck Ainsworth, local business leader: There are a lot of unknown facts surrounding this question. Without those facts, the answer is “don’t ask.” If you ask, it puts everyone on the spot — if they say yes but don’t want the dogs — they’re mad; if they say no — you’re mad. If you are close enough to this family to be invited for the holidays, I am sure they know you have dogs and would have included them in the invitation. Holidays can be stressful — adding dogs to the equation could be a receipt for disaster on a variety of levels. Happy holidays!


QUESTION: If you travel more than 12 hours, via car or plane, should you be expected to bring a dish to the holiday gathering?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: No, but I expect you to help out in the kitchen by cooking or cleaning up.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I think it sounds like it’s too hard to travel with a Thanksgiving dish, but you can contribute in other ways.

Perhaps you can get the ingredients when you arrive and cook the dish there, or you could offer to pay a portion of the cost of cooking the meal.

You can also help with cleanup. Just offer to help with something if you can before you travel so everyone knows what the expectation is. As long as you’re going with the understanding that your host is putting in as much effort to prepare the meal as you are to get there and act accordingly, you should be on good terms and enjoy the meal.

HELEN’S ANSWER: No. If you are traveling 12 hours, that is enough. You can offer to help with the cooking, if you want to, when you arrive. My daughter from Dallas knows that cooking is not my forte and generously brings food to cook or eat. She is an excellent cook, plus Weight Watchers instructor, so the food is also healthy. But Dallas is 3½ hours away from Oklahoma City, and not 12 hours.

The family will just be happy to see you and would probably tell you not to bring anything. Happy holidays!

GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman night news director and University of Central Oklahoma Media Ethics Chair: Heck no! Travel is a chore in itself. They should be happy to see that you made the effort to visit them. However, it’s customary to bring a bottle of wine, flowers or a boxed dessert — all things you can pick up on the way from the airport.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Athey
Freelance Writer
Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a...
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