8 Holiday Mistakes That Almost Certainly Will Get You An "Oh, Bless Your Heart" Response

Study up before you attend or host an event this most wonderful time of the year.

'Tis the season to be jolly—not to be folly when celebrating the holidays.

"Holidays seem to always bring out the best—and sometimes the worst—in peoples' behavior. As we begin to head into the season in several years without a pandemic lockdown—fingers crossed— perhaps it's time for a refresher on event and party etiquette," says Edward Perotti, the owner of EP Events & Experiences, who has hosted events across the globe for more than 27 years.

There are rarely "always" or "nevers" in terms of relationships, especially since "the way that you interact with people is almost always a one-size-fits-one situation," according to Celeste Headlee, a Washington, DC-based journalist, radio host, professional speaker and author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. Still, there are some general best practices to consider to help everyone in your circle believe that It's a Wonderful Life.

8 Holiday Mistakes To Avoid, According to Etiquette Experts

We've made our list and checked it twice; these pro tips will ensure your words, actions, and presence are a gift to all you meet.

1. Bringing up controversial topics

The old adage rings true: Stay away from politics and religion.

"The holidays are already stressful, and you may have family or friends coming by who have beliefs or theories you do not agree with. So it's best to keep all those opinions to yourself. Instead, allow the holiday gathering to be about memories and stories," Perotti suggests. "This will keep the event light, fun and proper."

To foster positive conversation, ask each person to write down a favorite holiday memory with someone present at the event, then take turns reminiscing.

If a heated topic does arise, try to lead the conversation to new territory ASAP.

"Most of the holiday etiquette fails that I have seen relate to a topic of conversation that someone persists in pursuing despite the fact that it's clear no one else wants to talk about it, or that it's becoming an argument. As a result, someone will get upset, and when people get upset, or if they have something to prove, or they're simply passionate about a topic, they'll just keep pushing it," Headlee says.

This means the speaker is essentially putting their own emotions above everyone else in the room—which can definitely put others (especially the conflict-averse) in an uncomfortable place.

2. Overlooking holidays that you don't typically celebrate

Be a guest of substance and civility with knowledge of cultural holidays other than your own, recommends Belle DuChene, agency director and adjunct professor of strategic communications in Des Moines, Iowa. Before the season begins in earnest, brush up on the dates, values, and traditions associated with religious or cultural holidays other than your own.

"Intel about everything from Christmas and Hanukkah to Kwanzaa and the Chinese New Year not only improves your etiquette as a host, a guest, and a human, but it also decreases the chance you'll commit an unintentional faux pas or share a tone-deaf gift, serve an off-limits food option, or show up in inappropriate dress," DuChene says. "It's also great fodder for small talk at get-togethers—and is just plain polite."

3. Forgetting to ask important questions

Speaking of polite, Headlee says that one of her best etiquette tips for any time of year is "when in doubt, ask." Don't presume.

"You can say, 'Hey, is it okay to take some leftovers home?' Or 'Can I help you wrap things up?' Instead of presuming that everyone uses the same rules, just ask. If there's ever a doubt in your mind, just ask. It's so much less awkward to ask something than to be sitting there thinking about it and worrying about it and wondering," Headlee says.

The same holds true when before you've even arrived if you're visiting a friend, family member, or workplace event host.

"They're putting effort into having you there, so I almost always contact them and ask if there's anything I can bring or if there's anything I can do," Headlee adds. "Now, most people, especially in the South, will immediately say no, but I often will contact them just before I go and say, 'Is there anything that you need last minute?'"

This allows them to get a hand with anything they forgot, such as extra ice, or to round out the menu with an extra bottle of wine.

4. Showing up empty-handed

If it's within your budget, a small, personal gift is a thoughtful touch this time of year. One of DuChene's co-workers kept a "gift closet" for just this purpose: to stock small items suited for grabbing before running out to an event. Think: baskets of beautiful candles, bottles of wine, and gift cards to a spa or nail salon.

"Gift cards used to be considered impersonal, but knowing which venue is close to your host's home or work and sharing that one is incredibly thoughtful. Plus, if you are attending more than one event, it's a great way to save your shoulder by not needing to haul around large packages all night," DuChene says.

If you do opt to bring something like a beverage for the host to enjoy later, "for rockstar status, consider showing up with two options: one that is alcohol and one that is non-alcoholic," DuChene says, such as one regular wine and one spirit-free bottle of bubbly, or a six-pack of ginger beer and six-pack of beer. "Not only will you be on-trend and uber thoughtful, but seen as unforgettably clever to both the host and their guests!"

5. Being a food pusher

Just because Aunt Ida's turkey is always dry doesn't give you permission to bring an alternative protein to trump hers.

"Unless you're asked by the host or hostess, don't ever bring a dish. This could easily be interpreted as you disliking the host's cooking or food choices," Perotti says. Even if it's not cooked to Ina Garten levels of perfection, "compliment her and eat what is put in front of you, like your mama taught you."

6. Regifting

If you're going to donate, sell, or pass along something unique that was gifted to you, "make 100 percent sure the gifter will never, ever see it pop up on a donation rack, resell app, or in use by another person," DuChene advises. "You'll also want to destroy any evidence, so make sure there are no cards or tags still attached."

To avoid any possibility of this happening, simply accept the gift with grace, and find a way to make it your own. A vase that's not your style makes a lovely watering pot, or an oversized sweater can become part of a cozy winter PJ set.

7. Avoiding events for fear of conflict

Despite the extensive nature of this list, the holidays aren't as difficult as many people think, Headlee confirms.

"Many people avoid holiday gatherings because they're afraid they're going to get into a fight. Yet when that's researched, about eight percent of people or fewer actually get into a political argument. It's very rare," she says. "In general, humans behave themselves when in public. So don't be afraid about the holidays."

8. Overlooking the thank yous

A graceful end to any gathering: gratitude. Authentic compliments and kind words can be among the best presents of all, Headlee believes.

"Saying thank you, telling someone that their centerpiece looks beautiful, raving about the food, complimenting the space—all of these can show appreciation," she says.

Whether you're the host or the guest, say "thank you" to your companions for sharing the precious holiday time. Then if you were the guest or received a gift, be sure to follow up with a thank you note. (Psst…here are 50 thoughtful messages to consider for a meaningful thank you card.)

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