Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas Day | How To Be A Gracious Guest

When you live in a different continent and thousands of miles away from your family, you will have to make your own Christmas tradition. Over the years, I've done an equal number of times when I spend the holiday with the family and when I stay in the London to enjoy some quiet time. And it is often when I choose to do the latter that my lovely friends would welcome me into their homes on Christmas Day.

So today, I thought I'd pen down a few reminders on how to be a gracious guest that will guarantee you another invite in the future. None of these is groundbreaking, but there is no harm in reinforcing the importance of being a gracious guest.

Firstly, always confirm your attendance. Try to do it as soon as you receive the invitation. This is not only for the headcount and logistic arrangements but also it sends the message that you truly want to spend the time with the host. If you leave it too late, not only the host will need to make last minute adjustments but also may feel that your last minute decision is due to lack of other options. Never make the host feels like they are the next best alternative.

On the day, show up on time and bring a gift. It doesn't have to be extravagant; it could be as simple as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. A cheese platter and a small dessert that can be shared with all the other guests always go down a treat as well from my experience, as long as you check with the host if it is ok for you to bring those. You want your gift to complement the menu that the host is serving and not outdo the hard work that the host had put in.

Another tip that my late mother taught me is, never turn up hungry. Yes, it is Christmas Day and it will be typical that your host will have prepared food enough to feed the village. However, it is always a good idea to have something small before you leave the house. It will avoid you feeling hangry in the event the party doesn't start on time for whatever reasons. But don't eat until you're too full that you cannot enjoy the food that had been prepared by the host because that would be wasteful (& rude).

Bring your personality and be in your best behaviour. Be cheerful, chatty and mingle with other guests. Get to know other people and their interests, and don't simply turn the conversation to yourself. In addition, don't try to top every joke and story with your version - it's not a competition. Especially in this day and age of social media, do not simply sit in one corner with your phone. If your host suggests to play a board game, join in the fun, even if you're not very good at it. Focus on participating instead of winning, and have a great laugh along the way.

Help out. I don't mean taking the vacuum cleaner and mop out. But if you see an empty glass, offer to top up the drink. In between courses, offer to take the dirty plates and cutlery's to the kitchen but be sure to check with your host first. Some people like things done their way and may find that your assistance is in their way, but more often than not, offering a helping hand is usually accepted with arms wide open. I often offer to put the kettle on for coffee and tea partly because I like my coffee made a certain way (read: coffee snob). By offering to help I can assure that it is made to my taste.

Finally, know when you excuse yourself and don't overstay the welcome. Hosting is hard work and takes a lot of energy. The work often starts way before the actual day of hosting itself. So pay attention to cues and leave at an appropriate time so that the host can have some rest after all the hard work to ensure everyone had a good time.

I hope you find these reminders useful and no matter where you are and whom you're spending your Christmas with, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! x

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