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Holidays ahead!

Posted by Robin Abrahams  November 20, 2012 07:30 AM

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I'll be on WGBH 89.7 "Boston Public Radio" today, talking holiday etiquette and family dilemmas -- and taking calls. Tune in! And if you've got a holiday question but hate how your voice sounds on radio, hold on to it until tomorrow, when I'll be doing a live chat here from noon-1pm.

Shortly after I became Miss Conduct I wrote a longish piece for the magazine on holiday-season advice. It's behind the paywall now, but I think I'll smuggle it out a piece at a time, so that I can hear your thoughts on it.

Here's how it begins:

ASKING AN ADVICE COLUMNIST HER OPINION of the holiday season is rather like asking an emergency room physician her opinion of motorcycles. We rarely hear about the times when things work out well. I have never, for example, gotten a letter like this:

Dear Miss Conduct, I just wanted to write and tell you what a great Christmas our family had. All the family members loved their presents, and the shopping came in well under budget this year! Uncle Sid from the Jewish side made his famous latkes and sang a hilarious version of "The Hanukkah Song." Chandra, our new sister-in-law from India, looked beautiful in her red-and-green sari and said she was amazed at how much Christmas and Diwali have in common. The kids behaved like little angels and, best of all, Mom stayed sober the whole day!

No, I don't get very many letters like that. Don't get me wrong: The holiday season can inspire joy, generosity, playfulness, indulgence, nostalgia, spiritual renewal, and love. But it can also be difficult for the bereaved, members of minority religions, the unhappily single, the unhappily married, those who desperately want children and don't have them, people with difficult children, people with difficult parents, people who are broke or in debt, those struggling with their weight, recovering addicts, teachers and students facing end-of-semester deadlines, anyone who works in the retail, travel, or service industries, and everyone with close friends or relatives in any of the above categories.

In short, all of us. Which is why approaching the holidays in the spirit of Murphy's Law, grim though it may sound on the surface, ultimately makes sense.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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Curious if you should say "bless you" to a sneezing atheist? How to host a dinner party for carbophobes, vegans, and Atkins disciples—all at the same time? The finer points of regifting? Ask it here, or email

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