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Holiday advice, part III ... plus some housekeeping

Posted by Robin Abrahams  December 6, 2012 07:34 AM

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Happy weekend, everyone! Starting tomorrow, I'm off to the midwest for a few days, to visit the ConductMom and a whole big passel of cousins. Family time!

Hanukkah starts Saturday night, so happy first night for my Jewish readers. I should pick up a dreidl and some Hanukkah gelt today so I can teach my little grandcousins how to play. I'm Jewish now, but my family was Christian, and I'm amused to report that when I was a little kid, my father of blessed memory would make me an Advent calendar for Christmas every year. An edible one. That he would make with Hanukkah gelt.

I had no idea at the time. Now I feel kind of guilty about it. We lived in a series of not-terribly-diverse midwestern towns; I'm sure that there were only a handful of Jewish families to begin with, and my father was out there buying up all the chocolate coins in town like they were hotels on Park Place.

In blog news, Impstrump mentioned that the chat didn't appear in an RSS feed until well after it had occurred. I'll start posting those a day in advance, when possible, so that doesn't happen anymore.

Lots of good comments on Monday's question! I agree about the necessity of keeping adult friendships independent of one's kids friendships. For me, the big question about including Rudegirl is to what extent this party is for the LW's kids. If it's really for them, like a birthday party, then they ought to have some say over the guest list. If it isn't, that should be made clear in everyone's mind. 

Finally, some more advice from my "Surviving the Holidays" piece:

Make the Preparations Part of the Celebration. Don't think of the holidays as events; think of each holiday as a process, and try to let the process be as social and entertaining as possible. Preparing for the holidays alone makes the work feel like chores and makes you feel isolated and resentful of all the people you're doing it for. So have some fun. Go present-shopping with friends and stop for lunch or a coffee or a cocktail somewhere along the line. Set aside evenings or weekend days for the whole family to bake, clean, and decorate together. If you live alone, invite friends over to wrap gifts and have hot chocolate - or crank some tunes, fix an indulgent snack, and turn the gift-wrapping (or online shopping) into a little party for one. Yes, of course these all sound like unbelievably dorky ideas that no urban hipster would ever do. That's because you must . . .

Admit That the Holidays Aren't About Good Taste . . . "Good taste" in the sense of kindness and sensitivity toward others, absolutely. But not "good taste" in the sense of albino-pumpkin-and-white-chrysanthemum Thanksgiving centerpieces or Christmas trees of Art Deco perfection that no yarn-and-Play-Doh kindergarten ornament will ever desecrate. If that's your thing, by all means have the holidays as you like and revel in your tasteful splendor. But if, deep down, you really want to wear reindeer sweaters and listen to Andy Williams, or go outside and bang pots and pans at midnight on New Year's Eve, or throw all the Hanukkah gelt down on a roll of the dreidel like a riverboat gambler - then the holidays are the time to let those nerdy impulses hold sway. When it's cold outside, baby, why be cool? The holidays are the one time of year we're allowed to regress and wallow in nostalgia and anti-hipness.

This goes for outdoor decorations as well. If you want splashy colored lights instead of tasteful white ones, go for it. If the theological weirdness of Santa and Rudolph worshiping at the manger makes your heart fill with Christmas joy, put 'em up. (Tasteful minimalists can express holiday-season love and tolerance by being patient with their gaudy neighbors.) Just one, quite serious, caveat: Gaudy or refined, all outdoor holiday decorations are utterly grotesque by early January. Please, take them down.

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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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