Holiday etiquette

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So you receive an unexpected gift and you have nothing to give in return. Your eccentric uncle brings down the party by drudging up an old argument. You say "Merry Christmas!", only to learn the recipient of your intended holiday cheer doesn’t celebrate Christmas. All of these awkward holiday moments can be eased over, with advice from the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute. Our guests, Peter Post and Cindy Post Senning, will help us navigate tricky social questions around the holidays. We’ll also dig into the surprising life and times of their great-grandmother, etiquette maven Emily Post, who is the subject of a new biography.

Send us your etiquette questions!

Write us before the program and we’ll try to include your question or story in the show.


Also in the program, December isn’t just a holiday season for those who work in the tax industry. The end of the calendar year means taxpayers have some decisions to make about investment income, retirement planning and how to represent losses. We’ll learn what issues may come up for people this tax year that need to be addressed before December 31.

And we visit children’s author and illustrator Tracey Campbell Pearson, of Jericho. Her Vermont-focused books are read in classrooms and living rooms across the country.


Listener questions and comments:

Barbara in White River Junction:
I will be visiting my boyfriend’s family this Christmas. My dilemma is this: I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t know who will be there. I am a good baker and plan on bringing lots of goodies. Should I attempt to find out if there will be children there and focus on getting them a little something?


I would like to give my apartment building’s superintendent a Christmas gift. He’s terrific and he facilitated my renting my parking space this year! He sent us residents a Christmas card with his home address. I"d rather give him cash for the concreteness of the gift and to prevent him from having to go to the bank to deposit the money. But I’m not exactly keen on sending cash through the mail. What to do?

Last year I wanted to tip our postal carrier, but read on the web that postal employees cannot accept tips. Our letter carrier provides excellent service, so I would like to give something. Is it true that USPS employees cannot accept tips, and if so, should I give a small gift instead?

Is it appropriate to tip a hair stylist if they own the shop they work in? I am unclear of what to do in this situation. My understanding is that it is unecessary because they are setting their own price. However, I am unsure of what the appropiate etiquitte is and have always felt a bit uncomfortable.

Dylan, New York City:
I work right now in an eighth grade classroom in which all of the students except for one celebrates Christmas. We have an electric menorah in class, and that student has explained to the class what Hanukkah is about. However, one of the students asked me if we could decorate the back wall with a large construction paper Christmas tree display and Santa. Also, another student asked me if it was OK for her to bring a couple of gifts for students to class next Wednesday, because all of the students live in different parts of the city, and they won’t have the opportunity to see eachother again before Christmas. Is it appropriate to put up a Christmas display, considering the Jewish student? And is it OK to have a student bring in Christmas gifts for only 3-4 students in the class since she won’t have another opportunity?

We have a trash collection service, and we’ve never actually met any of the workers. Are we wxpected to give them a tip or gift at holiday time?

Fed in Windsor:
I’m sorry but this country is based on Christianity so say Merry Christmas and let whomever that might not pertain to speak up.

Fern in Waterbury Center:
What is a good way to let folks know you would prefer a donation to charity rather than a gift for the holiday?


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