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  • Kim Purscell

Christmas Etiquette

Etiquette is simply a set of unwritten rules of polite appearance, behavior and communications for specific situations — especially during the holidays. If everyone knew and practiced these polite rules, Christmas and shopping would be much less hectic and stressful.

Joy, cheer, fun, and reverence should fill our hearts and minds while we shop for gifts that we’ll give others in remembrance of the birth of Jesus. The way we interact with strangers while shopping should be no less gracious than how we interact with them at a church service or a friend’s party.

Here are some etiquette pointers for making your shopping merry and bright:

  1. It starts at the door! Whether you’re a lady or gentleman, hold the door open for the person(s) behind you, and stand behind it to allow them plenty of room to enter. As they walk through the door: smile, make eye contact, and say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

  2. To the right please! With all the extra people in the aisles and walkways of the store or mall, make sure to walk to your right, just like the rules of the road. We walk on the same side that we drive on in the US. If there are two or more in your group, try to walk one behind the another.

  3. If you accidentally bump into someone, say something that clarifies that you had no intention of doing so. “Please excuse me. I’m sorry I bumped into you.” Say it even if they bumped into YOU and didn’t apologize. It shows them how to be gracious.

  4. A large part of the etiquette of Christmas shopping is to extend the gift of grace! Be patient with store associates, and other shoppers.

  5. Remember your “magic words” and help spread the magic of Christmas! Words like “please, thank you, you’re welcome, may I”.

Recently while shopping, I noticed that even when cashiers and clerks greeted customers kindly, they were often ignored, or at best were given a sterile “hey” back. Its distressing to see how rude people have become.

So, here’s my Christmas challenge to you: use these 5 points of etiquette consistently and conspicuously. Be sure to show gratitude to your cashiers, and loudly to the clerk say something like, “You’ve been so kind! Thank you for making my shopping so pleasant. I hope everyone is as kind to you as you’ve been to me. Thanks again, and Merry Christmas!”

It will make the cashier’s day much brighter. Plus, the appreciation shown to the cashier will hopefully set the next customer up as eager to experience a similar positive interaction. Attitudes, moods, and expectations are contagious, and if we speak kindness, we generate kindness. It’s one of the best gifts we can give at Christmas or any time.

Other Christmas Etiquette Pointers:

Allow the children to help decorate the Christmas tree, no matter how unstylish the result may be, it will be a fun experience for one and all. Focus on graciousness rather than perfection.

Christmas Cards: Don’t send cards before the 1st December and post no later than the 21st December. Always put the correct postage stamp on!

Plan the Big Day: Know when you will open gifts, have a timings plan for the preparation and serving of the main meal, schedule nap times, and if a family fall-out is likely, you may wish to implement an escape plan!

Christmas Traditions: Always remember Christmas traditions are vital for the perfect Christmas. For me, it’s not Christmas without listening to or attending the Messiah. For others, its leaving cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. No matter the tradition – it keeps Christmas alive in our hearts.

Inviting Friends to your Christmas Party: Compile your guest list; send out invitations several weeks in advance. The invitation should include the date, times (beginning and ending), purpose for the event, venue or location, information on the format of food and beverage service (hors d-oeuvres, pot-luck, formal sit down, etc), dress code and instructions on how to respond.

Carol Singing: Don’t be rude and remember to embrace this tradition, even if your carol singers sound more like the neighborhood cats --- do cherish the moment. If you are doing the singing and knocking on people’s doors, remember that they may have small sleeping children, and some may have dogs or cats that will bark along!

Appearance etiquette: Let's remember when “great Aunt Ruth” comes around wearing that same horrible outfit that she’s worn for the past 15 years, don’t turn up your lip, roll your eyes, or say something insensitive. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Either that, or she may not have the means to buy something new. So, smile warmly, welcome her and tell her how lovely it is to see her.

Gift Cupboard: I recommend accumulating a selection of gifts over the year which you can give anyone should an occasion arise that you unexpectedly require a present. Also, make sure that you always have scotch tape, scissors and a selection of wrapping paper and bows.

Christmas Social Media: Beware of what you post and what your friends and family post. Avoid anything embarrassing, or at the very least get the person’s blessing before posting said photo.

Post-Christmas: Write thank you letters with care and put feeling into it. They should go out within 3 to 5 days, and no longer than one weeks.

Until next time, keep doing what you were put on Earth to do — bless others by being authentically you…by adding etiquette, it puts you at your best! Merry Christmas!

Kim Purscell is a licensed etiquette instructor and protocol consultant, an accomplished speaker, and experienced business executive. Ms. Purscell’s passion is to help people move upward in the workplace by improving their professional image, behavior and communication skills; and empower clients to present themselves with power, confidence, and credibility anywhere in the world. Ms. Purscell can be reached at

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