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Home for the Holidays Etiquette
Brush up with these 12 tips and show your hosts how well-behaved your family can be.

When you travel home for the holidays, follow these simple rules to keep the spirit merry.

Crackling fires, hot cocoa and warm blankets. These are some of the memories that we think of when we anticipate going home for the holidays. Fast-forward to reality and the holiday mood can quickly turn as cold as the weather when family members all come together, especially in tight living quarters.

The following are some family holiday tips that will lighten the season and sweeten the holiday mood.

1. Anticipate change. If you come home to find your childhood bedroom has been turned into an elaborate closet, compliment your mother on her good fortune and excellent taste in shoes.

2. Discuss the sleeping arrangement in advance. If you know that your son or daughter plans to bring a date home this holiday season, discuss in advance what you are and are not comfortable with before your guests walk in the front door with suitcases and pillows in tow.

3. Donít forget your fancy toiletries. It would be Scrooge-like to expect dear ole dad to drive across town just to purchase your "hard-to-get" favorite shampoo. Come prepared to take care of yourself with your own toothpaste, toothbrush, hair gel and deodorant; or be content with the industrial size bottle of dandruff shampoo that is diluted with water to keep grandpas hair clean and his scalp baby soft.

4. Don't criticize. If issues arise with a family member, handle them in private and away from the rest of the family. Family feuds are normal, family brawls should be avoided.

5. Keep your comments to yourself. Even if you notice grandma has put on a few pounds and she has already had several too many slices of fruitcake, bite your tongue and concentrate on and your own waistline.

6. Donít surprise your host with uninvited guest(s). If your holiday plans were to go home, but suddenly you find yourself with unexpected houseguests of your own, either call your host and ask if he or she would mind a few extra mouths to feed or consider staying home and hosting your own white Christmas.

7. Place cards are not negotiable. Never rearrange the holiday seating. Your host wants you to sit next to Aunt Edna for a reason and it is a courteous gesture to respect the seating arrangements.

8. Stay away from volatile subjects at the holiday table such as sex, politics and religion. Concentrate on catching up with the family and asking questions about what has transpired in their life during the past year. The more you allow others to talk about themselves, the better the conversationalist you will appear to be.

9. Offer to clean up after the meal. Just because you are back at "Momís house" doesn't mean you should let Mom do all the work. Roll up your sleeves and get moving.

10. Expect to be bored. Anticipate some down time and plan accordingly.

11. Rent a car. If you arrived by plane, train or bus, there may or may not be an extra car available. Spend the cash you saved on a hotel on a rental vehicle and take your host family out to dinner.

12. Don't overstay your welcome. A good houseguest arrives on time and leaves a few hours early! Donít forget the thank you note when you get back home.

Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @: www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.

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