Do's and Don'ts of Holiday Etiquette

Do you have that friend who returns every gift she receives for Christmas? Do you write thank you letters to family members when they give you a gift? Here are some of the major do's and don'ts of holiday etiquette for the holiday season!

DO talk to extended family members if you want to scale down on expensive gifts. Figure out an alternative option for gift giving, such as drawing names, limiting gifts to a specific dollar amount, or a white elephant/dirty santa gift exchange. Most people are on some sort of budget and they will probably be relieved too!

DON'T be the girl who drinks too much at the holiday party. Whether you're an intern at the office party or the annual family get together, you will forever be seen as the drunk girl. Even if you have had drinks with or around those people before, the tasteful/classy bar is raised during the holidays. You won't regret not drinking too much, but you will regret hitting on your co-worker.

DO act like you love every gift you receive, even if you hate it. I tend to like and use most gifts I receive, but occasionally there's one that is either the wrong size, something I already own, or just absolutely horrible. It is perfectly acceptable to return those gifts to the store. HOWEVER, in the moment, you must always be polite and say thank you. Later on, when the person asks you how you like your gift, continue to be polite and say something like, "I really appreciated the sweater, but it was a little too big so I exchanged it." In the end, you got something you liked out of it, so there is no need to be rude or hurt someone's feeligns.

DON'T regift. This one comes directly from Peggy Post, a director of the Emily Post Institute. Her basic guidelines for regifting are: "First, you must be positive that the gift is something the recipient would love. Second, the item must be brand new and in its original package. And third, it shouldn't be something the original giver took great care to select just for you. An example: Regifting a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to a wine lover is okay. Regifting a crystal vase your mother brought you from Bermuda is not."

DO take gifts to party hosts. The gift can be small or simple, such as a bottle of wine or homemade cookies. Although the host most likely does not expect gifts, it is customary to take something to thank them for their gratitude.

DON'T feel obligated to write thank you cards to family members. Although thank you cards are customary throughout the year, they are optional around the holidays. If you have a large extended family and you all exchange gifts, it can be difficult to write thank you notes to each person.

DO send thank you notes to people outside of your family. Most people do not give gifts expecting to receive a thank you note, but it is common courtesy. Letting them know you appreciate their gift and their thoughtfulness will remind them why they gave you a gift in the first place, and you're more likely to receive another in the future. 

For situations not on this list, use basic common sense and common courtesy. Keep in mind etiquette is different around the holidays, so you'd rather be safe than sorry!


Kali Carter is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, majoring in Public Relations. Kali is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, where she has held a number of officer positions, including an executive position as the Vice President of Membership Development. She has worked as a news desk reporter for the Oklahoma Daily newspaper, served as the Treasurer of the Student Society of Professional Journalists and is a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Kali currently balances her time working as the Marketing Assistant for an independent insurance agency and an Account Lead at the Lindsey + Asp Advertising and Public Relations Agency in the journalism college. Aside from working and spending time with friends and family, her greatest passions in life are writing and traveling. Kali has studied abroad in Peru, Chile, and Puerto Rico, and spent a summer blogging and living in San Francisco. Upon her graduation in December 2011, Kali does not intend to return to her hometown of Tulsa, Okla. Instead, she hopes to spend the next year or two traveling the world, writing, and volunteering, before eventually settling down in New York City.