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15 Dec

Rules of Engagement for the Holidays

With the Christmas season upon us, chances are we’re going to be seeing lots of folks that we might normally not see – whether we want to or not. And with the somewhat toxic election just a month behind us, it’s not out of the question that some conversations might go a little, well – nuclear. Meltdowns may occur. Poisoning of the atmosphere around your dinner table is not out of the question. Mass casualties are probable.

Except for you.

You can be – if you’re forewarned and willing – the baking soda that neutralizes the meltdown.

“And just how would I do that?” you’re asking. “You don’t know my Uncle Ebenezer!”  Well, maybe not, but Uncle Eb takes many forms: Grandpa, your second cousin twice removed (for good reason), your fiancé’s mother, and Satan.  We’ve all experienced Uncle Ebenezer in one form or another. So – what can you do when things begin to trend a little, shall we say, awkward?


Change the topic. However, stay away from religion. Nevertheless, since it is Christmas, that might pose a challenge. But it doesn’t have to – just stick to the basic facts of the story; everyone pretty much agrees with what happened on Christmas. Just don’t fight about whether the wise men got there in three days or three years; it doesn’t matter! And don’t get into things like whose pastor is the most long-winded, whether or not Christmas trees are Biblical, and for everyone’s sake, it doesn’t matter who wrote Silent Night,  Catholic or Protestant – it’s now public domain!


Keep your lips closed about what you won’t eat. Look, we’re all aware that glutton, sugar, red dyes, salt, fat, and processed foods cause much pain and suffering. We all know that non-organic fruits, vegetables, turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna, et cetera ad nauseam are more deadly than rat poison. We’ve read the 30-foot billboard warnings, seen the 60 Minutes exposé, and been indoctrinated all through school. We’ve read the memos and have the “You Eat, You Die” t-shirt.

We know that it only takes one meal once a year to kill us. We don’t need to hear about it at Christmas dinner.

The fact is, someone has planned for days and slaved over a hot stove or turkey fryer for hours and odds are they’re not going to take kindly to enduring a lecture about how lethal their food is. Okay? Thank you.


Avoid correcting anyone else’s kids! Honestly, it won’t go well. Why? Well, the fact is that many parents who bring their kidlets to holiday functions expect everyone else to be envious of those little cherubs. (Not you, of course.) Now granted, this is often a sub-conscience illusion but, nonetheless, you do not want to be the one to burst that little bubble. So, no matter what the little darlings do or say, walk away. If you must comment on their behavior – let’s say they’re sticking a fork into an electrical outlet – you might want to approach it by casually commenting to mommy that their child is in a life-threatening situation. However, make sure you assure the parent that neither their child’s behavior nor your comment on it is in any way meant to reflect negatively on that child’s superior intelligence.


But – what to do if the parent corners you and begins bragging incessantly about their child(ren)? Not much you can do. Go to your happy place.


So you’re wrong. Take the hit. No one has ever died from being accused of being wrong. If Uncle Ebenezer or his minions want to argue, don’t. Instead, you might consider other options. You could agree with him. It’ll leave him speechless and you can make your escape. You could comment on how wonderfully behaved his children are. You’d be wrong again but – what the heck?


DO NOT EVER COMMENT ON THE “BABY BUMP”! EVER.  That is, until someone informs you that there truly is a baby bump – then you may comment. However, tread lightly: never agree when the perspective mom complains that she looks like a beached whale. Don’t even nod. If she asks if she looks fat, the answer is an emphatic “no!” In fact, you couldn’t even tell she was pregnant.

Now that you know the rules of engagement for a happy holiday get-together with family and friends, you can be the one to ensure that all goes smoothly and no one gets hurt. And when the going gets rough and you don’t know whether you can pull off the impossible, remember: it can’t be more difficult than making peace in the Middle East.

Oh, and one more thing: under no circumstances should you cave to the temptation to roll your eyes.

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!



Cynthia Noble
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