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Holiday advice, part IV

Posted by Robin Abrahams  December 14, 2012 08:39 AM

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Accept That There's No One Right Way To Do the Holidays. People who prefer all-white centerpieces and truffle stuffing are not snobs brainwashed by Martha Stewart who have forgotten the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Those who go for gemutlich decorations of construction-paper hand-outline turkeys and Stove Top Stuffing are not hopeless rubes who should have gone back home to Nebraska the minute they finished grad school.

Well, perhaps they are, and perhaps the albino-pumpkin people are pretentious twits. But you don't know that. Don't accuse people of moral failings based on how they decorate their tables or what they put on them, or how much or little they spend, or if they celebrate any holidays at all. Some wonderful and generous people prefer to spread their wonder and generosity about year-round and not make a huge deal of the holidays. Some people who spend lavishly to make their families joyful on Christmas day never put a bit of effort into making them happy otherwise. We all do the holidays based on our own idiosyncratic traditions and emotional needs. So don't try to jolly up the "Grinch" in the next cubicle who spends Christmas alone with a good book or sneer at "Cindy Lou Who" across the street who wears a different Christmas sweater every day in December.

Accept That There's No One Right Way To Do the Holidays, Part 2. And just as ways of celebrating the holidays differ person to person, they differ year by year. If you haven't celebrated Hanukkah since childhood, but this year you are in special need of spiritual rededication, it's time to break out the menorah and prayer books. Or if you have suffered a loss in your family and just can't bring yourself to do the traditional Thanksgiving at Aunt Bessie's, why not suggest the family go to a restaurant instead? Just as you shouldn't make others feel guilty or inadequate for not celebrating the holidays the way you do, you shouldn't make yourself feel bad for not celebrating them the way you have in the past. Holiday traditions are lovely, but they shouldn't be a straitjacket. Instead, they should be more like a really great pair of black trousers - something that goes with everything and with which you can be creative. (Yes, I do realize that after all my efforts to stay sensitive to readers of all religions, I have now just alienated practically all of the men. But it's a really good metaphor, guys! Stay with me!)

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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