Holiday Fallout, Vol. 7, Issue 1

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Etiquetteer finally finished writing his Christmas and New Year’s cards. Since today, January 6, is Twelfth Night, it’

 s the last possible time for you to mail Christmas cards and have them sent during Christmas. If you miss anyone on your list, by all means send him or her a valentine for February 14.

As usual, the Christmas season was filled with Perfect Impropriety, some of it actually starting with Etiquetteer himself. Only this morning, over a strong cup of coffee, did Etiquetteer realize with horror that he completely forgot to attend a brunch party on December 31. Do you know that feeling of horror, that begins with the flushing of the face and then the cold clammy chill of the hands and feet with a racing heart? Etiquetteer hopes you never have to experience it.

So Etiquetteer has committed two enormous errors here: forgetting to attend a party to which an affirmative response had been given, and then not apologizing right away. The only possible thing to do under the circumstances is to send flowers with a hand-written Lovely Note of Self-Abasement. That means visiting the florist personally and not phoning in the order; a computer-printed message will not do!

Dear Etiquetteer:In December I hosted a holiday brunch to which my partner and I invited approximately 60 people. The brunch has been a long-standing tradition and few people ever R.s.v.p., but most people usually come. As "luck" would have it, there was a pretty bad storm the day of the brunch, resulting in 15 people actually making it. Of the 45 or so that didn’t make it, only nine let me know that they weren’t coming in advance or subsequently explained that they could not. About another ten or so would have had to drive or travel a considerable distance by public transport, so I do understand (thought it would have been nice if they let me know). However, for the remaining folks who live in the neighborhood, including those who called/e-mailed the day or two before to say they were coming, I’ve heard nothing about why they were unable to come. Oh, except one individual who told me he "forgot – hee, hee."Generally, I have pretty low expectations regarding R.s.v.p.’

 s and understand that most people today treat party invitations very casually. But I have to confess that I am a bit miffed at the seeming unconcern of a large percentage of my guest list.What do you think? Am I being too harsh? What might I do in the future?

Dear Left Over:

Every host is different. Etiquetteer, who has no domestic staff, will confess to getting annoyed at having to answer the phone for a string of regrets while simultaneously vacuuming, juggling hot trays of hors d'oeuvres, greeting guests, and finding and filling vases for the lovely flowers they sometimes bring. On the other hand, severe weather can leave a Perfectly Proper host anxious about the safety and well-being of his guests. Under these circumstances, those who'd told you they were coming owed you a call to let you know their plans.

The solution to this problem is actually very easy, though some might think it ruthless. Next year, don't invite those people who have abused your hospitality. All invitations have value; your uncommunicative guests clearly don't value this one enough.

Those on an unlimited budget could send beautiful arrangements with "Get well soon!" cards to make the point. (And Etiquetteer feels quite fortunate not to have received one himself this year (see above)). Actually, that’s not such a good idea. You could find out that they’ve actually been in the emergency room or, worse, the funeral parlor, and weren’

 t able to contact you.

Other People’

 s Christmas Decorations incited ire throughout the season. Etiquetteer will cite only two stories:

In Boston, Dominic Luberto defiantly continued to aggravate his neighbors and worsen traffic concerns by enlarging his Christmas display to 500,000 lights AND a 650-pound crown of lights, lamé, and wood. Already elaborate beyond belief, pieces of his display get lit up as early as Columbus Day. Mr. Luberto disingenuously insists "Whoever comes against me - listen - goes against the kids. That's it. That's all I can tell you."

This ostentatious display seems less to please "the kids" than it does to slake Mr. Luberto’

  s overweening ego. Etiquetteer, while not disputing his right to decorate his home in any way he chooses, wishes he would show more consideration to his neighbors. Etiquetteer must now ask, what embodies most the True Spirit of Christmas: inconveniencing others to provide a moment of pleasure for children, or allowing the Birth of Christ to remind us of our common humanity and showing kindness to all?

Thank goodness no one has come to blows over Mr. Luberto’

 s decorations yet! Ethel McKinney of Baton Rouge, on the other hand, got out a gun and shot two men whose dog damaged her outdoor Christmas decorations. Etiquetteer can only remind Ms. McKinney that a) Christmas is still a Christian holiday, b) Christ forgave, and c) guns are never Perfectly Proper.