As the holiday season gets into full swing, hosting a holiday party is one way to fully engage in this special time of year. These ten helpful pieces of advice, chosen randomly from years of experience, may be helpful from our entertaining etiquette expert, Jay Remer.


  1. Household routines can change dramatically over the holidays. These changes affect everyone in the house, especially children and pets. When possible, keep their daily routines such as eating, bathing, and sleeping on a regular schedule. There is enough outside stimulation and breaking from daily routines rarely has a positive effect.

  2. Christmas is unquestionably the worst possible time of year to give pets as gifts. This is a disruptive time of year and new four-legged additions to the family acclimate best when a regular routine can be put in place, and where excessive excitement is at a minimum. At the best of times, small children and animals do not interact well unless under adult supervision. No one wants a traumatized puppy or an injured child. So please, do not give pets as presents.

  3. If you put up a tree, I recommend using a stand that has a reservoir for holding water. Christmas trees will stay fresher and drop fewer needles if kept watered. Fire safety is important at all times, but during the holidays, with a fresh tree and some greenery on the mantel piece, a roaring fire in the fireplace needs to be very carefully monitored. Freshly cut trees consume a lot more water than one might imagine.

  4. You cannot change your family or their habits. Not everyone in every family gets along for any number of reasons. However, this does not mean incivility is appropriate or acceptable behavior. Everyone needs to be respectful and cordial. If this is difficult, keep warring parties separated. Also, keep a close eye on alcohol consumption as this has been known to have the ability to ignite flaring tempers. This is not a time for judgement, but compassion.

  5. Get into the spirit of giving. This is the most important time of year to remember those members of our community who struggle to survive. Food banks are wonderful places to make donations, even in the name of others, as a gift. There is no competition in giving; and it is true that giving gives you a greater sense of gratitude than does receiving.

  6. It isn’t necessary to overeat or drink too much over the holidays. We use such occasions as excuses, but wasting food and intoxication are not requirements for having a successful and enchanting celebration. Nothing beats a plate piled high with all of your favorite foods, especially those that rekindle the warm memories of past holidays. Moderation here is merely a suggestion. If you are reading this, you know exactly what I mean.

  7. Small children and household pets are suddenly surrounded by new As far as they are concerned, it needs to be put in their mouth. This can be disastrous. Many holiday plants such as Poinsettias are toxic to pets, very toxic. Ditto chocolate. Ditto electrical wires. Keep a watchful eye where necessary. Remember the old adage: Avoid the avoidable.

  8. If you are a guest at a holiday dinner party, be sure to bring a hostess gift, even if you are bringing a holiday gift as well. They are totally different gifts. A hostess gift is an act of giving thanks and requires no thank-you note. Christmas and Hanukkah gifts need to be acknowledged with a handwritten thank you note, written and mailed or hand-delivered within a few days of receiving the gift.

  9. Ending a festive party can always be a challenge. Subtle signs such as closing the bar and turning off the music usually do the trick. Be sure not to let any of your guests drive home if they have had too much to drink. Given the strict drunk driver laws on the books today, it’s not difficult to figure out who should not be behind the wheel. When in doubt, take the car keys and either call a taxi/Uber/ride service or help find them a ride home with someone who is sober.

  10. I always make sure to clean up after all parties, completely if possible. Staff should be encouraged, if not bribed, to stay late and finish cleaning up everything. There is nothing worse than waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes, pots and pans. The odd soaker is one thing, but a sink full is quite another. I would much rather be emptying a dishwasher than loading one the morning after. But maybe I’m just quirky.
  May your holiday season be overflowing with magical moments, which will become wonderful memories.