Proper Christmas etiquette – Monterey Herald

Like many of you, we’ve made some changes to how we are doing Christmas this year. Our family gathering will be smaller, for one. And since I’m still maneuvering on one foot, I’ll rely on my younger daughter’s housecleaning skills and my older daughter’s cooking prowess. True gifts!

We haven’t skimped on our Christmas traditions, however. My grandkids came over last week to help me set up the Nativity scene that once belonged to their great-grandmother. And while I supervised with my foot propped on a chair, we listened to Christmas carols and decorated the tree.

As we are all learning, there’s no perfect way to navigate our lives this year. So I’ll spare you the nutrition lecture this week. Instead, let’s enjoy some “unfailingly polite” and fun holiday advice from columnist Judith Martin, author of “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.”

Q: What is the procedure when one has the first bite of potato halfway to the mouth and then discovers that everyone else is waiting for the host to say grace? Do you proceed and pop it into the mouth, or lay the fork down at once? If the former, does this invalidate the grace?

A: “God will forgive all sins, even gluttony, but to talk with your mouth full — even to say “Amen” — is unforgivable in this life. Therefore, Miss Manners considers it theologically safer to put down the fork gracefully.”

Q: At the dinner table, is it good manners to hold food, such as bread or a dinner roll, in one’s hand while holding a fork in the other hand?

A: “This is not the proper role for a roll,” says Miss Manners. “However, (rolls) are often hired, freelance, by forks in need of discreet assistance. If the fork, for instance, cannot capture those last three peas singlehandedly, it may engage the roll to take a quick swipe at the peas to make them surrender to the fork. This must be done without the apparent knowledge of the person attached to both fork and roll, who must assume an absent-minded expression. To hold two items of food in two hands with a purposeful expression makes one look greedy.”

Lastly, if you are visiting family members this season, Miss Manners advises: “Do not relax and be less than a thoughtful houseguest … on the grounds that these people are related to you. Blood is not necessarily thicker than water, and it generally helps at this time of year to have a little Scotch in both.”

I’m thankful I can hobble into church this Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And that we can still enjoy a cup of eggnog when we get home from looking at lights around town. May this be a season of new joy and meaning for you as well.

Barbara Quinn-Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating. Email her at

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