If misery does love company (or if you just need a jolt of laughter), check out this list of five outrageous holiday gaffes — and get some tips for recovering in case you commit them, too.
And just as a point of reference, in my family, the gaffe of the century occurred when my date — someone I’d been seeing a few months — came over a few days before Christmas. We were all drinking eggnog, and he kept offering to fill empty glasses. We thought he was being mannerly. It wasn’t until he passed out in the bathroom that we surmised he’d been adding a splash of something extra to his cup each time he went to refill anyone else’s glass. You better believe he learned his lesson, and that was the end of his nog consumption that holiday season.
Holiday gaffe: Not presenting a gift to your host
Heather Penney of Boston, MA had just started dating someone before the holidays. “When I went over on Christmas Eve, his parents had gotten me a little gift. Nothing big, but I hadn’t brought them anything. His mom called me out for it! She said something like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry for getting you something. I assumed you two were in the type of relationship where you would do the same.’” Tip: If you’re a guest, always take something — even if it’s just extra napkins. The gesture is more important than the gift itself.
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Holiday gaffe: Mis-labeling presents after wrapping them
Here’s another reason why gift-wrapping shouldn’t be saved till the last minute. Mark Johnson of Federal Way, WA, admits he isn’t the most organized guy. “I was in a super-rush before the holidays and quickly wrapped presents for the woman I was dating and her parents,” he recalls. “I’d gotten her a gift certificate to a fancy lingerie store and bought her parents gift cards from their favorite stores. Unfortunately, I put the wrong card on the presents, so she got a card from a tackle shop while her mom got the gift I chose for her. At least her dad didn’t mind his card from the bookstore.” Tip: “Ever since that day, I’ve wrapped presents and put the cards on immediately,” Johnson notes. (Identifying gifts properly becomes especially important, we note, when lingerie is involved.)
Holiday gaffe: Planning a holiday dinner without accounting for your guests’ dietary restrictions
“My sweetie’s parents announced they’d be making an impromptu visit — the same night as my annual holiday dinner party,” recalls Dana Charley of Baltimore, MD. “There’s always room at my table, so I invited them to attend.” Too bad no one mentioned that the parents in question didn’t eat pork for religious reasons. “Imagine my horror (and theirs) when they saw me getting ready to bring out pork loin. Luckily, I had a couple of filets in the freezer and dinner was only served 30 minutes late.” Tip: “From now on,” Charley says, “I always ask about dietary restrictions before guests come over!” And if you or your relatives are the ones with the dietary restrictions — by all means, speak up.
Holiday gaffe: Condemning seasonal traditions around your date
A lively debate is one thing… getting up on a soapbox is another, as Wylecia Roberts of Atlanta, GA found out. She thinks that Christmas is an overrated holiday, and that belief got her into some hot water a few years back. “I was ranting against the commercialization of Christmas, railing against people who lavish tons of gifts on their families and friends,” Roberts recalls. “The guy I was dating got really quiet; when I asked what was wrong, he told me I’d just described how his family celebrates Christmas — and that it was his favorite holiday.” Tip: “My Grandma was right,” Roberts asserts. “Never talk about religion or religious observances!” — especially if you have a strong and/or negative opinion about them without knowing how your date feels first. Holidays just aren’t the right time to air those beliefs.
Holiday gaffe: Not using proper etiquette/table manners at parties
You might want to be on your best behavior — especially when it comes to your table manners — during this time. “I thought people only cared about this on TV shows, but I got caught double-dipping at my date’s holiday party... and she flipped,” says Darwin Hatfield of Chicago, IL. “She threw out the dip and apologized to her friends. I decided it was time to leave — both the party and the relationship.” Tip: OK, so Hatfield’s girlfriend perhaps had an unnaturally strong reaction to his behavior. But that said, you can’t go wrong by being overly cautious about your table manners. Never re-dip after you take a bite; Don’t reach right across the table to get at those biscuits without asking others to pass them to you first. And commenting that you’re so full you could burst after a big holiday meal probably won’t win you brownie points, either.
Learn from these people’s miscues, and hopefully, you’ll avoid making any embarrassing mistakes during your holiday interactions. Here’s to a season full of harmony and good cheer this year!
Margot Carmichael Lester is a writer based in Carrboro, NC. Her work also appears in the Los Angeles Business Journal and Go magazine.