For the Holidays, Your Folks’ or Mine?


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Christoph Niemann

Since my husband and I began dating, deciding whose family to visit for holidays has caused strife. (They live too far to visit both.) This year, our first as a married couple, we settled on Thanksgiving with his and Christmas with mine. We will alternate next year. But now my husband says he can’t miss his father’s family’s Christmas party — to be held the day after Christmas this year. He proposes spending Christmas Eve and Christmas night together, then visiting his family for the weekend, leaving me with mine. But that wasn’t our agreement, and I want us together. Ideas?

Anonymous, Ipswich, Mass.

It never hurts to remind folks on the verge of breaking promises that a deal is a deal — eggnog or no. But it rarely helps. What’s more, you and your husband probably still agree (in theory, anyway) that one harried trip per holiday beats two. Alternating the big ones was also a smart touch. Now, what is it they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men?

The unforeseen wrinkle, I take it, is the pesky party, which Hubby loves and which may be the only time he gets to see his cousins and uncles and aunts on that side of the family. It sounds as if he counted on its being held sufficiently before Christmas so that he could attend it and still hold up his side of your holiday bargain.

For the future, start lobbying now for the party to be given earlier in December to allow for his attendance (even when Christmas belongs to your clan). This year, decide how tough you want to be about pressing your claim. You are clearly right and may insist on his staying with your family through the weekend, as your grand bargain contemplated. But they don’t call it the season of giving for nothing. Could you let him go (one last time) and accompany him? Think of it as an annoying Christmas gift.

Not for Consumption

Last night, my girlfriend and I gave a holiday party. It was a roaring success — with one exception. My girlfriend spent hours baking, constructing and decorating a gingerbread house, which we placed at a distance from the food and drinks table. (It was not meant for eating; it was a decoration for the holidays.) Still, someone broke off a piece of the roof and presumably ate it. We don’t know who. My girlfriend is livid and wants me to call around to find the culprit. Should I?

Paul, Boston

You should not. And with any luck, your girlfriend will agree as the gingerbread debacle recedes in time. It sounds like an honest mistake. Even you required an entire parenthetical statement to describe the existential plane on which an edible house exists. Ties go to the eaters. (Personally, I can’t see myself breaking off a chunk of virgin masonry. But it wasn’t outrageous behavior.) Perhaps in lieu of phone calls, you can offer to be her gingerbread roofer and make a patch.

Too Haute to Handle

I have a lovely housekeeper who has worked for me, full time, for years. Lately, she has been giving me Hermès scarves for Christmas and my birthday. Of course I appreciate her generosity. But I know from other conversations I have with her that she can’t afford these gifts. I don’t want to insult her, but please help me steer her toward less expensive gifts.

Anonymous

While visions of freshly ironed sheets — every night! — danced in their heads. … Two choices, Lady Crawley: If money is no object (and I hear good help is hard to find), simply top up your housekeeper’s salary to cover the cost of the scarves. Otherwise, write in your thank-you note: “I am touched by your generosity. But you work too hard to give me such extravagant gifts. Next year, please treat yourself instead.”

This is somewhat in line with my philosophy of simply thanking people for gifts, not trying to control them. But $800 annually in silken ware seems steep. Still, if your housekeeper doesn’t take the bait, leave it alone.

Pushing Back

We were informed recently that our company holiday party, normally a luncheon on the last working day before Christmas, will become a “year-end celebration” during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The memo said that the days leading up to Christmas are hectic, and management decided we would enjoy the party more after the holiday. This seems wrong to me. Not to mention that some co-workers take that week as vacation. Is there anything you can do to help?

J.L.

Sadly, the jurisdiction of Social Q’s is limited to … well, nowhere. I see no harm in speaking (respectfully) to your supervisor, conveying your concern about vacationing co-workers. But in fairness, many people don’t celebrate Christmas, and the days leading up to the holiday are pretty frantic. A leisurely year-end lunch sounds like a treat. Why not try it this year, and see how it goes? If the party is a bummer or a ghost town, you and your colleagues can mention it to the powers that be in January. Otherwise, Happy Year End!



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