Did you scrap your traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year as the pandemic raged across the country? Many of us would prefer to forget the 2020 holidays and return to how life was in 2019. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still around. Life is slowly getting back to normal, but it’s a new normal. In a recent survey by the research company Morning Consult, more than a quarter of survey respondents say they intend to stay masked during the Thanksgiving holiday. In other words, the holidays might still look a little different this year.
While you may be eager to reunite with loved ones, there are some new things to consider before packing your bags to stay with friends and extended family. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, offers these tips on how to be a gracious houseguest who’s welcomed back long after this pandemic is over.
Have the COVID conversation. Let your host know your vaccination status and feel free to politely ask if they, and others who will be there when you visit, have been vaccinated. Gottsman also reminds guests that if they’re feeling under the weather, it’s best for them to reschedule their visit.
Respect the COVID house rule. Are we wearing masks? Can we hug? Should we maintain social distancing? Do we need to stay outdoors? There are definitely a few more issues to go over this year. Discuss coronavirus comfort levels with your host before you arrive says Gottsman. “I am most comfortable when I know people use caution. Whether they are vaccinated or not, knowing they use good judgment and are considerate of each other goes a long way in putting my mind at ease.”
Avoid surprise guests. “If you decide you want to bring a friend at the last minute, it’s not appropriate to call the host and ask if there’s extra space,” says Gottsman. “They’ll feel put on the spot and the role of a good guest is to make their host happy they invited you.”
Let your host know of any food allergies in advance. You should not surprise them with an unexpected gluten allergy or peanut allergy. The hosts should also ask in advance but if they don’t, be sure and mention it.
Leave on the date you told your host you’d be departing. Your hosts may have other guests coming in or simply want some time to themselves.
Don’t expect the use of the family car. Make arrangements to either rent a car or take an Uber.
Be respectful of the host’s pet. “The family pet is an integral part of the family,” says Gottsman. “Treat them with kindness and respect as you would another part of their family.”
Avoid wandering without permission. There may be certain areas in the house that your host would prefer to keep off-limits.
Pitch in. This includes making your bed and keeping the area where you are staying tidy. If you are staying multiple days, Gottsman recommends taking your host to dinner and offering to help prepare food for the daily meals.
And possibly the most important rule…don’t arrive empty-handed. Flowers and a bottle of wine are nice, but here are some other thoughtful suggestions for hostess gifts that will be appreciated long after you’ve made your way home.
Candle — When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a classic candle. Pampering your host with this beautifully packaged candle will help them relax after having hosted a house full of holiday guests. Luxurious Floral Street candles are a special splurge with scents ranging from rose to saffron to cedar wood. $46 at Nordstrom.
Slippers — Your host may have been on their feet all day preparing. When they can finally sit down to take a break, encourage them to kick back and relax by surprising them with these super-comfy Pudus vegan slippers, which come in dozens of styles. $25 at Amazon or ilovemypudus.com
Blanket — What better way to bring warmth to your host’s home than a cozy blanket? It’s the gift that keeps on giving! This faux fur throw by L.L. Bean will take the chill off, all winter long. $79 at L.L. Bean.
Tote Bag — You’ll be “making spirits bright” when you show up with this colorful tote bag as a gift. Fill this iconic Vera Bradley tote with a bottle of wine or some fresh flowers and you’ll be even more appreciated. Whether they use it as their go-to bag for work, or tote it to the grocery store, these playful prints put the “fun” in “functional.” Small Vera Tote $100 at verabradley.com.
Tea — Staying with a tea drinker? Help your host wind down in the most luxurious way. Treat them to this boxed set so beautifully packaged, you won’t need to wrap it. After holiday hosting duties are done, treat the host by making them a cup of tea and joining them to reflect on your blessings. $66 at Amazon or TeaForte.com.
Coffee — Is your host more of a coffee drinker? Don’t underestimate the luxury of a nice cup of java. And if you’ll be drinking your host’s coffee, why not replenish their supply with something special? You can’t go wrong with this World Coffee Tour sampler that takes you around the world from Rwanda to Ecuador, Vietnam to Honduras. $90 at Amazon or BeanBox.com.
As much as we’d all like the pandemic to be behind us, COVID is still impacting our plans. “It’s really the little things that make a big difference,” says Gottsman. “Communication is always the key because everyone has their preferences and knowing ahead of time makes the visit much more comfortable for everyone.”
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