How to not be that person who ruins Christmas, according to an etiquette expert

<p>It’s the most wonderful(?) time of the year  </p>

It’s the most wonderful(?) time of the year

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The dazzling lights, the overindulging, the same catchy tunes and classic films – It’s officially Christmas!

While most people have started counting down the hours to be reunited with the family for the top tier meal of the year, others have started to anticipate how the big day will pan out.

Will auntie Janet will have one too many, yet again, and have an emotional outburst? Will the attention be turned to something from 30 years ago that everyone had forgotten about? Will grandma start ranting about how pointless my degree is? Will my ‘woke’ anti-vax cousin start sharing conspiracies that no one asked for?

You can always count on Christmas for that one person who leaves their filter – and sometimes respect – at the door. But why?

From a psychologist point of view, ‘Christmas-ruiners’ can result from narcissism, people with the constant urge for attention and hate towards obligation. Place a narcissist in a room filled with a mixed-generational bag of personalities who they’ve not seen for the past 12 months – and it could essentially resort to chaos.

Behavioural Scientist, Clarissa Silva, mentioned that oftentimes “narcissists have inflated egos and are more likely to compare themselves to their relatives during this time of year.” This can essentially create “toxic insecurity” during Christmas time, which can resort to certain individuals “dismissing anything that disempowers their narrative.”

To give a more common and shamelessly relatable example, it could simply be a case of overindulging on the ol’ Christmas spirit.

We turned to Reddit to delve into some of the best bittersweet Christmas moments. One user’s mum got “belligerently drunk and locked herself in the closet” for the day. Another tipsy family member casually declared that they “would like to heroin in a ‘controlled environment.’”

For another, it wasn’t a person who ruined the big day. Their “b*****d dog” who broke off his leash and “took off for parts unknown” during Christmas dinner.

Another shared an awkward encounter that was bound to let hell loose, “my aunt asked me why I was gay,” they said, “so, I asked her why did 3 of her kids have different last names.”

While another user’s cousin hired a bouncy castle to entertain the children when it popped with ten kids inside, “the amount of crying broke my eardrums,” they humoured.

She’s worked at Debrett’s, the arbiters of British etiquette, for over ten years and has edited 15 books on etiquette and modern manners. And now, etiquette tutor, editor, writer and media spokesperson, Jo Bryant, is lending her expertise to Indy100 on not being that person that ruins Christmas.

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Be generous

“If you are a guest, be sure to check in with your host to see what you can bring, over and above the expected Christmas presents. Even if they insist that there is no need, don’t turn up empty-handed.”

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Offer to help, and be helpful

“Think about what’s useful – preparing the sprouts or clearing the table is probably a better idea than advising your host on roasting times and stuffing recipes.”

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Keep conversation light

“Christmas lunch is not the time to take a strong political stance or express extreme opinions. If things start to get tense, lighten the mood by changing the subject or injecting some humour, rather than sparking more debate.”

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Be flexible

“Christmas can throw normal life off schedule for a couple of days, especially if other people’s house rules and timescales come into play. Relax and try to go with the flow, rather than forcing children’s routines or your own regimes into the mix.” 

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Be safe

“Christmas may not be cancelled this year, but COVID is still among us. Be mindful that attitudes and anxieties vary from person to person, so be open to questions about vaccine status, or toe-the-line if hosts impose a test-before-attending policy.”

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All in all, just have a great Christmas – and don’t be that person!

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