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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Politely Navigating the Holidays

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Take the time to instill better table manners.

Gift giving employee-employer etiquette, table manners for tots, you can never thank people enough, and Christmas card etiquette, as well as wedding etiquette thank-yous, were all questions of interest to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners.com.

Bosses who give generously

Dear Didi,

I'm second in command at a small, successful company with ten employees, all of whom received year-end bonuses compensatory with their performance. In the past I've personally given small wrapped gifts to a couple of the other women coworkers as a token of appreciation. This year because I was on the road a lot and had to rely more on my coworkers, I'm giving everyone a small gift. My problem is that I don't know how to make it clear that I don't expect a gift in return. How can I get that across without sounding condescending? S.L., Culver City, CA

Dear S.L.

Management shouldn't accept and doesn't expect gifts from coworkers. Unless it is something such as finger food that can be shared in the office. A wrapped gift may make it appear as though the employee is trying to ingratiate himself with management. When you hand the coworker the gift, say something such as this, "You've probably had to watch my back and cover for me this past year while I've been on the road so much, and I just wanted you to know how appreciative I am. This is a small token of thanks." As you see, you are thanking the coworker for the gift of their time that they've already given you. It is you who are repaying them.  ~Didi

Holiday table manners for tots

Dear Didi,

Every year my mother-in-law criticizes our preschoolers' tables manners as though I don't know any better. How do I head her off at the pass before she makes the same sarcastic wisecrack? "Where'd you learn to eat like that?"  M.N., Cranston

Dear M.N.,

I'm all for saying what's on my mind, but holidays are the time to bite your tongue. Even when you're asked to critique something, be ubra gentle. Don't be too honest because emotions are raw. Holidays conjure up painful memories, be they pleasant ones of relationships salvaged or less pleasant ones of relationships destroyed. It's a time to put away petty grievences and be generous, gentle and nice. Prep your tots for the big day starting now. Role play at meals. Everybody sits down and puts their napkin in their lap to keep dropped food from falling on the floor or dirtying clothing. Teach by demonstrating. Stand behind the child with your hands covering theirs' and guide them through the cutting-up process. Finish it neatly for them. Sitting still is really the big issue and not leaving the table, which is why they need to be prompted to use the bathroom and not just to wash their hands, before sitting down. Once they're seated, they can't get up unless they're helping to clear the table.

There are simple curious questions that small children can engage in that will help them be part of the conversation. "What's your favorite (color, food, animal, dessert), granny?"  Help them think up a few questions ahead of time to make the grandparents think, "Well aren't they civilized."  ~Didi

When you're not sure you sent that thank-you note

Hi Didi,

It's come to my attention that one of my friends, Barb, has not received her thank-you card for the wedding invitations she made (which were her gift). I can't remember if it was sent or not, but I believe it was. I found this out from another friend who Barb contacted about the oversight. Whether Barb should have talked about this among other friends is not my issue.  How do I handle this oversight, if it was forgotten, at this point? It's been 6 months since the wedding. Thank you, Cindy, location withheld

Dear Cindy,

Barb is feeling undervalued. Your mutual friends received their thank-you notes, but she thinks you've forgotten what she did for you. Go up the ladder and send her a small token of your appreciation. Maybe send her flowers on her birthday. Or at the very least a brief note that would go something like this: "I keep thinking about how generous you were with your time and resources to make our beautiful wedding invitations. Everyone raved about them. George (use your husband's first name) joins me in saying that we will never forget your great kindness. Alternatively, make Barb feel special by inviting her for lunch and thanking her again in person. You can never thank people enough.  ~Didi

Sending Christmas cards from you and your deceased husband

Dear Didi,

My husband passed away four months ago. I am sending Christmas cards to family and friends. I would like to include my husband's name when I sign the card. How should I write it? Thank you, Manang, location withheld

Dear Manang,

Not to be blunt, but people who are deceased don't sign Christmas cards. I'm sorry for your loss, but Christmas cards are supposed to be merry and bright. Signing your husband's name could make them feel sorry for you. Your relatives and friends want to know that you're OK and dealing with your loss in a healthy way. Only sign your own name.  ~Didi


Do you have a question for Didi? Email it to Didi@GoLocalProv.com or visit her at NewportManners.com. We can withhold your name and location. Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book,"Newport Etiquette." Previous weekly GoLocalProv.com columns can be found by typing in Didi Lorillard in the above lefthand search.


Related Slideshow: 30 Ways To Give In Central Mass This Holiday Season

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Salvation Army

The Salvation Army’s traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene, with millions of dollars donated each year to aid needy families, seniors, and the homeless. Donations provide and financial assistance provides Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need including families of prisoners. Simply make a donation wherever you see their trademark red kettle or do so online by clicking here.

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Goodwill Mass accepts donations of men's, women's or children's clothing and other textiles. Some of the clothing donations are provided to our clients who may need an outfit for an interview or a one week supply of clothing for a new job. Most is sold to neighboring Goodwills, or as salvage with all revenues raised going back into programs and services for Rhode islanders.

You may drop off your old clothing at one of the many clothing donation bins throughout the state or at the drop-box located in 25 Park Avenue, Worcester.

Click here for more information.

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Operation Homefront

Formed in 2002, Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization developed to support military families. On December 14, Operation Homefront will host a “Holiday Toys for Military Kids” event in Wellesly Hills, Taunton, and Springfield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Toys are limited and are on a first come, first serve registration process. Once your registration is complete you will receive a confirmation email. Please note that this program is for military dependent children only.

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African Community Education Program

Donate non-perishable food items such as rice, beans, and canned vegetables for Thanksgiving distribution by November 21. Donate new or gently used winter clothing such as boots, hats, scarves, and coats to be distributed to ACE families during the holiday season. Donations accepted November – January.

Contact: Amy Connery (508) 799-3653

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AIDS Project Worcester

Donate gift cards, new toys, and new clothes; personal care items such as soap, shampoo, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, and disposable diapers; and canned goods for December holiday food baskets.

Contact: Patricia Price (508) 755-3773

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Alternatives Unlimited

Donate tickets to sporting events, theatres, and movies; specialty food items, health and beauty items; kitchen essentials; gift baskets; and gift certificates to grocery stores, pharmacies, and department stores.

Contact: Sandra Marquis (508) 266-6517

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Auburn Youth and Family Services

Donate new toys, games, and books for children of all ages; grocery store gift cards for holiday food baskets; gifts for teens such as movie passes, music, gaming gift cards, and personal care items; and gift cards to clothing and shoe stores to purchase gifts for children and teens. Adopt a family and provide gifts for Christmas. Call for details.

Contact: Sheryl Spafford (508) 832-5707 ext. 10

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Big Brother Big Sisters Central MA

Donate gift cards to local grocery and discount stores; board games; craft supplies; sports equipment and balls; and other small gift items suitable for children.

Contact: Melanie Perreault (508) 752-7868 ext. 14

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Boys and Girls Club of Worcester

Donate holiday gifts for children ages 5 – 18 including gift cards for teens to purchase items such as movies, music, and clothing; grocery store gift cards to purchase holiday meals for families in need; and wrapping paper and supplies such as bows and cards. Adopt a family for the holidays and provide gifts. Call for details.

Contact: Liz Hamilton (508) 754-2686

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Burncoat Family Center

Donate new toys, books, clothes, outerwear, boots, and gift cards for boys and girls ages 4 – 18; gift certificates for movies, bowling, and other activities; non-religious holiday decorations and gift-wrap; and food for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Contact: Anna Berin (508) 853-6988

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Catholic Charities

Donate new winter coats, gloves, mittens, and hats for adults and children; gift cards to pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount retail stores; and non-perishable food donations.

Contact: Cynthia Taberner (508) 860-2206

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Central MA Housing Alliance

Donate gifts for homeless children of all ages and new household items for more than 80 homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores. Gifts for teens especially needed.

Contact: Katherine Kerr (508) 791-7265

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Children's Friend Inc

Donate gift cards for discount and grocery stores that will be distributed to needy families during the holiday season to be used for food, clothes, and gifts.

Contact: Karen Ludington (508) 459-6424

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Community Healthlink - Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program

Donate winter hats and gloves and gift cards to discount stores, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants.

Contact: Brian Bickford (508) 860-1139

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Community Healthlink - Victim Services

Donate new coats, hats, gloves, and mittens for children, adolescents, and adults of all sizes. Donate new board games and gift cards in denominations of $10 – $25.

Contact: Amanda Atchue (508) 421-4501

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Dare Family Services

Donate toys and other items for children ages 10 – 18. Items for teens especially needed.

Contact: Armida Martinez

(508) 755-7100

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Dismas House

Donate gift cards for male residents: sheets and blankets, toiletries, hats, gloves, and pajamas.

Contact: David McMahon

(508) 799-9389

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Family Health Center of Worcester

Donate new items for newborns and mothers in need: baby blankets, toiletries, newborn undergarments, socks, bibs, infant equipment such as car seats, new maternity clothes, and gift cards for discount and grocery stores. Donate new items for immigrants/refugees such as gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, and home first aid kits. Donate new household items for homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and dishes.

Contact: Georgianna Sgariglia

(508) 860-7951

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Elder Services of Worcester

Donate small toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo to be used as gifts for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Contact: Julia Martiros

(508) 852-3205

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Family Success Partnership

Donate gift cards to grocery stores to purchase items for a holiday meal; gift cards to discount stores; and children’s winter clothing including gloves, socks, and small-sized winter coats.

Contact: Courtney Hale

(774) 245-5416

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Frances Perkins and Foundations

Donate educational toys for children ages 1 – 12; gift cards and gift certificates; and household items such as bedding, pots and pans; personal hygiene products, and diapers.

Contact: Ivonne Suarez

(508) 757-7506

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YWCA of Central MA

Donate coats for women, children, and teens; hats and gloves; books for all ages, journals, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores.

Contact: Amarely Gutierrez

(508) 755-5371 ext. 3014

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Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital

Donate men’s and women’s clothing in all sizes (especially XL and plus sizes) such as sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jeans, underwear, and t-shirts; toiletries such as hairbrushes, makeup, shampoo, body wash, and lotion; inexpensive male and female jewelry items such as crosses, watches, and rings; games, cards, word search books, and other small gift items.

Contact: Sandy Epstein

(508) 368-3524

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Worcester Housing Authority

Donate Christmas trees and decorations for use in resident community rooms; pie filling or grocery store gift cards for holiday food; and hats and gloves for children in all sizes.

Contact: Lynn O’Toole

(508) 635-3306

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Worcester County Food Bank

Donate non-perishable food for distribution to area emergency feeding programs. Drop off items Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 474 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury. Please call the office before dropping off. Please visit www.foodbank.org for more information.


(508) 842-3663

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Horace Mann Educational Associates

Donate linens and blankets, craft supplies, gloves, hats, scarves, and gift cards to pharmacy and grocery stores. Items donated to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Contact: Tracy Andryc

(508) 298-1129

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Key Program

Donate small gifts for teenage girls in residential shelter such as warm socks, gloves, scarves, hats, journals, and hygiene products.

Contact: Stephanie Towne

(508) 852-6277

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Donate toys for children ages 2 and up including Disney toys, Dora, pretend food items, art supplies, model cars, blocks, and books; gift cards to toy and discount stores. Gift items for teenage boys especially needed.

Contact: Melissa Murphy

(508) 762-3205

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Nativity School of Worcester

Donate navy blue blazers, white button down shirts, khaki pants, belts, and dress shoes for boys in sizes from boys’ small to men’s medium; sports equipment such as baseballs, soccer balls, and related items; art supplies and music equipment such as instruments, scores, and songbooks.

Contact: Patrick Maloney

(508) 799-0100

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American Red Cross of Central MA

Join us for our annual “Holiday for Heroes” campaign. Assist by reviewing, categorizing, and bundling holiday cards that will be delivered to veterans in Central MA. You would need to dedicate about three hours for this one-time seasonal event in early December. Call to schedule date.

Contact: Ray Duffy (508) 595-3762



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