12 Things You Should Never Do During the Holidays

Woman is pleased when opening Christmas present.
You'll enjoy the holidays more if you're mindful of what you say and do. Betsie Van Der Meer / Getty Images

The holidays are all about spending time with family, helping the less fortunate, spreading good cheer, and worshiping according to your faith. Unfortunately, they’re also a time when people make mistakes that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to fix later.

Whether you’re enjoying an office holiday party or getting together with friends and loved ones, you want to avoid damaging your reputation, becoming the butt of a joke, or hurting someone’s feelings. You don't want to spend a lot of time apologizing for things you never should have done in the first place. Besides, it's difficult for people to forget some things.

Instead of waiting until it’s too late, start thinking about the faux pas you have committed or witnessed in the past and come up with a plan to prevent doing that in the future. The small amount of time you’ll spend planning will have a big payoff in the future because you won’t have to apologize for bad behavior.

Forget to Respond to Invitations

When you receive an invitation to any type of holiday party—whether it’s for Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas gift exchange, or ringing in the New Year—don’t forget to send back the RSVP. The host relies on everyone’s response for planning purposes, so be respectful and just do it.

If you respond quickly that you can attend, your spot will be reserved. Letting the host know that you won’t be able to make it frees up a spot for someone else.

Dress Inappropriately

If you’re not sure what to wear to any holiday event, ask someone you trust will know. You don’t want to show up to the party in ratty jeans, while everyone else is dressed to the nines. Dressing appropriately will also make you feel more confident.

Spill the Beans

You might have some inside information on Santa or the Elf on the Shelf, but you don’t need to share it with all the kids you know. Even if you’re against these fun fables, let the parents decide what they want their little ones to know. If you tell them everything, you might find yourself being left off the guest list next year.

If you have a different tradition from your host, have a chat with your children and encourage them to keep all “secrets” to themselves. You don’t want other parents guarding their kids from yours throughout the holiday season. Explain this to your children so they understand the consequences of having loose lips.

Text the Night Away

When you’re at a party or family gathering, be there physically and mentally. You’ll have a lot more fun interacting with live people than if you hover over your phone texting or checking your email.

Regift to the Original Gift Giver

While there’s nothing wrong with thoughtful regifting, you need to be extra careful about who you give the gift to. Before you drop any gift item into your regifting box, label it with the name of the original giver so you don’t have an awkward moment when she unwraps it.

On the other hand, if you receive a gift that you know you gave that person in the past, try not to let it hurt your feelings. Instead, make a note that this is not something the person wants and do a better job of selecting something for him or her in the future.

Be a Mistletoe Maniac

Most people know they’re supposed to smooch the person next to them when standing beneath the mistletoe, but that doesn’t mean you should walk around holding the green stuff over your head, hoping for a kiss from everyone you encounter. It’s best to ignore the mistletoe, unless you find yourself next to someone who has made it clear that she doesn’t mind being kissed.

If someone tries to use mistletoe to steal a kiss that you don’t want, take a step back and let the person know that you’re not interested. You don’t have to be mean; just be matter of fact and say it with a smile.

Tell Inappropriate Jokes or Stories

When the family gets together around the dinner table to celebrate the holiday, it's fine to tell jokes, but please keep them inoffensive. If there are children present, make sure the conversation is child friendly. Little ones might not appear to be listening, but most of the time they can hear everything you say.

The same goes for office parties and gatherings with friends. Always consider who is present and never make derogatory comments that might offend the sensibilities of others. Sexist, racist, ageist, or any other types of off-color jokes are inappropriate during a holiday get-together. This is the season to be extra kind and compassionate.

Never use a holiday gathering to gossip about those who aren’t there. Find something more interesting and appropriate to talk about, like how delicious the food is, how pretty the decorations are, and how nice everyone looks. In other words, keep the conversation light and positive.

The same goes for practical jokes. Don't trick someone or play a practical joke on anyone if there's even a hint of a chance you might embarrass them.

Complicate the Holiday

Whether you’re going for an elaborate sit-down dinner or hand-making a different item for each person at the office, you can make yourself crazy by complicating the holiday. This is the time to focus on the celebration with people you love or work with and not the nitty-gritty details that will be forgotten a month later.

Critique the Food

Whether you’re at a formal dinner party or enjoying a potluck with friends, keep all negative thoughts about the food to yourself. People have spent time and worked hard to prepare the meal, and you don’t need to embarrass them or make them feel bad about what they’ve done. It’s always good form to compliment the chef, and if you don’t care for the taste, find something else nice to say.

Stress Out

The holidays are a time for celebration, not getting so stressed out that you dread them every year. If you’re normally the host, give yourself a break by asking everyone to bring a dish to share, so all you’ll need to do is cook the main dish and provide the tableware.

If shopping for gifts causes anxiety, consider purchasing batches of items. For example, you can give hand-painted silk scarves to all of the women in your family and embossed wallets to the men.


It’s true that Grandma will love that designer handbag, but she loves you enough to not want you to be in debt long after the celebration is over. It’s best to plan a budget, write a shopping list, and stick to it. While there might be temptations, try to keep your emotions in check and avoid getting something that’s not on the list.

Expect Too Much

With the holidays come expectations—many of them that are too lofty to meet. Try to relax and allow whatever unfolds to surprise you. You might find that what winds up happening is much better than anything you could ever imagine.