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Editorial: Family gatherings

On December 5, 2012

This time of year is notorious for family gatherings, so we've come up with some ground rules for behavior.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, be nice to your relatives. We know it's awkward that your great-aunt insists on kissing you when she has a beard. This does not give you license to be rude.

Everyone dreads a family argument, so for your own sake, don't bring up politics, religion or the sanctity of Sunday brunch. The goal here is mostly just to avoid the topics your family has a habit of turning into a military exercise. Limit conversation topics to food, snow (or the lack thereof) and comparing your favorite holiday things. Screaming matches are stressful, and that's the last thing holiday break should be.

If someone else brings up a tricky subject, try to steer the conversation away from it. Those who sense an impending argument will be grateful and it may just help to keep the peace a little longer.

We do not care how terrible the food is, compliment it. If you have a problem with lying, just find one good thing and talk about that. If you are fortunate enough to be related to great cooks or are one yourself, that's fantastic. If not, then just find the best food item offered and stuff yourself with it.

As to the eventual lecture you will undoubtedly receive, just smile and nod until it's over. It's very likely that your college experience is different from what your family believes it to be, and your relatives are just trying to help you. It may turn out that some of it is helpful.

Whatever you do, pretend to like the presents you receive. Bad presents and good presents are all bound to make an appearance, so it's best if you give your relatives the impression you appreciate it, because they want to know that you appreciate them. We solemnly promise that you yourself, yes, you, have even given someone else a terrible gift at some point. So be gracious, say thank you and spend all next year handing out subtle hints like everyone else.

Gifts are nice, but don't lose sight of what's important. Relatives want to spend time with one another, not watch as you play with all your new toys. While you certainly don't have to express disinterest in your new things, an overzealous focus on them can be distracting for others.

While we realize that it's the message of every Christmas movie in existence, the holidays are about togetherness, so try to be on your very best behavior to help keep the holiday spirit as light as possible. The potential of your  presents next year may depend upon it.

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