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family mealDuring the holidays we are more apt to sit down for a meal with family and friends. During the rest of the year it is not as common, although as educators in the Family and Consumer Sciences area we wish it were, for families to eat a meal seated together. So regardless of when the family meals are eaten, table manners and etiquette are an important and often neglected art.
Stress during the holidays is common and the holiday meal is no exception. Sometimes this is the only time of the year we see some of our family members. The age groups, different opinions, unfamiliar cuisine and fancy tableware may all be factors in that stress. Conversations can sometimes be tense or a source of stress. Frequently holiday meals last longer than daily meals. Avoiding topics that might make people uncomfortable is best. Staying away from discussions about politics, religion, or sex helps. More appropriate topics include: weather, sports, travel, movies, where people are from or professions. Trying to get all involved in the conversation is best.
Some rules of manners and etiquette that help include: assisting the host if they would like help, and asking about seating arrangements rather than just assuming. Also, once seated, food should not be eaten until everyone is served or has their food. Utensil use can be confusing. Rule of thumb is to start with the utensil furthest from the plate and work toward the plate. Remembering not to talk with your mouth full is critical.
After eating, the napkin should be placed to the left of the plate and your chair should be pushed in. Offering to help with the cleanup is always appreciated. The holiday meal can be a tremendous amount of work for the host so allowing them to rest and unwind after their work can be a nice gesture.
In conclusion, despite the stress the holiday meal can cause, using manners and etiquette can make the whole experience much smoother for all.
Source: Pesci, Pat, Kansas State University, Director of Hotel and Restaurant Management, 2011.
Author: Liz Smith, Family and Consumer Science Educator, Ohio State University Extension.

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