This time of year is when we should cut everyone a little slack.
Some of us are stressed. Some of us are dealing with a chronic illness. Some of us are grieving. Some of us are trying to get through it all in one piece. Maybe we’ve got a tense, awkward relationship with a family member. Maybe we’re worried about having overextended ourselves financially.
Who knows what each of us has going on? I mean, we should be kind and compassionate any time of the year, truth be told, but Christmas seems to be the season of expectations and trampled boundaries as much as it is about joy and giving and togetherness—and we all feel a little of this pressure.
That said, there are a few things I have on my nonnegotiables list that I ask every person to be mindful of when they’re visiting me. I don’t want to be a jerk about it, and I forgive most everything else, but these three things are my hard-and-fasts.
What’s on your list of nonnegotiables during this season of family dinners and Christmas morning brunches and New Year’s Eve parties? What little things can we all do to make this a more mindful holiday? Share yours in the comments!
1. Care about food waste.
Please don’t pile your plate high, only to eat a quarter of the food and throw the rest of it in the trash. Not only is food waste a huge problem for our planet, it’s a huge problem for my wallet, my time, and my effort.
This personal pet peeve likely began from a place of scarcity, and then evolved into both a climate and budget issue. And by the way, do you know what goes into hand-making each of those perogies and holopchies you just threw away? Sacrilege!
Don’t be afraid to chow down. I want everyone visiting to enjoy the meal and to eat as much as their little bellies desire, and I make more than enough for that reason. But please take only what you can eat and have seconds and thirds if you want more. If you’re not sure you will like something, don’t take a double helping to start.
We do leftovers in this house, so whatever’s uneaten at the end of the night won’t stay that way for long. I have two boys (well, men at this point) who love a good Christmas leftover plate. Anything that isn’t eaten within a day or two is frozen and saved for another mealtime. Nothing goes to waste, if I can help it. I will happily provide jars or other containers if you want to take your leftovers home with you. In fact, that’d be a hell of a compliment!
2. Take off your shoes.
In Canada, this is the norm, so most people I know already do this. However, I was watching one of my favorite YouTubers, Laura from Garden Answer, and she mentioned in one of her videos that she would actually rather not visit someone if it meant taking off her shoes.
Do you know what’s on the bottom of those shoes? And you’re okay with that all over your floors and carpets? For those with kids who are crawling, doesn’t that seem especially yucky?
As a host, it’s my duty to make sure there’s a place for your shoes to stay warm and dry, and also a place for you to get them on and off. But, because I live in a small townhouse, space is limited, there’s no place to sit in the entry, and nobody wants to be a member of the wet sock club. So for that reason, I do make exceptions when a group of people arrive at once, or someone who’s elderly or has a disability is visiting. If you need to head to the kitchen for a chair to get your boots off or on, or if you’re all crowded in—a mush of kids and parents and grandparents trying to get boots and jackets off—all is forgiven. I’ll just give the floor a quick wipe after everyone’s in and settled. But either way, please take off those shoes!
3. Be healthy.
As someone who suffers from emetophobia, I can’t be clearer about this. Please excuse yourself from visiting if you’re sick or still recovering. I’m more sensitive about a stomach bug illness than something like a flu or cold, but all the same, nobody wants to catch those germs. Did you know that the norovirus is still transmittable anywhere from three days to two weeks after you’ve been sick with it, and it can only be killed with bleach? I shudder just typing that.
With that in mind, one of the best ways to be mindful of those around you, sick or not, is to be extra about the hand-washing when in a group setting. That alone is the best thing we can do for everyone’s health. If you are still experiencing some symptoms, or feel a cold coming on (we all know that heavy-eyes, feverish feeling), ask someone else to serve you those finger foods and appetizers. If your child has recently been sick, let the family know so they can be a little more careful with those hugs and kisses.