Civility During the Holidays

I’ve been planning on writing about the importance of civility through the holidays since Thanksgiving. It’s the main reason I do not participate in the Friday sales events that have gradually crept into Thursday and now compete with the turkey for center stage during the day when we are supposed to be counting our blessings and reconnecting with family. The savage attacks on stores offering a small number of huge bargains include pepper-spraying shoppers who intend to make certain no one makes off with the bargains, reckless driving, arguments over parking spaces, stampedes, and stalking lucky deal snatchers in order to remove the items from their shopping carts before they make it to check out. The one time I participated in this shopping mania, I actually reached for an item on the shelf of a chain home improvement store when a clerk grabbed them all off and into a basket. When I asked why, I was told it was to fulfill online orders. My argument that I was standing there in person mid-reach for the product, fell on deaf ears. Many of my friends and family said I should have complained, thrown a fit, demanded satisfaction. I just took my business elsewhere – not that they cared.

Many of us are faced with relatives who know how to push each other’s buttons and seem to wait for the opportunity – perhaps even plan for it – to stick it to someone they disagree with among the family. It doesn’t seem to take much to get a full fledged battle going. Perhaps it isn’t even overtly obvious, just the way grandma treats one of the grandchildren slightly more lovingly. Or dad slips a little cash to the ne’er-do-well brother while refusing a loan to his responsible daughter. These arguments are never about the surface situation, but spring from a deep well of resentments from all the holidays passed. It is often difficult to be gracious when it involves such close personal connections.

Then there are the holiday parties and the inevitable witty comment someone receives as sarcasm. One too many and we’re off to the races. There’s always someone who rakes on your nerves like screeching brakes on hot pavement. Perhaps knowing you are allergic to smoke, someone sidles up next to you puffing nearly in your face and follows you as you try to escape with your breath intact. They may even think it’s funny to listen to you cough and choke. I can’t explain it.

There is one area that is garnering some incivility that surprises me. I was reading a favorite blog – Miss Demure Restraint – and she noted that once she had the issue of two readers who commented on her posts get into an argument through her blog. She had her settings for moderation open, and although she removed the comments, it was disturbing.

I was shocked by this. Cyber altercations? Really? Have we run out of people to insult face-to-face and now troll for them online? Geez, perhaps it is just too easy to start an argument at Grandma’s and we’re looking for a challenge.

When I chose to allow comments, I expected to receive some that may not always be pleasant. But I never thought they would be directed at anybody except me. And I have read many blogs where ugly comments got posted. Again, the target was either the author or the subject matter of the blog post, never toward another commenter.

I have to say, it is appalling. No wonder many bloggers are now moderating comments.

So here we all are again, thrown into the soup of relationships and holiday gatherings and finding ourselves half-anticipating, half-dreading them. I have a few suggestions.

On Shopping:

– Never shop super sales if you enjoy civility, unless your town is very small and you know all the shoppers by name or you have an unlimited supply of nerve medication.

– Try to hit major malls and stores during non-peak hours. Some large box chains are open 24 hours. A friend decided to do all of her shopping in the wee hours before dawn – her own private 4 am bargain blast. Though the prices were the same, it saved her sanity and parking was a breeze! You can’t put a price on that. And while the rest of us were hitting the stores after work, she just went home and unloaded the trunk!

– Use the internet.

– Have a good idea and buy it in multiples. If you enjoy the ‘magic chopper’ why wouldn’t you give everybody on your list one?

– Give kids money. This is controversial in some families but I have to say most love it, and they want things you’ll never guess at – like crash test dummies.

On Holiday Parties:

– Remove yourself from the fray. If there is a person who always pushes your buttons, analyze when they are most likely to be there and go earlier or later.

– Don’t bring the past along – tuck it in for a long winter’s nap at home. Think of it as a gift.

– Change your response to them. Other people can only make us feel what we allow. Cousin Fred will be counting on the response he normally gets from you so surprise him with something altogether different.

– Don’t engage. If the above suggestion doesn’t work – remember this one.

– Bring along a buffer guest. This is my favorite solution. Bring someone whose presence will cause Nana to keep her teeth and her claws in – someone that the guests wouldn’t want to know about their bad behavior. This could be another relative, an elderly person, preacher, friend of theirs, exchange student – you get the idea. It works beautifully most of the time.

In General:

– Smile.

– Drink less, not more.

– Try to remember why you celebrate Christmas.

– Take a surprise gift to someone you don’t exchange gifts with – maybe an elderly person in your community. We spent Christmas Eve cutting wood for an elderly pair one year – didn’t even know them that well until we heard they were out of wood which they still used for heat. It turns out to be a favorite memory to this day. We thought we were giving to them, they gave us a blessing I’ll never forget.

– Don’t pull a cyber punch. I can get myself into trouble enough leaving what I think are humorous comments but that don’t translate well in print. If I ever slip up and leave one on your blog that seems odd, read it with laughter in your voice and it will probably make more sense. I never mean to leave a bad comment. If I disagree that strongly, I’ll leave none at all.

– Tell the people who aren’t a pain how much you love them.

– And last but most importantly – remember to take some time for yourself. A long walk, a good book, time with the furry friends, a holiday concert or play, a drive through a spectacularly lit neighborhood, etc. It will be over soon and you won’t want to miss the joy by focusing too much on the negativity.

Merry Christmas!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.



  1. This post is perfect…..great advice all through it! Sadly, there seems to be less civility – or decency – in the world today.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas – I think you’ll be fine if you just follow your own wonderful advice!

  2. Great advice; thoughtful and well written.
    My favorite? Don’t bring the past along.
    so true .. we aren’t the mistakes we’ve made … we’re more than that.
    Cheers to you for a happy, healthy Christmas season … away from the mall 🙂 MJ

      1. I had to come back to this post, Renee. Just today someone I thought was my friend confronted me – in person – about a blog I wrote. She was sure it was about her. It wasn’t. It was about a decision I wrestled with recently .. but nothing I said could convince her. Finally, I tried to end it by apologizing to her if I’d hurt her feelings. It was exhausting but it was clear there was nothing I could do to convince her otherwise. I thought of your post on civility and people who got into fights on blog comments (really?) and came back to it. I’m still reeling. Thank you for this post. Unfortunately this really does happen. Good gravy!! MJ

      2. It sounds like the other person may have had something on her conscience that she felt like prompted the post. Of course, the minute you vow to be civil, the universe tests you. I’m sure if anyone can manage to remain above the fray, it’s you. I remember a comment on your ‘most popular’ blog that I thought set the example for all of us as the person commented on the Royal Wedding and you still thanked them for taking time to read your post and leave a comment. Classy and generous – that’s you!

      3. Thank you; I needed to read your kind words tonight. I remember the comment you referenced (on the Royal Wedding post ). I remember my mother’s words in my head, then and now, “When someone wants to show their a**, let them.” Still … it’s disconcerting b/c I don’t go looking for it and certainly don’t expect it. Thanks again, MJ

  3. I love the part where you’ve written about helping out that elderly couple. If everyone would become a part of the true Christmas spirit, it would be such a fabulous thing!

    Hope you have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

  4. Thank you for writing this and using the word “Civility”. Fortunately, the word has not become hackneyed and overused yet. You have summed it up very nicely…please, be civil.

    1. Perhaps that’s why we gravitate towards each other’s blogs – we see the civility and encouragement presented by others and know there is something beautiful left in the world. Merry Christmas Georgette.

  5. Well put. I can add one other “rule” based on the only thing that ruffled feathers at our family gatherings: don’t play cards if one of your family tips over the card table if he/she loses.

  6. Merry Christmas Renee! Celebrate this part of the year to its fullest. I know lots of parties must be going on at your place with “Renee’s Traditional Persimmon Pudding” at top of of your menu list.
    This one is the most intelligent and thoughtfully written post, i have read on Christmas till now. I wish lots of people will read this one to take all these lessons about how to celebrate this festival with the true spirit. Renee after reading the name of the post, i am having a feeling that this may get a place in freshly pressed list. I just hope you would have added few more photographs to this beautifully written post, then the probability of this post be part of that list would be little higher. Let’s hope it will reach there. I just want to see you in that homepage. But when you will reach there do not forget to mention about my blog.
    May this season will bring you lot more happiness, joy & peace. 🙂

    1. Joy and Peace to you as well Arindam. I know my picture is a little blurry but was trying to get the lit tree with my cell phone where the picture uploads immediately to wordpress. I had originally asked for a new camera for Christmas, found the one I wanted and then discovered the price. Two words – Sticker Shock! At least I can rejoice in the fact that no actual person will have to be pepper sprayed in order for me to receive the DSLR Canon. But Santa, if you’re listening…..

      1. Renee same situation here also, i am posting images in my blog by drawing my self. So lets hope Santa is listening. May be he can go for “Buy one get one free” offer and make both of us happy. 🙂

  7. The whole world should read it and more so take it to heart! It is disgusting and sooo sad to see the damage and distruction blatent consumerism has caused to a whole society! I personally will not participate in this madness. To me christmas is a special time and I can feel it is for you too! Enjoy a wonderful Christmas with ypur loved ones!

    1. You are still one of my favorite people on the planet! I am so glad to hear from you and not at all surprised by you wisdom. I’d love to share a holiday toast with you and hear of some of your delightful stories. Merry Christmas.

  8. When my mother passed on, I stopped hosting Christmas (and Thanksgiving, and Easter, and Mother’s Day) for my 3 sisters and their families. I still have my children and a small circle of good friends. It’s much more civilized this way. (Plus, my sisters have never issued me an invite so I don’t really know what they are doing after coming to my house for 25 years or more.)

    1. Wow – you hosted for 25 years with no invitation to their events? Speechless. Sounds like they may have taken you for granted or just can’t throw as nice a party as you. Have you ever asked about this? Just wondering.

  9. This is a thoughtful post. I appreciated reading it. I do very little shopping anymore and generally go when the crowds will be at a minimum. I have yet to get myself out there! Maybe tomorrow. Here’s hoping that you will have a more-than-civil holiday, with warm sentiments all-around, and for heaven’s sake, no smoke in your face!

  10. Merry Christmas and may you have none of the hassles and all of the joys of a good celebration. Thanks for your good suggestions.

  11. I totally agree with your comments. I couldn’t believe the report of a shopper using pepper spray on other shoppers, or stories from the past year or two of people dying from being trampled by a mob of shoppers. No one needs “stuff” that desperately! And I am personally not interested in using the Friday after Thanksgiving fighting the hordes. I love to experience a bit of holiday hustle and bustle…the festive decorations, Christmas music, etc, puts a little magic in the air. But I am not interested in competitive shopping! I do most of mine online, and save just a small amount to do in person.
    Thank you for encouraging good manners and politeness, both with strangers and with family. If you can’t get along and be nice to the people you’re with, why bother getting together? Sheila

    1. ‘if you can’t get along and be nice to the people you’re with, why bother getting together?’ I love that Sheila. Maybe we should ask ourselves why we are getting together and what we want to give ourselves from these events – what we get from them. If we are looking for something to be upset about the rest of the year, we’ll surely find it. If, however, we look for reasons to enjoy our events, we’re sure to find that as well. I hope you find much happiness this season.

  12. I feel you ave given us bloggers a truly loving gift with this post. You hit all the bases and gave a great lists of helpful hints. You have a beautiful heart. Thanks so much for being a positive and enjoyable blogging friend.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family. 🙂

  13. Families can be complicated. I always think what the argument over amounts to so little that it’s rather embarrassing. This year, again, it was over paying 20 bucks or bringing a dish. Even had an encounter over the FB family page. Lordy mercy, where’s my real family?

    I had a couple of bloggers to go at it once, over the topic but I don’t erase comments. The topic was controversial somewhat and this is bound to happen in the virtual community.

    1. I guess it can be expected in a controversial topic, especially as we can’t get through an eveninng without hearing the best and brightest – supposedly – volleying for the highest honor in our country tearng each other apart and nearly coming to blows in debates. I wish someone would step up and teach us all how to disagree with decorum. Maybe you can Totsy – you have a terrific sense of humor and a clever wit. I think those two things combined, qualifies you to lead us to civility! Merry Christmas.

  14. I try, if i have an opinion on a comment, to answer it will intellect and tact as much as possible while attempting to point out that differing points of view exist and are equally valid. I actually got sucked into a cyberfight addressing someone on a wedding post berating someone else who didn’t know MOH stood for maid/matron of honor. I calmly presented my responses and the other person got irate because a) I dared to point out not every woman is wedding culture obsessed, b) I “mistook” her for a guy (I used the term “mayn” as general slang, but her name was Bobbie–what am I, psychic?) and c) I refused to come down to have level and get nasty. I felt the need to post an apology to the original poster for unintentionally prolonging that jackassery.

    I did happen to notice, several minutes later, that the belligerent party’s comments had disappeared, and mine were still there. Hmmmm…..

    1. Sorry to hear about that incident. They were probably embarrassed by the rude commenter and removed the offending words. I’m sure we can all learn something from this. Merry Christmas and thanks for visiting my site.

  15. Thanks Renee — Your suggestions are all good. But I would like this to be my motto, in the blogging world and in life outside the ‘sphere:

    “I can get myself into trouble enough leaving what I think are humorous comments but that don’t translate well in print. If I ever slip up and leave one on your blog that seems odd, read it with laughter in your voice and it will probably make more sense. I never mean to leave a bad comment. ” Beautifully said. Thanks!

    1. Ain’t it the truth! Not everyone shares our sense of humor and sometimes, it just doesn’t read at all like intended. Merry Christmas Elyse. I hope it’s wonderful.

      1. Merry Christmas to you, too, Renee. And you know what they say about folks who can’t take a joke … ummmm what is it they say???

  16. Hi There! Very much enjoyed your blog, and great advice. Sorry to hear about the blog altercation – bad news. I have been a guest blogger on a new writers site for some time and am currently launching my own, with a little trepidation I might add!

  17. I think I commented on this post before, but I had to come back and re-read something you’d written:
    “Tell people who aren’t a pain…you love them.”
    I find I spend a lot of time trying to “handle the annoying ones, I take for granted the congenial folks.”
    These words are like gold coins. Thanks you Thank you. And though i don’t know you well, let me say…I’m very fond of seeing your name pop up when I read folks’ blogs.

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