Ask Mr. Holiday Etiquette Guy

Dear Mr. Holiday Etiquette Guy,

We have family Thanksgiving and Christmas at my parents' house every year. Mom cooks the turkey and/or ham, plus a few desserts, and asks all of us kids and our spouses to bring side dishes and desserts. There are usually more than 20 of us at these major events.

The problem is, one of my sisters is notoriously cheap. Every year, she brings deviled eggs, which are great and everyone loves them. The problem is, she only brings 24 deviled eggs, which means she only makes a dozen actual eggs. That leaves just one half egg for each of us. She's done it for years, and no one will say anything to her about her stinginess. How can we get her to be more generous, even if it's just bringing a dozen more eggs? Sincerely, Just Wants Eggs.

Dear Eggs,

What's one thing that every family, no matter how big or small, how close or distant, is great at?

Shame and guilt.

These are useful tools in making family to bend to your will.

The best way to get the message across to your sister — and this is a passive-aggressive technique too, which gives you plausible deniability — is to have everyone take two eggs as they go through the line, especially the kids. Also, sneak one or two before dinner is served.

Then, when the louder, more obnoxious adults go last, the eggs will be all gone, and they'll grouse about it all evening. She'll be so mortified that she'll double or even triple the recipe next time. Problem solved!

If that doesn't work, you'll have to go to extreme, desperate measures: Communicate directly with your sister and clearly tell her what you want.

Dear Mr. Holiday Etiquette Guy,

My brother's daughter, 8, has her birthday in late January, nearly five weeks after Christmas. Meanwhile, my nephew, 10, has his birthday in June. My nephew is very easy to buy for: one Christmas gift and one birthday gift throughout the year. But I only buy my niece one slightly bigger gift to cover both Christmas and her birthday.

Recently, my sister-in-law said it hurt my niece's feelings that she only got one gift from me all year. How selfish can you be? As if it's my fault that her birthday and Christmas are so close together.

I told my sister-in-law that it was unfair of her to have had her second child so close after Christmas, but she said that this was none of her business, and that I was playing favorites. Can you believe it? Sincerely, Thrifty, Not Cheap

Dear Tightfisted Tilly,

Yes, I can believe it, because you're being very chintzy. Kids who have birthdays in November, December, or January are constantly getting stiffed just because they had the misfortune of being born in the wrong season.

Every kid loves to feel special on both Christmas and their birthday. And three-quarters of the kids in this country don't get hosed just because of an accident of timing. Most parents will make sure their kids get to do something special on both days, but it's the tightfisted miser who cheaps out on a little kid just because they can't be bothered to plan ahead a little.

Buy your niece's gift in August and hang onto it until her birthday. Hopefully, your niece will eventually believe you're a kind and generous person, and not a stingy skinflint.

Dear Mr. Holiday Etiquette Guy,

My husband and I have a daughter who's nearly three, and this will be her first Christmas where she truly understands what's going on. At her Mommy and Me class, the teacher told a story about Santa Claus and how he brings presents to good girls and boys. Now, my daughter is excited to think that Santa is coming to our house.

The problem is, my husband and I have a strict "no lying" policy in our house, and we don't believe we should let our daughter indulge in this Santa Claus nonsense every Christmas. I also don't think they should teach this at our Mommy and Me classes, and I have asked to speak to the teacher about it. How do I get them to understand this is for their own good?

Sincerely, Stick to our Principles

Dear Stick Up Your, uh, Principles,

What are you, a monster? Do not ruin Santa Claus for those kids! What sort of heartless humbug would destroy the childhoods of a classroom of young children? It's bad enough that you're going to suck all the joy out of your own daughter's life — I can already tell she's in for years of counseling — but don't leech all the magic out of everyone else's childhoods.

Every kid loves the idea that someone cares about them enough to come to their house and leave them a gift. There's nothing more special than watching a kid's face when they think something magical is about to happen in his or her house.

If you try to take that away from any child, especially those who aren't your own, then I hope you get a stocking full of coal. Maybe you should stop going to Mommy and Me and see if there's a Mommy Dearest and Me class instead.

Photo credit: Kamiel79 (, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.