Advice Columns

Miss Manners: One family lives lessons of Christmas

niversal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We had four children about five years apart, lots of gifts under the tree, and a very calm, enjoyable, fun-filled Christmas morning. It was a family time. Dad gave someone a gift. It was opened, admired by all, thanked, and a hug and a kiss if it was from one of the family present, and an easy jotting down if there was a need to write a thank-you.

Then we’d stop, have breakfast, go to church, have lunch, take a walk or just break to enjoy what we had received. It was fun to watch that perhaps one child (or each in turn) was more excited about giving the gift they had purchased or made to one of the siblings or parents. And that child got to present the gift to the sibling.

Some Christmases it took us all day to open the gifts or even into the next day. As the older children began to read and write, they often wanted to be the note keeper.

I have always been thankful for the way we handled Christmas morning. Speak of teaching patience! The joy of giving. Concern for others. Sharing. I could go on and on.

GENTLE READER: Like a sack of coal, Miss Manners’ annual holiday mailbag is filled with accounts of greed, strife and ingratitude. She is immensely grateful to have found this gem among them.

Rudeness all around

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Three weeks ago, Sue, a high school classmate, informed me that a third classmate, Kelly, was throwing a party for our class, as well as for a few classes preceding and following ours. Kelly asked Sue to help get the word out. Anyway, I eagerly accepted the invitation from Sue to Kelly’s party.

A few days later, I had second thoughts and called Sue and said I really didn’t want to go. She asked why, and I told her, honestly, that none of my close friends from those days were going, and I didn’t feel like making small talk with classmates I essentially never see.

She informed me she had already told Kelly that I was coming and that Kelly was excited I was coming. (We were only casual friends in high school.) I asked Sue to please tell Kelly I said hello, and she said she would.

I am concerned that I may have hurt Kelly’s feelings, especially since Sue likely relayed my reneging verbatim. Should I send Kelly some kind of apology? Should I just let sleeping dogs lie?

GENTLE READER: Is everyone in this situation still in high school?

Miss Manners is certain that your letter indicates not, but all parties are assuredly acting as if they are.

Yes, it is rude to decline an invitation saying that you do not feel like making small talk (Miss Manners hates to inform you that is the very definition of a party). It is also rude to issue an invitation through a third party.

You could set an example of maturity by talking to them both directly. Tell Sue that you regret having declined the invitation on silly grounds, and Kelly that you are sorry that you missed her party and hope that she will forgive you about any misunderstandings resulting from the indirect communication.

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 12/26