DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do many people send Christmas cards out in hopes of receiving Christmas tips in return?
Sure there are charities that send more mail at this time in a Christmas card format, but it just seems too much when all of a sudden our delivery man gives us his home address or other people send cold Christmas cards with no personal feeling -- no signature, no writing. Are we supposed to return the card with a Christmas check?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners enjoys thinking that you are being served by warm-hearted people who are emotionally overcome at Christmas time by the human bond they feel with you, but perhaps are too shy to sign their names. What she knows for certain is that they will not be insulted if you respond with your own card, with your signature accompanied by a tangible sign of your appreciation.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: This will be the first time in nearly 20 years that my sister and I will be spending Christmas in our childhood home with our parents. She is divorced with two teenage daughters, and she recently announced she also is bringing a new boyfriend with her to our celebration.
My parents and I are planning to be cordial and welcoming, but we are not thrilled that she is allowing this man -- who I've briefly met once and my parents never have -- to "crash" our rare family gathering. (FYI, my sister did NOT ask my parents in advance.) After all, my parents and I were looking forward to a "family" Christmas. We were all a little stunned by my sister's actions, partly because she's bringing a strange man into the house and sleeping arrangements for family members are already tight.
Is my sister being inconsiderate, or am I just over-reacting? Are my parents and I now obligated to give Christmas gifts to this stranger just because he will be with us on the holiday?
After all, because we don't really know him, we wouldn't normally give him gifts. We don't want to make him feel overlooked, but we are uncomfortable giving gifts out of obligation rather than sincerity. Please help!
GENTLE READER: If you mean that you have no sincere desire to be hospitable at Christmas time to someone who is important to your sister, Miss Manners advises you to conceal it. It is neither a seasonal nor an attractive sentiment.
Your mother should not have to give the gentleman a bed if she hasn't one to provide, and, yes, there should have been some warning. But holiday visitors should receive not only a warm welcome but a modest present, so that they are not left out when others exchange theirs.
As it happens, meeting your sister's beau is a basic item of family business. (Think what fun you and your mother will have talking him over in the coming weeks.) He is not a stranger to her. Besides, it is particularly unwise to close family ranks against someone who may become a member.