DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and I were brought up learning the importance of writing thank you notes for gifts received. We have been writing thank you notes to our relatives for Christmas presents for as long as I can remember.
Now that we are both adults (25 and 22), we both give and receive gifts during the holidays.
I realized recently that the thank-you-note rule seems to only apply to the "children" and not to the adults (parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents). Is there a point where we will be "adults" too and exempt from written acknowledgement, or should we be expecting handwritten notes from our family members?
GENTLE READER: Since you cannot be asking seriously whether etiquette offers a retirement plan from the rigors of polite behavior, Miss Manners will answer the questions you meant to ask.
Yes, your older relatives are rude not to express thanks for the presents you give them. And no, that does not entitle you to retaliate by ignoring the presents they give you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I throw a yearly holiday party, and each year, I have more wine the morning after than when the party started. Each guest brings a bottle -- unprompted.
I feel honored by my guests who arrive empty-handed, who place their evening's hospitality into my (I think, capable) hands. I love a good bottle of wine, which my thoughtful guests do their best to bring; but I cannot appreciate all of them -- I do have to walk during these parties -- and am reduced to brief thanks at the door, with "you shouldn't have."
Please, could you challenge your readers to arrive at parties empty-handed, but bring a festive spirit and make the event memorable through their presence, with a well-thought-out and complementary thank you note -- the few of which I receive, I treasure -- to follow sometime after?
And I won't even mention the gifts brought which scream, "You may like us, and we're here, but we won't be inviting you to any social events next year, either; this cancels the social debt incurred by this evening."
GENTLE READER: It's funny about that correlation between bringing wine and failing to write letters of thanks or to reciprocate. Miss Manners has noticed it, too.
"I was taught never to arrive empty-handed," declare many people who were apparently not taught anything else.
Now, Miss Manners would never discourage generosity, and it is charming to bring one's dinner hosts flowers, candy or a treat to enjoy later. (Wine falls into that category, as the host will have planned the evening's wine and one bottle doesn't go far.) But it is not obligatory (and for a large party, it is likely to cause inconvenience to a busy host). Those other duties are.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was just wondering: How long into the new year can you still keep wishing people a "Happy New Year!"?
Or, when does the New Year become too old to be considered new?
GENTLE READER: Right after you finish taking down the Christmas decorations, which are beginning to get on everyone's nerves.