The Homeowner’s Guide to Holiday Etiquette

With Remembrance Day now behind us, it’s time to get full-swing into the holiday spirit by hanging decorations, stringing lights, putting up the Christmas tree, and gathering with friends and family near and far. But there’s a certain way to conduct yourself over the holidays, particularly as a homeowner.

In order to ensure the holidays are filled with festive cheer and go on without a hitch, be sure to keep these (unwritten) rules of etiquette in mind.

Wait Until After Thanksgiving to Hang Your Outdoor Lights

Some people are somewhat finicky about when holiday lights should be put up. If you happen to live on a street that’s got a few neighbors who are a little anal about the whole Christmas light tradition, you might want to keep the lights at bay until Thanksgiving has come and passed.

Holiday lights are fine to be strung the day after Thanksgiving and then taken down shortly after New Year’s Day – preferably before January 6th (the day of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day in the U.S.). This is a good rule of thumb to follow even if your lights are meant as a celebration of a different faith throughout the holiday season.

Keep Your Neighbor’s Floor Plan in Mind When Hanging Lights

Have you ever seen the part in ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ when Clark Griswald blares his Christmas lights into the home next door? That wasn’t exactly an enjoyable moment for the neighbors.

When hanging your Christmas lights this season, take your neighbor’s floor plan into consideration. You don’t want the lights to shine directly into their bedrooms, especially in the middle of the night. If you’re uncertain about where certain windows lead, be sure to ask your neighbors. This will allow you to be both festive and courteous, the right combination for this time of year.

Be Mindful of Your Holiday Blow-Up Decor

If your neighborhood is full of kids or you have some of your own, blow-up Christmas props are always a fun addition to your overall decoration theme. That said, make sure you’re careful about where you put them in your yard. You could be inadvertently bothering your neighbor next door if it’s too close to their property, or you may even be obstructing drivers’ visibility of the road.

Be Courteous When Approaching the Neighbors About Their Poor Lighting Etiquette

Holiday lighting etiquette doesn’t just apply to you – the same unwritten rules go for everyone. While you don’t want to offend or bother your neighbors, there’s no reason why you should be pestered either, whether it’s due to their lack of consideration or neglect.

If your neighbor’s lights are disturbing you while you’re trying to sleep, there’s nothing wrong with politely approaching them about the situation. It’s quite possible that they may not have even realized that their choice of light location would cause a problem for you.

Be sure not to be too nit-picky about your complaints. You may even want to offer to help reposition the lights to keep things cheerful without coming across like Scrooge this holiday season.

Prep Your Home Before the Holiday Guests Arrive

The holidays are a time of many get-togethers with friends and family. If you happen to be the host of one of these many gatherings, you’ll want to get your home ready for visitors. A day or two before guests arrive, give your home a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering job.

Keep essentials such as tissues, toilet paper, and clean towels handy. Stock up on food and beverages that you may want to serve your guests. Even if you don’t plan to host a gathering, you may want to keep your home clean and stocked with food and drinks in case any unexpected guests drop by with no notice.

Be Prepared For Overnighters

If some of the guests you invite are from out of town or have simply had a few too many spiked eggnogs, be prepared to host them for the night. Make sure to have fresh linens to offer, and have the guest bedroom ready for overnighters. Keep the bathroom clean and stocked with the appropriate toiletries and keep a variety of breakfast items stocked in your fridge or pantry to nourish your guests the morning after.

Be Wary of Food Allergies

These days, it seems as though more and more people suffer from some level of food allergies. Whether it’s nuts, shellfish, eggs, or dairy, serving a food item that a certain guest may be allergic to could turn out to be disastrous.

To avoid a potentially hazardous and unpleasant situation, make sure to inquire about any specific food allergies from guests that you’ve invited to come over. Even if nobody seems to have any food sensitivities, consider having a couple of platters of food that contain no known food allergens, such as the ones mentioned above.

Keep all the food labels of products that you bought and served so that someone with a food allergy can go through the ingredients list and decide whether or not the item is safe for their consumption. If you’re going to buy pre-made products, be sure that they are specifically labeled as allergy-free. And don’t keep food-sensitive platters near those that may contain nuts or other potential allergens to avoid any cross-contamination.

Establish Gift Exchanges in Advance of Gatherings

Along with your invitation to have guests over, make sure you stipulate the gift-giving policy first. It would be an uncomfortable situation to be given a gift without having one to give in return, or vice versa. Be sure to establish whether or not gifts will be exchanged before the date of your event to avoid an unpleasant scenario.

Find Out the Proper Etiquette of Tipping Your Mail Carrier and Other Professionals

You’re certainly not obligated to tip your mail carrier, UPS delivery person, or regular barista at your local Starbucks. However, if you choose to do so, make sure you find out what the proper etiquette is for tipping these professionals first.

Some companies may frown upon their employees being tipped for whatever reason and actually instruct them not to accept any gifts from customers. If you go ahead and offer a tip without finding out what the proper protocol is first, you could be putting these people in an awkward position.

The Bottom Line

The holidays are a time of festivity, thankfulness, and spending time with loved ones. It’s definitely not a time for awkward moments and offensive situations. To make sure your holiday season is a cheerful one for everyone involved, keep the above holiday etiquette tips in mind.