Miss Conduct

A Thanksgivukkah dilemma

Plus, can a host save a gift of wine for later?

Lucy Truman

I have always sent holiday cards to corporate friends and family the Monday after Thanksgiving in order to encompass all holidays. However, Hanukkah is the same week as Thanksgiving this year. Should holiday cards be sent out earlier in order to include those celebrating Hanukkah, or should I stick to the post-Thanksgiving rule?

K.I. / Boston

If you send the cards first thing on Monday morning, they have a good chance of reaching your Jewish clients and colleagues before sundown on Thursday, which is when Hanukkah ends this year. (Let us pray that the turkey leftovers do not last all eight nights.)

But it doesn’t matter, because if these are generic “winter holiday” cards, their sentiments include New Year’s as well. The “War on Christmas” fruitcakes like to pretend that “Happy Holidays” is some kind of insidious Newspeak, but Christmas Day is and always has been only one part of the winter holiday season. The Christmas season itself lasts through Epiphany in early January.


I’m not harping on this point out of mere religious geekery. For my readers who celebrate Christmas: The more you can think of Christmas as a season rather than as 24 consecutive hours of mandatory concentrated glee, the more you’ll enjoy it. Celebrate a little bit of Christmas every day rather than thinking of December as one big run-up to the 25th. A series of small pleasures gives people more happiness than a single big event — science says so!

I host a Christmas Eve party for 35 to 40 family members. I know a bit about wine and serve a variety of good ones. Here’s my dilemma: A few of my guests bring very expensive wines, which I view as hostess gifts, then others will open and drink them. I sometimes never get to try them! Is it bad form to thank the gift-giver and then discreetly place the wine in a different location, or am I a Scrooge who should be more generous with my beloved family?

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S.S. / Attleboro

You may keep gift wines for your private reserve. Wines are a popular host gift but sometimes cause social confusion even before they are drunk. Let’s review the basics as the entertaining season approaches.

If you are given wine at an event that you are hosting, you may serve it or keep it for your own consumption. If the guest has a plan for the wine, it’s her responsibility to let you know, in a genteel fashion: “I know you’re mad for malbec” implies that you should keep it for yourself, whereas “I found this Israeli red that goes fabulously with latkes” suggests community property for the Hanukkah party.

If you are serving dinner and are given a wine that doesn’t complement the food, then compliment the wine itself and put it aside. “I’ve got something else to serve with the fish, but I’ve been wanting to try this!” (If you are at all unsure or fear giving offense, you can always ask, “Shall I open this?”)


If you do keep the wine for yourself, make a note of who gave you what. That way, you can make sure to let the giver know how much you enjoyed the wine once you do get to sample it. Such a list will also prevent you from regifting an inferior vintage to the same person who gave it to you in the first place.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

WHAT ELSE ABOUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON HAS YOU ANXIOUS? Write to Miss Conduct at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams this Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.