So let's say...an invitation is extended from a friend, family member or aquaintance to their annual or semi-annual or once-in-a-while Christmas get-together. In responding affirmatively to the invitation, there are certain responsibilities that are attached to attending a festive gathering. The source for all things social is Debretts, who offer a guide on anything and everything for all occasions. One can adapt the advice as one sees fit.
First on the list, Debretts suggests that guests arrive with, in their words, "goodies." This means to me that one should ascertain the ages and tastes of the host family before showing up with what could be embarrassing gift selections, like a set of cosmetics for a young female instead of a male. Then again... But I digress. Or, a tie to suit a family member recalled as Bruce, who ends up being the family pooch.
Speaking or writing about the family pooch, there is no mention regarding decorum where pets are concerned. Nothing noted regarding the passing of food tidbits under the table to whining or barking dog(s), neither is there any guidance as to how to proceed for dogs that beg while performing cute tricks. On the other hand, this would not be applicable to the family cat who prefer to make a statement walking accross the table... But I digress.
Another suggestion from Debretts is to check out what food item to bring along. Bean cassserol (here's Martha Stewart"s recipe for interested persons: http://www.marthastewart.com/340211/green-bean-casserole) is not everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, or aspic (for more about aspic, check this out: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-aspic.htm Somehow gelatin embedded with meat pieces doesn't do it for me, at least. Gelatin by itself, however, i.e. Jello et al, is a favorite personal dessert but definitely does not travel well in a warm car. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjBHgPeg8T4
As a guest, Debretts advises, don't take over the role of host. This would or could include monopolizing the conversation focusing on, for example, past get-togethers and/or family fiasco celebrations. Memory joggers like "remember when blah-blah danced with the floor lamp and eneded up being treated for electric shock" -type reminders is not mannerly table talk. In the way of help, here are some conversation starters focusing on a wide range of subjects - take your pick and be witty: http://aesthetichealingmindset.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/social-savvy-for-the-holidays-%E2%80%93-conversation-starters-for-more-interesting-table-talk/
Debretts also suggests that thoughtful guests offer their assistance in the kitchen. This could include salad- making or dish drying or aspic de-geling (is aspic still on the holiday menu, one wonders or was it ever?), which is tricky (http://whatscookingamerica.net/gelatintip.htm) and the wrong move can result in a plate of colored liquid. But again, I digress.
In as far as missing a favorite TV program, Debretts suggests that recorders be set up to ensure that favorite programs aren't missed. Don't make demands of the hosts to watch a favorite show. Perhaps other guests may also have their own favorite TV program like the weekly football telecast while other may be fans of X-Factor or Glee, which could cause program conflicts. Perhaps a good conversation starter is to go around the table and vote as to which programs to watch. Just a suggestion.
Another suggestion is not to comment (or presumably criticize) a host's way of entertaing, Debretts advises.
No statements or subjects that touch on bedtime activities like "When I was young, we had our Christmas cake at 5 o'clock and were in bed by 8…" Comments like these will always be seen as implied criticisms, and should be avoided at all costs."
Get into the spirit of the get together and as Debretts advises, "don't be a party pooper." If everyone participates in a Christmas sing-a-long featuring Barry Manilow singing holiday favorites (for example), sitting with folded arms and mumbling bad words to one-self is not being a good guest.
Once the wine bottles or fruit juice have gone and the aspic has disolved into a color-less liquid with pieces of disgusting grey meat floating on the surface, it's polite to thank the hosts for extending an invitation to their holiday party. Debretts suggests that you "thank the host effusively for his/her hospitality."
"Thanks for the invite even though I missed the big game," is not nice. Neither is "did we mention we changed our address, phone number and e-mail?"
After all and in the end, it's all part of the Christmas celebration.