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The holidays are just around the corner and invitations have been arriving via email and delivered in our regular mail. So, how do you make sure that you have the best and safest holiday gatherings this year?

US culture: Safer ways of showing respect for each other, such as wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and exchanging handshakes for head nods, have cropped up in the past year and may last indefinitely. Etiquette is alive and it evolves. It isn’t set in stone. What doesn’t change is the concept of respect for yourself and respect for others. Here’s what to expect when it comes to minding your manners during holiday gatherings 2021 in the COVID-19 era:

Vaccine and covid status: It’s the host’s duty to put their guests at ease. If you’re hosting a gathering and you require guests to be fully vaccinated, show a negative Covid test, or plan a mask less event, include this with the invitation. Advise all guests in advance of the environment they’ll be entering. Place the decision-making power with them so they can decide whether to attend.

Prepare in advance: Gatherings require advance planning by flexible hosts. If variant numbers rise again, hosts might need to postpone or cancel. Guests who are invited to a holiday celebration will want to respect the host’s decision, even if it the notice arrives at the last minute.

Follow regional and CDC guidelines: Recommendations are frequently updated so as a host, check the latest guidelines posted by your regional and federal experts. Advice regarding distancing, gatherings, hand washing, masks, outdoor activities, and indoor ventilation can be updated frequently. Make sure and let your guests know in advance the protocols you will be following and that they are expected to follow as well.

Stay home and cozy: If you have a sniffle, resist the temptation to push through and go to the gathering. Stay home and cuddle up with your furry friend. As we learned last year in 2020; it’s just not worth the risk to attend anyway. In this pandemic-driven world it’s not only about your health and well-being, but also about being respectful of the community.

Show gratitude: As we continue to navigate this pandemic through another challenging holiday season, let’s remember the reason for the season. The best thing we can do is accept change, behave well, practice patience, act with civility, and be kind. Don’t be a rogue guest. Avoid discussion about sex, politics, and religion. Avoid prying questions. Focus on gratitude and the platinum rule, treat others how they want to be treated.

BYOM (Bring Your Own Meal & Mask): BYOM serves double duty again this year, with the ‘M’ meaning meal and mask. Prior to 2020, it was customary for guests to bring at least one dish to the holiday gathering. Again, this year, for safety, it is not unusual to ask each family to bring or contribute their own meal. Hosts will want to ask their guests to arrive wearing a mask and know the BYOM rules in advance so there is no confusion and awkwardness.

Drive instead of fly when possible: Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel period of the year for air travel. Although the airlines and airports have undergone stringent hygiene upgrades during the pandemic and air travel has been deemed safer despite COVID concerns, nonetheless it still increases your risk. When possible, turn holiday travel into a fun road trip. Consider traveling at off-peak times to avoid contact with the crowd of other holiday travelers.

Naïve realism: The tendency to believe that the way we view the world is the way it really exists is identified by psychologists as naïve realism. In other words, your view of COVID, pandemic, politics, religion, sex, or anything else. When your view is only one of a range of other perspectives held by intelligent people. So, when engaged in dialogue with other people, keep in mind that your opinion isn’t going to match theirs. That’s what makes our world so rich.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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