Philip Galanes on How to Have Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 06, 2012

From gift exchanges to office parties to family gatherings to New Years Eve celebrations, this time of year is full of potentially tricky social situations. Expert Philip Galanes is here to give some advice on how to survive the holidays! He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Do you need advice on how to face a holiday conundrum? Leave a comment below!


Philip Galanes

Comments [21]


It was a pleasure hearing this when Philip is on the show :-)

Dec. 06 2012 11:13 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On making contributions in another person's name, Green America's ( magazine, "Green American," has an article this month on "How to Party With a Purpose." It includes a quote from someone who found gifts for family members at a Gifts That Give Hope Fair. She donated to a group to give a microloan for a sewing machine to a woman in the Congo (DRC) in the name of Her parents, who are involved in international philanthropic projects, & donated to give a family w/a parent in the military overseas food assistance in the name of her family-centered, patriotic in-laws.

So there are good choices out there for this kind of gift.

Dec. 06 2012 12:56 PM
Mike Morrison from NYC

While I thoroughly enjoy Mr. Galanes' column, I disagree with his advice re: re-gifting. It is NEVER appropriate or correct. One gives a gift to a recipient out of kindness and thoughtfulness. The gift-giver justifiably does not expect that their present will be given to another. To do so makes a mockery of what the giver intended AND the motivation of the re-gifter, i.e., instead of putting care and thought into HIS/HER present, he/she merely looks to see what is in the house and is not "needed" or wanted, re-wraps same, and ditches on some, hopefully for the re-gifter, unsuspecting sap. Hardly an act of graciousness. If one is lucky enough to be given gifts that one has no use for, donate them to charity.

Dec. 06 2012 12:47 PM
Bill from LES

I wanted to give some advice to the sober AA person worried about the party. I'm also sober and I have a few ways I've gotten through.

1. I call a sober friend before the party just to check in.

2. I bring a non-alcoholic drink so I always have something in my hand. Nobody offers a drink because I have a bottle of gatorade or water already in my hand.

3. If someone asks why I'm not drinking, I say I have an allergy to alcohol, which is true because if I drink, I break out in a drunk, but they don't need to know that part.

4. If I'm feeling very uncomfortable, I look for someone who looks even more uncomfortable than I am and I try to make them feel better. That takes my focus off of my own feelings.

5. If it's really bad, I just leave. Nothing is worse endangering my sobriety, and if I do drink I'm going to lose that job anyway.

Good luck and happy sober holidays!

Dec. 06 2012 12:38 PM
Anthony from Brooklyn, NY

The best way to make sure that you aren't getting gifts that you don't want, especially if you want something more practical for daily use sign up for an Amazon wish list. You can put anything on it and people shopping for you can order it directly from the links on the page. It's fast, specific, and easy. My family finally all agreed to do this for each other this year and so far we have found Christmas shopping much easier and less stressful.

Dec. 06 2012 12:36 PM
Jocelyn from Brooklyn

I don't drink either and for some reason saying "no thank you" to a drink offered inspires questions or just looks along the lines of "why the heck not?" or "what is wrong with you?" If I don't feel like "making a scene" I just take a glass of wine. No one notices that I don't drink it.

Dec. 06 2012 12:35 PM

The secret to navigating boozy office parties is to (as Philip says) get there early, then make a point to show your face to EVERYONE. Then leave. People don't remember how long you were there for - they remember THAT you were there.

Dec. 06 2012 12:29 PM
East Village from east village

How about a friend who invites you and your partner to HIS (the friend's) office party? I hate going but he gets upset when I don't go. Thoughts?

Dec. 06 2012 12:29 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Hi Philip, love your column!

Do you have any suggestions how to handle a new brother-in-law? My sister
met a guy last year, moved in with him 3 months later, got pregnant, got married, and is now 1 year into the relationship. This is her 3rd husband, and she has a child by husband #2. Last year, new beau proceeded to tell my other sibling and I that our mother - who frequently takes care of my sister's daughter - is "crazy" and that the father of my sister's last husband was not welcome in "his house" to say hello last Christmas despite the fact we have known that guy since he was a teenager.

Without causing a huge fight, how can one put off or shut up such a clueless, insensitive person? As you might guess, we are already pre-disposed to be on gaurd against this guy....

Dec. 06 2012 12:28 PM
Emily Johnson from Rutherford, NJ

My husband works for a publishing company and it gives him great joy to give books for Christmas. However, his mother just told him that he shouldn't send her or any of her family (her husband and my husband's brother and sisters at home) books this year because no one reads them. I suspect that she never reads them, but I'm not sure if the other family members do. Can we still give books? Should we ask the others individually? But then they'll all probably say they like it to be polite (unlike my MIL)

Dec. 06 2012 12:28 PM
Jeff from Brooklyn

I recently lost my job and I have friends coming in from out of town for Christmas and new year's. I look forward their visit every year and would not like to call it off if I can help it. How can I show them my deep affection for them without gifts?

Dec. 06 2012 12:27 PM
Anon from New York, New York

What advice does your guest have for an extended stay at my in-laws thousands of miles away over the holidays? They are an absolutely lovely family, but I'm someone who needs time to myself and because of cultural differences it is rather atypical to spend time quietly reading or working alone in a room while at home. How do I graciously take time for myself without hurting anyone's feelings?

Dec. 06 2012 12:21 PM

I get invited to a lot of "holiday cocktail parties." Usually there is a table when you come in the door covered in presents, bottles of wine, cookies, who knows what else. Do I have to always show up with something when I go to these? If so what do I take.

Dec. 06 2012 12:21 PM
Marc from NYC

My son have developed what he calls "...The 8 Days O'Greed..." to his current age15 Google Nexus4 superphone that he totally researched, located, ordered etc [we paid for it + the wireless charges of course]

Dec. 06 2012 12:18 PM
Oscar from ny

My family definitely loves me to come around holidays because they blame everything that can be wrong on me...but i take it because i love them also.
Worst gift was when voltron toy was in style there were like for 100$ and my parents got a voltron but it was a little one...i cried and was so angry..

Dec. 06 2012 12:17 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I find that food is a good gift because people can serve it and eat it and enjoy it during the holidays, and then it doesn't take up space after. Of course, you have to know your "victim(s)," but sometimes a really nice fruit/cheese/wine basket does the trick perfectly. Two years ago, I sent someone an Edible Arrangements gift and they loved it and served it as dessert after their holiday meal. Perfect.

Dec. 06 2012 12:17 PM
Kevin Lahoda from Tree Stand

First World Problems!!! - lets rewind this segment to 1990 where it belongs.

Dec. 06 2012 12:15 PM
John A.

Achoo, get them an aircleaner but insist it stay in your room (hint).
Republicans. I give them my vote and they give me a taxbreak and put it on my tab (national debt). JK, no vote for this.

Dec. 06 2012 12:14 PM
Carole from nyc

Check out for hysterical but awful holiday tales.

Dec. 06 2012 12:13 PM
Ed from Larchmont

One way to do better in the holidays is to remember that they are first and foremost religious in nature. It helps one then to not sweat the other things.

Dec. 06 2012 05:53 AM
Achoo Achoo

My in-laws have a growing cat population - they are up to seven or eight. Plus a shedding dog. I am allergic to both. At one time, when there were fewer dander-producing mammals on the premises, I could get away with taking two Claritin and surviving for a few hours. But at the last holiday gathering, even heavily medicated, I instantly felt a burning sensation in my nasal passages, throat and eyes, and found it difficult to breathe. I had to keep excusing myself to go outside into the cold for air. How do I proceed with upcoming holiday gatherings there? Not go? Their family occasions are fun. I'd hate to have to sit them all out.

Dec. 05 2012 05:34 PM

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