Q.  I just started a new job and don’t know what to do about office gifts for the holidays. Should I give everyone gifts, or what?


A.  You have two choices. The first is to do nothing and see what the office holiday culture is so you know for next year. It would be more uncomfortable for you and your co-workers if you were to get gifts for everyone only to find out that this is not their practice. It is less uncomfortable, as the new kid on the block, to receive gifts from co-workers and not reciprocate. In this case, you would say “thank you so much!” and be prepared for next year.


The second is to ask a new colleague about the gift-giving tradition at the holidays so that you are prepared appropriately to join in that custom.


Q.  My daughter just started at daycare this fall. Do I give holiday tips to the staff?


A.  It would be helpful to ask a parent who has been there longer than you, or the director, if there is a custom in place, but if this isn’t possible, the rule of thumb is that you do give holiday thank-you’s to each staff member who works with your child. Your particular circumstances are your guide for what to give, which may be, but certainly does not have to be, a cash gift, plus a small gift from your child. Depending on your own budget, instead of money, a present such as gloves or a scarf, a homemade gift (cookies in a nice tin, a hot chocolate mix and a pretty mug) or a gift card to a coffee shop, gourmet shop or the area movie theater, are ideas.


Q.  I’m trying to teach my children, who are six and eight, to write thank you notes. I read that it isn’t necessary to write thank you notes for Christmas presents. Is that true?


A.  Technically, when your family is gathered to exchange presents and each person is thanked at the time, a note is not necessary. However, helping your children write thanks to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and close friends is best continued for Christmas gifts, even if they are there when the gifts are opened. This reinforces the message that those who have shopped and gifted with care deserve extra thanks. They also would write notes to anyone who has sent them a gift. It is never wrong to express thanks and the practice, taught early, can become a lifelong good habit.


Q.  My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas but people in grocery stores are always wishing us a Merry Christmas. What do we say?


A.  These wishes are ignorant of your own beliefs, but are well-meant. Just say thank you and wish them the same, in return. The grocery line is not the place to explain or take someone to task for presuming that you celebrate Christmas, and the wishes really are often more seasonal than religious in intent.


What’s the polite way to handle a situation? Please send your questions to Catherine Michaels, in care of [email protected]