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The Ornament Exchange

Avatar_DavidBentleyI'd never been to a Christmas ornament exchange, so I didn't have a clue about proper etiquette. In fact, I wasn't sure Emily Post or Judith Martin had ever written about this particular subject. Having come solely for the purpose of tasting each of the five pots of soup, I hadn't even brought an ornament to exchange. However this fact did not fluster the hostess in the least. She assured me that there would be plenty of ornaments for everyone. So I smiled and sat down. What else could I do?


The other guests - all women, of course - chattered loudly while I looked on. They were dressed in Christmas finery, wearing scarves and snowflake sweaters and embroidered jackets. They accessorized with jewelry made of Christmas bulbs and balls or Christmas tree broaches with assorted gem stones. I was dressed in a blue knit shirt, Wrangler jeans, and running shoes with white socks.

Another group of women dressed in red suddenly entered the room. The chattering stopped instantly, more or less, and the choral ensemble was introduced. They sang several Christmas tunes without accompaniment. I was most impressed, but wondered if the soups weren’t getting cold by now.

Eventually, we were allowed to go through the serving line. I got a bowl of chowder and began to eat. Just as I had finished tasting the split pea soup and was serving myself a small portion of a sausage concoction, I heard the hostess announce that everyone should feel free to have seconds. Oops!

After chocolate cake and ice cream, the actual ornament exchange began. Since I hadn't brought an ornament, I received no number for the exchange. Whew! Unfortunately, two packages remained after all the others had been claimed, and the hostess brought one of them over. Every eye in the room focused on me. Opening the box and spying a lovely angel inside, I began to gush using words like "cute," and "precious," and "absolutely charming." Then I passed the ornament to the person on my right, assuming this was somewhat like a baby shower. When it got to the next table, a stern looking woman passed it back to me rather than to the person next to her. Oops, again!

Finally the festivities were over, and I offered to help clear the dishes. Before I knew what had happened, I was out the door with an angel in one hand, a jar of chowder in the other, and my coat thrown over my left arm. I think the next time I'm invited to a Christmas ornament exchange I'll just go to the deli and get some take-out soup there. It really will be much easier.

  • Do you have holiday “obligations” you’d rather ignore?
  • What’s preventing you from declining?
  • Is it really necessary to accept every invitation you receive?
  • How will you take care of yourself this holiday season?
Last modified onMonday, 12 December 2011 09:31