Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this holiday-theme bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about behaving at your office holiday party, sending Amazon Wish Lists to your Secret Santa, dealing with a Secret Santa who's no longer with the company, responding to work emails the day before and after Christmas, regifting, giving people fruitcakes, making handmade gifts for friends, tipping parking garage attendants, hiding from family and friends when going home for the holidays, taking down your Christmas tree, and much more. Please subscribe!
QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS:
THINGS MENTIONED DURING THE SHOW
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO...
Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton
Theme Music: Rob Paravonian
Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.
Nick: We had so many great holiday-themed questions-
Leah: Yes, we did!
Nick: -that we're going to put them all together and celebrate the reason for the season.
Nick: These are multi-denominational - celebrate everything; celebrate nothing - we've got something for everybody.
Leah: We got it for you.
Nick: Our first question is about office holiday parties.
Leah: Oh ...
Nick: Our question writer just wants to know, "What should I do and not do?"
Leah: Very tricky!
Nick: Not tricky-
Leah: "Not tricky," says Nick.
Nick: Actually not tricky. Yeah ... I think the only rule is don't get drunk.
Leah: That's very true.
Nick: Just don't get drunk.
Leah: Because then everything that was tricky falls into that category.
Nick: Pretty much, yeah, and I think ... Just remember, we're still at an office, and everyone has phones, and everyone is watching you.
Nick: Everybody loves to talk!
Nick: So, give people a reason to talk about you, they're going to take it.
Nick: So, I think we want to dress conservatively.
Leah: Unless you're trying to make a statement.
Nick: Oh, sure! What statement do you want to make?
Leah: I mean if you want to show up as a sassy Mrs. Santa ...
Nick: Sure, and who doesn't?
Leah: I mean, you know, with one of those wild dresses that you got at Ricky's - do it!
Nick: Hmm. Ricky's, for people who aren't in New York, is- how would you describe Ricky's?
Leah: Ricky's has actually gone out of business, which really breaks my heart because you could get anything at Ricky's.
Nick: It was sort of like a hair-styling product, where you could also get false eyelashes. Halloween - they would do Halloween costumes.
Leah: They also would just do random costumes in the back that were like any kind of costume made inappropriate.
Nick: Oh ... Is that what was going on in the back room?
Leah: Yes, that's what the back room was.
Nick: Oh ... I thought something else was going on.
Leah: No, no, no, no, no ...
Nick: Oh, it was just-
Leah: And, I mean, for people that don't know New York, they really had all the hair-care products.
Nick: Okay. So, Ricky's ... May it rest in peace. So, office holiday parties. Yeah, I guess just be on your best behavior and be nice to the other people and try and socialize with people who you may not know very well; make small talk and do all of that.
Leah: Yeah, and thank the ... If it's a group of people that put it together at your office, or HR-
Nick: Oh, yeah, whoever put it together, send them an email. Be like, "Great eggnog, Jan!" or whatever.
Nick: Our next question - also office-related - about Secret Santa. So, for people who don't know, Secret Santa is when you put a bunch of names in a hat, and everybody takes a name, and it's a secret from everybody else. Then you buy that one person a gift and then, you reveal it at some gift-exchange party that happens.
Leah: I do think that some places you have a Secret Santa for the month, and you give little gifts throughout the month-
Nick: Where is that place?
Leah: I've seen this happen.
Nick: That seems just like a lot of work.
Leah: They're all, you know, little, "Oh, here's a pack of gum, and a candy bar you love ..."
Nick: Uh, okay ... I've not heard of this, but I guess ... I believe it has happened in the world.
Leah: That seems nice to me.
Nick: Sure. I guess getting gum on your desk unexpectedly for 25 days of Christmas ... Sure. Great. Well, our letter-writer wants to know about Secret Santa with a huge group of people. Most people don't know each other, so what people are doing is sending out a list of Amazon wish lists, saying like, "These are things I want!" Our letter-writer wants to know, like, is that fine? I don't love that. I don't love that.
Leah: I mean, it's finding that line where the person who is buying the gift, who maybe doesn't know you at all-
Leah: -being helpful to them; but then, also, I mean, maybe I find it a little weird to be like, "Here's a link to exactly the thing that I want."
Nick: Right, yeah.
Leah: Or maybe it's not. I don't know ...
Nick: Well, that would have all of the magic and thrill of coming home and seeing a brown Amazon box on your doorstep, and opening it, and you know what's in it.
Leah: Yeah. I've also never experienced being in an office so big where you don't know the people.
Leah: So, I guess this is-
Nick: A thing that happens.
Leah: -it helps people to figure out who that person is that you're buying a gift for, but you could make it broader, like, "Hey, I like Star Wars, and ..."
Nick: This is hypothetical for you.
Leah: Yeah, hypothetically, I would say I liked Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, and detective novels.
Leah: So, it's not a, "Here's a link to the exact detective novel ..." I don't know, maybe that's more ...
Nick: No, I like that. Yeah, give a list of interests; like, "I like Helvetica, and turmeric," and see what they do with that.
Nick: Yeah. Our next Secret Santa-related question is: "The person I picked in my office has quit recently," so the question is, What do we do?" Because, apparently, it was some randomly assigned thing, so no one knows who that person had.
Leah: Okay ...
Nick: So, they want to know, "How do we solve this issue of not knowing with this employee that's left?"
Leah: I think they're going to have to buy a present for whoever and then, have that available for the person who was the person who quit's person.
Nick: I think that's totally a way to do it. You just wait till the party and then, whoever is like, "I don't have a gift!" Then, you're like, "Oh, I have a gift!" The problem with that is you don't know what type of gift to get.
Leah: That's when it's going to be generic-
Nick: So, it's going to be super-generic! Yeah. I think the other thing is because this person quit and wasn't fired, it's a lot less awkward just to ask this person.
Leah: Oh, yeah, that's true-
Nick: You know, and be like, "Who'd you pick?"
Leah: Yeah, you could just deal with the situation.
Nick: Yeah, but otherwise, you could just not deal with it and then, just get a generic gift. No problem. Our next question is: "Do I have to respond to work emails on the 24th or the 26th, and is it rude to contact people on the 25th?
Leah: I struggle with this one, as a freelancer, because things come in on the 24th, and you feel like, "Oh, I should answer," but then you're like, "This is three days that maybe I should just turn my phone off."
Nick: I think the 25th, everybody has a pass - federal holiday; no obligation to respond to anything. The 24th and the 26th, these are business days.
Leah: Are they business days?
Nick: They're business days. I think definitely, like up to noon on the 24th ... It's not Christmas Eve at 11:00 a.m..
Leah: So, you'd say up until noon.
Nick: Yeah, but I think if you send an email on these days, I don't think you should expect a response back.
Nick: I think that's also fine. You're welcome to send me a work email, and you should not expect, necessarily, a response that day.
Leah: That seems fair.
Nick: I think that's fair. If you don't have an out-of-office message, I will expect a response the 27th, 28th.
Nick: You cannot just get back to me in the new year.
Leah: Unless you have an out-of-office.
Nick: Well, if you're out of office, and, yeah, you're just going to take off that period, no problem. But, yeah, I think it's okay to send the email. It's just having to reply, I don't think you're required.
Nick: Yeah, that's how I feel about that. Our next question: "Is it rude to regift?"
Leah: Mmm ...
Nick: Mmm ...
Leah: I say no.
Nick: So, interestingly, there's a lot of schools of thought on this question. You say no, and you're very definitive about it. So, why- what is it about the 'no' that makes you so 'no' about it?
Leah: Because sometimes you get great gifts, and it's just not for you, and you know somebody who would love it, and there's no way these two people will ever meet each other. You know what I mean?
Leah: Why would you just not give that to the other person?
Nick: Yeah, I totally agree. Now, interestingly, Emily Post is not enthusiastic about regifting. She's not into it.
Leah: I feel like she has more rules than us.
Nick: She definitely has more rules, and not all of them are correct. I think etiquette is all about not hurting people's feelings. So, if you can regift, and you can get away with it, no problem.
Leah: Yeah, I don't think you should be honest about it; which, I feel horrible that I said that because I do, as a general rule, believe that you should be honest, but just don't bring it up.
Nick: This is Emily Post's quibble with it. She thinks it is inherently deceitful to regift.
Leah: It may be, slightly. It may be the most deceitful thing I do.
Nick: I mean, of all the deceit in the world.
Leah: But it's also ... We can't keep everything, and some things are really wonderful, but they're just not wonderful for you, but then it's really wonderful for a friend of yours.
Nick: Yeah. I think if you aren't going to get caught, no problem. Then, the gift, itself, should be a good gift. You shouldn't be just giving something that's a bad gift, like something that's inappropriate for the person, or just like a garbage thing.
Leah: Right. You're like, "This was in my pocket."
Nick: Right. Yeah, so I think as long as it's still a good gift, no problem.
Leah: I get a lot of things from swag bags and that A) my apartment is the size of a matchbook, so can't keep it. Also, some of them are inappropriate for me, and I'll give them as gifts; sometimes, I'll say, "Got this in a swag bag. Thought you might like it," so the person doesn't feel-
Nick: I don't even think you have to necessarily say you got it in a swag bag. I think it's fine.
Nick: I think, if you do regift, you want to make sure that there's no evidence of the regifting. So, if it's a book, make sure it's not inscribed to you.
Nick: That's nice. If it's monogrammed - something to note ...
Leah: Oh, if it's monogrammed, you gotta keep it.
Nick: Unless it's their monogram.
Leah: Unless you find somebody with the same exact initials-
Nick: And if you do, no problem.
Leah: No problem.
Nick: I think it's fine. Yeah, totally fine. So, relatedly, our next question is: "Is it rude to give someone a fruitcake?" Because it feels like fruitcakes get regifted a lot, too.
Leah: You think they get regifted?
Nick: Well, there is the old joke; I think it's Johnny Carson who was like, "There's only one fruitcake in the world, and it just keeps getting passed around."
Leah: That's what people say about candy corn. They just dust them off and bring it back out next year.
Nick: Yeah ... I mean, the tone of this question suggests that they don't like fruitcake.
Leah: I mean, they probably haven't had one of my dad's fruitcakes.
Nick: I love fruitcake. Fruitcake is great.
Leah: I don't think it's rude at all. Also, my dad home-makes them and then, wraps them in a rum-drenched cloth-
Nick: Cloth-like thing, mm-hmm.
Leah: -and then, wraps them and sends them.
Leah: I think it's a nice gift.
Nick: Totally lovely. Yeah, I mean, I think fruitcake has gotten a bad rap because I think like in the '20s or '30s, there was- fruitcake was being mail-ordered, so then, there's all this bad fruitcake that would arrive in the U.S. Postal mail, two weeks later.
Leah: It's a hard-
Nick: A hard, horrible thing. So, there's just this joke that, oh, yeah, fruitcake is just this bad thing; but no, it's totally delicious. Also, super-historical. It's one of the oldest recipes. There's recipes-
Leah: Tell us.
Nick: -that doesn't sound sincere!
Leah: No, I mean it! I wanna know! I sent you an email about my family history of fruitcake. I wanna know!
Nick: Yeah, there's a recipe from Rome from like year zero, where it has pomegranates, and raisins, and pine nuts. You're like, "That sounds good!"
Leah: It really does!
Nick: I would eat that. And, interestingly, fruitcake is a traditional royal cake in England; a traditional royal wedding cake is made out of fruitcake-
Leah: See, that's exciting!
Nick: Queen Victoria had fruitcake, which is, I think, where the tradition of saving a layer comes from; you know, this crazy wedding tradition, where you save a layer of your cake? They would save a layer, and they would eat that cake when their child was having their christening.
Nick: Fruitcake will last. You can last between your marriage and the christening of your first child. No problem, fruitcake can do that. But to take génoise or biscuit wedding cake that we have today, and freeze that, and eat that a year later? That's gross. People shouldn't do that.
Leah: I didn't realize they were eating it a year later. I thought they were just saving it for emotional reasons.
Nick: What? You take it out of the freezer and just look at it a year later?
Leah: Well, you open the freezer, and you're like, "Oh, yeah. That happened ..."
Nick: Oh, yeah ... No. That's not how that works.
Leah: I also think, if it's a regifting question, if you get a fruitcake, and you know it's a good fruitcake, but you just happen to not be a fruitcake person-
Nick: We'll take it.
Leah: Yeah, we'll take it! Also, I'm sure there's somebody on your block who is ... You're friends with, but you're not really close friends with, and maybe they need a little holiday spirit. You bring that fruitcake on over to their house. Maybe your super ... Who knows?
Nick: Yeah. If you want to make fruitcake, I've got a great recipe. Just email us; happy to send it to you. Love to hear your thoughts.
Leah: Oh, I hope that people email for your fruitcake recipe!
Nick: Our next question is about: "If you're feeling stressed about money, is it rude to make presents for your friends?"
Leah: Nobody wants to put financial pressure on other people. So, if you can't give gifts, like a nice card or a thing that you make, I think, is absolutely lovely.
Nick: Oh, totally fine. And, in fact, I think some of the best gifts I've ever received were the handmade ones.
Leah: Yeah because there is so much care in them!
Nick: Oh, I mean, hopefully ... Hopefully. Not always.
Leah: Yeah, somebody just shows up with like an origami, and you're like-
Nick: Yeah. "Here's a crane ..." Yeah. No, but I think a handmade gift if it's a nice gift, I'm all about it.
Leah: Yeah. If you want to make cookies and bring them over, that's so nice!
Nick: Yeah. So, no problem. Do you have anything else to say on that?
Leah: No. I think just have at it!
Nick: Have at it, yeah. Our next question: "I keep my car in a garage, and I tip the guys every time I take my car out. Do I have to tip again at Christmas?"
Leah: I don't know. Tipping always just makes me so anxious that I get red-faced and then, I shut down.
Nick: So, I think, in general, the idea of the Christmas tip is somebody has done something for you all year long. You have not tipped them along the way; Christmas time, it's a moment to be like, "Thank you for everything you've done over the last 12 months!" That's why we tip our UPS driver, and we tip our doormen, and we tip all these people, because I have not been tipping UPS every time they've done something.
Nick: With the garage, you've been tipping along the way, so it's like, do you have an obligation to then tip again at Christmas? I don't think you'd have an obligation, but they have your car. So, it's like, they can do stuff to you, and your car.
Nick: There can be consequences. So, I think maybe what you do, when you're taking your car out, and it's right at Christmas, like whatever day that is, you double the tip.
Nick: If you normally give them a couple bucks, let's double that.
Nick: Let's give them a $10. Let's give them a $20. Then you just make sure- you make it very clear "Happy holidays!"
Leah: Oh, yeah, that's great.
Nick: A little extra ...
Nick: Then, hopefully, you won't get keyed.
Leah: I don't think they're going to key your car, anyway.
Nick: You don't know what goes on in garages in New York City.
Leah: But they may be extra-protective.
Nick: Yeah, you might get a better spot. You might get your car out a little faster. Yeah. Our next question - very tricky: "I'm returning home for the holidays, and I'm having a hard time juggling wanting to relax with all of my obligations of seeing various friends and relatives during the short time I am home. Is it rude to just not see people?"
Leah: I feel like this happens to a lot of people.
Nick: I think it happens to everybody who go home for the holidays.
Nick: You go home to Maine. I go home to San Francisco. It's quick. It's a quick trip.
Nick: I think that if you can slip in and out, and nobody knows, that's one way you can do it.
Leah: You just pretend you weren't there.
Nick: You're just a ninja. Stay off of social media. Yeah, you're just in; you're out. That's probably unrealistic. I guess- I think you want to prioritize and then try not to feel guilty.
Nick: I think that's the best you can do. You can't see everybody.
Leah: Yeah. I think, with me, I always want to see everybody and then, also, I want to see people's kids that I haven't seen. Then, all of a sudden, you're like, "Oh, my goodness, I gotta go!" You know what I mean?
Leah: Then, you're like, "How did this go by so fast?"
Nick: I think one nice thing that I try and do is I have an open house.
Leah: Oh ...
Nick: Where, like on the 27th, if I'm still in town, "1:00 and 4:00, come on down for some pie and punch. I'll be holding court. Would love to see you. Swing by; say hello."
Leah: That's nice.
Nick: That way, people can do that. The benefit of that is, also, you've issued an invitation, and if people are mad that they didn't get together, well, that's on them.
Leah: Right. But I think whoever wrote in this question, they can feel free to not go out, if they need that time to-
Nick: I think home for the holidays, I think you don't have to feel guilty about it. Yeah, I think if you want to just sort of have some me time with the family-
Leah: Or you could- if you didn't want to have people over, you could say, "Hey, let's all meet up for ..." Same thing, but at a place.
Nick: Yeah, a coffee shop, bar, library, bookstore.
Leah: I mean, library, you need to be quiet. We want to respect the rules of the library-
Nick: I don't know what goes on in libraries.
Leah: I'm very big fan of the library. We're supposed to be quiet in libraries, so we're gonna take that one off the list.
Leah: Unless you want to show up with your friends and then have a quiet hour.
Nick: Which, sometimes, you do.
Leah: Some people do.
Nick: Sometimes, that sounds nice. Our next question: "When should you take down your Christmas tree?"
Leah: I feel like I need to take myself out of this because you know that I would keep it up all year.
Nick: Yeah, Leah doesn't take down Christmas trees. So, I think this is our only Christmas-specific question. If you have like a menorah or a kinara, you don't have to put them away; you could just leave those sort of on display all year long, I guess; or you could just put those away after Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa is over. Christmas, though ...
Leah: Valentine's Day.
Nick: Valentine's Day! Wow! You're going to keep it up til Valentine's Day.
Leah: The thing is that those lights and their sparkling get you through that January/February slump. You know what I mean?
Nick: Oh ...
Leah: It's dark outside.
Nick: So, it's for seasonal affective disorder.
Leah: Yes, and you just look at it; you're like, "That is a beautiful tree, and I love the way it sparkles ..." I need it to get me through these winter nights.
Nick: Okay. I mean, if having your Christmas tree up helps you through the day, then I think this is fine. There's no rule.
Nick: Do whatever you want.
Leah: February seems fine.
Nick: But for you out there who are actually asking for an answer to this question-
Leah: That was an answer - Valentine's Day!
Nick: Okay. Valentine's Day - one option. I think, traditionally, a lot of people will leave their Christmas tree up through the 12 days of Christmas. So, through Epiphany. Then, the question is do you leave it up through Twelfth Night, or do you leave it up through Epiphany? So, then, the question is do you take it down on January 5th, or January 6th, or January 7th? And then the question is like, when is Twelfth Night? Because is Twelfth Night January 5th, or do you start with Christmas Day? Gets very complicated.
Leah: Yeah, that's very complicated.
Nick: Very complicated. But I think a lot of people would say Epiphany is the date by which we would leave the Christmas tree up and then, we only take it down after Epiphany. A lot of people feel this. So, you take it down on the 6th or the 7th. That's kind of where a lot of people are at.
Nick: I think the first weekend after New Year's is also probably fine.
Nick: I think that's a nice time. We're talking about indoor decorations. For outdoor decorations, you need to do whatever your neighborhood does. You cannot be the person that has the snowmen on their lawn on Valentine's Day.
Leah: I mean, there are some delicate little lights that I think don't necessarily have to be-
Nick: Are they just winter lights?
Leah: They're winter lights-
Nick: Winter lights ...
Leah: -that you can leave up as long as you want.
Leah: It's not your fault if other people don't like twinkling.
Nick: Yeah, I mean, clearly, your enthusiasm for Christmas is stronger than mine.
Leah: But what about little lights?
Nick: I think it's charming.
Leah: Don't you love little lights?
Nick: Sure. I mean, who doesn't?
Leah: Right? Who doesn't? There's the answer.
Nick: Sure. Yes. But also, I think if you put up your Christmas tree early, and you do, I'm assuming ... You do it October 1st-
Leah: No, no, no, no. I start Hallmark movies, and I put up a string of lights along the ceiling, and I light a balsam candle.
Leah: The tree does not go up till later.
Nick: But all that happens on October 1.
Leah: Maybe mid-October.
Nick: Okay, you have some control.
Leah: I have some control over myself.
Nick: All right, so we've got Hallmark movies, and we've got balsam candles, and we've got twinkly little lights. Then, when does the tree come?
Leah: Well, the tree- we're not going to do a tree this year in our apartment because I'm going up to Maine so early.
Nick: Okay, but normally, when do you feel is appropriate to put up the tree?
Leah: We put up the tree the day after my birthday.
Nick: Which is?
Leah: First week of November.
Nick: Okay, so way before Thanksgiving.
Leah: Of course!
Nick: So, we ... Of course?! No! That's not standard. That is ...
Leah: I want to enjoy this as long as possible.
Nick: This is a real tree, so you're expecting this real tree to last-
Leah: No, no, no. We have a ... [Whispering] We have a fake tree for New York.
Leah: Then, obviously, a real tree in Maine.
Nick: Right. Okay.
Nick: Obviously ... I have an aluminum tree, and I think it's great.
Leah: Oh, I bet that's pretty.
Nick: It's very lovely. You'll see it next time you are here.
Leah: Oh, fantastic!
Nick: Because I don't like vacuuming.
Leah: Oh, I'm so excited!
Nick: Yeah. Also, my entire apartment is gray, black, and white.
Leah: It's very put together.
Nick: But it's also very monochromatic, so-
Leah: I'm very excited about this tree!
Nick: The aluminum tree is nice because it fits in with my decor.
Leah: Oh, I love it!
Nick: Green doesn't- just, it doesn't go.
Nick: So, I think you should just take down your tree whenever you want. If you want to leave it up til February, then, that's great.
Nick: If you want to take it down the day after Christmas, have at it. At the point when it's a fire hazard, I think that's the time.
Leah: Oh, definitely be careful of real trees drying out.
Leah: Trees drink a lot!.
Nick: Oh, sure! Yeah.
Leah: You've got to get down there with that sugar water on the daily.
Nick: Okay, you heard it from the Mainer.
Nick: Some final thoughts ... Just remember, you've got to send some thank-you notes.
Leah: I feel like we could close everything out with thank-you notes.
Nick: You can close everything out with thank-you notes.
Leah: No, I think it's a great way-
Nick: But, for Christmas, people have given you things; you remember to send them thank-you notes.
Nick: Yes! Yeah, Grandma loves a good thank-you note.
Leah: Grandma does.
Nick: Yeah. Then, what do you want for Christmas, Leah?
Leah: You know, when you said that, I immediately thought of that song [singing] all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth ...
Nick: Oh, we don't have the right to that. We don't have the rights to that! To be clear, Leah does have teeth and does not require two front teeth-
Leah: Two front teeth.
Nick: She's covered. Well, what I want for Christmas is I want people to leave us very nice reviews because of the algorithm. It really helps promote our show. So, leave us a nice review; give us some stars. We appreciate it. That's what I want for Christmas.
Leah: Oh, I think that's a wonderful idea.
Nick: Yeah, and then, also tell a few thousand of your closest friends.
Leah: A few thousand.
Nick: Just a few thousand. Just casual. You'll be home for Christmas, so do that. Well, thank you, Leah.
Leah: Thank you, Nick.
Nick: And I hope you have a great federal holiday!
Leah: Thank you so much. Merry Christmas!
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