Holiday Etiquette

We had a little entertainment prior to the Thanksgiving meal yesterday at Uncle Russell and Aunt Jan’s house. Jan unearthed a handy little tome, “Meal Time Etiquette,” by Emily Post, and she and Cousin Sue read selections from it.

Etiquette is no laughing matter, and it certainly has its place at the holiday table, but this particular etiquette book was written in 1963 — the year of my birth — and is a bit antiquated in light of 2010. It also seems oldly specific in some of its directions.

Here’s a first excerpt from “Meal Time Etiquette”; expect more to come in the days between now and Christmas.

Gentlemen Assist the Ladies to Be Seated

Each gentleman will assist the lady on his right to be seated. He should be quick to offer such assistance. The lady will take care not to make her pause so obvious that there will be embarrassment if the gentleman fails in his responsibility. Courtesy may always be expected but never demanded.

Taking his place behind the lady’s chair, he will slide the chair forward under her as she sits. Even a very young gentleman can perform this little coursey, unless he is too small to handle the chair. The lady will not fail to say, “Thank you,” for the assistance.

The pattern for having the gentlemen responsible for assisting the ladies on their right is established by having the lady guest of honor at the host’s right. This means that the hostess will not be helped into her chair by the honored gentleman guest, but by the gentleman on her left. When only members of the family are present, however, it will be father who assists mother in being seated, if children are too young to participate in this ceremony.

The gentleman not only assists the lady in being seated; he also assists when she rises to leave the table. This is true not only of the beginning and end of the meal, but also of any time that she leaves the table during the meal. Moving back her chair, he pulls it black slightly as she arises.