Dear Carson: Our family used to draw names for holiday gift-giving, but as the family became larger and scattered, name drawing became difficult. The logistics of getting presents to and from those that could not attend the party became cumbersome. Several years ago we started a "Christmas Game," which we have enjoyed very much.
Everyone invited to the party is instructed to bring a gift in a certain price range. If a guest comes along, they bring a present as well. At the party the guests draw numbers from a hat. No. 1 has a choice of all the gifts. That present is opened so everyone can see what it is. No. 2 opens a present and has the option of keeping that gift or swapping for the one that No. 1 drew. No. 3 and subsequent numbers follow suit. Once all the gifts are opened, No. 1, who did not get a choice, is allowed to swap with anyone else. We have found this game to be worthwhile, since it de-emphasizes materialism, promotes interaction among guests and includes everyone. We now do this in three different family parties. - New Slant on Gift Giving
Dear Slant: Thanks for sharing this innovative idea, which could solve problems for many large families with extended guest lists. I have always felt bad for the outsider who had no gifts, but had to sit on the sidelines while everyone else received theirs.
Dear Carson: I have two questions or comments concerning service. The first has to do with caterers at large parties who bring in vats of food and replenish trays or bowls at the table. We have been to a number of holiday parties where this is done and it looks sloppy. Is this proper etiquette? The second comment is about waiters who remove a plate from one diner before the other or others have finished eating. - An Avid Fan
Dear Avid: The proper way for trays to be replenished is to take them to the kitchen. To dump refills in view of guests smacks of slopping hogs. Your second query about removal of dishes before everyone at the table has finished is, indeed, incorrect, as it looks as if the one still eating is too slow. Actions which tend to make someone uncomfortable negate one of the premises of etiquette, which is putting others at ease.
Have a question on etiquette? You can ask Carson by calling INFOLINE at 442-4444. Press 4422 and leave your message. You can also write Carson Elliott, c/o Features Department, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, Ga. 30913-1928. E-mail may be sent to Carson at Carsonell@aol.com.