Originally created 12/24/06

These tips will help keep the season merry

Dear Readers: The Christmas season has its own brand of difficulties, even for those whose circumstances are ideal and whose blessings are bountiful.

I urge each of you to remember the widowed, the divorced, the sick, the old and the lonely. A visit would be cheering, a shared meal, a gift or card, a telephone call or a visit.

Here are some tips to help you make the best of this Christmas season:

Keep expectations low in order for your disappointment to also be low.

It is all right to make plans, but not to plan results.

Accept the difficult people in your life exactly the way they are.

Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself, even though there's been a death.

Try not to put a guilt trip on your children or grandchildren.

It is all right to ask a hostess if you may bring visiting children, but not if it is a seated affair.

Avoid trying to buy expensive gifts you cannot afford in order to buy love.

Eschew paper plates or paper napkins, and plastic utensils. This is a time to bring out your finest.

Put a few decorations around even if you do not have a tree.

When you entertain, do as much as you can ahead of time. Think your party all the way through, picturing yourself as a guest coming through the front door.

Play holiday music in the background.

Use candles and soft lights; everything looks better, even the guests.

Have a rack, coat closet or guest room bed set aside for coats.

For buffet service, it is best to serve fork food. Cutting can be difficult when standing or balancing a plate on your lap.

Inspect your guest baths to make sure you have new soap, hand towels, and plenty of toilet paper.

Have salt and pepper shakers available to those who want it.

If you are lonely, gather a group of friends in similar circumstances.

Do not bring uninvited small children to adult gatherings.

Try to focus on the people and situations that are good and joyful. See the cup as half full rather than half empty.

Please express your pleasure and joy over gifts and the efforts of others in making your holiday special.

Remember loved ones you've lost. I had an e-mail query from a well-meaning reader whose boss' son had died, wanting to honor him by setting a place for him at a Christmas dinner. My undertaker husband says the practice of laying a long stemmed red rose across an empty place setting is acceptable, but is a bit macabre for my taste.

I wish all of you a warm, spiritual and joyous season. As a friend said on a postcard this year, "Remember the reason for the season."

Write to Ask Carson, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. Send e-mail to AskCarson@comcast.net. Carson Elliott's Web site is www.theproperthing.com.


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