Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Etiquette

Everyone's Irish on March 17thThough St. Patrick’s Day is only an official holiday in Ireland, countries around the world have embraced March 17th as a day to celebrate with friends and family.  Some of my favorite cities in the United States are known for their St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  For everyone celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, here are a few etiquette DOs and DON’Ts from the Emerald Isle.

Irish Etiquette DOs

  • Shake hands: In business situations and upon meeting someone, it is customary to shake hands, both initially and as a farewell.  While shaking hands, be sure to look the other person in the eye.
  • Keep a respectful distance: It is important to honor personal space in Ireland, as it is perceived as a sign of respect.  Even walking too closely to someone in passing may be taken as offensive.
  • Wait patiently: People in Ireland have little use for impatience, so, if you find yourself in queue, suffer in silence.  This will also serve you well in business settings, as the Irish often run 15 minutes late.
  • Know your place setting: It is customary on Irish tables to have a small plate to the upper left of the dinner plate, which is used for discarded skins of boiled potatoes.
  • Bring a gift: If you are invited to someone’s home in Ireland, it is customary to bring a small gift, like a bottle of wine.  However, in business settings, no gifts should be exchanged.

Irish Etiquette DON’Ts

  • Speak loudly: Yelling and boisterous conversations are viewed as obnoxious by the Irish.  This is true, even in pubs, where patrons are expected to enjoy a pint or two.
  • Publicly display affection:  Men and women are expected to keep outward signs of ardor to a minimum.  Same sex couples enjoy even less leniency on this subject, even in the most liberal areas of Ireland, Dublin and Galway.
  • Discuss religion: Given the tumultuous religious history of this nation, talk of faith and denominations is likely to result in awkward, even hostile conversations.
  • Boast: The Irish have little use for braggarts and arrogance.  Talking about yourself and your accomplishments is not appreciated.
  • Dress provocatively:  Muted colors and modest styles are common for both men and women of all ages in Ireland.

 

Photo credit: USA Travel Guide

Top 10 Emily Post Quotes

Emily Post Ah, Emily Post, the grande dame of the etiquette world.  Her attitude on manners is timeless, applicable in our world even 90 years after her first book on etiquette.  Below are Postmodern Etiquette’s Top 10 Emily Post Quotes to live by.  (And one to grow on just because it is a particular favorite of mine!)

1. Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

2. There is no reason why you should be bored when you can be otherwise. But if you find yourself sitting in the hedgerow with nothing but weeds, there is no reason for shutting your eyes and seeing nothing, instead of finding what beauty you may in the weeds. To put it cynically, life is too short to waste it in drawing blanks. Therefore, it is up to you to find as many pictures to put on your blank pages as possible.

3. A little praise is not only merest justice but is beyond the purse of no one.

4. Nothing appeals to children more than justice, and they should be taught in the nursery to “play fair” in games, to respect each other’s property and rights, to give credit to others, and not to take too much credit to themselves.

5. The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S’s: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy, and Serenity.

6. The joy of joys is the person of light but unmalicious humor. If you know any one who is gay, beguiling and amusing, you will, if you are wise, do everything you can to make him prefer your house and your table to any other; for where he is, the successful party is also.

7. The good guest is almost invisible, enjoying him or herself, communing with fellow guests, and, most of all, enjoying the generous hospitality of the hosts.

8. The letter we all love to receive is one that carries so much of the writer’s personality that she seems to be sitting beside us, looking at us directly and talking just as she really would, could she have come on a magic carpet, instead of sending her proxy in ink-made characters on mere paper.

9. The phrases that a man might devise to close a letter to his betrothed or his wife are bound only by the limit of his imagination and do not belong in this, or any, book.

10. “Keep your hands to yourself!” might almost be put at the head of the first chapter of every book on etiquette.

Best Society in Boston having kept its social walls intact, granting admission only to those of birth and breeding, has therefore preserved a quality of unmistakable cultivation. There are undoubtedly other cities, especially in the South, which have also kept their walls up and their traditions intact—but Boston has been the wise virgin as well, and has kept her lamp filled.

Party Etiquette Lessons from the Real Housewives of Bravo TV

Etiquette lessons are all around us, even in the most unlikely places.  If you’ve turned on a television in recent years, you know that these unlikely places include New York, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Atlanta.  That’s right, we’re talking about the ladies from Bravo TV’s Real Housewives franchise.  Over the seasons, across the country, these ladies have set some good (and some bad) etiquette examples.  So, what lessons can we learn from these Housewives?

Lesson #1:  Dress for the Occasion

Real Housewives NYC White WeddingOn last season of the Real Housewives of New York, Ramona and Alex wore shades of cream to a Hampton’s wedding.  Recent trends in wedding fashion have included off-white and ivory for bridesmaids’ dresses, but a guest wearing anything that resembles white is still a fashion don’t.  When invited to an event, after RSVPing, the next important etiquette step is Lesson #1:  Dress for the Occasion.

One of the most important things to consider when heading to event is the dress code.  Even if there is no explicit dress code suggested, the time of day, type of fête, and location all should be considered when selecting your ensemble.  For daytime parties, casual attire is appropriate.  Ladies, think sundresses, skirts, or dressy cropped pants.  Gentlemen, pressed khakis and polo shirts are standard issue.  Evening affairs call for more dressy attire: cocktail dresses and heels for women, and suits, possibly tuxedos, for men.  In addition to the time of the party, it’s important to consider the type of event you’ll be attending.  Heading to a barbecue?  It’s completely appropriate to be dressed down.  Bridal or baby shower?  Pretty dresses and feminine tops are the order of the day.  Office gathering?  Add a dash of fun (maybe a statement necklace) to the standard dress code.  Event location is another key factor when selecting your look.  If you’ll be outside, check the forecast to be sure you’ll be dressed for the weather – cardigans and pashminas are great ways to ensure you’ll be both stylish and comfortable all party long.  Considering the landscape is also important for outside parties.  Mingling at a beach wedding or picnic on the lawn in heels is treacherous while a windy locale calls for clothes and hairstyles that stay in place.

Lesson #2. Never Show Up Uninvited

Real Housewives of Atlanta Marlow in AfricaOn a recent episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Nene unexpectedly showed up at the airport with controversial friend, Marlow, and announced her intent to join the group on its South African getaway.  Obviously, this was excellent fodder for the cameras, but it brings up Lesson #2: Never Show Up Uninvited.

In a world of increasingly casual exchanges, where invites are texted and RSVPs are sent by Facebook message, an invitation still needs to come directly from the hostess.  Only in rare cases, say a large gathering to celebrate a popular event, like a Superbowl party, when a hostess has opened her party to a more general audience, is it acceptable to show up as a friend of a friend.  Of course, if you are tagging along as a plus-one, you are considered an invited guest, regardless of your familiarity with the hostess.  Just make sure that your date is confident his invite included a guest and that you are his only plus-one!

Lesson #3:  Honor Thy Hostess

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills GiggyLisa, from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, rarely goes anywhere without her pint-sized pup Giggy, so it was not a complete surprise that she brought him to a dinner party thrown by her neighbor, Adrienne.  What was a complete surprise was that Lisa had Giggy drinking water out of one of Adrienne’s crystal flutes.  Cue the flabbergasted looks from the other Housewives around the table.  They were all shocked to learn that Lisa didn’t know Lesson 3#:  Honor Thy Hostess.

There are several important ways to honor your hostess when invited to an event.  First of all, be on time.  Depending on what part of the country you live in, being on time for a party could mean ringing the doorbell promptly at the time stated on the invite, or it could mean arriving five to fifteen minutes fashionably late is expected.  Whatever your locale, be courteous to your hostess and arrive when she has instructed.  This will ensure that she and her home, food & drinks, and any servers are ready to help you have fabulous time.  Showing up late can disrupt the party.  Your tardy entrance could interrupt conversations that just found their rhythm and have disastrous effects on dishes requiring careful timing.  Just as important as not showing up late?  Not showing up early.  If you’ve ever thrown a party, you know that those last minutes before guests turn up are used to put the finishing touches on you and the event.  Show up early and you may find your hostess finishing her makeup or prepping the punch in her robe.

Once you have arrived at your party destination at the appropriate time, go with the flow.  As a party guest, your job is to have a lovely time and make sure your hostess knows your appreciation.  Everyone has different ideas about what kind of party they want to host.  Some prefer to throw potlucks while others enjoy preparing every dish themselves.  Whichever your host prefers, go with it.  If asked to bring something, let your culinary skills shine.  If not, enjoy a night off from cooking and relish the opportunity to try new dishes.  I love that Prohibition era cocktails are all the rage now, but many of my guests prefer wine.  I always appreciate when my guests are up for venturing out of their comfort (née chardonnay) zone and try a Zelda Fitzgerald.  Party thrown by a vegetarian, but you love steak?  Fill up on veggies and hummus, then hit up a late night diner if you’re still hungry afterward.  Hostesses often go to great lengths to ensure guests are comfortable and accommodated.  By going with the flow, you return that favor.

Before you depart, be sure to thank your hostess for her hospitality.  It’s always nice to specify some aspect of the event you particularly enjoyed, whether it was the food, decor, or the vibe she created.  Be sure to follow up that thank you with a phone call or note the next day to solidify your reputation as a proper party guest.

Lesson #4. Bring Your Best Manners to the Dinner Table

Real Housewives of NJ Teresa Table FlipWho could forget Teresa’s table flipping incident on season one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey?  This display of bad manners was so outrageous that even her brother Joe’s table slamming episode at his son’s christening couldn’t top it.  So, other than the fact that the Giudice siblings need some dining refinement, what else can we learn from them about postmodern etiquette?  Lesson #4:  Bring Your Best Manners to the Dinner Table

What table manners are most important as a party guest?  Neatness is key to being a sought after party guest.  Often, hostesses open up their homes, and in this setting, being sure to clean up after yourself is paramount.  This means using coasters for cocktails, picking up bits of food that you may drop, and generally leaving things as you found them.  Your hostess wants you to be comfortable, but don’t feel that’s a reason to leave your manners at home.  As the party winds down, ask if there’s anything you can do to help clean up.

Being actively engaged in the dinner conversation is a great way to show your social savvy. Your hostess has a vision for how she wants the evening to unfold.  Whether her vision involves tasting exotic cuisine (See Lesson #5), dissecting current events, or viewing pictures from her latest trip, part of your role as guest is to appease her.  If nothing she is asking you to do hurts you or someone else or is against a deep conviction you hold, play along.

Lesson #5:  Be an Agile Conversationalist

Real Housewives of OC Vicki Dinner PartyOn this season’s Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki threw a dinner party where she served a Cajun meal in homage to her new beau.  After explaining her new found love of Southern cuisine, servers brought out the first course of gumbo, complete with corn chips for garnish.  Tamra, then proceeded to make a scene about being served Fritos.  Cue Vicki’s mortification, not at serving Fritos, but at her friend making rude remarks about the food she carefully selected.  One of the other housewives, Gretchen, jumped in to defend Vicki’s culinary choice, likening the corn chips in the gumbo to tortilla strips in tortilla soup, to try to smooth the waters.  Bravo Gretchen, for demonstrating Lesson #5: Be an Agile Conversationalist.

Awkward, even hostile, conversations can arise in social situation, particularly if the topics of politics, religion, and money arise.  The keys to being an agile conversationalist, and a valued party guest, are humor and deflection.  Making light of the situation, even using a little self-deprecating humor can defuse tense situations you may find yourself in.  Asked about your candidate of choice in the upcoming election? Confess your desire for an evening of lighthearted mingling after the long board meeting you had earlier in the day and turn the conversation to the inquisitor’s hobbies.  After touring your new digs, a housewarming guest insists your share your mortgage payment?  Politely brush her off, insisting with a laugh, “I’m sure not what you think” to shut down any further monetary probing.  If you sense a conversation has taken on a heated tone, remind your fellow guests that your hostess would surely love for the debaters to agree to disagree and enjoy the party.  Then, steer one of them to the buffet.

Though we can only guess where the next installment of the Real Housewives franchise will take place, we can be sure that there will be even more etiquette lessons to come.  But no matter your zip code, being a well-mannered party guest is always in style.

Perfect Cocktail Party Dessert Recipe: Cheesecake Stuffed Stawberries

When you are invited to a party, it is always a thoughtful gesture to offer to bring something.  Not only does this show your appreciation, it also allows the hostess one less thing worry about.  Even the best hostess can find herself in need of an extra hand, so don’t be surprised if she takes you up on your offer!  Always check with the hostess about what she plans to serve so as not to overlap food or drinks, though there’s nothing wrong with having an extra bottle or two of champagne on hand!

One of my favorite treats to bring to parties is cheesecake stuffed strawberries.  They are delicious, simple to make, and can be made on short notice! They also make for a stunning presentation and, on top of all that, they are easy to eat.  (Never underestimate this detail, at cocktail parties especially.  Having food that guests can eat in a bite or two and doesn’t require a knife and fork is essential.)

Ingredients:

1 lb. strawberries, rinsed & patted dry

1 8 oz. cream cheese block, softened

3/4 C. confectioners’ sugar

1 T. vanilla extract

1 t. lemon zest

2 large graham crackers

1/4 C. dark chocolate chunks

1. The key to this dish is prepping the berries.  Cut the top off of each berry.  Then, carefully slice off the bottom of the strawberries to create a flat base.  The trick is to cut the bottom of the strawberry so that the top will sit level.  This will be important when you fill each berry; the cheesecake mixture will cause uneven berries to topple.

 

2. Using a strawberry huller or a small melon baller, scoop out the inside of the berry.  Set berries aside.

 

 

 

3. In a bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Fold in lemon zest.  (These ingredients can be increased or decreased based on your taste preference and sweetness of berries.)

 

 

4. Fill a piping bag (or a large Ziploc bag rigged to operate like a piping bag), with the cheesecake mixture.

 

 

 

5. Pipe the mixture into each strawberry, filling the berry.  I like to have a good berry-to-cheesecake ratio, so I fill each berry, and then add an extra dollop on top.

 

 

 

cocktail part dessert6. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the tops of the strawberries.

 

 

 

7. Finish with the dark chocolate pieces, nestled in the cheesecake mixture.

Enjoy!

 

 

I adapted this recipe from this Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries post on The Sweets Life.