The Gift of Good Manners

Tea Travels!™… The Gift of Good Manners

by Ellen Easton © – All Rights Reserved


Holiday Tea Gift

Holiday Tea Photo by Ellen Easton © – All Rights Reserved
Hand Decorated Mints and Sugars by Reva Paul © – All Rights Reserved


Check out more of Ellen Easton’s Tea Travels™ articles and recipes.  Learn about the History of English High Tea and more delicious Afternoon Tea Recipes.


The holiday season is a time for celebration and gift giving.  To insure a good time is had by all, there can be no better gift than the gift of good manners™.   No child is too young begin the learning process of civility and no adult is too old to refresh one’s social skills.

Practicing a few simple rules, in advance, will guarantee that the guests as well as the hosts will feel comfortable and relaxed at the holiday table. Understanding the reason why a rule is, in fact, a rule can be helpful when teaching a young child.   As early as possible engage young children to participate in the process.   Children will learn by watching and doing!  Take the time to set the table correctly. Designate one day a week for each child to set the table.   Have a private tea party to make learning not only educational but fun.


Why must hands be washed before sitting at the table?

Dining is a shared, social experience.  To keep germs off of the tableware and out of one’s mouth clean hands are a must.


Why, when seated, does the napkin go on the lap?

The napkin is place on one’s lap to protect one’s clothes from being soiled.


Why can’t I talk with food in my mouth?

The first reason is a piece of food could slip down your throat causing you to choke.  Second, is it is very unpleasant to look at another with food in their mouth.  Third, when one’s mouth is full, one cannot properly pronounce their words, making it difficult to be understood by others.  Always chew with your mouth closed.  Never chew gum at the table.


Why is it rude to interrupt when someone else is speaking?

In a social setting everyone must have their turn to speak.  Unless another is literally monopolizing the conversation, it is indeed very rude to interrupt another.  Wait until there is a pause in the conversation to join in.  If you have a tendency to be shy,  in advance, prepare a few topics of conversation.  Avoid religion and politics, unless you wish to see fireworks!


How do I eat soup? 

Soup is often a holiday favorite that may be enjoyed by even the youngest children.  If a very young child is old enough to hold a cup, but has not yet mastered the spoon, ask your host to serve the soup in a cup.  Soup served in a bowl is easy to master, simply hold the spoon at the six o’clock position and slowly sweep the liquid forward towards the twelve o’clock position.  Always sweep away from the body to avoid spills.


What does R.S.V.P. mean at the bottom of an invitation?

Respondez s’il vous plait is French for Respond, if you please.  Whether your answer is yes or no, always respond promptly to an invitation, preferably in writing, but at the very least by telephone.  Do not ask to bring extra guests unless the invitation indicates otherwise.  Always ask permission from your host in advance if you intend to bring someone. No surprises please.


If I do not know anyone at the party, without feeling awkward, how do I join in the fun?

A good host to make you feel comfortable should make the effort to introduce you to a few people.  However, if you are left to your own devises, first observe the room.  Look to see who seems to be a friendly group.  Walk over and say “hello, my name is ____.  You seem to be having the most fun, do you mind if I join you?”  If they say they are engaged in private conversation or turnout to be not as friendly as originally thought, move on to another group.  You can also ask the host to introduce you to someone friendly.  At a seated affair it is easier, simply introduce yourself to the person on both your left, right and across from your place setting.


Is it necessary to bring a gift to the person giving the party?

Bringing a gift to your host is not mandatory, but a nice gesture to show your appreciation.  However, do not expect your gift to be used or displayed at the party.


What should I do if my child becomes loud or obstreperous at the party or table?

First try to quiet your child.  Remind your child to use their “indoor” voice.  If your child cannot behave, say excuse me and quietly remove the child from the room or table until they calm down.  In drastic circumstances, it may become necessary for you to excuse your family and leave the party/table altogether.


When and how does one thank one’s host?

Always call your host the next day to say thank you.  A written note should follow.  While not obligatory, especially if a host gift was already given, if within your budget, sending a thank you bouquet of flowers is a welcome gesture.


TEA TRAVELS™ – Wishing You Happy TEA TRAVELS!™ 
 Tea is the luxury everyone can afford!™ and Good $ense for $uccess are the trademarked property of Ellen Easton/ RED WAGON PRESS

Ellen Easton, author of Afternoon Tea~Tips, Terms and Traditions (RED WAGON PRESS), a lifestyle and etiquette industry leader, keynote speaker and product spokesperson, is a hospitality, design, and retail consultant whose clients have included The Waldorf=Astoria and Plaza Hotels.  Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon, thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island.

Purchase Ellen Easton’s Tea Books:

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72 pages of how to’s, 27 photos, history, etiquette and FAQ about afternoon tea, serving styles and more. “Tea is the luxury everyone can afford!™”

64 pages, 21 color photos. A complete holiday menu includes 25 easy to prepare recipes; theme teas, decorating & gift ideas; invitation template and secret sources.


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