The holiday season is meant to spend time with family and to get away from school. It’s a known fact that majority of Marist students come from New Jersey, Long Island, upstate New York or Connecticut. While the bulk of us are fortunate enough to travel back home for Thanksgiving break, what about the rest of the student population who have a much longer trip home to places such as Hawaii, California, Michigan and Texas? It isn’t uncommon for friends or roommates to offer a place to stay and to spend the holidays.
Marist students have offered words of advice from their past experiences to those of you joining a friend’s family this holiday season.
DON’T: Be disrespectful or rude
People are brought up in different ways. Whereas foul language may be tolerated in your own house, ask your friend ahead of time if there are any rules they have to follow in their house so you can be respectful of them.
“Watch your language and have manners,” said Marisa Gilbert, senior from Texas. These very basic words of wisdom may seem like common sense, but by simply saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as well as having other proper manners, the family will respect you more in return.
DO: Introduce yourself and engage in conversations
If it’s the first time meeting the family, introduce yourself to all family members and converse with as many people as possible. It’s also important to not exclude yourself by sitting alone. “Don’t have a fear of intruding because other families can be really accepting especially around the holidays,” said Mackensie Stephens, Marist senior from Michigan.
DON’T: Say no to the food
Follow the expression “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” – there’s likely to be different foods than you’re used to. “Do try all the food, even if it’s out of your comfort zone,” said Stephens. Rather than staying away from anything you haven’t eaten, use this opportunity to try something new and to experience the culture of that family. Some families may consider it rude to not try the food or to not finish what’s on your plate, so be aware of how much food you’re taking; don’t take more than your stomach can handle, especially if you aren’t sure if you’ll like it.
DO: Be open to new traditions
Traditions vary by family, region or religion. We live in our own little bubble and grow accustomed to our own family traditions for each holiday.
Maasai Ephriam, a Marist student from California, spent last Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. He stressed the importance of accepting the differences in how other families celebrate the holiday and participating in what they do. He admitted the experience was completely different than what he was used to, but didn’t mind it after spending every holiday abroad freshman year. “It was actually one of the best experiences I ever had,” he said.
DON’T: Wear revealing clothes
Stephens and Gilbert both agreed first impressions are important. Especially when spending the holidays at your significant other’s house, dress conservatively. There’s no reason to wear flashy, revealing clothing but also be sure to look like you didn’t just roll out of bed.
DO: Interact with the kids
If little kids will be there, the family will appreciate seeing you put an effort in to interact and play games with them. “Don’t forget about Santa, the Easter bunny and other characters if you’re not used to having little kids at the holidays because you don’t want to be the one to break the news to them,” said Stephens.
DON’T: Be the center of attention
Of course everyone will know you’re not part of the family, but senior Kristen Mateja says to at least not draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Remember, holidays are family time. As the guest, Stephens also recommended to “be yourself but don’t try to be the life of the party.” You’re the guest not the host, so don’t try to steal the spotlight and just blend in.
DO: Show appreciation
Holidays are most traditionally family time. So to be invited into someone else’s home, every student agreed it’s crucial to be thankful and appreciative for their open arms and hospitality. Whether you cook a dish to contribute to dinner, bake dessert, buy flowers, or bring some wine, any act of contribution shows you are not taking the family’s kindness for granted.
“I was always taught never to show up empty handed, so I would bring a small gift for the family as a thank you,” said Elise Swain, senior at Marist all the way from Hawaii.
DON’T: Drink too much
If you’re trying to make a lasting impression, in a good way, Mateja has something to tell you. “I definitely would not drink a lot.” First things first, don’t accept or ask for alcohol if you aren’t of age, unless your friend has already said their parents are fine with it. If you are offered a drink, don’t take the opportunity to drink as if you’re at a college party; it’s not your family gathering.
DO: Enjoy your time with them
As easy as it sounds, it has to be mentioned. Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. “Extended family isn’t usually together that often, so it’s a nice thing to be a part of and to be thankful that they want you there,” said Mateja.
The most important part is to just have fun. “I basically just considered myself a part of their family for the time being and they treated me like it,” said Ephriam. But DON’T forget to call your own family to wish them a happy holiday and to check in.