BACK TALK

Have a Merry Christmas kiss

How exactly does one greet a holiday-party host and hostess? Let us count the ways.

Lianne George December 27 2004
BACK TALK

Have a Merry Christmas kiss

How exactly does one greet a holiday-party host and hostess? Let us count the ways.

Lianne George December 27 2004

Have a Merry Christmas kiss

How exactly does one greet a holiday-party host and hostess? Let us count the ways.

Lianne George

ON ETIQUETTE

FOR THOSE OF US not raised by punctilious British nannies, proper etiquette can be a bit of a guessing game. Particularly during the holiday season, when each lavish cocktail party and informal afternoon drop-in presents its own set of finicky social rules and potential pitfalls. For instance, when is a hostess gift (a.k.a. lavender-scented bath salts) in order and when will a cheap cabernet do the trick? Or when it comes to sparkly holiday attire, where exactly is the line between festive and sick-making? But of all the mysteries of holiday party etiquette, the greatest has got to be the platonic kiss hello.

Although, collectively, North Americans have tried to cultivate more worldly, European sensibilities through food, fashion and decor, at heart we’re still a relatively puritanical bunch. To many of us, going around planting big wet ones on long-lost relations, acquaintances and friendsof-ff iends feels about as natural as sipping from somebody else’s water bottle at the gym.

Amd yet there it is at just about every yuletide event—a room full of people waiting, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to be accosted and kissed hello. To make matters more difficult, there’s a whole assortment of hello kisses to choose from, and each poses its own set of hazards. The single-cheek kiss, for instance, is the most basic and the quickest to execute. But which cheek to attack?

As often as not, you and your co-kisser will go in for the same cheek, leading to a clumsy bobbingneck dance or a decidedly unsophisticated cracking of heads. According to Peggy Post— great-grand-daughterin-law of manners expert

To comment: lianne.george® macleans.rogers.com

Emily Post and author of the completely revised 17th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette— both parties should always go in for the right cheek to avoid collision. (Of course, as a rule, this only works if both parties have read and internalized Ms. Post’s tome.)

In trendier circles, the French two-cheek kiss has become the greeting of choice. The twocheeker happens very quickly and therefore requires a great deal of precision and lip-cheek coordination. For this reason, it’s not uncommon, when hopping from one cheek to the other, to wind up planting one on your co-kissee’s neck or worse, an earlobe. Then suddenly your platonic gesture is transformed into a strangely intimate moment (particularly baffling if the kissee is, say, your mother-in-law).

Less common is the air kiss—where two people brush cheeks but kiss into the air—often executed by women out of mutual respect for each other’s makeup application. (Unless you are Ivana Trump, I would leave this one alone.) And finally, the hand kiss, which, from a woman’s perspective, is at once patronizing and oddly aggrandizing. (Best performed with a whack of irony or by a Russian archduke.)

If unnecessary physical contact is just not your bag, Peggy Post does offer a polite suggestion for weaseling out: “Let the person know that you enjoy his or her company, but that physical displays are... contrary to your culture or religion.” Which, in Canadian culture anyway, wouldn’t be a complete lie. I?il