HomeLifeThe rudest things you can do during Christmas dinner

The rudest things you can do during Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner is a time for family, friends, and good food. But it can also be a time for awkward conversations and uncomfortable silences.

“Being together with family for holidays can be wonderful,” said Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “It can also be taxing. Taking the time to plan and think strategically can make the difference between enjoying the interactions and pure dread.”

To avoid ruining your holiday dinner, here are the main things you should avoid when it comes to being rude at Christmas dinner.

Not RSVP-ing

If you’re invited to a Christmas dinner, it’s rude to not RSVP. The hosts need to know how many people to cook for, and it’s just common courtesy to let them know you’ll be there.

“A holiday invitation of any kind should be sent out in advance, at least three to four weeks early. And an RSVP should be sent back within the week it is received to give the host ample time to prepare,” says Diane Gottsmand, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

And if you RSVP for yourself, that doesn’t cover guests unless explicitly discussed, so avoid arriving with an uninvited plus one. There may not be enough seats, food or place settings to accommodate unexpected guests.

Read: Cracking Christmas jokes

Ignoring the schedule

Make sure you know the schedule of events so you can plan accordingly.

“If you are invited at 12 noon, don’t arrive early, but certainly don’t arrive late,” says Ms Gottsman. “The host has the lunch carefully timed and it’s impolite to keep everyone waiting because you slept late.”

If the invitation says noon but you know dinner won’t be served until 4pm, and you can’t bear to spend the whole day with the hosts, it’s okay to be acceptably late. Just respect the host’s planning for the meal and let them know what time you’ll arrive beforehand.

Bringing dishes that require cooking

It’s quite common to bring a dish or plate to a Christmas dinner if you’d like certain foods included in the meal. But don’t assume this means you’ll have free rein over their kitchen.

“Unless explicitly cleared with the host in advance, don’t bring any food that requires you to use their stove or oven,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the Were You Raised by Wolves? podcast. “The host is busy preparing the meal and definitely doesn’t have extra space in the oven or on the stove for you.”

Starting tense conversations

People tend to want to avoid heated arguments and tense conversations at Christmas, so it’s best to avoid talking about controversial topics at the dinner table. Stick to topics that everyone can agree on, such as the weather, the food, or current events that aren’t too polarising.

Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, so don’t ruin it by getting into a big argument!

Asserting yourself in the kitchen without being asked

We’ve all seen those guests who won’t leave the kitchen because they’re sure they have a better way to baste the turkey or to chop carrots.

The host is preparing the meal, so let them take charge. And if you’re hosting Christmas this year, try to be gracious if this situation arises. Try inviting them to give their opinion then thank them and usher them back out of the kitchen with the promise that you’ll look into it.

If they persist, politely suggest you’d love to attend Christmas at their house next year.

Read: Aussie versus English Christmas dinner

Not letting the host know about an allergy or dietary restriction

Don’t just assume the host knows about all of your dietary requirements.

“If you are allergic to a particular food, let the host know in advance,” says Ms Gottsman. “Offer to bring a casserole you can share with fellow guests. The host may or may not take you up on your offer, but at least you have offered.”

If they won’t accommodate your needs, explain to them that you may not be able to attend if there are no dishes suitable for you to eat.

Showing up empty handed

If you’ve been instructed not to bring food, an activity gift is always a good idea, something such as a board game, a movie, a pack of cards, or anything to help structure the unstructured time.

Continue to show your appreciation after the event as well. “Don’t forget to send your host a thank-you note,” Mr Leighton said. “The only thing better than being invited to Christmas dinner is being invited back.”

Assuming you can take home the leftovers

Christmas dinner leftovers are a highlight of the day, but the host who prepared the meal has every right to keep the remaining food in their house.

“Don’t ask for a doggie bag if one is not offered,” says Ms Gottsman.

Read: Christmas leftovers: tasty tips for excess food

Hanging around too long after dinner

Don’t overstay your welcome. Look out for hints that the evening is wrapping up and your hosts would like you to leave.

Pay attention to what others are doing and perhaps suggest continuing the festivities at your place or a nearby bar if you don’t want the night to end.

“While you don’t want to be the first to bolt out the door, you certainly don’t want to be the last straggler that won’t leave,” adds Ms Gottsman. “When people start to retrieve their coats and walk towards the door, do the same.”

What do you have planned for Christmas dinner this year? Share your plans in the comments section below.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


  1. I never understand the big cooking a large lunch on Christmas Day – we live in Australia for goodness sake. We gave this up well over a decade ago to simply going to the river and having the bare basics – ham and salad plus dessert. The idea of Christmas is to spend time with everyone, not be tired and grumpy before everyone arrives, then the cleaning up – we have better things to do. Good luck to the people who enjoy going the really traditional route, just don’t complain.

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