Even on Christmas Day, social manners apply. Don’t turn up at people’s doors unannounced
Many years ago, I bumped into a distant cousin on the streets of Nairobi. It was just a few days to Christmas, and after the normal chit chat, he asked whether he and his family could come over to our place for Christmas. I was in my first year of college, and my immediate thought was that it wasn’t my turn to invite him home, if anything, I had not heard anything about hosting anyone for Christmas.
Surely, he could not have been serious, could he? I debated with myself and eventually concluded that he must have been joking, so I told him, “Sure, you come,” an invite that I promptly forgot as soon as we parted ways.
A day before Christmas, my father informed us that an uncle, his elder brother, had invited us to his home for Christmas, and so come that day, we woke up early, did whatever needed to be done, and then headed to my uncle’s place.
It was a nice day — there was plenty of food and it was good catching up with relatives I hadn’t seen that year. Much later in the evening, we returned home.
A few minutes after we arrived, we heard a knock on the door. It was one of our neighbours. It turns out that the distant cousin I had “invited” home for Christmas had actually turned up with his wife and two children in tow, only to find a deserted home. Then, mobile phones cost an arm and a leg, and were therefore the preserve of a few. This cousin didn’t have one, and neither did anyone in my family, so there was no way he could have called to ask where we had gone.
My father was perplexed, since he couldn’t remember inviting anyone for Christmas. Mortified, I recounted that incident, and thankfully, he too was appalled at this relative’s casualness.
The next time I met him was at a relative’s funeral three or so years later. By way of greeting, he expressed shock that I could invite him home, only for him to turn up and find an empty house.
“Do you know how embarrassed I was?” he asked.
I had become more self-assured, so I went ahead and listed the social blunders he had made by inviting himself home through me, and for a major holiday such as Christmas for that matter. Unfortunately, he didn’t get where I was coming from. In fact, from that day onwards, he became cold towards me.
True, Christmas is that time of the year when most of us catch up with relatives we haven’t seen in a while, a time when our generosity is more pronounced. However social etiquette still holds on this day — you cannot afford to turn up at someone’s doorstep unannounced, whether that person is a close relative or friend.
If you did that, you would be no different from those people that turn up on your doorstep on a Sunday afternoon, their children in tow. It is inconveniencing and disrespectful of your very surprised host, who hadn’t prepared for you.
Please don’t gatecrash anyone’s home this Christmas, don’t invite yourself, otherwise you might just find yourself in the rain staring at a closed door.
Merry Christmas to you, dear reader.
The writer is Editor, myNetwork magazine, in the Daily Nation [email protected]