Brief, handwritten thank-you notes are a must, says Toronto etiquette expert Louise Fox. Ideally, send cards within three days of receiving a gift ― but late is better than never. Parents of toddlers can write the note, and the child can add her handprint. Older kids can print their names and eventually write the notes themselves. “It’s a great activity after Christmas,” says Fox. “Get out stickers and make it an art project.”
Keep a few generic presents on hand, says Fox. But if you’re surprised with a gift and don’t have one to give in return, you needn’t be embarrassed. “Just say thank you and give them something later or say, ‘I would love to get together for dinner (or afternoon tea, or a movie) after the holidays. My treat.'”
“RSVP (répondez s’il vous plâit) means you need to respond as soon as you know you are able to attend,” says Fox. If you’re hosting, you could put “Regrets only” on invitations: That means you should count on hearing only from guests who can’t make it, while assuming everyone else will attend.