Many problems of etiquette tend to arise around Christmas time, so I thought it was about time I dealt with some of your latest queries that have been flooding into my inbox in recent days.
To ‘Puzzled of Bohemia’: Have you thought of making a donation to a peasants’ charity? Perhaps there is a fund for the restoration of the St Agnes fountain, for example? This way you would avoid any possible misunderstanding about going out and inviting a perfect stranger back to your house for flesh and wine. As you say, it could be seen as patronising. In any case, yonder individual may be quite well off and just collecting logs for the wood-burning stove in his bijou second home in the countryside.
One has to be careful in one’s dealings with pages, so I think your treading in footsteps idea is a non-starter. My advice is: if in doubt, don’t dint. You could give your page a bit of cash and ask him to go to the charity shop and choose a pair of stout boots for himself. And on the Feast of Stephen this year you might think of organising some sort of entertainment, like a game of charades, to help you resist the temptation to look out.
To ‘Sleighsick’: Tinnitus is a distressing affliction and I’m sorry people are not being more sensitive about it. If you don’t want to offend your in-laws, why not accept the offer of a lift in their sleigh but specify that you want to jingle only half the way?
To ‘Mortified’: Yes, I think you may have committed a faux pas. The word “deck” in this context must have meant “decorate” and was not being used as a slang expression for knocking someone to the ground. Your friends the Halls must have been alarmed to see you advancing on them with a holly bough. I can only suggest that you try to make light of the incident and hope they will come to see that it was a lot of Fa la la la la, la la la la about nothing.
To ‘Flustered’: If your tidings really can’t wait, it would be OK to interrupt the night-time gathering of the shepherds. As you say they are all “seated on the ground”, it’s obviously an informal “pot luck” occasion so I don’t see how you would be regarded as a gatecrasher. I would try to draw one of the shepherds to one side and discreetly pass on the news. Avoid any kind of fuss, and, above all, don’t disturb the flocks – shepherds are touchy about that sort of thing.
To ‘Dismayed’: You are being over-sensitive. Your feud with your neighbours is based on a simple misunderstanding caused by faulty punctuation. You wrongly assumed they were suggesting that you and your flatmate were drunken gays when they referred to you as merry gentlemen. There was a comma missing and it was actually “God rest you merry, gentleman.” Why not invite them round for cheese and wine and comfort and joy?
To ‘Landlubber’: Dropping in unannounced on Christmas Day is really not acceptable and you are entitled to be annoyed if you see three ships come sailing in without so much as a by-your-leave. Why not get yourself some semaphore flags and signal to them that it is just not convenient this year? If you have issued a general “O Come All Ye Faithful” invitation, then you have told everyone it’s open house and you have to take what’s coming to you.
To ‘Worried Red Berries’: You must insist on your right to bear the crown. And, while there’s not much you can do about the rising of the sun, the running of the deer should be kept within reasonable bounds and you should try to reach some agreement of the playing of the merry organ.