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Should we tell them the real reason we ended the party?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For nearly 29 years, my wife and I hosted a Christmas dinner for the four men who were at our wedding party, along with their wives. It’s become a tradition that, we’ve been told, is the highlight of the holiday season for our friends.

Here is the problem. One of these couples never invited us to their home. Another has not welcomed us for 15 years, and a third couple not for seven years. The fourth couple knows what reciprocity means.

Last year we got fed up and we didn’t celebrate. When these friends asked us why, we attributed it to some health issues my wife had had.

Another year has passed and the situation has not changed. We will no longer invite people who never return the invitation.

What is the appropriate response when I am asked why we are not hosting the party? The truth would make us feel like we were begging for invitations. They are old friends but obviously more close.

Am I just saying we’re too busy, or is there a kind way to let people know they’ve been a big disappointment?

SWEET READER: Actually, you did. If only you hadn’t undermined it citing health reasons. You might have said, “We haven’t seen you all year, so we didn’t think you’d be interested in continuing.

A common danger with annual parties is that guests begin to think that the normal mutual obligations between hosts and guests do not apply. Miss Manners knows a lot of people think that anyway, but it’s especially the case when the event seems to be a tradition of hosts that guests feel they’re helping them look their best just by being there.

Plus, as you’ve discovered, they consider their spot on your guest list good for every year. A gentleman of Miss Manners’ acquaintance used to give a splendid New Year’s Eve ball, and one year, when he sent no invitations because he was out of town, the person watching his house told him that 40 people showed up.

So his advice to those who are nice and hospitable enough to have annual parties is to vary them a bit from year to year – or maybe skip a year once in a while.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Here is a pet peeve I have when I give Christmas presents. Very often, the response is like “OMG, I didn’t get you a present”. I hate that.

I give presents because I want to and I don’t expect anything in return. I hate the idea that my main achievement is to make the other person feel guilty.

Although I have no problem telling people this, I would like them to just say “Thank you, that’s very thoughtful” right away. If you agree with me, maybe a comment from you could help get the message across.

SWEET READER: Sure. But Miss Manners also appreciates this as an example of how a perfectly appropriate and unavoidable thought can become inappropriate when said out loud. The kind recipient will shut up after thanking the donor and only make a private note seeking a chance to return the favor.

(Please send questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City , MO 64106 .)

California Daily Newspapers

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