When you gather relatives and friends at your holiday table, it's a time for sharing in good company and in good food. Also, it may be a time to share a blessing, if your family says grace regularly or before special holiday meals. However, if some of your guests aren't from your same faith, saying a prayer without making people uncomfortable can be tricky.
Here are a few ways to keep your guests at ease while maintaining an important ritual in your home:
--As guests are making their way into the dining room after your pre-dinner mingling and cocktails, simply announce that grace will be said, suggests the experts at the Marvelously Well-Mannered blog. Letting them know about the ritual beforehand prevents awkward moments for guests who might immediately reach for the bread bowl, and then put it down in embarrassed silence when you have to tell them to wait a moment.
--At the table, share with guests simple instructions without delving into a history lesson on the meaning of grace. Merely ask your guests to bow their heads or to join hands. Even if they regularly don't say a blessing, most people will understand what's happening.
--Alternatively, consider not asking guests to join hands. They may be uncomfortable with physical contact, with people they don't know or with handholding during flu season. You'll instruct by example, such as by clasping your hands in front of you. Guests will look to you, the host, for cues.
--Don't ambush someone into giving the blessing. This is a top etiquette don't. According to Amy Vanderbilt, etiquette expert and author of "Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette," it's best to ask someone whether he or she would like to say grace before everyone gets to the dinner table. That way, the person can prepare something to say.
--Be true to your faith expressions. If you'd like to thank the Lord for the blessings of the meal, do so, even if you know you have nonbelievers at the table. It's in their good etiquette to listen respectfully. If you wish, you might also simply express gratitude for the guests at the table, for loved ones far away or no longer with you and for the bounty of the feast.
--Before you use this moment to have everyone join in a prayer for a loved one experiencing a challenge, such as a health issue, be sure that the person's news is fully public and that you will not -- even in good intentions -- reveal the person's private issues without permission.
--Keep your blessing short and sweet. This will keep guests more comfortable during a ritual they might not embrace, and it lets everyone get to that warmed bread bowl while it's still warm.