Here are some holiday tips based on mistakes I’ve made and others I’ve observed:

Do not give a three-year-old a check instead of a toy, because you didn’t have time to shop. They will cry regardless of the amount.

Family parties are not the place to blindside someone by bringing up an embarrassing story, unless it’s really funny.  

If someone gives you a box of candy, do not immediately exclaim, “Great. I can bring this to my next party.”

The secret to a successful party is for the hosts to be relaxed but still conscious.

Don’t make a speech about how scratchy acrylic sweaters are just before your sister hands you one.

At a holiday gathering, you’ll have more fun asking questions than telling stories.

If your brain tells you that one more drink will make you feel even better, it’s time for coffee.

It’s best not to criticize your host’s main dish, until you’ve tasted it.

Don’t be disappointed that the holidays can’t magically change your relatives into the people you want them to be. Besides, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Aunt Helen complaining about her hip.

If you come from a big family, with a wide age range, each person’s view is valid. No one has a monopoly on reality, or knows who really broke the picture window.

Gift-ripping jamborees were great growing up but thanks to the economic crisis we now take turns. 

Small talk can be exhausting. That’s why we need holiday hoops and sentimental movies to watch.

Even though you took psychology in high school and a glass of Merlot makes you even smarter, we should leave the mental diagnosis of siblings to professionals.

When you seat yourself at a table, I recommend the middle, because you’ll have more people to talk to. I also suggest wedging yourself into a spot where no one can ask you to get up and help. 

Clearing the dishes is a conversation-killer. It’s best to linger awhile, until everyone’s done discussing reality TV.

I don’t like when people make flat pronouncements that a certain movie or book is good. I think they should say they liked it.

Setting a place for a foreign student or another non-family member can enhance the holiday. I’ll never forget the fun we had with the Iranian students we hosted at the height of the hostage crisis.

Gossiping can be as delicious as sweet potato casserole but it leaves a bitter aftertaste.

My wife and I have a policy of not giving practical things as presents. I’m still recovering from the time my mother gave me a space heater for Christmas.

Naps are not permitted during a holiday party but sometimes I wish they were.

As hosts, we always remind ourselves that we’re not responsible for whether our guests have fun. We can only provide them with food, drinks and hints that it’s time to go.

Merry Christmas and remember – every time you read the “Review” an angel gets his wings. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.