No! Nobody should ever, ever, ever, charge their aunty to come over for Christmas dinner (or Chanukkah tea – or any other occasion).
— David Byers (@davidbyers26) December 22, 2022
Should you get your guests to pay this Christmas?
Henry Tapper, the chairman of AgeWage, a pensions advisory service
You may feel embarrassed asking guests for money, but you will be doing yourself (and, in the long term, them) a favour if you do.
Even before inflation took off, the Bank of England reckoned the average household spent £740 on Christmas — and, in the current climate, the simple fact is that people aren’t going to be able to afford to host in the way they used to. No host wants to be left with bills they can’t pay in January.
But it’s important to do it in the right way — tell your guests in advance (there’s still time) and be as upfront as you can. Don’t be shy: make sure everyone is forewarned with an email, text or phone call. Don’t leave it to the day — nobody likes an ambush.
Be very wary about giving people the option to pay in anything other than hard cash. Every home has the wretched bottle that’s been doing the rounds for years, the nuts no one has the will to crack, and the chocolates that are too fancy to eat. You don’t want guests bringing any of those. You’re organising the meal and you’re buying the drink. If they want to choose, they should find a restaurant.
I know a fair bit about arranging collections like this: I run free boat trips on the Thames in the summer and have hundreds of guests each year. Anyone is welcome on the Lady Lucy, but I make it clear that I need donations and I get them. I list what a typical donation is, give my bank details and I accept cash.
My crew look relieved not to be freeloading and what’s more, they are determined to have fun and get their money’s worth. The famous restaurateur Peter Ilic asked diners to pay what the food was worth and found that they paid more than he would have charged.
So, work out what you want, be clear about how to pay and do everything with confidence and good humour. And once you’ve done it, it is likely that when it’s your guests’ turn, they’ll do it too.
You may even find that you have broken an important social taboo.
David Byers, assistant Money editor
Even if your mortgage is about to rocket and you have burnt through your savings, asking family to pay for dinner or over this festive season would be unthinkable in a close-knit big family like mine.
Picture the scene at our annual Chanukkah party last Sunday: the food on silver platters whirling with a dizzying frequency. Tuna and egg bagels galore, bridge rolls by the hundreds, salmon pinwheels, cream cakes. Plus, cheese and doughnuts (obviously). I could go on.
Much of this is because of my family’s huge generosity. Much is down to many Jewish families’ deep dread that anyone should ever go home from any occasion even a tiny bit hungry. But a third part is our culture’s pride in entertaining — and most importantly being seen to entertain.
As a child, I had no clue what it meant when I heard my father talking to my mother solemnly about “returning invitations”. When I grew up, I became aware of certain friends “out-hosting” each other. If you invited them, they accepted, then invited you back before cynically getting in another invitation. Two families actually got into a broigus (feud) because they were so desperate to host that neither would accept the other’s invitation.
Yes, entertaining is all about generosity, family and an obsession with food — but it’s also about ego. Charging your guests, whether it’s Chanukkah, Christmas or new year, just wouldn’t be done.
Of course, I’m mindful of people’s money troubles. Overcater if you must (I must) but always offer doggy bags to take home — we took loads from Chanukkah last week. Plus, remember: if people are coming to stay, they might be counting on a few days’ respite from soaring energy bills and food costs, so making them pay could ruin their festive season.
If you can’t afford to host, for goodness sake be honest — people will respect you for it. Far better that than causing a broigus by handing your aunt a bill at the front door.
Appendix; the broader debate