"It's the most wonderful time of the year…" At least, it is if you're the partying type.

The holidays tend to bring out our inner Fezziwigs—and remember, even Scrooge got invited to a party. Depending on your personality, all this festivity can be the greatest thing ever or a source of stomach-churning dread.

Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great usefulness:  tips on how to be a fabulous guest. You do want to be invited back, right? At the very least, you don't want to become that guest—the one who becomes a legend passed on from generation to generation as a cautionary tale. Follow the simple guidelines below (there's a set for dinner parties and a set for office parties) and you'll be a hostess favorite in no time... 

Dinner/Cocktail/Random Holiday Parties

Step 1:  RSVP
It's so important (to the host), so simple (it's a phone call, for pete's sake), and so often overlooked by the invitee. Knowing how many people are coming can be a game-changer when it comes buying food, fitting everyone at one table, etc. Don't hold out for a better offer; decide if you're going and let the host know. It's as easy as that.

Step 2: Arrive on time
Don't be early, don't be late. If you're too early, the host may still be running around doing all those last minute things he/she meant to do earlier but didn't quite get to. If you're too late, you're holding up progress, not to mention dinner. If you can't avoid a late arrival, call. Give an ETA and encourage them to start without you.

Step 3: Don't assume
As in, don't assume your children, pets, date, or Great Aunt Myrtle are also welcome. They may be, but don't spring them on your unsuspecting host. Ask. And if they say it's best not to bring extras, don't.

Step 4: Don't come empty-handed
When you RSVP it's nice to ask what you can bring. If you're told, "Nothing," bring something anyway. Flowers (already arranged and in a container, please), wine, chocolate . . . something the host can enjoy later.

Step 5:  Participate
Don't sit back and wait to be entertained. Take part in the conversation—but don't hog it. Avoid controversial subjects; your friends and your digestion will thank you.

Step 6: Play nice
This is not the time to drink too much, get on your soapbox, or pick fights with the other guests.

Step 7: Offer to help
Some hostesses will love you forever if you help load the dishwasher, others would rather do it themselves—but all of them will appreciate the offer.

Step 8: Go home
Don't overstay your welcome. You don't want your hosts to sit there thinking, "Pleeeease go! I need sleeeeeep."

Step 9: Say goodbye
Don't just wander off. Seek out your host, thank them for a lovely time (regardless), and then go.

Step 10: Say thank you
A note (the old-fashioned paper kind) is lovely, but e-mail or a phone call after the fact will also do nicely.


Office Parties

Ah, the much maligned, often dreaded office party. Truth be told, the office party at my place is a blast—but employees at other companies are not always so lucky. If this is you, don't worry. Just remember these simple rules...

Step 1:  Go
Yes, you have to go. At many companies, it's not just a party, it's an informal evaluation—which is why it's important that you do it right. Seriously, I could tell you tales of rising stars who had to find new jobs after their party performance went horribly wrong. Don't let this happen to you!

Step 2:  Do your homework
Find out who else will be there:  is it just your department, or the entire company? Be prepared to talk to people you don't work with every day. (More about this later.)