My friends canceled Christmas dinner at the last minute. Would you retaliate?

I made Christmas holiday plans for a potluck dinner with friends in early November. They sent a text, canceling a week before Christmas, supposedly because the guest list was becoming too large, but I think it was because they got a better offer. Their excuses seemed pretty lame.

Now I’m left with a $100 Bûche De Noël for 10 people and no place to go. All the restaurants in my area are booked up, or have very expensive prix fixe menus. My local restaurant charges $150 for a turkey meal. Should I break off my long term friendships (30-plus years) over this, or let it go?  

It’s expensive to host a Christmas dinner, and I fully understand that it’s gotten even more expensive with inflation, but I’m now left without plans, and I was counting on this gathering. This is not the first time they have canceled for what I actually suspect was a better offer.

Ergo, Not a Grinch

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Dear Ergo,

Cancel culture does not only extend to public figures.

That’s a tough break, especially with just a few days’ notice before the big day. Somebody else will want that Bûche De Noël. It’s easier for a couple to unilaterally cancel long-held dinner plans. They have each other. It leaves single guests on the outs. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, plan a day of pampering, and/or put a note on Facebook
to offer to host and/or say you have no plans on Christmas Day. You may be surprised who would be happy to set an extra plate.

If they had something important to say, they should not have said it via text. At a later date, explain how and why the canceled plans left you high and dry. The hosts may have been overwhelmed by the guest list, and they figured it was cheaper and easier to eat out. But they did agree to it. Canceling Christmas at the last minute is less than considerate, but try not to take it personally even if you rightly believe that their nixed dinner plans impacted you more as a singleton.

Some 28% of all U.S. households are made up of singletons, according to the Census Bureau, up from 13% half-a-century ago. As people grow older and their kids move away — assuming they had children — people tend to spend more time alone, especially compared to their 20s and 30s. There is a loneliness “epidemic” in the United States, per this report by Morning Consult commissioned by Cigna CI, which found that more than half of U.S. adults (58%) are considered lonely.

As people grow older and their kids move away — assuming they had children — people tend to spend more time alone.

Pot-luck dinners do make sense. The average feast for Christmas Day will cost approximately $60 this year, up 16% over last year, according to a recent report by market research company Datasembly. Datasembly compared prices on 13 different products, which included stuffing, egg nog mix, frozen turkey, roasted turkey gravy, bone-in spiral-cut ham, frozen apple pie, whipped topping, corn, green beans, butter, cranberry sauce, russet potatoes, and biscuits. 

First, that estimate sounds pretty low given the rise in food prices over the last 12 months. Second, that total does not include wine, which can cost anywhere from $20 to take your pick. The National Retail Federation projects that 158 million people will shop on Super Saturday — another consumer holiday bestowed with a buzzword — up 10 million on last year. People are shirking off their recession worries, and they’re all chipping into the holiday expenditure. 

Rising prices have led to an increase in bring-a-dish Christmas dinners, according to my own unscientific survey of my immediate friends and family. The days of arriving with a salad or a cheap bottle of plonk or a candle you picked up at Costco
or Target
are over. But as you found out, that is a double-edged carving knife: On the one hand, potluck makes it easier for the hosts, but the guests have more work to do, and Grinch-like behavior can escalate along with the guest list.

Happy Christmas, Ergo. Vent now, and let it go before Santa gets here.

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