Food and Drink

Christmas buffets: how this British tradition has divided a nation

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Hollie Richardson
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Christmas buffets

During these divisive times, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Christmas buffets are brilliant. And yet, these are the reasons why they still make some people very angry.

My mum’s annual Boxing Day buffet is more iconic than the Greggs festive bake, M&S party food collection and Pret Christmas menu all together on one big silver platter. Christmas would not be the same without her cursing at hot finger food and shooing us out of the kitchen while wearing her Santa hat and an agitated frown.

Her spread is a 70s-inspired beige-fest, featuring some classic options that I’m sure we all recognise from buffets around the UK:

Vol-au-vents filled with a thick, grey mush claiming to be mushrooms. Turkey sandwiches, each lubricated with half a tub of butter. The Sara Lee chocolate gateau that’s taken about 36 hours to defrost. Pickled onions and cubes of cheddar speared with cocktail sticks. And one bottle of Shloer, just to add a touch of sophistication to the occasion.

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Mini quiches that aren’t quite hot in the middle, a wilting green salad that goes untouched – yes, these types of buffets are one of the best things about Christmas. 

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

In a recent survey, 80% of people asked agreed that the festive buffet is a Great British institution. But one thing that people can’t agree on when it comes to buffets are the rules. According to the study, which was conducted by KP Nuts, 44% of British buffet-goers have argued with another reveller due to poor “buffetiquette”.

Christmas buffets
Christmas buffets: are you guilty of poor “buffettiquette”?

And what exactly is poor “buffetiquette”?

Well, 58% of people surveyed agreed that coughing and sneezing over the table was one of the worst things to do at a buffet. Other crimes include pushing into the queue, fighting someone for the last of something, grabbing food that someone else is reaching for and sending someone else to get more food for you. You should also always wait at least five minutes after the food is laid out before loading up plates, apparently. Oh, and a third trip to the table is a big no for many people.

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Ok, so let’s take a moment to break this down. Sure, the coughing and sneezing is absolutely unacceptable. But, quite frankly, I believe that anything else goes when it comes to buffets. Fill your boots – that’s what the food is there for. And don’t wait your turn, just get stuck right in there. I mean, have you ever seen a buffet cleared out by the time the last drunk uncle leaves the party? No.

Surely, I can’t be the only person who thinks this? I asked around the Stylist office to find out what their thoughts on buffetiquette are:

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Kayleigh, digital editor

“I love buffets but I don’t love the judgement. If nobody else is eating and I want to stand by the buffet all night, why is that an issue? I’m preventing waste! GRETA THUNBERG WOULD SUPPORT ME IN MY CHOICES, DAMN IT!”

Jenny, food editor

“Double dipping is very poor etiquette, as is leaving crisp and breadstick crumbs in the dips. Also meat eaters finishing off the veggie options is very annoying. And mixing different flavours of crisps in one bowl. Didn’t know I felt so strongly about buffets!”

Megan, digital writer

“Bring on the beige, the gloopy desserts and bowl of salad that no one bothers going near. I’m here for it all. And as far as I’m concerned, there are no rules. Fill your boots, go wild, eat as much as you like.”

Sarah, digital commissioning editor

“Grabbing as much food as you can while still being able to carry your plate is both rude and wasteful – just take what you’re actually going to enjoy eating, you can always go back for more!”

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Felicity, executive digital editor

“Absolutely DO NOT cough, breath, sneeze or even loiter near the buffet. Buffet limpets need to back off too. Go, scoop up and move away – let everyone else get a piece of the action.”

Nicole, video producer/director

“Cold sausage rolls are almost a sin in my opinion; they must be warm! Poor buffettiquete would be pushing to the front of the queue, or going the wrong way around the table.”

Natalie, freelance writer

“As a Coeliac, a Christmas buffet is a nightmare. Not only do you risk getting sick because of contamination from poor buffet management (crumbs), but it’s such a free-for-all that everyone loads up on the gluten-free food (even though it’s clearly marked and they turn their noses up the rest of the year) leaving you drunk and hungry, munching a packet of stale gluten-free crackers your aunty found in the back of the cupboard in the corner.”

Despite being beloved by all, it sounds like buffets actually really are one of the most divisive Christmas institutions out there after all. But surely all this anger and frustration is only going to turn the Baileys sour? So, this Christmas, let’s all try to just get along while loading our plates. I even promise to not tease my mum about  her annual failed attempt at devilled eggs. 

Images: Getty


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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…