Hearts are full of gratitude at this time of year, and though cash may seem a crude way to say thank you, holiday tips are a generous way to treat those who wait on us and care for us and for those we love.
Baby sitters, house cleaners, manicurists, the people who deliver the newspaper and the guys who cut your grass. Even your favorite bartender or barista.
"The regulars will leave an extra $20," said Brendan Dorr, head bartender at the B&O American Brasserie on Charles Street. "We don't expect it. We like what we do. We like to take care of our guests the best we can."
Lorraine Whittlesey, a composer who lives in Canton, dines out several times a week and says she is always more generous at the holidays, often tipping an extra 25 percent to 50 percent.
"I appreciate the service," she said. "I appreciate the fact that they are working very hard, and I realize their salary is very little.
"Tipping is part of the ambience of going out. I like the whole feeling of it, the humanity of it all."
Tipping at the holidays is a way of saying thank you. But how much?
The Emily Post Institute offers guidelines for tipping at holidays, and the suggestions range from $10 for a newspaper carrier to a week's pay for a live-in nanny. The proper tip for the people we see regularly, like the hairdresser or the barber, is the cost of a single visit, the etiquette people say.
"It isn't like a corporate bonus," laughed Lorri Walker McCleary, who works at Henninger's Tavern in Fells Point. "It is just a little extra, and it is just nice."
McCleary has worked bartending shifts at Christmas parties — work that she says is fun and profitable.
In any case, not everyone can accept cash, including schoolteachers, mail carriers and medical care givers. Fruit, flowers, candy or cookies are an alternative.
If you aren't sure what is appropriate, ask around to find out what the establishment's policies are or what other customers do for staff at the holidays.
"I grew up with nothing," said Dickinson, who travels with a wallet full of $5 bills to leave each morning in her hotel rooms for those who make up the room each day. "I knew nothing about tipping anybody.
"Tipping makes me feel like I've made it, and I am going to spread it around," she says. "It is a small price to pay for a wonderful feeling."