At large gatherings I'd be asked, "Did you kiss (relatives names)?" To me, the kissing was much worse than the hugging! Kissing felt like the next level of affection, and was always supremely uncomfortable for me. Unless we're romantically involved, don't put your lips on my face! At one point I remember writing a list for my mom, telling her," I only want to hug these certain people, and I don't want to kiss anyone in our family!"
At no time does a child or adult owe anyone a hug,a kiss, or an excuse as to why they don't want to give one. That message needs to begin in childhood! When a child doesn't want to share affection with someone, having whomever they chose not to kiss or hug erroneously believe he or she is "rude" (or "cold" or "unaffectionate", or any of the other inaccurate descriptions to which I personally was subjected) is a much more favorable outcome than for said child to receive the message that their feelings are invalid, or that anyone has the right to invade their personal space. If a child protests against being touched or held by someone, honor it (Even if that means super-imposing the child's picture onto Santa's lap).
As someone who has taught dance for many years, alot of my work involves physical adjustment of students. I always announce what I'm doing and if it's a single student struggling I'll ask, "Do you want me to come over and help?" 99% of the time they want adjustment because it helps them feel the correct way. On the rare occasion a student tenses up, I immediately defer to verbal correction and motion with my hands. It's common courtesy!
Please be sensitive to the messages your actions and demands are sending to children; they are people, too. There are countless ways children can be taught the important lesson of showing care and respect for others without forcing affection against their will. Check out THIS article for more information.
*A special thank you to my sister who sent me this article and inspired this post!