One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the parties. I get excited about church events, going to people’s houses, and most of all, I am thrilled when I have the opportunity to play hostess and cook a big meal for the people that I love. I guess it’s my way of giving everyone a Christmas gift---a night of good food, fun, and relaxation.
After years of going to and hosting Christmas parties, I’ve learned a few things about what makes a great party and how avoid some things that make real party poopers. To help you throw an amazing Christmas gathering this year, I’m passing along some of experiences as we talk about “The Necessary Ingredients for an Amazing Christmas Party.”
Don’t Stress About The Food.
One of the biggest traps women who love to play hostess fall into when planning a Christmas party is trying to impress everyone with the food. Ladies, this is not the time to unlock your inner Martha Stewart and try to prove to the world that you should have your own cooking show. Beware of the temptation to spend hours and hours exhausting yourself making extravagant foods.
Instead, if you’re going to cook, focus on recipes that are easy to prepare, easy to keep warm and that will feed a lot of people. Think turkey, lasagna, baked ham, or pot roast---something that basically cooks itself so that you’re free to greet and entertain your guests when they arrive without being tied to the stove.
Another possibility would be to skip cooking altogether. (I know, that’s a difficult concept for us Martha-Stewart-wanna-be’s to comprehend, but maybe it’s time we reconsidered.) Last year, one of my good friends hosted a party and served giant hoagies and side dishes from a local restaurant. Everyone enjoyed the food and she was able to relax and enjoy the party because she wasn’t worn out from cooking.
Whether you decide to cook or have the food catered, remember people aren’t coming for the food---they are coming for the company. Here’s where we can learn a lesson from another Martha (this one in the Bible) and choose to focus on the PEOPLE we’re feeding rather than impress them with our culinary skills.
Let Other People Contribute
As women, we want to prove that we can do it all. When a friend says, “Is there anything I can bring?” we say, “Oh no, we’ve got it covered.”
Here’s an idea: this year try something new and let everyone contribute something to the meal. Not only will it take the pressure off of you to prepare everything, but it will provide a nice variety as everyone contributes their specialty item.
Here’s a couple more tips about food:
Just say “No” to Alcohol
Okay, we’re not going to have the debate right now about whether or not it’s a sin for Christian’s to drink alcohol. (Although just for the record, I believe it is wrong---but that’s for another time and place.) Being a realist, I know there are some who agree with me and some who will never agree.
What I think we can all agree on is that drinking alcohol lower’s people’s inhibitions. Everyone knows that. Those who choose to keep their Christmas parties alcohol free never have the problem of someone getting drunk, someone making an inappropriate pass at someone else’s wife, someone saying something they never would have said if they were sober, or any of the other alcohol-related faux pas that happen at too many Christmas parties.
Just saying---if you want to have an amazing Christmas party with fewer after-party regrets, keep it alcohol free.
Keep the Munchies Coming
One thing you do want to keep flowing at a Christmas party is the munchies. I learned this from a friend of mine who threw an afternoon Christmas party. Even though she didn’t plan a big meal, throughout the day there different snacks floating around the room. Whether it was a new variety of chips, cookies, a bowl of candy, or some type of cheese, nuts, or fruit, we were munching all day long. The keys were a variety of items in small quantities.
She also made beverages easy to access so everyone could serve themselves. Rather than serving everyone all day long, my friend was able to enjoy the party as people helped themselves to whatever food or drink they wanted.
Here’s one last tip about the food (I know this is going to make some women absolutely cringe.)
Use Paper Plates.
Okay, here’s the deal: No one wants to come to a Christmas party and help with the dishes. Yet, if your guests (okay, mostly your female guests) see that you’re going to be left with a mountain of dishes when they leave, they are going to offer to help.
So---if you want to have a great Christmas party---give your guests and yourself a break. Keep the expensive china in the cupboard and use paper plates---especially if you don’t have a dish washer. You can even get special holiday paper plates if you want it to look more festive. But unless you have a cleanup crew, choose to enjoy the party and use paper plates. (I know, my inner Martha Stewart is having a hard time swallowing that one, too---but remember---Martha pays someone to do the dishes)
Well, enough about the food. What are some other things that can help you have a great Christmas party?
Invite a Variety of People.
“The More the Merrier”. To add more flavor and fun to your party, invite a variety of people from a variety of different ages, backgrounds, and demographics. Some of the best times I’ve had at parties was when I met someone new or got to know someone that I barely knew a little better. Hanging out with the same old group of people over and over again can get boring---so mix it up---after all, it is a party.
Keep it Casual.
If you want to invite a variety of people to your party, it’s absolutely imperative that you keep it casual. Because while some of your friends and family may be able to afford to “deck the halls” and attend a formal shin-ding, when you make the party formal, you’re automatically eliminating a significant number of invitees from your list. That’s why I believe the best Christmas parties are casual, comfortable parties. It allows for more people to come, and helps everyone be more genuine and relaxed. So say good-bye to the dress code and “Let the people wear jeans!”
Invite Lots of Kids
Christmas is for children. Christmas parties are ALWAYS more fun when the kids are invited. Kids add enthusiasm and excitement to the season. Some of the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended included kids.
Don’t worry about needing to entertain them. Kids will usually eat with the adults and then find a game to play or a movie to watch on their own. If the kids do wander back into the adult area, just let them join in the fun. You’ll be surprised how soon they will have even the staunchest adult laughing and remembering what was like to see Christmas through the eyes of a child.
Who Let the Dogs Out
Please do not be offended if you are an animal lover. However, while I think that kids are always a great addition to a Christmas party, I think each individual pet owner needs to think about whether it’s a good idea to invite their furry friends to the party. Questions you might want to ask yourself would be:
---Is there enough room for Fido? (A.K.A. After Fido takes up his usual spot on the sofa, will anyone else have a place to sit?)
---Do any of my guests have animal allergies or a fear of pets?
---Does Fido know how to behave in large crowds? (I have a friend who knows her dog gets so excited when people come over that she always puts him in a cage for parties. Because while she knows her dog is just trying to be friendly, she also understands that sometimes he breaks things and mauls people when he gets excited.)
One thing every pet owner should remember at parties is to keep their animal away from the food. I don’t care how much you love our animals; it’s hard to eat food after you’ve seen the pets lick it first.
Great parties have great games. Whether it be written game like a Word Scramble or Word Search or an interactive game like Charades or Minute to Win It, games break the ice at a party.
Team games are especially good for parties because they allow even the shyest among us to feel like they are part of a team without having to leave their comfort zone. They build comradry among strangers and help people open up as they try to help their team. I’ve been to lots of parties where the tension was broken when someone said, “Let’s play a game.”
Play Christmas Music in the Background
Whether it’s Bing Crosby, the Transiberian orchestra, or an album of holiday classics (like the Chipmunks at Christmastime) Christmas music sets the mood. It makes people happy and relaxed. Before long you’ll be hearing people singing along or saying, “Hey, that’s my favorite song.” The conversations will just flow from there.
Don’t Do a Gift Exchange
In my opinion, Christmas parties are not a great time to do a personal gift exchange.
Why? Well, unless every person at the party is exchanging gifts with every other person at the party, it can be just awkward. Inevitably, someone feels left out. Someone else feels short changed. People start comparing gifts and jealousy breaks out. In short, it can just be a big mess.
Even the White Elephant gift exchange can be difficult for people on a tight budget. They may feel like since they can’t afford the gift, they can’t attend the party. That could keep some of your best party people from attending. (No one wants that!)
So this year, instead of exchanging gifts at the party, why not keep it private? If your guests feel like they have to bring something, encourage them to bring a treat that can be shared with the group or contribute to the meal. Remember, it’s not about the presents---it’s about the people.
Put the White Gloves Away
Here’s one last recipe for a fun, successful party. The directions are simple: When your guests arrive, enjoy them. Stop being a Martha, and become Mary. Honestly, I think this tip has helped me more than any other.
It was given to me by a friend who knew I was wearing myself out trying to make everything "perfect" for a large party I was hosting. She said, “Remember, the people you’ve invited aren’t coming to inspect your house, critique your decorations, or sample your food. They are coming to spend time together.”
Although I may spend days before a party cleaning, cooking, and getting everything ready, when it’s time for the guest to arrive, I pray, “Lord, please help me stop worrying about all these things and enjoy my friends.” Then I stop cleaning, stop worrying, and relax.
This is the absolute best tip I can give any woman that’s hosting a Christmas party. Plan ahead and prepare ahead, but when the guests arrive, relax and enjoy fruits of your labor. Remember, parties are about people. People are the most important. So, stop stressing and enjoy your party, your friends, and your Christmas season.
May All Your Parties be Fun and Filled With Laughter!!!!