Entertaining During the Holidays
Party Planning at Home for Big Holidays
If you are planning to host a party at home, here are some basics that must be done. For entertaining, create a time schedule, plan the menu ahead, and post it so you never forget to prepare or buy any of the necessary items. Give yourself time before the day of the party to prepare some of the menu foods like set-salads, rolls, and dessert so that everything does not have to be fixed on party day. On the day of the dinner, compose out a time line, going backward from the serving hour, to make it all happen.
Some people love to hold events throughout the holidays. If you aren't among these, go to the parties you are invited to and enjoy yourself, but don't feel compelled by the "I have to have a party, too" syndrome, because you don't have to have one, particularly not at this season of the year. Entertaining must be something that you look forward to, not dread. If it's a big trouble for you, then wait until you feel more like doing it, probably in July.
When you do want to entertain on this festive season, keep it simple! Buffet dinners are simpler than the sit down type, and a potluck party where everybody brings something is even easier. One group has parties often, but the friends have made a pact within the group that each party is a potluck type. They change the menu to keep it interesting. The hostess and host dictate which type of party they wish to have, for instance, one with Chinese food. As they call to invite everybody, they describe the menu, and the guests decide what they would like to bring. If there's any duplication, the hosts merely explain to the second guest that someone else is going to bring that dish and the guest chooses another item. Another month it might be an Italian-food evening. On the hot summer months each friend takes a salad and his or her own steak to barbecue, and the hostess supplies baked potatoes and garlic bread. This concept makes for easy entertaining—easy on the hostess and easy on the guests, and also on the budgets.
Now if you’re planning for a Christmas event, remember that not all functions should strictly be held within a twelve-day radius of Christmas. If you're in charge of setting the date, consider spreading some of the recitals, plays, parties, and programs through the fall and spring months. For a huge extended family, it could be more convenient to have a get-together a few weeks before Christmas or the week after, reserving Christmas Day for immediate families at home. Once again, let the other families chip in something toward the menu to make it easy on the host and hostess. For instance, a family likes to get together with Grandma and Grandpa and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, but their extended family is so big that they can't possibly do it in one home. So they rent a community facility for the afternoon and have a dinner in the first part of December. The dinner is organized by one of the families and a second family is in charge of entertainment, which includes games, prizes, and shared talents. Each family takes a couple of minutes to highlight its achievements during the past year. This idea can be extended further by writing the achievements down and giving them to Grandma and Grandpa together with pictures and photocopies of certificates and awards earned by family members, placing these in a loose-leaf album to be treasured. (Can you come up with a nicer Christmas gift?) A reunion keeps the extended family united and is looked forward to during the year. Some family reunion traditions involve singing carols and everybody helps to clean up, making a pleasant family tradition without too much work for anyone.
Bluestein, J. Adam. Handbook for hosts: a practical guide to party planning and gracious entertaining. New York: Hearst Books, 2006.
Scola, Charlie, and Katti Lippa. Party planning secrets: the ultimate guide to a successful party. Lawndale, CA: Clear Toast Publications, 2008.