Good food, good fun, good people

Celebrate the holidays in style

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Well folks, autumn is finally here and winter is coming. They bring four celebratory holidays; ones that we can either spend with family or with friends. Technically, now that Halloween has passed, there are only three holidays remaining; Thanksgiving, Christmas and new year’s. The majority of college students and twenty-somethings enjoy the company of close friends and acquaintances more than that of their own family members. It’s only natural for us to want to socialize with people our own age. The cooler weather gives us the opportunity to do just that. The holiday season is the perfect time to host a party or social gathering. So, if you are tired of the weekly tailgates or the occasional frat parties, why not try putting together your own little shindig? With three different options to choose from, it shouldn’t be too hard trying to decide who, what, when and where.

I often plan a holiday party at my home for my friends. In fact, I have attended or hosted a party for all of the aforementioned holidays. For those of you who may be absolutely clueless about how to plan a party, I would like to take a look at each holiday and share just a few ideas about what to expect if you choose to celebrate any of them with your friends this year.

THANKSGIVING

Traditionally, this is a holiday that we celebrate with family but, friends and co-workers come together to celebrate ‘Friendsgiving.’ Oftentimes brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents from all over gather together and sit down to enjoy a smorgasbord sprawled out on a table. The food is not the only thing that they share and partake in; they share fond memories and stories. The same scenario can happen amongst friends. Everyone comes together to have a nice meal and swap stories about the semester and share their thoughts on what’s to come. The Thanksgiving holiday is always on a Thursday and most schools close the Wednesday before. An ideal time to have a Friendsgiving feast would be the weekend before or on any of the days that precede the actual holiday. As the host, you could provide one main entrée and ask that those invited bring a side item, dessert or a lesser entrée. You could even convince someone to provide plates, napkins, cups and the cutlery. Decorating for this occasion should be minimal. In fact, consider the meal as the decoration. The different textures and colors of all of the casseroles, ham, turkey and dressing is on display. If you want to select a few colors for the event, I suggest that you choose those that resemble colors of autumn leaves. For those of you who are interested in watching the Iron Bowl, have your Friendsgiving then. The menu would consist of everyone’s favorite game day snacks and guests could dress casually. Once that’s all done, whip out the board games or go see a newly released movie at your local theater.

All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast!

All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast!

CHRISTMAS

I absolutely love Christmas and the whole Advent season. I will go ahead and warn you that without the proper planning, a Christmas party can get very out of hand and turn into a disaster.

First, you have to decide what type of party you want it to be; serious or fun. If you’re into tacky sweaters, then make it fun. If you want to have a more refined gathering and serve wine, then be serious. Whatever you decide, make sure everyone invited knows what’s up and dresses accordingly. From there, you choose your menu items. I always tend to stick with hors d’oeuvres and food that people can eat with their hands or toothpicks; it keeps you from having to purchase cutlery. At my last holiday party, I prepared butternut squash crostinis, Oreo balls and homemade eggnog. Ultimately, it depends on how much money you’re willing to spend and how much time you have to prepare.

Once you have decided the theme of the party, decorate accordingly. Despite what you may think, decorating for Christmas is not easy. Too little looks sad and too much looks crazy. One has to find a happy medium. Now, as far as locating said decorations, practically every store in town has various assortments of ornaments and they all vary in price. Ideal stores to purchase decorations from would be Target, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Kirkland’s, Loewe’s and Cracker Barrel. I would also recommend perusing a few of the local boutiques and thrift stores; you might find some hidden gems there. Some people are into DIY Christmas decorations.

This brings up one of the many activities that you can do at your party. You can have guests bring homemade ornaments or setup a craft station at the party; a spot where all of that can take place. Two other fun games to do are Dirty Santa or Secret Santa gift exchanges. One last detail is music. So, I will admit that I made a four-hour long playlist for my party. Did my party last four hours? No, but, I wanted to make sure that music was constantly playing in the background and affecting the mood of the party. I started out by selecting traditional songs by older artists and then added in songs by more contemporary ones. Once I compiled that list, I went back and added songs that really had nothing to do the season; they were either songs that were relevant to the occasion or ones that were just fun to listen to.

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said that planning these types of parties have a tendency to be overwhelming. Selecting a theme or basic idea for what type of party you want will influence all of the other details and everything will fall into place. One final Christmas party idea is to do a movie marathon. There are so many movies to choose from. I am certain that Netflix will make every last one of them available for viewer consumption. Enjoy.

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Hopefully by now you have noticed a trend with this whole process. If you volunteer to open up your home to your friends, you not only have to make sure that they have a good time but you need to have a good time too. Do not go out of your way to put on an event that pleases everyone except you. It’s your place. If you’re not comfortable with being responsible for a certain type of party, then don’t invite that into you home. I have yet to experience a situation like the one featured in that movie ‘Project X.’ That being said, let’s talk about new year’s eve. This is an easy holiday to plan for. Since the date is associated with celebrating, most of the bars are open. Instead of preparing a fancy meal just have everyone meet at the local pub or tavern to celebrate responsibly. If the crowded bar isn’t your scene and you would rather celebrate at home, then you have some planning to do.

Personally, I have always considered a new year’s eve party to be a classy affair. Now, I don’t expect everyone to dress in costume de rigueur like they do during Mardi Gras but, sweatpants are not an acceptable article of clothing. Again, you will want to have a menu that allows people to grab and go. For decorations, the two main colors tend to be gold and silver. Play around with either one or the other and pair it with colors that compliment. Create a photo booth so that guests can remember their last party of 2016. Speaking of parties, this is definitely one where people will want to dance. A combination of classic and contemporary music always works best. If you happen to have a friend that’s also a DJ, this is the perfect night to have them over. Lastly, make sure you’re ready for the Champagne toast at midnight. Unfortunately, when that time comes, the party doesn’t end. Most of these parties have a tendency to last until sunrise so, gird your loins.

Now, I do not consider myself an expert on this sort of thing nor am I encouraging you to go out and put on this grandiose holiday bash. I have had experience with festive gatherings and know-how special this time of year is to people. That’s really what it’s all about; spending time with those special people and creating a moment that all of you can cherish. Cheers!