Holiday Party Planning

placesettingsThe annual Christmas party for my extended family was held this weekend. More than a decade ago, my mother started a tradition where we celebrated as a family, usually a few weeks ahead of the Christmas holiday to limit scheduling conflicts. Our extended family is ever-growing (three new babies last year, one new baby this year, and who knows what the future will bring). This year’s party crowd was about 55 people ranging in age from three months old to 80 something.  Pulling off a party of that size takes planning, coordination, a great party supply store, and a little bit of luck. My role this year was party planner and Santa’s helper. As a member of the Card & Party Giant team, I see the festive holiday decorations that help get us in the party spirit. This year, I bopped into the party wearing my candy cane head boppers that were a simple touch to make my outfit all the more festive! You might wonder how one can pull off without a hitch a party that has to entertain multiple generations. The first step is to find a date and location. This year, as we frequently do, the party was held in a church hall near my father’s home. The hall easily accommodates our large family, has access to a kitchen with plenty of oven and refrigerator/freezer space, counters, and an array of serving utensils. Once the date and location are secured, invites go out. Social media plays a large role in getting the word out. For family members on Facebook, an invite is sent to this private party. Those not on Facebook, but with email, get the details via electronic mail. A few have neither Facebook nor email, but don’t mind getting texts with the updates. And then there is the 80-something hold out who has neither social media, texting, or email. He gets a snail mail invite. While it sounds complicated, it’s easy once you figure out who gets their info where. Once the invites go out and the fun begins as you try to put together a potluck menu, decorations, someone to provide music, activities for the kids. My secret to success is lots of communication and always being the one who takes care of plates and napkins. I learned a long time ago you can’t always rely on others to be on time or know how much tableware it takes for crowd of 50+. There is nothing worse than having a crowd, lots of food to eat and no serviceware. The invite suggests things for which people can volunteer. Who is responsible for the Christmas decorations, setting up a craft table, putting table cloths on the hall tables?  We know we need a quantity of appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts, and the trick is to be sure there is a good variety as well. What about something to drink?  So, after years of practice, I have discovered that weekly updates to include who’s doing what and what’s still needed are the most important aspect of making it all work. When you’re about ten days out from the party and still have no volunteers to don the red suit, or find yourself without any side dishes, the coordinator (yours truly) can reach out to those who R.S.V.P.’d but didn’t tell what they’re bringing and guide them in the right direction. This year’s party was perfect. There was more than enough food – appetizers ranged from a savory cheese cake to Swedish meatballs.  Our main course included Italian beef, ham, sloppy joes, and mostaccoli with meat sauce and fresh cheese.  There was a faro side dish with Brussels sprouts, kale and mushrooms, fresh green beans, and a fruit plate (that we forgot to put out!).  We had a games and crafts coordinator for the kids’ table. The little ones colored pictures and made snow globes to take home. Games like musical chairs were played by the kids and adults alike with only one minor injury to an overzealous adult who shall remain nameless.  One of our nieces made a dessert table where the place settings and arrangements were as artistic as the edible treats.  Santa Claus arrived a little early this year, leaving the children with toys and games to enjoy until the party ended.  And when the party was over, there were plenty of helping hands to clean up the hall and put it back in pristine order so that the CCD classes scheduled for the morning could be held without a hitch. It just doesn’t get any better than that! I wish all of you a holiday season filled with parties and celebrations that are as awesome as was our family party this year. Merry Christmas to all!placesettings

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