Holiday Hosting

THEMES, FOOD AND FUN

The upcoming winter break offers a hearty amount of time to host and attend get-togethers.

To make things a little less stressful for those in charge of opening their home for guests, I compiled some tried-and-tested ideas to help prep and organize a successfully good time.

Know Your Audience

It may seem like a no-brainer, but deciding who’s on the guest list is a crucial first step in planning. There are a number of factors to consider: whether there will be kids, will alcohol be served, food restrictions, preferences and allergies and the amount of space.

The presence of children may affect the lay-out of the area, along with the type of food and entertainment that’s available. In cases where the gathering is family-centered, I’d recommend providing activities, games and a space laid out specifically for children while the adults have some type of space to themselves.

Depending on the size of your home or how comfortable you are with having guests over, it may be a good idea to establish whether or not attendees can bring their own guests (and if they can, whether or not there’s a limit).

Figure Out a Theme and Get Some Decor

What’s the occasion? If there’s a celebration (ranging from birthdays, anniversaries, Hanukkah, to Christmas — whatever it may be) before putting out the decorations, have a plan on how to rearrange the space for the gathering. Keep away personal, fragile or important items to make sure nothing gets broken during the party.

Nail Down the Food Situation

You may know who you’re having over, but you’re going to need to decide on the type of food you want, and if you have the budget allocated for it.

If you’re looking to save money, one option is to have a potluck gathering (where the guests are asked to bring food). It may be a good idea to specify what type of food to bring, keeping allergies and dietary preferences in mind. Also, you’ll be able to avoid overlaps if you’re specific about what to bring.

You probably wouldn’t want to have four people bringing celery dips.

As host, it may be a good idea to stock up the pantry with extra food in case some guests forget to bring something. Remember to have food options for everyone (I can’t stop emphasizing the importance of this).

As opposed to organizing the food on your own, it may be harder to make sure a potluck fully avoids specific ingredients. Hopefully by informing the guests, they are able to follow those dietary restrictions. Keep some allergy medications somewhere in the pantry just in case.

Get the Conversation Going

It’s always important for the host to introduce the guests to each other and help them break the ice, especially when there is a mix of unfamiliar faces. As a general rule, try to avoid sensitive topics and stick to more open-ended questions.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Having a deck of cards or some type of board game can be a good kick-off and will likely get the guests to start mingling. Try to not just have highly competitive games: it really depends on your guests, but be careful not to have the event start with a tense, competitive game of Monopoly or Uno. That may lead to some very frustrated party guests.

As a suggestion, some well-known card games that have less of a chance of causing chaos include Cards Against Humanity (or its family-friendly counterpart, Apples to Apples), Exploding Kittens, Werewolf and Charades.

Other icebreakers may be themed accordingly to the type of guests and the occasion. For instance, when celebrating a birthday, having a game involving balloons.

It could be something like this: have guests partner up and hold a balloon together, one with their stomach and the other one with their back. Then, these duos race each other, keeping their balloons from falling or from getting popped. The goal is to be the last team standing with your balloon in tact.

Having music or a karaoke-type system can also keep guests entertained. Other entertainment systems you could use are game consoles like the Wii, PS4 or Switch. Their variety of party games can be an option for guests to play (some examples: JackBox, Just Dance, Mario Kart, Mario Party and Overcooked)

Some Other Things to Keep In Mind

If there are some guests you’re close enough to ask favors from, it’s helpful to have a group of people for the after-party cleanup.

Make sure your dishwasher and sink are clean and empty before the party starts, so loading plates and utensils will be much quicker and easier.

Also, have a first-aid kit prepared somewhere in the house, in case accidents occur.

You have the “hosting” part down, now you have to deal with the conversations that happen during your holiday get-together. Check out “Refereeing the Dinner Table” by Forrest Baum on communicating with family, it just might save you from an embarrassing spectacle.

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