Posted on December 26 2017
Wow, where did that year go? The Christmas meal has been digested and the cheery decorations seem a bit tired and dusty. But wait, there is still lots of celebrating yet to be done.
I may be treading on thin ice when I dare suggest taking some holiday decorations down for the big New Year's Eve gathering. Some like to keep things as they are until the first week of January or until the fresh tree isn't looking so perky anymore - whichever comes first!
Here are some suggestions:
- Keep the tree but take down all the decorations except for the twinkling lights
- Forage the local discount stores for mirrored disco balls. They are deeply discounted and readily available after Christmas. They will act like decorations, but give more of a blingy vibe.
- Put away your nutcrackers and give your Elves on the Shelves the night off.
- Replace your festive napkins for solid coloured ones.
- Generally add the sparkle but take away the Santas.
- Keep holiday furniture arrangements the way they are so you will be ready for the gathering of friends.
With home decorating considered and executed, next come the logistics. I don't know about you, but we live in a small, city home which has more height than width. We tend to cordon off private spaces for parties, but allow for landings and closets to be used for the inevitable piles of coats and boots. Our second floor landing is a great place for us to set up a temporary coat rack. It's out of the way and gently lets people know not to roam around where they shouldn't, by strategically placing the rack in front of closed doors. We empty out our shoe closet under the stairs, allowing for all that footwear to be housed during the party.
When you have the type of gathering that doesn't involve sitting formally at a table, it's a good idea to create multiple zones on different levels to maintain good traffic flow. For instance, set up a bar in your basement with all the accoutrements necessary for your guests to imbibe to their hearts' content. That includes cups, glasses, napkins and small bar towels to mop up drips. Install a small bar fridge near the bar area.
Consider making a small menu in a simple frame or on a chalkboard, so there is no guessing with guests as to what is available. Leave a basket for incoming gifts of bottles. In the main area, set up an area for plates and cutlery and your signature cocktail for the evening. That is also a good area for fruit and other small desserts. Also offer non-alcoholic options for those who do not wish to imbibe or for those who are designated drivers.
As for the main course, a great go-to is to have a dinner made up of appetisers, most which do not require heating before or during the party. If you plan on making the evening potluck, indicate on your invitations that everyone should bring an hors d'oeuvres dish. If you are invited to such an event, please be thoughtful and helpful by setting up your food already on a pleasing platter and remember to also include the appropriate serving cutlery. Hosts have enough to worry about without having to reach into the dark recesses for a dish to suit your needs. With a variety of cheeses, it's nice to label each one. I don't know how many times I've been to a party when we all hovered around them, not knowing which we wanted to try! And map out many surfaces for food - the dining table without chairs, kitchen counters, coffee tables, etc. If you leave enough space on surfaces for all of your guests' offerings, you shouldn't need to worry for the rest of the evening.
Another consideration is music and ambience. Most of us have playlists. Have yours loaded and already playing before your guests arrive. There shouldn't be fumbling with multiple CD's while your friends awkwardly watch you! Consider a variety of music, but honestly, the choice is yours. Don't worry about pleasing others, unless your tastes run to death metal or chanting monks.
Have an idea of small, simple games which can be played by small groups of guests. This is a good way to keep people occupied and to create conversations and introductions. Avoid trying to carrel everyone to join in. I find that type of thing feeling very stiff and forced. Tastes are different, so offer a variety of activities.
Have a couple of hide-a-beds ready for those who make the last minute decision to sleep it off. Have a small selection of toiletries and towels as well. Preparation is everything. When the final countdown begins, have the bottles of bubbly and flutes ready. Don't worry, you can use plastic glasses. No shame in that! As you sing that ol' refrain, look around the room. I always do. I look into the faces of those around me and feel blessed. Happy New Year. May the coming year bring you joy, love, hope and good health. Let there be peace on earth.