The Scoop on Holiday Gatherings

One of the things that always strikes me as interesting is the difference I’ve seen over the years between Thanksgiving gatherings and those just a couple weeks later. While Turkey Day is generally a sit-down, all day affair, I find that holiday parties are shorter, the food is different, and the atmosphere is quicker. People often do Open Houses, or cocktail parties, they are generally two to three hours in duration and allow folks to attend several functions in a day or evening. This is helpful, because if you have a pulse, chances are good you’ll be invited to at least THREE different parties on the same day! A short cocktail party or Open House is perfect, because you can come by, make an appearance, share the cheer and not feel badly about leaving in an hour!
So, I know, you’re saying, “This is all fine, Joan, but what about those of us who are HOSTING a holiday party this year?”
Fear not! I haven’t forgotten you, dear friends! I promise!
So, you’re wanting to throw a little soiree for the holidays? Looking to show off your new decorations? Or, maybe have a gathering of friends to warm your home? Well, you’re in luck, because by putting out some simple appetizers, with a bottle or two of wine or holiday punch and voila!! You’ve got a party, people!
Here are a few tips for throwing an excellent appetizer or cocktail party that is sure to please:
First, keep it simple. You don’t have to spend the day baking or slaving in the kitchen. You can buy some great appetizers at either Trader Joe’s or Costco, and bake them just before guests arrive. They have all the flavor and warmth of home-made treats without the fuss!
Second, remember to do things in odd numbers. If it’s a small group, say, under ten people, I offer three different choices of appetizers. For ten to twenty, I go up to five choices. Any group above twenty, however, I just offer more of those same choices. Remember, it is possible to have too many food choices, and that’s too much work for you for very little appreciation! So, just up the amount, and keep the choices small.
Third, remember your vegetarian, gluten-free, or special-diet guests with a great platter of veggies and pickled items. Olives, mild peppers and marinated veggies are an excellent addition, which bring the flavor and add a European flair. So, don’t forget them! Trader Joe’s has these wonderful gherkins that I always love to add to my veggie or my cheese platter. They’re tangy and delicious!
Fourth, if you receive a gift of food, add it to your table. Put those cookies, mini breads or cakes on a lovely dish and offer it to your guests. It’s a great way to share those delicious baked goods without having to eat them all yourself. You can save yourself from extra calories that way.
Fifth, don’t forget to keep it simple. One of my very favorite appetizers requires little or no preparation and it’s delicious. I love to get a great hunk of Parmesan cheese, cut it into chunks and serve it with some fig jam. It’s a new one for most people, but once you taste it, you’ll fall in love. Another great snack is cambozola or bleu cheese and crisp pear slices. The combination of sweet and salty is amazing. And literally, these can be put together in five minutes.
If you don’t know about wine, ask a friend in the know to bring a bottle or two, or make it “bring your own” . This is a great way for people to share their favorite wines and for you to learn a little bit more. There are over 700 wineries in Washington State alone. We have tons of fabulous labels , just waiting to be discovered!
And, remember what I said at the top of the segment. People are very over-scheduled at this time of year, particularly when you add in office parties (for both spouses) and holiday concerts for the kids’ schools. If you make your gathering a short one (no more than two hours) on other than a Friday or Saturday night, chances are good you’ll have a decent turnout. Many of my friends will do an Open House on a Sunday afternoon, or a small party on a Thursday night. Those seem to be well-attended.
If you’re looking for a decent crowd, always remember to over-invite. Things come up, kids get sick, and they often happen at the last minute. Also, try to use more than one vehicle for inviting people. If you use Evite, then follow up with a phone call a week before. Or, if you use post-cards, then send a reminder email. And always give people enough time to respond without waiting until the last minute (two weeks is usually good), but don’t invite TOO far in advance or people tend to forget.
So, decorate the house, set the table, and get ready to have some holiday cheer!

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