Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Party 2015

If you get invited to our house, it's a big deal and you are one of the lucky few.

Well, sounds a bit egotistical if I put it that way.  I guess I should say it more like: we hold one party a year only for as many people as can fit around our dining table, due to the fact that I don't know how to throw a party, we have 3 cats that make our home a hair and potentially allergy infested place, and hosting gives me hives.

This year actually went off well.  The kids made most of the food.  Jonathon did the deviled eggs and the buckeyes, Rebecca made apple crisp, pumpkin spice cake, and white chocolate covered Oreo truffles, Ian made the veggie appetizer (cucumber, turkey pepperoni, cream cheese, cherry tomato), and I did the bacon-wrapped dates.  Nicholas was the muscle, getting ice from the store and generally carrying things from Point A to Point B, like the meat and cheese platter from our awesome neighborhood store, the Marche'.

We locked the cats up, but nothing is going to eliminate the cat hair from this place. And the house actually looked pulled together, as though we did this hosting thing All The Time and it's really No Big Deal.

The bar. We don't know what 1/2 the alcohol is.

The lanterns. Do I need a third?

Complete with Brie and horse meat.

The table. Eventually covered in foods.

The tree. We have the best topper.
It's all fake, I promise, though we did a good spread with the mulled wine, Keurig coffee, and our new favorite kettle for tea, and I'm glad I splurged on an assortment of table coverings.  I know, I know, next year in Germany I can get all sorts of cool stuff, but I wanted something now, and it does make a difference and coverings don't weigh much.

Because you know that everything right now is about cutting back our belonging and watching our collective weight.

Back to the party.  We invited a handful of people for a holiday evening - a white elephant gift exchange - a game of chance and presents. I'd asked each invitee to bring two gifts (be very clear - it's per person), one should be an item they think is useful or fun or interesting or unusual. The other should be something that is unusual but not necessarily in a good way, something perhaps that could use a home but definitely not your home.  The first bit of fun comes from the rule that the items cannot be purchased for the party.  They are items already owned and occupying space in your home.

Wrap the gifts as lovely or as plainly as you like.

Once everyone is settled around the table (or around the living room, or comfortably in the yard, or...) and all the presents are piled in the middle, round 1 begins with the die rolling 1s and 5s allowing guests to pick any gift off the table and open it (some versions keep the paper on, but I think that detracts from round 2).  Depending on the number of folks, this usually takes less than an hour, and if the die is kind it allows everyone to open at least one gift.  But don't sweat if you don't get to open anything, that's when round 2 comes into play.

After a 10-15 minute break for coffee and desserts, round 2 gets underway with a timer running.  Pick a random amount of time and don't tell anyone how long it is, and don't watch the timer once it's set (I leave mine in the kitchen).  Start the die rolling again, only now that all the gifts are open certain people will have their eyes on certain items.  Roll a 1 and take a gift (that bottle of wine looks awesome, I'll relieve it from your pile). Roll a 3 and give a gift (oh, I think you could really use a 2014 calendar, yes, it's really brand new from 2014).  Roll a 5 and trade a gift (actually, I could really use a box of cat food, here, have this 110v pink heart alarm clock in return). You get the idea.

I know there are a hundred variations out there, but this one is simple and fun and lets people's colors show, if you like that sort of thing. Folks were great about sharing the love and watching out for dwindling piles (oh, you don't have anything left, you can have this collection of scented candles with a bonus Texas bottle opener!).

I think part of my anxiety with hosting a party is having to entertain people. Everyone wants their guests to have a good time at their home, and the game gives the evening purpose and structure.  I have to thank Katie Stowe for inviting us to her event two years ago as it's becoming a part of our holiday festivities, and we're encouraging our guests to bring it with them to their next posts.

The best part, of course is having friends to share the evening with. It takes us a good long while to settle into a post, 6 months to a year usually, and longer to feel comfortable with having folks in our home, but it's worth it, and if I haven't come out with anything else from our time in Jordan, I know I've come out with far more friends than I came into it with.

Happy Holidays.


  1. I love your White Elephant variation. I'll be stealing it for next year!

    1. Yay! It's a ton of fun, streefree, and if you have people who get along, no feelings get hurt :)

    2. Yay! It's a ton of fun, streefree, and if you have people who get along, no feelings get hurt :)