People think I’m crazy. I hear it every time I mention our yearly Christmas party… and what happened at the previous ones.
The first was in 2011; it fell on my 29th birthday. (Legit, 29; not like I’m trying to avoid 30.) We had owned our house for about a year-and-a-half, all 3500+ square feet of it. That night, we turned our creepy-ass basement into a bar to rival your favorite pub. We had over 70 guests come out for the craziness and at least 30 crash overnight. It was a party to remember! Except, well, I couldn’t. There’s an ugly rumor that I had to take a nap prior to the start of the party because I’d gotten overly schnockered with the early arriving guests. That ugly rumor is true.
Twenty-Nine, Full of Wine
My house was trashed. One darling overnight guest had a fit in the morning over the “disgusting PIGS” that had trampled through my kitchen. She was trying to tidy the mess so it wouldn’t be overwhelming for me. Luckily, I have friends like that.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
See, crazy-huge-drunk-as-a-skunk-in-the-snow holiday parties sound like a nightmare to many people. Well, those who might be hosting. Guests tend to think these things are darn good ideas! As I host, I do as well. Again, people think I’m crazy.
It is all about learning how to smile. So many people get wrapped up the stress of the holidays, the pressure to buy the best gifts and cook the best dinner and have the best decorations and make sure Every. Single. Person is the happiest they could possibly be because you are the best.
Get over yourself. You aren’t the best because you can’t be. You’re human. You can be your best but not if you’re distressed over every last little detail for the solid month (at minimum) that covers “the holidays.”
Why on earth do three or four days (for us: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve) have to take up a solid month? Thanks for asking. I’ll address that here. See, the BHE and I are both children of divorced parents. We both have siblings. My paternal grandparents are still living. He has coworkers he considers friends, and I have friends from two former jobs. Also, I still have a relationship with my ex-stepfather. Don’t forget our friends, his friends, and my friends; that’s three different but sometimes overlapping groups. Gah! That means we have many people, many families, many locales, and many miles to travel to cover everyone we love.
Dammit all, Crammit all!
Or we host a great big shindig at our house and hope to see them all in one fell swoop. (Or, should I say, swell foop?)
“Why, Sarah? Why on earth would you invite over 70 people into your home? What are you thinking? And how could you do it year after year?”
Ahem. Please reread the opening line of this post.
Now you’re wondering how in the world one couple hosts such a large party every year. And now they have a toddler. And only one income! Well, my friends, keep reading.
Learning How to Smile
The first rule of party-throwing is that you must LET IT GO. Whatever preconceived notions you have are wrong. Whatever idyllic scene you have in your mind is so far from reality that you really ought to stop thinking and start drinking. This isn’t a movie. This is life. You aren’t reading a Victorian novel. This is life. You can’t have the perfectly decorated tree, the gorgeous spread of beautifully displayed homemade food, the children who smile up until bedtime when they quietly shuffle off to their beds, the guests who wipe their feet at the door… nope. Can’t have it. This is life.
You have to learn to let go of what you really want at the same time you have to let go of the responsibilities and stressors that come along with party-throwing. Realistically, you cannot do it all. I tried that once. I like to refer to that attempt as My Wedding. Let’s discuss THAT another time, shall we?
My “ugh” face, ready for more wine
Back on track here, you want to throw an awesome party that you enjoy so you must recognize that you cannot have negative stressors—you can’t be under distress. Not only will you not enjoy the fruits of your labors, your guests will see and feel your stress and either (a) feel guilty for attending a party whereby making you work harder or (b) feel like your sour-puss behavior ruined said party and wonder why you threw it in the first place.
Here’s what I have learned:
You cannot do it all. Look around and decide what it is you must do. This is typically shit you do anyway: vacuum the rugs, dust the mantle, put up your tree and maybe other decorations, make the beds (but with guests in mind), and wipe the toilet seats.
I use vinegar water (1:1) to clean everything as it is a natural disinfectant.
Send out invites as cheaply as possible. One year, since we send out a Christmas card to everyone we know each holiday season, I included little strips of red and green paper that had basic party info on it: date, time, location, BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything: drink, mug*, bedding, clothes, toiletries, maybe your favorite coffee creamer, etc). The money was being spent on the photocards and postage anyway. This year, I created a Facebook “event” and also sent out a mass email since not everyone we know is on FB. For those who aren’t online at all? I bet you never even thought of this: We call them! Of course, that’s like all of three people, but whatevs.
Make it clear you are not providing food and drinks. Yep, you read that right. Go ahead, read it again. This isn’t a full-service gala at the Ritz or whatever. This is a big ass party at your house. Hell, it is YOUR HOUSE. You have to clean before AND AFTER. Yes, we have had to use a floor squeegee for the “after” a couple times. This is a big deal. Your guests know this and appreciate this. It isn’t so far out of bounds to ask them to bring drinks to share or a casserole or a bag of chips or a cooler of “drink ice” or plastic cups or paper plates or even toilet paper. It really is ok to ask for these things. Almost all of your invitees will agree this is totally acceptable hosting behavior. Those that don’t can suck it.
Enlist your besties to come early and stay late. I had two lovely ladies show up two days before our first party not only to decorate BUT WITH DECORATIONS. I shit you not; they brought the decorations and hung them. I just had to take them down and return them later. Every party we’ve ever thrown has included a clean-up bit. People naturally pick up after themselves (particularly in the light of day). Those who don’t stay overnight get out of it, but those who are here for breakfast automatically chip in. They gather trash, sweep the main areas, rinse bottles and cans, etc. Our second Christmas party included various bins for separating recyclables… and people did! Don’t underestimate your friends.
Choose to enjoy your holidays! Try to recognize your stressors and eliminate the ones you are in control of. You can’t control the weather. You can control your reaction to it. You can’t control the mud and slush getting tracked into your house. You can remember that your floors are meant to be walked on and will be cleaned in good time. All in good time. Deep breath!
*mug= The majority of our friends tend to go to all social gatherings with an 18th-century-style ceramic or pewter mug. See, the largest portion of our social circle is from the group of people with whom we reenact. THAT is a series of posts in and of itself, so stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought to learn more about our crazy lifestyle and the strange steps we take on this path through life.