How To Throw Two Christmas Parties and Enjoy Them Both - Part One
'Tis the Season...
...Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Ask any of my friends or family and they will tell you that I love all things Christmas -- and I love them year-round. For me there is nothing like the holiday season when humans turn, well, human. Familiar music plays in every nook and cranny of every department or box store, and warm holiday tears stream down my face once again at the return of the holiday Hallmark commercials. Even runny-nosed kids become cute decked out in their holiday finery of red and green plaid dresses or suits with plaid bow ties, ready for the annual picture that is tucked inside the family Christmas card.
Because of those warm fuzzies, I find myself literally rushing the season -- LITERALLY. My CD player stands at the ready in July to share the strains of "O Holy Night" and "Santa Baby." The DVD player is worn out by October from repeated showings of White Christmas, The Bishop's Wife, and Christmas Vacation. My friends used to make fun of me when they learned that by November I had my Christmas cards addressed, presents purchased, and had already started planning my decorations attack on the house. So it's no wonder that I love to throw a big Christmas party.
Santa Crashed the Party!
As a matter of fact, I used to throw two parties! It's not quite as hard as some people might think, and it can be done as cheaply or expensively as you want. If done correctly, you can actually enjoy both of your parties!
For starters: plan, plan, and plan some more, well ahead of time. Most of the work is in the details. What type of party are you wanting? My ideal Christmas party is one where friends and family are invited, including the kids. Yes, the same ones with the runny noses. believe it or not. But I don't want the kids to become bored and pester their parents constantly. Even stuck inside the house on a cold winter's night, the kids can have fun while the adults enjoy adult time, without the expense of an interactive video game that makes each child think he's a rock star. Here's how:
- As you receive RSVPs from your invited guests, double check with them to be certain which children will be attending with them, their names, and ages. Also find out what the kids are interested in i.e. Disney, trucks, dolls, horses, crafts (nothing messy), reading, coloring, etc. Keep a running list.
- After the RSVP cut-off, go to a local discount store such as Big Lots, Woolworth's, K-Mart, or WalMart and purchase cheap, age appropriate toys, games, books, crafts, etc from the children's section. Make certain that you don't get anything controversial. After all, you don't want any angry adults taking Junior and storming out because you bought him a toy gun for Christmas. And be sure to remember the tiniest guests with a rattle or a teething ring. (Note: When I started doing this I could find a lot of items for anywhere from $2-$4 at Big Lots. Don't be afraid to duplicate gifts. If you have several three-year-old boys who like Sponge Bob and you found a Sponge Bob game for five bucks, get three of them!)
- While at the store purchase a large roll of gift wrap with Santa on it -- enough to wrap all of the "Santa presents" and some gift tags with Santa's picture. Be careful not to wrap any other gifts with the same wrapping paper; if they are spied under your tree by one of the youngsters, it could definitely tip them off, if you know what I mean.
- Find someone with a Santa suit that you can borrow and arrange for a childless adult who is going to be at the party to duck out into the garage and change clothes. There he should also find a Santa bag that you have stored with all of the presents, and some candy canes. (Note: A few times I even hired a professional Santa, with a very professional-looking suit and velvet gift bag, for $25-$40. Yes, it was an added expense at an already expensive time of year, but the look on the childrens' faces when they realized that all of the adults were accounted for was priceless!)
- Before Santa arrives gather everyone in (or at least in viewing distance of) your largest room. Have the adults sit on the perimeter, and have the children gather on the floor or on a parent's lap. Begin a sing-along with everyone, maybe with "Silent Night," and then follow it up with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Half way into the second song, Santa should come in with his big "Ho, Ho, Ho," the singing will stop, and Santa will greet the children one by one, allowing them to sit on his lap and talk to him. At that time he will give them their present, and a candy cane.
- Once all of the children have opened their gifts, they should all be ushered into a bedroom or two where they can share their toys and games. Adults will then have the opportunity to enjoy their time together, while taking turns checking on the kids down the hall. This doesn't mean that the kids can't come and get mom and dad to show them something, but it does mean that mom and dad will get to relax a bit more.
- When guests start trickling out the door, remember to offer one last thing to each child--a candy cane that they get to choose from the big Christmas tree themselves. It is something so simple, but little ones delight in being able to do this.
"The children were nestled, all snug"...
Finding Your Niche
If the same kids are going to show up year after year, it is best to keep a list of what you purchased the previous years. Our parties worked because of the details put into the planning stages. A couple of years my husband even rigged a soundtrack of banging noises, which he then played through a large speaker that was face-down on the attic floor, just above us. He secretly pressed the play button while the children were singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", and they all thought that there was something on the roof. Just moments later Santa came in the door. One year Santa was booked at other parties, so after we heard the noise on the "roof", we all ran to the door where we spotted a large Santa bag in the driveway. The children realized that Santa must be really busy that night, but he certainly was nice enough to drop off some gifts!
Of course, all of these are just some ideas that helped to make my Christmas parties more enjoyable for everyone who came. You can tweak these ideas to find what works best for you.
In part two I will discuss what to offer at the party, and how it is that you can manage two parties. Merry Christmas!