Tips for Holiday Party Planning

The lights illuminate the street with a variety of bright, festive colours. Decorations are retrieved from basement boxes and placed in their annual positions. The green tree stands tall and voluptuous; accented with red bows, shiny tinsel and home-made ornaments made from cotton balls and Popsicle sticks. The fireplace casts a warm glow as stockings sway from the mantel. A comforting radiance fills the room. Suddenly, all is interrupted by a loud ring of the doorbell. The guests have arrived.

Hosting your holiday party can be stressful and exhausting. But there are ways to revive the enjoyment of social gatherings. We ask fellow Zoomers to share their tips and secrets for making their festive party a sheer success this season—or at least as tranquil as humanly possible.

Teresa Ottaway, 57, has been hosting her annual family gathering on Dec. 25 for 12 years now. With a guest list of 30-plus, she relies on her organizational expertise for covering all the details.

“If you know in your head—the food you’re going to have, how many people you’re going to have, where you’re going to sit them and how you’re going to make everybody happy—then in the end it should work out,” says Ottaway. Still, according to her husband and three sons, the only time anyone will catch her sitting down during the party is when it is time to eat. It’s not just the cleanup—party hosting is hard work.

Born and raised in Newfoundland along with his 16 siblings, 59-year-old Melvin Rose agrees careful preparation will help reduce stress. Rose’s main responsibility in holiday party hosting is arranging the famous “Newfie Jigs” dinner, where all food items are tossed into a boiler and cooked together. When asked the secret to his party success, Rose says, “I am tempted to say a liberal dose of Newfie Screech for everyone!” Once there is rum, the party will follow.

For Gary Hofstetter, 56, the key to a successful get-together is to “keep it simple, so you can enjoy the party along with your guests.” For this easygoing farmer, the trick is having a small guest list with the right mix of people. Hofstetter describes his hosting role as the “recruiter.” “I enlist my family to help,” he says. “I give them ideas, but ultimately they do it the way they want, which works.”

Ann Summers, 78, reflects on her party hosting days and how the roles can change over time. But her warm and loving mentality is still the same. For Ann, the most important detail is to make sure that everyone feels welcome. “When you think of what else is going on in the world…” Summers says, “You just try to emphasize how blessed we are to be together, how blessed we are to have the food we have to eat.”

As you plan your next holiday party, remember these words of wisdom from your fellow Zoomers. “Whatever your tradition, maintain perspective,” says Rose. “Remember what the season is meant to convey and have fun.”

“Because they’re not strangers. They’re your family,” Ottaway adds. “And everybody’s here for the same reasons—to see each other, to spend some really nice time together and to share memories.”