Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Holiday Party That Changed All Future Parties To Come

In the process of putting together and outline for a series of blog posts to make holiday parties a bit easier, I was trying to figure out when I could share my holiday party from hell.  It's the holiday party that opened my eyes and set the stage for all holiday parties to follow. As I thought about it, I realized the story alone is worthy of having its own blog post.

Plus, I'm long winded and I could never shorten this story into a couple of paragraphs. 

I hosted a Christmas party years ago. After all was said and done, and after I spent hours cleaning up by myself, I said, "This is not happening again." Ever.

At the time, I was living out of state with, who is now, my ex. We agreed to host the family Christmas party. About 20 people were expected to show up. That was a lot for our tiny house, but I made it work with our sofa, love seat, bench, and folding chairs.

In the days leading up to the Christmas party, no one asked if they could bring anything or help out. For me, that seemed weird. I was raised to offer assistance in the form of contributing to the fare and helping out throughout the party.

Growing up, we never showed up to a gathering empty handed and we weren't allowed to sit the entire time. 

Two days before the party, I shopped for the food. The total was over $400. The following day, I began the prep work. The evening before the party, I didn't crawl into bed until 4 a.m. I had to be up at 7 a.m.

I spent the entire day prepping, cooking, baking, setting up tables, decorating, etc. I was beyond exhausted. Guests started arriving around 5:30. I served drinks. I had a constant stream of appetizers going in and out of the oven. I walked around where everyone was sitting to offer appetizers. I kept glasses filled and appetizers circulating.

Throughout all of this, many of the guests would let me know if they needed another drink or wanted their appetizer plates filled again.

Dinner was buffet style. While everyone made a plate, I refilled drinks, put some of the appetizers away, and started getting desserts ready to put out.

By the time most everyone had gotten seconds, I took a few minutes to make a plate for myself. I hadn't eaten all day. The food was cold. I had to eat standing up. No one offered me their seat to relax for a few minutes.

Even when I was eating, several of the guests would wave their empty cups and a couple of them ask if I'd fetch them a little more of this or that.

The rest of the evening continued. I put away the buffet items. Put dessert out. Brewed coffee, We exchanged gifts. The majority of the guests, before leaving, helped themselves to plates of food to take home. This involved taking containers out of the refrigerator, emptying those containers, and making a mess of my partially cleaned kitchen.

About 90% of the leftovers were gone. The counters were piled with empty containers, casserole dishes, and bowls. Most of the dessert platters had been emptied as well except for a few crumbs.

All of the guests had left by 11 p.m. By this time I was hungry, thirsty, tired, and sore. However, I decided to do the cleanup before heading to bed. It took several hours. That's when I promised myself I would never do this again.

You live. You learn.

I'm not going to lie. I was in tears during most of the cleanup and completely disgusted with how the evening had gone. I had never, in my life, experienced such a display of rudeness, greed, and disrespect.

Since then, I have fine tuned how I host any type of party. Whether it's a small dinner party or a festive holiday gathering, I've learned how to keep the costs down, ease up on the amount of work I have to do, and everything between. It's been a learning process over the years, but the effort has been worth it. Now, when the guests arrive, I'm able to sit and enjoy the food, company, great conversations, and lots of laughs.

With the holiday season right around the corner, a lot of you will be hosting parties and family functions. There will always be the stress of making sure everything is just right and dealing with those landmines (more on that later). That's a given. But, it doesn't have to end up like the first family Christmas party I hosted years ago.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share my creative strategies from embracing the fine art of frugality to making sure you're not the one doing all the work.

Stay tuned...

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