Ideas for the Party Human

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

THEME: Neighborliness, South-of-the-Border Christmas Customs

INVITATIONS: Cut construction paper in the shape of a sombrero (or other Mexican symbol) and color appropriately. Write the message on the back, using a sprinkling of Spanish words, something like:

“Holá, Amigos! Come to our casa on (date) at (time) for una fiesta buena, Southwestern-style. We’ll have a supper buffet, then a piñata for the children, so bring the whole familia and celebrate for a Feliz Navidad!”

This is designed as sort of a block party, but you could invite relatives, co-workers and their families or friends from church as well. The idea is basically that it be for families.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES: A piñata filled with candies and small toys; ceiling hook and string; blindfold; plastic baseball or whiffleball bat; small paper sacks; parting gifts of food or crafts, wrapped or in decorative tins, jars or baskets.

FOOD: Some ideas for the Southwestern buffet might be salsa with flour tortilla and blue corn chips, chicken enchiladas,  Black Beans, and tamales. The best beverage might just be ice water or seltzer, to help combat the spiciness, or perhaps some sparkling apple cider or grape juice. For dessert, try cinnamon crispas, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Three Kings Ring, or oranges with peppermints stuck in them.  Serve this help-yourself buffet in rustic pottery with colorful Southwestern fabric as a backdrop.

DECORATIONS: Line the walk to your door with luminarias. These can be purchased or made out of paper sacks 1/3 filled with sand. Cut out a design in the sacks, if desired. Place votive candles in the sand and light.

Inside, have everything very colorful and festive. Be sure to have poinsettias about, but out of reach of small children. You could use a decorating motif like the Three Kings, creches or poinsettias. Hang colorful streamers and balloons in the large clear area where the piñata will be broken. The piñata itself may be purchased or made using strips of newspaper and wheat paste to cover a large, inflated balloon or other shape framed with wire, newspaper and masking tape. When the paper maché is dry, cut a hole on the top just large enough for putting the candy and toys in. Fill, then tape the cover back over the hole. Decorate with paint and/or crepe paper.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:  When the neighbors arrive, you (the hostess) take their coats and hand them plates to fill up at the buffet. After dinner, give each of the children small paper sacks to take into the piñata room. The piñata is hung on a string, run through the ceiling hook. Stand back, holding the other end of the string so you may raise and lower the piñata at will. Blindfold the youngest child first and give her the bat. Everyone stands well out of the way as the child gets five chances to break the piñata. If she doesn’t break it, then the next youngest tries and so forth until the oldest gets unlimited chances. When the piñata breaks, everyone cries ” Olé!” and the children scramble to fill their sacks. As the guests leave, give each family a homemade parting gift, such as a jar of jam or a crafted decoration.

Variations and Comments: We remember our parents giving a party similar to this for the neighborhood when we were small. For the piñata, we covered a large balloon with papier maché, then painted a Santa Claus face on it when it dried. We added a cotton ball beard and a red paper hat, and the result was charming and original.

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THEME: Christmas spirit, service, giving

INVITATIONS: Any Christmas-style invitations will do. One idea is to make them look like miniature songbooks, using colored construction paper for the covers and plain white paper for the pages. On the front, paste Christmas pictures cut from old cards or magazines and letter the words “Christmas Caroling Party.” Bind the “book” with staples, or punch holes and sew with colored yarn or thread. Inside, write some notes on a staff, perhaps the melody to a carol, and write the message as the words of the carol, written in a rhyme pattern and rhythm appropriate to the carol. For instance, if you choose “Jingle Bells,” you could write something like:

“Come and sing! Come and sing!

Caroling we’ll go!

Oh, what fun it is to spread

Some Christmas cheer, you know!”

In the message that follows, ask the guests to dress appropriately for the weather and to bring a funny white elephant gift wrapped for giving. You might also ask them to bring food items, if you desire. Start the party early, right after dinner, so there will be plenty of time to carol before visiting hours are over at the facility you have chosen to visit. This party is wonderful for any kind of group, except possibly for very small children.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES: Materials for making Christmas cards or decorations for the patients, such as old cards, Christmas magazines, colored paper, yarn, glue, glitter, scissors, crayons or markers, stencils and paint, ribbons, pine cones, etc.; hospital or nursing home to visit (Get permission to carol to a certain ward, floor or the whole building, and find out how many patients are there, so you will be sure to have enough cards or decorations to give out.); photocopies of words to desired carols; Christmas tree (small, tabletop variety is fine); clear area and music for dancing.

FOOD: Any kind of Christmassy dessert items will do, particularly warm dishes and drinks. Some examples: Hot Cocoa, Wassail, Christmas Crullers, Pumpkin-Spice Bread, Frosted Cinnamon Icebox Rolls (warm and fresh), Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffeecake, Popcorn Wreath, Festive Caramel Bars, Kringla, Pumpkin Cookies. (Recipes available.)

DECORATIONS: Just make your home as Christmassy as possible. Have a touch of Christmas in every room. Besides the tree, put lights outdoors and in the windows. Set up your creche; hang up your wall hangings; place centerpieces everywhere–on coffee tables, end tables, countertops, pianos, entertainment centers, dining tables, buffets, etc. If you would like to add to your collection of decorations, check out flea markets, second hand stores and garage sales. Or, try your hand at a new craft and make your own new decorations. Magazines, craft books, fabric/craft stores and bazaars offer many ideas. Just make sure the atmosphere in your house says, “Christmas!”, and you will need no other party decorations.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:  When the guests arrive, you (the hostess) put them to work immediately making cards or small decorations to give to the patients at the facility you have chosen to visit. When enough items have been made, place them in a big bag–perhaps the one carrying the bag could wear a Santa cap–and the carolers head for the hospital or convalescent home.

Entering the facility, you give them all copies of the words to favorite carols, and a talented guest accompanies everyone on a guitar as they sing through the halls, stopping to give out their handmade mementos to each patient. When the last patient has been serenaded, the carolers return to the house for the rest of the party. (If weather and distance permit, they might walk to the house, caroling to the neighbors on the way.) Once inside, the guests fall upon the refreshments, then gather around the Christmas tree for the exchanging of gifts. Set the gifts under the tree, and let each guest take a turn choosing a gift and unwrapping it. After the first guest has unwrapped his gift, the next guest may choose either to take his or pick a new gift. If she takes the first guest’s present, then he may choose another. This continues, until the last guest has the choice of all the previous gifts or the one still wrapped. This “swiping” of gifts is all done with plenty of good-natured banter. Since the presents are all white elephants or gag gifts, no one is upset if someone takes his gift away.

After the gift “exchange,” the music starts up, and guests may eat, talk or dance, as they choose. (If necessary, a dance gimmick–such as the snowball, dance card, etc.–may be used to get things rolling.) The evening may end with a last carol sung, if desired.

Variations and Comments: If the dancing doesn’t go over too well, have some fun parlor games in mind. Choose any familiar game and adapt to a Christmas theme. Perhaps you could have some word games using carols, or whatever. Another idea is Christmas Charades, where you divide your guests into groups and ask each to present a short pantomime about something directly related to Christmas. Onlookers must try to identify each scene, as in Charades.

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The Great Key

I was going to call this section “The Great Secret,” but then I realized that the only person over ten who would not know this “secret” would have to be someone raised by coyotes in Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Although most everyone already knows the secret of successful party-throwing, many as yet do not believe in it.  Or, what is almost as bad–they don’t believe that using this Great Key can actually be any fun at all.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, think of your favorite time of year. Nine out of ten will say it’s Christmas. Why is that your favorite? Is it because of the gifts you get? Most people over about fourteen will say no, not really. Is it the decorations filling the house? Is it the food baking for weeks prior? Could it be the family get-togethers and neighborhood open houses? Is it the carols? Is it the giving of specially-chosen gifts to loved ones? Might it be the cheerful kindness in the air? Is it the spiritual significance? The answer to these and many other similar questions is yes. It’s the unique combination of all these things that makes Christmas so wonderful.

 But, what if there were no radios and shopfront signs announcing “Only 103 more shopping days till Christmas!”? What if, on December 24, we suddenly said, “Gee, I guess tomorrow’s Christmas; maybe we should hang the wreath on the door or something”? Would a one-day holiday have the charm of the traditional month-long season? Of course not! It would hardly be more memorable than Labor Day, for example. And why is that, you may ask? Because it would be lacking all the joyous time spent in painstaking preparations and active anticipation. (One of my favorite Christmas poems from my childhood ended with the line:  “Anticipation’s best; next, the remembering.”)  A Christmas like that would be lacking the pleasure of PLANNING!

Yes, folks–as none of you would ever have guessed (heavy on the sarcasm here)–the Great Key to successful throwing of parties is PLANNING. (Ever heard that word before?)

Okay, now you’re saying, “So tell me something I don’t know!” All right, I will. Here is my second revelation:

Party Planning can be fun! (Sometimes it’s even more fun than the actual party is.) If you don’t believe that, then you have not been planning the right kind of parties.

No fun can be derived from merely “tossing” a party, like so much lettuce and croutons. You’ve got to put yourself into it–with a strength that you get from the rejuvenating tonic called enthusiasm, letting your creative juices flow and enliven your mind–and throw the party for all you’re worth! This takes planning.

In the next post, I’ll start on the 7 Tips for Successful Party Planning.


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