November 28, 2022
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Photography by Ivan Andrianov/Stocksy United
Keeping your guests busy makes everything easier on you.
For those of us with multiple sclerosis (MS), the idea of hosting a party may seem a little intimidating. But from my experience, it’s often easier than attending someone else’s gathering.
Hosting my own get-together means I can choose the date, time, and format. As the hostess, I can wear exactly what I like, whether it’s a tacky Christmas sweater, or in most cases, a no-frills shirt and jeans under a festive apron. Better yet, there’s no need to buy gas and join the hustle and bustle of other travelers on the road.
But the number one reason for hosting your own holiday party is that if you feel the least bit fatigued, it’s super easy to slip out and rest for a few minutes — something that’s not always possible at someone else’s house.
The key to hosting a party with style that’s still laid back enough to accommodate your needs is to plan an activity that involves your guests. This way they stay fully engaged, and there’s no pressure on you to keep things lively.
My preferred activity is decorating gingerbread cookies. I love it because there’s nothing more fun than watching my guests express their inner creativity and take away an edible souvenir of their experience. It’s virtually stress-free because much of the prep work can be done ahead of time. Everything else is up to the guests!
If baking is not your forte, you can choose from countless other activities, such as watching a favorite holiday movie, holding a karaoke-style singalong, or simply gathering by the fire to share favorite holiday tales.
Another fun activity is to hand your guests brushes and acrylic paint and ask them to sit around a table covered with a plain white sheet. With old greeting cards for inspiration, ask them to embellish the sheet with decorations of their choice. The added benefit is that you end up with a tablecloth you can use over and over again.
Or keep it simple by asking your guests to string together popcorn and cranberries for a beautiful tree decoration. A good rule of thumb is to choose something you enjoy doing yourself and that would be appropriate for all ages.
For other tips and tricks, read on for a handy countdown to hosting a stress-free and fun-filled holiday party with style.
No matter the size or length of your gathering, you’re expected as host to provide some sort of nibbles and beverages for your guests.
Since the entertainment is the main event, however, there’s no need for a full meal. I recommend offering only appetizers — for example, saucy meatballs in the slow cooker and a tray of veggies, cheeses, and crackers.
In my case, the dessert is already taken care of — it’s the gingerbread cookies! And I make them ahead of time, since they freeze very well.
If you choose a different activity, such as a holiday sing-along or a movie party, for example, you’ll also need to begin assembling your media or playlist now.
If you’re planning a hands-on activity such as cookie or tablecloth decoration, you don’t need a centerpiece — the tools for the activity (such as cookies and paint) are the adornment.
Otherwise, you can create embellishments naturally. For example, consider collecting and bringing indoors branches of evergreens such as rosemary or cedar, which impart a burst of fragrance as well as seasonal beauty.
If you’re serving an appetizer such as a veggie or fruit tray, I recommend you make (or purchase) this a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator.
Early in the day, I’ll sweep the floor, wipe down the kitchen, and make sure the powder room is clean. I’ll also set the “work” table, where my guests may both snack and paint cookies.
Because my event is casual, I use paper plates and cutlery so that everyone feels comfortable diving into the fun and getting their fingers messy. (It will also make clean-up that much easier.)
Now is the time to set these items out, either at a buffet or on the dining table. At this stage, it’s very important not to go overboard and tire yourself unnecessarily. You’ll have much more fun if you save your energy for the big event.
Depending on your recipe, you’ll want to give yourself ample time to make the food.
If you’re providing a hot appetizer, such as meatballs or a warm dip, and you’re using a slow cooker (my recommendation), you’ll need about 2 hours to bring the food to serving temperature.
While your food is cooking, prepare a self-serve beverage area, and bring out your drinks. Pull out a vessel for ice that you’ll fill later.
If you’re offering cookies, consider baking one last batch an hour before your guests arrive. This will fill your house with the intoxicating aroma of holiday spice. At this time, if needed, crank up the heat on your slow cooker. You may also bring out any refrigerated appetizers.
Because we’re painting cookies at my house, I’ll also whip up the frosting an hour beforehand and then divvy it up by color in child-size cups, complete with a brush. A revolving server, or “lazy Susan,” holds the sprinkles and other edible decorations.
To get myself in the mood, I’ll dim the lights and turn on some holiday music. Hint: Lowering the lights always makes any house look cleaner!
Finally, in the last few minutes of the final hour, I’ll fill the ice bucket.
Answer the door and get that party started. I get my guests engaged right away by asking someone else to take orders and serve the drinks. And this is the magic of hosting your own event — you’re in charge.
As the music and conversation flows and your guests are happily engaged in activity, don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little tired. If you do, don’t feel guilty about excusing yourself for a few minutes of rest. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. But because my guests are busy and happy, I know they won’t miss me at all.
I love coming back and admiring all the handiwork they created while I was away.
Fortunately for me, the cleanup is not very complicated. Invariably, one or more guest lingers and volunteers to help. They’re happy to gather all the plates and cups and toss them in the trash, put any recyclables into the recycle bin, or help in any other way.
One of the things I love most about this time of year is that glorious holiday spirit. Seeing the freshly painted cookies, the Christmas tree, the glitter, and even the clutter is a source of delight and prolongs the joy. The day after the event, I may sweep away the crumbs, but I’ll keep out my new decorations and anything else I like for as long as possible.
Happy holidays to you and your family!
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