Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Impromptu and Easy Holiday Gathering is a Great Thing

      "We all enjoy visiting with our loved ones. Many of us enjoy hosting them too. But everyone gets stressed when when putting together a big holiday To-Do!"
     Indeed, that is quite the poor rhyme, but you know it speaks the truth. And it's a rather sad truth really. People love to celebrate together, but those households that host celebrations often feel some serious strain the day of. We don't need to be stressed. We don't need to have everything just so. We do however crave companionship and our cravings are often the strongest around a holiday. So what is my point?
 Over the years my family had several Christmas time celebrations that we hosted or attended and these, while memorable and wonderful, could prove stressful indeed. A few of our formal occasions have lived through to today and we cherish them for it.
 Every year Mom's side of the family holds it's "White Dinner." This meal was originally known as the "Dinner of the Seven Fishes" and came over from Naples with my ancestors. This is our formal gathering of the year. We are, of course, our usual boisterous selves and smoke cigars on the front porch. But this yearly ritual is when ties are worn and the women dress up better than at Easter. We have lobster and baccala and delicacies we only treat ourselves to this one time a year. The "White Dinner" is sacred and I pray that when it's my generation's turn to lead the family my cousins, brother, and I don't screw up and allow this to fall by the wayside. Yet, the prep work and all the details of this can be overwhelming and when people are dressed we often loose part of the value of these things.
  That nearly brings me to my point. (The point being) It's wonderful to have formal traditions, but not every party or gathering you host needs to be your own "White Dinner." As a matter of fact some of the best parties or dinners I can think of are the impromptu kind. In her 1959 book on entertaining, Betty Crocker recommended Pot Lucks, Dessert Parties, and the like as informal and impromptu gatherings that people enjoy and don't have to stress the hostess (or the host (My how things have changed!)).
 We celebrate a little thing called "Conti Christmas" with my godmother and her family. This used to consist of a sitdown meal and piles of presents per person. My mother and godmother recently decided to simplify this annual pastime. This year (we hold this celebration in the late part of November or early December) we filled ourselves with appetizers and a few select desserts. Instead of going through piles of gifts, we held a "Yankee Swap." We had a blast! Little stress in setting up or shopping for our celebration, but maximum enjoyment being at ease and with stomachs full together.
  I myself am holding a pretty informal "Christmas Time Tea" this Sunday. Granted I'll use the silver "Twelve Days of Christmas" spoons and my fancy tea set from 1936. We won't however dress really formal. I told the girls to wear pearls as they are lovely and can be dressed up or down. We won't sit in the more formal living room where the tree is. Instead, my friends and I will sit in the family room where my Christmas vilage is set up. There will be carols on the radio and we'll eat things I've prepared and things from the market. There will also be a story telling contest. We may even decorate a tabletop tree to send to a friend in town! Yes, just a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon for friends to enjoy each others' company and relax in the middle of December. Such a thing is possible and I invite you to try it out yourselves.
 As always, thank you for reading my ramblings. I hope you find them somewhat entertaining, if not nearly helpful. Feel free to comment anytime. Enjoy your day and thanks again!

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