Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Calendar 2011 - Parties Past and Present

[Note: This post originally ran during the first Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December, 2007]

My family, like most of us posting today, didn't have formal holiday parties. We grew up thinking that Christmas was better shared with family especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Perhaps it was because everyone had different traditions and ways of celebrating. What I enjoy so much about this meme is that we have a great group of genealogy and family history enthusiasts with a wide range of traditions and we find threads of commonality as well as a sense of diversity.

For years, I couldn't even get my mother to leave the house on Christmas Day to go for a drive, let alone travel to a relative's house! Later this month in my post on Holiday Travel, you will see that I was able to get Mom to broaden her holiday horizons.

For Parties Past, I remember mostly family get-togethers - some impromptu, some planned. With my mother having 11 siblings, all married with at least two children, things could get crazy and crowded. Usually my cousins and I would find something with which to entertain ourselves, and this was before VCRs, DVDs, Wiis and Playstations. We would play board games, read or just sing and be silly.

The adults would all be gathered around my mother's dining room table, filled with cookies (both Mom's and theirs), date nut bread and coffee. And cigarettes - lots of cigarettes. Every woman in my family had that kittenish purr you only acquire from a 3-pack a day Pall Mall habit.

They would laugh, carry on, reminisce (my favorite part) or play games. Trivial Pursuit was a hot game when it came out. But the favorite game was Roll Over better known as Farkle. Similar to Yahtzee, it involved 6 dice and various scoring rules. My family was very competitive and razzing and insults were always part of the game.

For Parties Present, I have attended and hosted various types. We only go to a few holiday parties each season and in fact, right now, I am recovering from one last night. TMI.

My firm, which is based in California, has a very different take on holiday parties. Over the past few years, it has been held on the first Saturday after New Year's Day. I think this is a great idea because there aren't enough Friday or Saturday evenings to sacrifice in December, right? This way it is truly a "holiday" party and is welcoming to all who do or don't celebrate some holiday at the end of the year. This started out as a mistake one year: management waited until too late in the year to find a suitable venue and only Saturdays after January 1st were available. And we all benefitted - the firm got a much cheaper rental and catering rate and more people were able to attend.

In our home, we host a New Year's Day open house each year. It is also called a Recovery Party. Mostly family, some friends, it starts at 2pm and runs until about 8pm. People show up when they want - there is no schedule. It is casual and carefree. And the spread usually includes ham, turkey, stuffed mushrooms, cheese, crackers, bacon candy (hah! now I'll have to post this recipe!), roast vegetables, crab cakes, crab dip (I hear another recipe post . . .), and cookies, of course. I think we had close to 20 or 25 people last year and it was a blast.

Photo: Open House at my home, January 1, 2007, Chicago

© 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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