And yet, The Frugal Hostess always wants to have a holiday party. She is a Hostess, after all. It just seems like such a good idea – people are in a partying mood and the house is already decorated. No one minds if you bring a hangover to work a couple of times in December, and everyone needs an excuse to wear something glittery. So, what kind of party won’t annoy your friends or result in your suicide during the holiday season?
Why don’t you host a Holiday Soup Kitchen? (For your friends, rather than the poor. Or both. Although they may be hard to distinguish.) This is the world’s most relaxed party.
Step One: Invite friends via email or Facebook. Make sure everyone can see the guest list, because you’re going to ask everyone to bring the most hideous gifts they received, and you don’t want hurt feelings. TFH suggests a time frame like 4:00pm to 8:00pm and some obvious wording about how people can stop in before or after other obligations.
Step Two: Get out or borrow a slow-cooker or two and make three kinds of soup (recipes and suggestions to follow). All of these soups can be made ahead and frozen, so FruHo would make big batches for a few weeks leading up to the party – half for you to eat, half for you to freeze.
Step Three: Go grocery shopping. In addition to the soup ingredients, you should buy a wedge of Parmesan cheese, a block of cheddar, oyster crackers, Fritos, sour cream, onion, and hot sauce to garnish the soups.
For side dishes and/or hors d’ oeuvres, choose two or three of these:
Raw Broccoli and Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Dip
(or cooked with butter and cheese. What? It’s the holidays.)
Collard Greens – great way to use leftover Thanksgiving ham bone
Sweet Potatoes – baked whole, fried, or roasted in wedges
Sliced Apples with Caramel Dip
Arrange the soups and sides on a buffet. The Frugal Hostess likes to use her kitchen table for this, since it’s close to the kitchen (duh), but you could use a sideboard, your coffee table, a kitchen counter, or a piece of plywood resting on saw horses. Just be sure to put a cloth over that last one. Have all the food out when the guests arrive.
For dessert, you will probably have an assortment of holiday baked good lying around the house. There is no shame in that game, Dear Readers. Arrange whatever you have on a platter or two and be done with it. If you haven’t been so blessed by the God of Fruit Cake and Sugar Cookies this year, this is an easy option. Get a big bag of oranges (should be cheap this time of year, since they’re in season) and a box of peppermint sticks. Not candy canes – get the softer, chalky sticks. Punch a little hole in the orange and push the peppermint stick inside. Arrange them on a tray and serve. Tell your guests to suck the orange juice through the peppermint stick – sounds gross, tastes great. Add some hot chocolate or cookies or something and call it a day.
Step Four: Organize your entertainment.
Gift Exchange: Set up a white elephant game for the unwanted regifts. If people are dropping in and out, tell each guest to drop one off and pick another one up to take. If your guests are there for the duration, play the game. Seriously, no one ever really remembers the rules for this. Everyone picks a number to determine what order the gifts will get selected. Number One picks a gift. Number Two picks a gift and can either keep it or steal the gift from Number One. House rules you will want to set: a gift can only be stolen a certain number of times, and the person who gets Number One gets to choose one last time after everyone has gone. Fun, fun, fun. (This game is the ONLY THING The Frugal Hostess misses about working in an office.)
Alternatively, you might want to ask guests to bring a toy to be donated in lieu of a hostess gift, or you might want to swear off any type of gift-giving. Whatever you decide, be gracious about it. Say something like, “We all have enough gifts to buy. Please consider your presence present enough and don’t bring a hostess gift,” or, “If you can’t stop yourself from bringing a hostess gift, how about a toy for a tot instead?” The point is to keep it inexpensive, not to boss people into making a charitable donation.
Music: Please, please, please, for the love of God, create a playlist of super-unusual and rarely heard Christmas music, or don’t play Christmas music at all. You are so much cooler than the average bear, so there is no doubt that you can whip up something appropriate but not annoying.
Children: If you are going to have children at your party, please make an area with an activity or two for them. You can set up a DVD player in an upstairs bedroom or put out a full array of craft supplies, but don’t expect that children won’t be bored out of their minds (and thus act like assholes) if you don’t think about them. They are your guests, too, and they deserve to have fun at a party as much as the next guy. Same goes for pets. The Frugal Hostess recommends giving your pet a new toy or bone when you have a party, as well as running your hyperactive dog around the block 40-60 times before guests arrive.
Other notes: This is a casual party, so don’t mess with people by listing the dress code as “Sparkly Casual” or “Dressy Low Key.” Just call a duck a duck and say casual. The Frugal Hostess would wear a velvet jacket, white tee-shirt, jeans, and boots to this party, maybe with more jewelry than usual. If people bring you gifts, you do have to write a thank you note, even if you asked them not to bring gifts. If you don’t normally decorate for Christmas (or don’t celebrate Christmas), put out a bunch of candles everywhere to set the tone for good times (and hide your dirty floors).
Soup recipes tomorrow!
The Frugal Hostess loves parties. It's true. And embarrassing. Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.