Throwing a Christmas party? You are not competing to outshine any family member who might have given an extraordinary bash the previous year. Cut your coat according to your size and entertain your guests the best way you know how.
If it happens that you must host the family’s Christmas party (for your immediate family, siblings, parents and other close family members), then brace yourself for quite some huge spending, however modest the party is.
All foodstuffs cost three or more times compared to last year. So you are inevitably going to spend more. But you can cut the cost and still have a memorable party.
As you plan, keep in mind that the essence of this party is for people to get together and catch up over their lives in the past year. But, again, you are not going to starve them. They are going to chat as they chew a bone here and swallow some frothy stuff there.
As I always advise in this column, buy food in bulk. Bundles of baking flour and unga meal will save you a tidy sum. A sack of rice, 20kg cooking oil, beer and other beverages bought from the distributor will save you some money – and time. You cut on time of going around town looking for a bargain.
Draw the list of guests. Take note of their special meals and strive to cater to their interests.
Some dos and don’ts as you plan and execute the party:
Do not assume your guests are beggars who will only come to your house to eat. They too have planned and set aside money for this big annual festival season. Thus you can get them to chip in an indirect and clever way.
In the West, they send out invitation cards with BYO (bring your own drink and some food). As you receive your guests, you take the food and add it to what is already on the table but allow them to sit with their drinks.
When it comes to serving food, people will help themselves from the same serving point. Later they can enjoy their drinks after you all toast to the family’s long life together using the wine you, the host, bought.
Instead of hiring a caterer (another expense), invite other family members to come over and help prepare the meals. Sometimes, you can borrow cutlery from them as well instead of buying extra which you will not need anyway until years later when you will have another party.
You are the hostess; therefore, these helpers must work under your instructions to avoid wastage of food and duplication. You assign duties – the person to slaughter the goat(s), the one to make chapati, and so on.
You will be in control of the store where foodstuffs are kept so that you know how much you have given out. Always remember that even relatives, given a free hand in your house, can steal from you and let you down when guests have insufficient food. It is better for food to remain than for guests not to eat to their fill.
As the hostess, you must not allow yourself to be overwhelmed trying to make your guests comfortable. There is a home I visited which had a large wall painting with the words: "You are welcome in my home but feeling comfortable is your business." Adopt such an attitude for sanity.
Get time to interact with each of your guests. Don’t immerse yourself in coordinating everything that you miss out on latest gossip in the family and the investment ideas people liberally discuss during such parties.
You can achieve this by delegating duties. Pick your agile nieces and nephews and assign them duties of serving guests. They will be happy to do this and at least take a break from chatting on WhatsApp.
When the party is over, review your performance financially. Did you meet your targets? Were your guests satisfied? Any debts? Zero in on areas to improve next time (there is always a next time) and how to better plan for the party.