THE shopping days are disappearing faster than Santa down a chimney – the house is a mess, the tree needs decorating, the turkey needs stuffing and all you want is for Christmas to be over.
It’s a tempting thought when the days are shorter, the nights are colder and the streets are thronged with slightly manic shoppers ready to tackle anyone reaching for that last Furbie. What you need is a break from it all, a chance to unwind – a Christmas party.
That’s the real joy of the season after all – seeing old friends, relaxing with colleagues and forgetting your cares for a little while at least. In fact, the only downside is if you’re the host.
Given all that has to be crammed into Christmas it seems a wonder anyone chooses to throw a party, but throw them they do, and while they might take a little extra effort there’s really nothing better than hosting your own.
And these days there’s no shortage of people ready to give you helpful advice on just how to make your party go with a swing. While some of Pippa Middleton’s infamous “tips” are less useful than others, there need not be anything overly complicated about throwing your own do.
The secret to a successful party lies in the planning. Making a list – and checking it at least twice – will help keep everything on track. And top of that list should be getting your venue in order.
Georgie Turner, events manager at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, says: “First impressions count – it’s important to make sure you have a visual impact for guests when they arrive.
“At this time of year everyone wants to see festive decorations, the lights on the Christmas tree twinkling, creating an instant atmosphere that will put guests in the party mood.
“Lighting is so important; too light and it doesn’t feel like a party, too dark and people can’t see what they’re doing. Always light some candles and have added lighting provided by side lights. The main light as this is an atmosphere killer.”
After soaking up the atmosphere, guests will be looking to soak up a Christmas drink, and having them ready at the door is a sure way to help people get into the party spirit.
“Having drinks ready for guests when they arrive is important,” says Georgie. “And they need to be drinks people will like. Champagne is always a winner for women.”
One good idea for drinks is to make a large bowl from which guests can either serve themselves or be easily served, as Ben Murdoch, manager of Tonic on North Castle Street, suggests.
“Having a large bowl of punch is nice, it means you can get it out of the way early and not be running around fixing drinks all night, and it can make a nice centrepiece as well,” he says. “Mulled wine is a classic.”
And while it’s almost as much of a Christmas tradition as stockings and mince pies to overindulge more than a little when it comes to alcohol, it’s worth remembering that some of your guests might prefer to have a non-alcoholic option that’s a little more interesting than the dregs of the tonic and a glazed cherry.
Drinks in hand? Christmas decorations sparkling? All you need now is some music to really set the mood.
“Good festive party music is crucial so pre-plan, ensure it is right for the crowd and that it flows throughout the night,” says Georgie. “Typical background music can often be too slow and it can create a dull atmosphere so up the tempo but be mindful of your volume control sopeople can talk.”
It’s also important to make sure your guests are well fed, and Vivienne and Patrick Bardoulet, general manager and head chef at Cringletie House Hotel, recommend a selection of delicious snacks as the best bet for a good party.
“Canapes look good, are easy to prepare and can replace a starter if there is enough of them,” says Patrick. “The alternative is to make it a roast dinner. A one-pot main course such as a roast is the perfect solution if you’re hosting a party as you’re not chained to the cooker.”
Another party favourite at Christmas is the entertainment, and although it’s not to everyone’s taste it can certainly help get the laughter flowing.
Comedienne Jo Caulfield admits that her parties tend to involve the most traditional game of all.
“My favourite Christmas game is charades,” she says. “Every year the family has to guess which pub I’m hiding in.”
And as the event stretches into the wee small hours don’t forget to make sure your guests head home with a souvenir, and not just the prospect of a hangover.
“Homemade cinnamon or ginger biscuits make perfect party favours,” suggests Vivienne.