I have a friend who throws the most amazing parties. Two or three weeks before the event, a nice hard-copy invitation lands in our letterbox, complete with a date to RSVP by. Once we’ve replied, I struggle to decide what to wear – because it certainly can’t be jeans. These are proper parties, held inside, in the evening – complete with staff and canapés. I’m not suggesting we all emulate this, but in December it’s nice to have a get-together with friends and there are lots of ways to do it.
Partial to picnics
Picnicking is a popular way to spend time with friends and loved ones, and we are blessed with settings. You don’t need to go far from home; arrange to meet in a local park so the kids can run around while grown-ups relax. If you decide to drive to a distant location you’ll need to go easy on the alcohol.
Inviting people for dinner is a time-honoured way of catching up, and since most of us are watching our pennies these days we’re generally happy to help by bringing something. If the hostess provides a main course, guests can supply pre-dinner nibbles, a salad or a dessert dish. This sort of occasion tends to end with coffee and liqueurs and a nice chocolate brownie. It’s pleasant, civilised fun.
A beautiful breakfast
Your friends will appreciate this innovative approach. Don’t ask them to get out of bed too early – maybe aim for 10am – and serve bloody Marys or Buck’s fizz made from orange juice and a light, sparkling wine. You could create a little breakfast buffet with gourmet muesli, yoghurt and fruit, followed by lovely fresh pastries from the local deli.
This is the kind of function Kiwis love. It must be held outside – or, if it’s raining, in the garage. Typically, guests arrive around 6pm, the proverbial plate and bottle in hand, in time for a few pre-dinner bevvies. These, of course, are followed by kai from the barbie. One guest is sure to have brought fresh fish caught that day, while sausages and a nice crisp lamb chop grace most plates.
The cost of alcohol and party food can be prohibitive for some of us, in which case, elevenses can be the way to go. The date could be one Sunday and the time, of course, 11am. You provide tea and coffee, sweet treats such as cupcakes and club sandwiches and a savoury or two, along with a slice of Christmas cake. These get-togethers tend to finish after a couple of hours.
The posh party
Even this can be done without breaking the bank. Your bubbly needn’t be a classic vintage, your canapés can be homemade and the staff could be your children and their friends if they’re old enough – or maybe some local student-types if not. Have the lights dimmed to help create an elegant atmosphere, and keep the music turned down relatively low so guests can chat together without shouting. If it’s a dressed-up do, you mightn’t be planning to have dancing, but then again, after a few glasses that’s always a possibility, so keep some more upbeat songs at the ready.