Random Appetites: the Holiday Open House

It seems like everyone turns into a host or hostess when the holiday’s come around which can really make a body’s schedule hectic when it has a large social circle to deal with! That’s what makes Open Houses so wonderful whether you are the host or the guest! Here are some tips for both sides of the party-going coin:

For the Hostess:

* Create a warm, inviting environment with open doors, well-lit rooms and music playing in the background
* Make sure there’s room for your guests to move around which may include moving excess furniture into a bedroom for the duration of the party
* Food should stick to the one bite rule (two at the most) and be easy to replenish; individual items are easier for guests to manage while mingling than dip-ables, not to mention less messy
* Be careful serving alcohol to folks who are coming and going rather quickly, stick to a low-alcohol punch rather than straight cocktails if you choose to serve it at all

For the Guest:

* Pay attention to the posted times for the Open House and try not to overstay your welcome
* A hostess gift is a nice gesture, but not required in this sort of more informal gathering
* Do not monopolize your hostess when others are arriving after you, there’s only one of her to go around her several guests
* If you are among the last to leave, offer to help clean-up but do not insist if she’d rather do it herself (after such a public few hours, cleaning up alone can be a great decompression time, I’ve found)

Having a theme to your Open House–something like a Tree Trimming party, cookie decorating or maybe Carolling–or taking part in a neighborhood progressive dinner or block party can take some of the pressure off of the guests (and the host!) to make small talk on the fly but try to keep whatever activities you might plan very transitive. After all, a guest can arrive, hang an ornament or two, have some punch and a cookie and then say his good-byes with no issue but if you’re running holiday movies in the living room which people have stopped to watch, the comings and goings of others are going to be awkward and distracting.

One final thought on Open Houses. It’s customary to return the favor of any accepted invitations with an invitation in kind. This is generally done by having a dinner party or barbecue or something of that nature and inviting (either all at once or in different groups based on the number of obligations you are repaying and the mix of people) your former hosts in repayment for their hospitality. While a party may cover these obligations, an Open House is much too casual and come-what-may to really be reciprocal (and, as such, requires no such repayment on the guest’s part), but that’s just my Random Opinion!