Christmas Countdown Day 40: Plan Holiday Parties!

Will your family celebrate the holiday season with a party?

It's an occasion that can fluster the most experienced hostess--and if you're new to the art form, you can experience a royal case of the jitters.

We've got some tips and printable planning pages that will get you started, but throwing a party is a learning experience.

That's why I want to tell you about my birthday party a couple of years ago. It was a surprise, cooked up by my sweet but not domestic husband.

A few days before, we'd been talking, idly, about birthdays. I realized aloud that I'd not had a birthday party since I was 15, not to mention a birthday cake. Over the years, I'd become the party giver, never the guest of honor.

Doctor Steve decided to fix things. First, he did something smart: he went to see Joyce, our area's premier party diva. She advised him to have a little dessert party. A cake, some cheese, keep it simple, she said.

I'm not sure she realized how literally he would take her words.

There we were, on the afternoon of the big evening. I knew something was up, but decided to play along. I peeped from behind my book as Dr. Steve prepared to give a party.

He had cheese, all right, but just that: cheese. No bread, no crackers, no toast. Just five or six large hunks of cheese, nicely arranged on a silver tray. He set the big ugly kitchen knife next to the cheese tray. Guests, it seems, were to whack off slices for themselves.

He had plates: some flowered paper plates left over from a ladies' luncheon last spring.

He had coffee, and he had dessert wine, and later that night, I'd find out that he had a cake. From the supermarket, it even had my name spray-painted in bright colors on the thick white icing.

There was no fussing, no frantic, no wild trips to the supermarket for a missing this or that. He didn't check the bathrooms, or close the door to the laundry room. (Don't worry--I discreetly gathered up the dirty underwear and checked out the bathrooms. I wasn't going to play along to THAT extent.)

Soon the doorbell rang, and about 10 of our friends joined us for my birthday party. A cake, some cheese, simple. Nobody seemed to notice that there were none of the usual grace notes. Everyone had a great time, and "Happy Birthday" was the order of the day.

People didn't come for the food. They didn't come to see the table decorations. They came to spend time with friends--and Dr. Steve showed me that a party can be a success without all those things.

But trust me. Next time we give a party, I'm still going to check the bathroom and gather up the dirty clothes!

To Do Today

Plan holiday parties using the Holiday Party Planner.

List guests on the Party Guest List, and mark the list after each RSVP.

Keep tabs on entertaining expenses with the Party Budget.

To Read Today

Having a holiday party? Get our best tips for easy party planning:

Holiday Hospitality: Four Steps to Easy Entertaining

rocky road candy recipe

Today's Recipe

In honor of Doctor Steve, the Party King, we present his favorite Christmas candy recipe:

Rocky Road

To Print Today

Holiday Party Planner

Guest List

Party Budget

Party Planner
Party Guest List
Party Budget

Holiday Plans: