I just attended a wonderful Christmas party, maybe the best one ever. It was like a throwback to old times, with real, good old-fashioned social interaction.
The pleasing absence of the now ever-present faces in phones was likely a result of no Internet access, but I like to think maybe this particular group came to mingle.
The party was at the home of new friends, who live in a lovely old log home surrounded by mountains and breathtaking vistas.
Lest no one remembers what can happen at a holiday party — let me tell you how this couple rocked it out, and ran circles around Martha Stewart’s ideas.
The unwritten theme of the party was “good cheer.” From the toasty fire outside, where many of the men congregated, to the vat of mulled cider hanging near the flames of the indoor fireplace, guests were going to be warmed.
A table was set up on the porch for wreath making. Guests could choose from large or small wire hoops, then cut off lengths from three types of fresh-cut greenery laying nearby. Gloves, wire and cutters were all provided — and for non-crafty folks like me, a brief train-up. I was amazed at how easy it was to assemble and crowed to my husband (and anyone who would listen) that I had successfully made one suitable to hang on our front door!
There was a cookie exchange and by the looks of it, over two-dozen guests had brought Christmas confections to swap. One side of the living room was dedicated to displaying these cookies, truffles and treats — and guests helped themselves to a plateful to take home.
The hostess of the party had also made easily a thousand sugar and gingerbread cookies, all formed into the shapes of snowmen, bells, stars, angels, men and women and other holiday favorites. A long table in one room was full of decorating supplies: royal icing in red, yellow, green, blue and white plus sprinkles, colored sugars and small candies of all varieties. Guests were encouraged to sit down and decorate for awhile. Decorating in a group created plenty of laughter, but also helped with a daunting task. Where will these cookies go? To people who are shut-in, depressed or in need. We were welcome to take any to people we knew who fit this description or just leave them for the hostess to distribute. What a lovely idea.
As for the chief merriment activity, that would be the singing around the piano. I haven’t seen or heard anyone do that for decades. I’m not even sure I know more than two people with a piano, but they were very common in my younger years, as was singing around the person playing one at parties.
Although I loved all the activities available at this thoughtful party, it was probably the carol singing with piano accompaniment that pleased me most of all. It gave me hope that we can reclaim some of the niceties of our past. Maybe we can still fraternize joyfully. Maybe we can come together for good reasons and no good reason. Maybe we haven’t lost touch with being graceful and present.
I worry about how challenging it’s become for many of my friends or family to commit to a get-together or make time for a phone call. I can’t be alone in experiencing this. Are our lives so busy, we just can’t carve out a lunch, a chat over a cup of tea or fifteen minutes to catch up by phone?
And when we get together, is it possible we could ignore our texts and tweets to give us that hour of time together? Kids and spouses could be reminded to respect that time as well, as they’re usually the ones interrupting.
Along with this refreshing Christmas party, I have a neighbor who gives me hope. She’s an older woman, the same generation as my mother, and radiates genuine hospitality. When I stop by, she always invites me in and offers me a cup of something: iced tea, hot tea, a hot toddy. She gives me her undivided attention. We converse. We laugh. We hug. She is a throwback to more congenial times and I love her for it.
I know the world has changed. Social dynamics have morphed with the times. Etiquette has woefully regressed. But we left some important doings in the dust. In light of this, I suggest we all dial it back to those less-fettered days and embrace some bona fide social interaction before we stray too far to get it back.
This column aired on Sunday, December 11, 2016 in The Journal.
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