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Archive for Monday, December 5, 2011

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River City Jules: Cookies, 5 golden rings keys to Christmas parties

December 5, 2011

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Bob and Sally always threw the best Christmas party. And according to my mom, who blocks out the Sunday before Christmas every year for the occasion, they still do.

Mom and Dad would sit the four of us kids down before we all piled into the station wagon and talk about manners, not touching anything and not hoarding the snickerdoodles. We would arrive, ignore everything they had just said, grab a handful of cookies and head straight to the basement where the older kids would throw my twin brothers around, testing mattresses and cushions for height and distance. By the end of the night the basement smelled like a locker room, but the grownups were too busy having fun to care.

As the years rolled on and we kids grew more sophisticated, the party changed. For one, the basement was much more tolerable, and the kitchen was far more crowded. The snickerdoodle tray seemed to empty at the same rate, though.

And there was singing — lots and lots of it. Everyone would gather around Sally’s baby grand and sing Christmas carols, dividing the parts to “12 Days of Christmas” in a way that always landed Father Tony with the coveted five golden rings.

By the time I was ready to throw a holiday party of my own, I was pretty certain I knew the magic formula: cookies, fresh garland and five golden rings.

I tried to put these life lessons to use about 10 years ago when I hosted my husband’s office party for the first time.

Pregnant with our third child, I prepped the house for the event with candles, garland and visions of snickerdoodles dancing in my head. Just as the first guest arrived, though, I discovered our daughters had changed into their favorite dress-up clothes, plastic Barbie high heels and my old maternity slips.

A mild panic attack set in, but it was too late to change them. It was also too late to institute a sign-up sheet for the potluck event, as everyone arrived bearing Crock Pots of little smokies (except for those bearing Crock Pots of Rotel dip).

Bountiful buffet bamboozled, kids dressed like impoverished child streetwalkers, I was mortified. How, after years of watching the best Christmas party in history unfold before my eyes every year, could I have let my fa-la-la get hijacked by Velveeta, sausages and faux satin?

But then the music started. And people laughed, people played games, people devoured the Rotel dip(s) and every last smokie. For one evening, everyone forgot the stresses of work and enjoyed each other in the spirit of the season.

And I realized Sally’s magic was not as much in her mastery of culinary details and perfectly placed garlands but in her talent for gifting her friends with infectious celebration.

So bake the cookies, decorate the house and absolutely insist on a sign-up sheet for your potluck buffet, but above all take a cue from Sally and always make sure your party includes five golden rings.

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