Editor’s note: This story, by Jennifer Cazzola, was originally published in the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of From Scratch. Read that issue here. Read more from Jennifer at the Black Fox Homestead.
The holidays are a time to celebrate with our family and close friends but often times our schedule is so overloaded with holiday parties, shopping, and entertaining, that the season can pass by without spending quality time with our loved ones. Not to mention the fact that gift giving can be more of a financial burden than a blessing.
With that in mind, here are a few ways that will give the gift of quality time together, that shouldn’t break your budget.
Have a pre-holiday tea
Begin the Christmas season with an intimate afternoon tea. Tea fare need not be fancy or expensive. It can be as elaborate as scones and finger sandwiches, or as simple as a single tea cake. In addition to an assortment of teas, provide coffee, and perhaps punch or sparkling cranberry juice for the non-tea drinkers among your guests. Light lots of scented candles, play some soft music (Thomas Newman’s Little Women Soundtrack is a good one) and provide an atmosphere of peace and tranquility where guests can visit and reconnect before the holiday rush sets in. If schedules are already beginning to fill, consider allowing guests to come and go at their leisure.
Organize a skating party
Whether you are fortunate to live near a picturesque pond, or an outdoor rink, invite your guests for an afternoon of skating together. Bring along a basket of scarves and mittens to keep warm, as well as a thermos (or two) of hot cocoa. Extend the afternoon by inviting everyone back to your home for chili or beef stew and old fashioned board games such as Yahtzee, Monopoly, or Sorry.
Host a cookie exchange
Cookie exchanges are the most popular and obvious way to lighten the Christmas baking load while enjoying a nice visit with friends. However, it can be the gateway to a sugar overload at a time when neighbors are already bequeathing you with tins of holiday fudge. If you feel you might be cookie-ed out over the holidays consider a soup exchange or even a casserole exchange instead.
Invite a small, intimate gathering of friends to bring a batch of favorite soups or casseroles and a visit over a cup of coffee or cocoa. Allow everyone to leave with enough healthy food to get them (and you) through the rest of the holiday season. Don’t forget to ask everyone to include a hand written recipe with their offering.
Host a gift wrapping party
A gift wrapping party is another way to lighten what can be a heavy load while getting in a visit. Provide a large table, a few snacks, and a marathon of classic Christmas flicks. You and your friends can enjoy the time together while accomplishing a mammoth task that is often put off until the last minute.
Some things to consider in advance:
- Holiday schedules begin to fill quickly. Schedule your event and contact your guests as soon as possible.
- In an era of email and Facebook a handwritten invitation sent by post can be a gift in and of itself.
- To lighten your load and expense, allow guests to pitch in with the food.