What makes a special occasion different from a regular dinner/brunch? Aside from the fact that it is actually special, there are many props being used to set up the mood. For example, while getting together as a family on the 25th of December does feel like Christmas, there are also other things that come to mind – decorations (e.g. Christmas tree, table centrepieces), seasonal dishes (e.g. turkey or some baked dish that’s only Grandma is allowed to make), themed music or movies being shown (Jingle Bells, Home Alone).
Coming from Orthodox background, our Christmas had completely different vibe. However, there was something really special about New Year’s Eve. I was celebrating it with parents since I was a little girl (perhaps 5 or 7 years old), and I distinctly remember this special vibe that little details add to the mood. I remember the preparation, how I would sit with mom and cut snowflakes out of paper napkins to place them on the windows. We would buy special kind of chocolate candies and they would also be refilled, regardless how many I would have. We placed all Happy New Year and Christmas cards on the table where Christmas tree would stand, as a reminder of all great people we have in our lives. We would always light a candle on the New Year’s eve and place it on the dining table. We would always have guests over and it always was busy and fun. My dad would always dress up as a Santa and bring some gifts. My parents would follow Chinese calendar and get a symbol (key-chain or a stuffed toy) representing an animal of this year – e.g. if it was a year of a Horse they would get me (and all other kids) a little stuffed horse and so on as it believed that it brings luck. Since I was small, I would always associate New Years with something wonderful, when dreams come true. We would always use fireworks when the clock stroked 12.
However, if you are planning to host a branch with friends, or a family gathering, you do not need to wait until New Years’ Eve, Christmas or any other major holiday to make the occasion special. All you need is to spend some time ahead on details to set the mood.
Here are few categories that you can address to make your next gathering a little bit more fun:
- Pick a theme or at least a colour and try to integrate it in details
- Decorations – this includes decorations you place on walls, windows, bar cart, etc. There are many creative ways in which you can decorate your place, including picking interesting balloons, flowers, or any special lighting.
- Centrepieces – if you do not want to get creative, couple candles or flowers in a vase or a pot will also add a special touch.
- Table cloth – having a table cloth always adds a homey touch. If you want to be classy stick to white one, or pick colourful one if you want to add Springish or Summerish mood.
- Seasonal dishes – just like restaurants have their special menus, you can also create different seasonal dishes by including veggies or fruits are seasonal. For example, I associate:
- Winter with red apples, duck/chicken/meats (heavier dishes), potatoes, onions, things heavy on chocolate, champagne, red wine, oranges, clementines and pomegranates, pies of different kinds;
- Spring with herbs, including various spices, eggplants, baby potatoes, white wines, chicken;
- Summer with zucchini, corn, berries, light pies, ice cream, lots of salads and greens, peaches, , fish and seafood items, lemonades and soda, fruity wines ;
- Fall with pumpkins, squash, apples and pear, grapes, red wine, turkey;
- Music – pick music that suits the tone or theme of your gathering. For example you can pick 1920s jazz for Gatsby-themed gathering, or some French music from 1960s for a more classy event.
- Dress the part – nothing kills the mood like a host dressed up in pjays or sweatpants. It screams “I don’t care, I am too tired cooking all this”. Plus, if you didn’t spend the time getting ready you will probably avoid getting into the pictures if guests decide to take them. Dressing up also boosts your mood as a host as your brain gets into “party” mood.
- Entertainment – whether it is vacation pictures, an interesting movie or a board game – prep it in advance. There is nothing more annoying than rushing to another part of the house looking for pictures or movies while your guests are left to themselves. Have everything ready.
- Essentials – you feel they are essentials when you miss them – ice, napkins, extra forks or knives, chairs, allergy pills, or blankets (if you are outside).
- Environment – is the temperature cold/warm enough? How about the scent? Dust? Many people nowadays have different allergies so ensure that you don’t use any chemicals for cleaning that could cause allergies.
- Extras – you can plan tiny appetizers, colourful napkins, special kind of food accessories (like fansy sticks for appetizers or colourful straws for drinks), perhaps special kind of mousse for dessert or name cards next to the plates.
- And lastly, do not forget to enjoy yourself! Happy partying!