The holidays are behind us, but that doesn’t mean we have to completely hunker down and put gatherings aside until warm weather arrives. Need an occasion to throw a party? This month and next offer several opportunities.
The Grammy Awards are Jan. 26. The Chinese New Year begins Jan. 31; it’s the year of the horse. The Super Bowl is Feb. 2 – followed by the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia (Feb. 7-23). Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Friday this year, is coming up fast. Looking ahead, the Academy Awards will be held March 2.
But there are many other ways to get family and friends together in the winter, even if everyone is tired of cut-out cookies and artichoke dip.
I have always loved the idea of a soup party – maybe after a day of sledding or skiing. It’s so simple, really. Make several of your favorite soups, set out some crusty breads and invite over the friends you didn’t get to see over the holidays. Even easier? Buy soups already prepared or make the gathering potluck.
Dessert parties are fun – put the New Year’s resolution on hold for a day. Winter also is a nice time to have a Sunday brunch.
A winter gathering can turn into something productive. A couple of years ago, the women in my family gathered at a cousin’s house for a picture party. The plan was to get three generations together around one dining room table to look at photographs dating back to what felt like the beginning of time. The pictures were in albums, in boxes, in frames. There were duplicates and photographs so faded the faces were barely recognizable. There were school pictures from my generation that were hysterical and plenty of baby pictures that proved we were all well fed.
Naturally, as what often happens, mystery people appeared in some of these photographs. The initial idea behind our picture party was to see if the oldest generation, including the matriarch seated at the head of the table (where else would she be?), could identify them for the rest of us.
Food was served. Stories were told. Photographs were shared. And, yes, mystery people were identified. At least some of them.
A few other ideas for winter gatherings:
• Comfort foods potluck: This idea comes from the website www.punchbowl.com. “Share and swap recipes for chilly days and do a little taste testing, too. Yummy suggestions for food for this party include baked macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, tomato soup, mashed potatoes, chili or any other favorites you or your guests may have,” suggest the party planners.
• Does your child have a winter birthday? Here’s another idea from the website: Plan a party with a tropical luau theme. Decorate with brightly colored streamers. Pass out leis when party guests arrive. Set up a spot for smoothies and fruit juices. Keep kids active with limbo or hula hoop competitions.
• Game night. The idea is not new, but many people enjoy game nights. One woman told me she has friends who get together at a different house every few months for games and food.
• A winter blues party: I first heard about this idea several years ago and still think it sounds like a lot of fun. Use blue decorations and invitations. Ask guests to wear blue. Serve blue food (blue corn chips, blue cheese, blueberries, etc.). Play some blues music.
And promise you’ll do the same thing again next year.