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Holiday Entertaining at Home

Each year you vow not to host another holiday gathering; but, you always do. It’s like a mother in labor saying or screaming she will never have another baby. But, then, she does. Okay, so maybe holiday entertaining at home is not as painful as giving birth, but, let’s agree that it can be nerve-racking. After all, it is the holidays. There is so much pressure to be perfect. Just how do you make holiday entertaining at home more of a pleasure than a pain? The good news is that it is possible to have a successful holiday party, even if you are the belle of your own ball, so to speak. All it takes is a little planning. Lucky for you, the holidays arrive at the same time every year. So, planning really is plausible and possible. You just have to know where to begin.

My years as a professional caterer and event planner taught me how to host holiday parties that I was actually able to enjoy along with my guests. I used my professional prowess to ensure that my private parties were stress free instead of stressful, memorable instead of mind boggling. And, although I don’t cater professionally anymore, I still hold fast to the principles learned while in the trenches.

Here are 7 tips you can plan to use to make your holiday entertaining festive and fun for you and your guests.

  1. Choose the holiday you can handle
  2. All holidays are not created equal. Some require more work than others in terms of decorating and food preparation. Be sure to pick the one that plays to your strengths.

  3. Set a realistic budget and stick to it
  4. Dipping into your savings account to throw a lavish holiday party is not a wise choice, especially in these economic times. Instead, establish an account specifically for your holiday entertaining. Squirrel away a little every month so that you are working with a dedicated sum of money for your soirée.

  5. Strategically invite guests
  6. Resist the urge to invite everyone you know. And, do not feel obligated to invite someone so that they will in turn invite you to their party. That would smack of insincerity. Instead, invite people you genuinely like and want to share the occasion with. It is also a good idea to consider the personalities and interests of your guests. The last thing you want is for your happy holiday gathering to be ruined by tension in the air so thick you could cut it with your kitchen knife.

  7. Use an engaging invitation
  8. Although we are in the age of emails and e-vites, an old fashioned invitation sent via snail mail still cannot be beat. Show your guests you care enough to spend the postage to send a tangible invitation. Remember, the invitation is the first glimpse of what your holiday gathering will be like. It is your opportunity to whet the appetites of your guests by creatively preparing them for the event to come. Make sure the invitation is appropriate to the style of gathering you intend to have. For instance, an engraved invitation would be a waste for an informal holiday brunch. Another word on cyberspace communications, computers have been known to crash taking with it your e-vite not to mention the in box so full that your e-vite is not read until weeks later. Your chances of having your invitation noticed and responded to are greater using the old fashioned method. Your invitation should clearly state the amount of people invited from each household and whether or not it is an adult party or if children are welcome. Also, save yourself a great deal of stress by placing calls to everyone who did not RSVP. You want to avoid preparing for 10 people only to have 20 guests arrive instead.

  9. Plan a menu you can make ahead
  10. Depending on the time of day your holiday event takes place, plan to prepare as much food ahead of time; even two to three days ahead, if possible. If you decide to assign dishes for your guests to bring, make sure your main course is not walking in three hours late. It is always best to ask guests to bring dessert.

  11. Make your holiday party memorable
  12. Your guests will remember your party. It is up to you to decide what they remember. Be daring and different. If you own a piano, why not hire a musician to play during the cocktail hour or during dinner? If guests have small children, why not hire a responsible teenager to watch them in an upstairs bedroom or in the family room? Hire a niece or nephew to pass appetizers, take coats, or load the dish washer. Decide ahead of time what you would like your guests to remember about your holiday gathering then plan to provide an atmosphere that will produce those thoughts. My husband and I renewed our wedding vows for our 10th anniversary. The celebration was on a Thursday which meant many of our guests would be arriving from work. We decided ahead of time we needed them to be able to enjoy the evening from the start not 1 or 2 hours after they unwound. So, we asked the staff at the reception hall to greet each guest at the door with a warm smile and to say “Welcome to the celebration.” In addition our guests were handed a glass of bubbly as they crossed the threshold. Days later, many guests shared with us that before they even sat down they were able to shake off the day and be present at the celebration. Even if your event is at your home, hire a couple of teenagers for one or two hours to do the honors. Feel free to try my idea.

  13. Give your guests a parting gift
  14. The best gift anyone can receive (other than a bag of money) is a photo of themselves. During your holiday party, take posed Polaroid pictures of guests. I know digital cameras are the rage, but if you take a Polaroid picture you will be able to affix a prepared label to the bottom that thanks them for attending with your name and the date. Every time they look at the picture they will smile and be reminded of your amazing holiday party at home.

Armed with these tips you can confidently embrace the holiday season. Now you know that a successful and stress free holiday gathering at home simply requires a bit of planning and creativity.

©Rena Bullard 2009
This article may be reprinted, in its entirety, with copyright information.

A Brief History of Home Entertainment

The concept of home entertainment and indoor recreational activities changed when home electronics invaded our lives. One can say that access to numerous electronic products at home has revolutionized the idea of what constitutes a complete home entertainment. Nowadays, anyone can have immediate access to every kind of electronic entertainment via different media within the comforts of their homes. They can have their choice of entertainment which may range from the latest DVD players, radios to the wireless internet connection which offers them the convenience of mobility. Advancement in technology has gifted us with loads of home entertainment options ranging from radio, television, CD, DVD players, home theatre system, games consoles and so on.Music has always been one of the most preferred leisure activities. It found its way into our home through the long playing discs and the gramophone. Of course with the coming of radio a decade later made music a more widespread home entertainment. Before the advent of the CD or DVD player, the radio was the most popular home entertainment system available. Though there were some juke boxes available in the local pubs or salons where one could listen to a song of their choice at home there was only the radio. With radio, the choice of listening was however quite limited as people had to listen to the songs that the radio channels would play, even though some of the stations would at times play the selected numbers based on listeners’ requests. But there were no complaints as there wasn’t anything better for decades to come.Initially, when television had not yet become an everyday part of our lives, the visual entertainment strictly meant those theatres which had large screens to view a movie. Things changed dramatically with the invention of the television in the initial phase of the 1950s. The television was a complete wonder in the days when it was discovered. People did not have to restrict themselves anymore to music as their only entertainment at home. They could actually watch a full length movie in the comfort of their own home.Not only movies, this small wonder box started entertaining people with more and more new ideas, programs and techniques. Television has been considered as one of the pioneers in the history of home visual entertainment. Of course it provided more than just entertainment. With news and special documentaries, TV soon became the most important source of amusement. The long playing discs were also a part of home entertainment which was an early discovery. While radios, LPs and television made a permanent place in everyone’s home, the quality of sound in those times essentially required tremendous development.Good sound systems and speakers stared to develop in the mid 1970s. Various technologies were discovered to enhance the quality of sound. And with the music genres like rock, pop and discos coming into being, there was a specific and urgent requirement for good quality sound systems. Thus the electronic giants did not stop producing recorders and put more emphasis on amplifying and equalizing the sound to give it a new dimension.Good quality sound systems were specially designed and created for homes which produced outstanding music. Woofers and subwoofers along with various amplifiers equalizers and multi channel audio were being used to produce crisp stereophonic sounds.However, this concept took a back seat when CD and DVD players came into existence. During the end of the ’70s and early ’80s some of the electronic giants worked in collaboration to develop the world’s first Compact Disc system. Experts proved that this CD player was quite compact and lightweight with its unique durability. For music lovers it was truly a boon. At the same time this CD system opened a new window in the audio equipment industry.Compact discs were more durable than any other long playing discs or tapes. Thus the CDs removed all other music disc and tapes from the market and held prominent position. The 80s and early 90s saw a vast improvement in the technology of compact disc systems. It became very popular with people because of the crystal clear sound it produced and was affordable. These CDs not only stored music, it was versatile enough to store movies, data, pictures or even software.Along with CDs a much improved device which actually revolutionized and changed the entire system of home entertainment is the DVD or digital versatile discs. These discs are powerful and large enough to hold two movies in one. It stores data digitally and is more durable. The scratch proof technology of the DVD players also makes the DVDs last a long time. Both music and movie buffs felt delighted when the DVD player came into the market. Recent survey statistics reveal that the DVD player is the most successful product of home entertainment. It was introduced in the year 1997 and has reached great heights of success ever since.Nowadays, people can have the same effect of a movie theatre in their homes. With the latest DVD players, LCD screens and the sound systems with woofers, sub woofers and multi channel audio systems, anyone can have a fantastic home entertainment system with high quality sound and spectacular visual effects. The plasma and LCD screens are high resolution televisions which started to develop in the latter half of the 1990s and these sleek televisions enabled the viewers to experience digital sound and vision with fantastic picture quality and various advanced features.With the invention of DVDs and a major development in the visual media such as Plasma and Liquid Crystal Display or LCD in the late 90s gave home entertainment its latest technical dimension. With it, the meaning of home entertainment changed significantly with more and more people installing the home theatre systems with newest gadgets and technologies.