Being far away from family during the holidays can be challenging. There may be some anxiety about the impending festivities, who to share them with and what to do. The good news is that the military community is filled with friends that oftentimes become an extended family. Throwing a holiday party is a great way to ease the strain of missing family and strengthen new relationships with your military friends – let’s be honest, most of them are likely far from home, too. Here are some tips for hosting a successful soiree:
Know your crowd
• Inquire about food allergies and dietary restrictions. Do this early on so that everyone can label foods properly or avoid dangerous items altogether.
• Plan ahead. Should there be a quiet place for small children to nap or play? Let parents know if they should bring some toys to occupy the children.
• Ask your guests to participate. Have them choose a favorite holiday tradition (food or activity) to share. Everyone contributing something personal helps to cultivate a more memorable event.
Create the right setting
What makes your holiday party stand out won’t be having the perfect house, food or décor. It will come from your guests feeling welcome, included and able to contribute to the fun.
• Set the mood. Greet guests at the door with a warm welcome and make sure to personally introduce everyone.
• Create ambiance. Hang festive lights, dim interior lights and play holiday music in the background.
• Be flexible. Timing may shift or food may burn – just roll with it. Military families tend to pitch in before you know you need the help.
• Drive the flow. Make a clear path for guests from the door to the party area by setting up the food at one end and drinks at the other.
• Master the mingle. Offering fewer chairs than people helps encourage guests to mingle and get to know each other.
Make a new tradition
Create a party tradition so that next year, no matter which family hosts, you’ll have something special to share as a group. A white elephant gift exchange is an example of a tradition that everyone can easily participate in and look forward to.
Each year your party guests will change – some old friends will PCS and some new friends will arrive. Continue the tradition as long as you can, or start it anew at your next duty station. Your military friends see you through good and bad times when family is far away. Hold them dear and stay in touch over the years; taking care of one another is what the military community is all about.