‘Tis the season of the holiday get-together – but this year, it’s not only the ugly Christmas sweater party that reigns.
The formal holiday party is making a comeback.
“Christmas is, in my mind, a classier holiday. It’s not like St. Patrick’s Day,” said Meryn Steeves, a second-year St. Thomas University student, with a laugh.
Each December, right around the time that final assignments and papers are due and exams are looming around the corner, the invitations for holiday parties start to appear. They range from reunion parties with your friends from home to “last hurrah of the semester” get-togethers with your close friends at school.
And with very few events during the year that allow students to dress up and get classy, the formal holiday party is coming back into style.
“I think that young people now are starting to realize that maybe the way that their parents may have done things, or past generations, weren’t as lame or boring as they think they were,” said Christina Nicoll, an event planner with Live, Love, Laugh Event Planning and Consulting based in Fredericton. “Maybe they just want to try something different and have a break from university or college life.”
The traditional, formal Christmas party is a familiar image in holiday movies – the picturesque dinner table full of food, a large, festive centrepiece and the special occasion silverware set out. Grown-ups swirl glasses of red wine and talk about the economy, while wearing three-piece suits and fancy dresses.
Okay, so most students don’t own special silverware or have money to spend on a 20-pound butterball turkey. But there is something appealing about putting on fancy clothes and not drinking out of red Dixie cups.
“It’s kind of nice to mark that special occasion by doing something out of the ordinary,” Steeves said.
She said she had been to a friend’s holiday party in high school where everyone had dressed up, the room was decorated and the hostess even compiled party favours.
“I think it’s fun to get together with your friends and not just get drunk and go downtown,” she said. “It’s something different.”
Victoria Hitchcock and Nicoll formed Live, Love, Laugh in 2008. Hitchcock said that while their most popular events are weddings, they’ve seen a resurgence in the holiday party.
“I think we had, within the past few years, seen a decline in the holiday party because of the recession,” Hitchcock said. “But lately we’re seeing it come back. I know personally speaking, this year we probably have three or four parties that we’re going to. It’s a special time of year and people are excited.”
While some may think that a formal holiday party is more costly than a casual get-together, Nicoll said you can host a relatively cheap but classy one if you think outside the box. She and Hitchcock agreed that the invitation sets the tone for any event.
“If you’re crafty you can make one, rather than just the same old Facebook event,” Hitchcock said. “A lot of websites have invitations you can send out too, like sending out an e-card. In doing something different you’re telling people that this is a little out of the ordinary.”
Decorations can be done quite cheaply by going to the Dollar Store. Mini-lights, candy canes, and a small tree are an easy way to make your space more festive.
As for food, Hitchcock said potlucks are the easiest way to ensure tons of food without incurring the cost yourself. Another option is to have the party later on in the evening, providing snacks for your guests instead of a full meal.
Steeves said besides the excitement of decorating and getting together with friends, a formal party is a great excuse to wear a dress. If it isn’t in your budget to buy a new one, your friends’ closets are a great place to go shopping.
“Everyone has stuff that they don’t wear, so it’s pretty easy to swap around,” she said.
Whether you have holiday money to burn or $15 to your name, a traditional holiday party is do-able. Nicoll said it’s important to just let your creative juices flow.
“There’s so many different creative things to do for any event, holiday or not,” she said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it look nice.”