I’ve always loved this time of year: the decorations, companionship, and festivities. When I was in my 20s, I threw a holiday party at my new apartment overlooking the ocean. I planned for a month and prepped for a few days. Neighbors marveled that I had time for a skate along the strand before guests arrived. Just barely, as I made the mistake of trying to make everything from scratch—even the eggnog! Not a smart choice; it would have been better to buy it. Better still would be to enlist a catering company, but be sure to avoid the pitfalls many encounter.
That celebration was successful enough that it became an annual event. Our family has hosted many years of holiday parties, and I learn something new every time: better ways to decorate, timesavers for bites and drinks, saying “Yes” when invitees offer to bring something, and more. Of course, there are also moments in the preparations, when the chores get overwhelming, that I think “This is the last time!” Then the pandemic blew up our traditions, and the 2019 holiday party really was the last one. I miss the festive spirit, the guaranteed opportunity to see our friends together, and the cozy feeling of the house when it’s full of loved ones catching up.
If you’re ready to get back into the swing of a party, we’ve rounded up advice from all sorts of experts including tips on what Champagne to buy, how to navigate delicate conversations, ideas for locally made gifts, and where to focus your energy. For those who want to dine out for the holidays or celebrate New Year’s Eve, we’re suggesting some places to go and things to do. And when it all seems too much, we’ve offered ways to relieve stress here in Orange County and treat yourself to some serenity. I hope you enjoy the season!