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Multicultural Winter Party

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Décor and Favors
Because so many resources are available for December decorating—web, books, and magazines—I won't attempt pointers in this brief section. However, I will offer a few culturally specific icons upon which you might want to focus:
  • Christmas—Santa Claus, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, stockings, stars, bells, candles, snowflakes, reindeer, mistletoe, Yule log, snowmen, and gifts; the colors red and green.
  • Hanukah—The menorah (candle holder with eight regular tapers and one long one), gold coins (or chocolate-filled gold coins), dreidels, and gifts; the colors blue, white, and gold.
  • Kwanza—Mkeka (straw placemat), Mazao (fruits and vegetables), Vibunzi/Muhindi (ears of corn), Kikombe cha umoja (communal unity cup), Kinara and Mishumaa saba (candle holder with seven candles, one black, three red, and three green), and Zawadi (gifts that are enriching); the colors red, black, and green.
  • Winter Solstice—Yule log; boughs of laurel, evergreen, and holly; good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewelry, and incense; mistletoe; and colored lights; the colors green, brown, and white.
If you enjoy having a Christmas tree, consider adding ornaments that reflect each holiday tradition.

The best holiday parties are those at which the hostess has a gift for every guest, even the unexpected. For your close friends, purchase gifts as you normally would. For more casual friends, significant others, co-workers, or neighbors, pick up inexpensive ($5 to $15) gifts you wouldn't mind receiving yourself, such as bath products, coffee, coffee cups, fruit, nuts, candy, CDs, DVDs, books, candles, incense, photo frames or small albums, kitchen gadgets, socks, slippers, note paper, cards, journals, or food items. Select gender-neutral gifts and eschew holiday-themed gifts, as you don't want to guess at your guests' religious beliefs. Also, remember to pick up and wrap about five extra gifts for unexpected guests.

To save a great deal of time and money, shop for your holiday gifts all year around. As you browse in discount stores, keep your eyes out for inexpensive, gender-neutral, quality gifts, such as those listed previously. In addition to keeping a well-stocked gift closet, you'll have quite a few gifts amassed by December.

Music and Entertainment
Choose multicultural holiday music. Although Christmas CDs are everywhere, you might have a more difficult time finding party music to represent Hanukah, Kwanza, and Winter Solstice. Here are a few ideas:

  • A Winter's Night, Ensemble Galilei
  • Happy Hanukah, Judy Rubenstein
  • Africa, Putumayo
  • A Jazz Celebration of Christmas, Chanukah & Kwanza, Lynette Washington, Long, Long Ago
Try to alternate CDs to play an assortment of songs from different albums; if you have a random-play feature on your CD player, use it. If your guests begin to tire of holiday music, throw on some classical, jazz, modern rock, bluegrass, or dance music.

If you are gathering together people who know one another well enough to give each other gifts (possibly several different groups of people), let your guests know you'll be hosting a gift exchange. People might wonder if they're supposed to bring gifts for everyone or if you are planning a "Secret Santa" exchange, so explain on your invitations that although you'll be giving out gifts to everyone, your guests only need bring gifts for those people to whom they'd normally give holiday gifts, if they choose. A few hours into the party, turn down the music and gather for your exchange.

If you don't want to make an activity of the gift giving, simply give guests their gifts throughout the party, spending a few minutes with each guest or group of people.

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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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