Being from the Northern Hemisphere, winter & its respective holidays were synonymous to me. However, now living in the Southern Hemisphere, I get all the joy and goodness of Summer mixed with Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, New Years Day. This is incredible, and lends itself to longer festivities during the actual holidays themselves. We go for a walk in the morning light, gather together, fire up the barbeque and have seafood salad starters with a glass of Summer Love Bubbles. However, it leaves me feeling like there’s a bit of a gap, a slump, in the middle of the year. November to March in New Zealand has the best weather, the best celebrations and extended leave from school and work, typically. But April to October can be a long, dreary majority of the year, with few public holidays or celebrations.
Kiwis and Aussies fight the winter blues in many ways. Often, families will take a mid-winter break in July or August and fly to the pacific islands, such as Bali, Samoa or Fiji. Another way is to take-up winter sport and spend weekends up in the mountains skiing or snow-boarding. If you don’t have the option of leaving home much for the winter, many people try to make their home cosy for the winter – I’ve got a blog with 7 nesting tips for making your home feel warmer in the winter months. Another great way (and my personal favourite) is by creating annual celebrations that become a ritual for you. This blog is all about how to host your own winter party – whether in the Southern Hemisphere, or northern Hemisphere for a late winter party.
Step 1: Invite List. This is fully determined by you, the purpose of the event (networking versus a bit of fun) and the size of the space you have to work with. We only recently bought our first home, so 12 is a squeeze for a sit-down hang-out, so we limited ourselves to a small number for the evening.
Step 2: Decor. This can often stress people out, but I don’t let it! Decorating is always much better when pared-back, and subtle. I find some evergreen boughs, add fairy lights and lots of candles. I mainly let the cheeseboard & drinks table be the main attraction. My one “feature” was some vintage photo frames from the Re:Store with wintry inserts. For me, the key is to really keep Christmas or other holidays out of the mix, which was difficult to do at first, because it all used to be the same to me, but this is what keeps it a little more sophisticated.
Step 3: Playlist. Getting the music right for the event is crucial. If you don’t have the time to set-up a playlist, just get a good artist running on Spotify or a channel on Pandora, in a good genre. We wanted something that felt nostalgic, but not Christmas-y, so we selected a Pandora Ella Fitzgerald station that played some swanky jazz.
Step 4: Drinks. Consider your audience, but also throw some curve balls in the mix. We usually try to have a good mixture of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The Barker’s recipe for rosemary and passionfruit mulled wine was a total hit! We had spiced ginger beer, tonic water, beer, cider and a slow cooker salted caramel hot chocolate, which felt like drinking bliss – a great option for sober drivers.
Step 5: Food. The type of event you hold will largely determine the types of dishes. If holding a stand-up, cocktail style party, our primary concern is the desire to spend as much time with guests as possible, which means using as few dishes as possible to ensure someone isn’t stuck at the sink washing up most of the evening. This means all of the food on the menu was finger food. We have chocolates, a cheese board with spreads, my friend Jenna’s incredible pineapple lump slice, fruit & veggie platters. My favourite cheat sweets are Rolo turtles. If hosting a dinner party, we typically do a slow-cooker roast in order to allow for ease of stress when guests start arriving.
I base my annual winter party on the winter solstice, celebrating that the shortest day of the year is over. Regardless your theme, I wish you happy planning, and a happy winter!