Christmas Series: The Best Ward Christmas Party Ever
Almost everyone that I know has a decided opinion on the ward Christmas party. I have discovered that what constitutes an ideal party varies so widely that it is absolutely impossible that everyone would be pleased. Last week the woman who has been asked to organize ours called me. She asked if I would be willing to put together a program for before the dinner, because she likes to have everyone gathered and busy in the chapel while food is set out and organized. She feels it brings the Spirit, and she hates it when dinner is interrupted for singing songs or other things.
Unfortunately, my view is almost entirely opposite from hers. Our ward is actually putting on a concert the night before in which I am heavily involved. I told her that given my involvement in the other program I didn’t feel I had resources to put together a new program. I put forward the idea that maybe we didn’t need a program at all and people could just eat food and the primary could sing a few songs (I work in primary music so I felt I could make this suggestion). She disagreed and we parted amicably. She is in charge of the party, so her preference goes. I’m not at all sure I would want to be in charge just so I could have things the way I like them. Instead of all that responsibility and stress, I thought we could play a little game here called Best Ward Christmas Party Ever.
You are in your All-Stars ward. This is my imaginary congregation of all the Mormons I’ve ever loved from any place all magically assembled into one ward. Your all-stars ward obviously has your favorite people. This magical ward is having an annual Christmas get-together, and because it is ideal and imaginary everything is exactly the way you would want it to be! Hurray! In the comments, please weigh in on what would be your perfect Christmas party — it can be a concert, or a dinner, or a fireside or really whatever you like it to be. Mine is a dinner.
- The food should be well organized, but not micro-managed. There should be sign-up sheets or assignments so that the distribution of potatoes, salad and other sides is even and reasonable but what specific form your side dish should take will not be spelled out. If you love jello, bring jello, but let me bring my green salad please! The ward may provide dry ham, as per tradition. Should it be moist and delicious, great shall be my rejoicing.
- There should be two buffet tables at opposite ends of the gym with roughly equivalent offerings of food. That way the line is shorter. Water and cups should be on the table so I don’t have to try to clutch everything as I go through the line.
- Because this is a fantasy world, the kids and teens who rushed to the front of the line have piled their plates only with foods I don’t like anyway, so there are still plenty of delicious things for me.
- The ambiance should be festive without giving me the sense that someone has had a miserable week putting it together. Plastic table cloths in festive colors are fine. The lights should be dimmed, because when they are all on we are in the gym, but when only the stage lights are on with a few others we are in the Cultural Hall being cultured.
- If there are centerpieces, they should be items people volunteered to bring that were not hand-crafted for the occasion. The tables need not match. A nice creepy elf that is a good conversation starter would be great, or something that makes me think “so there is someone who buys that!” Another good option would be those stuffed Christmas trees that every Homemaking Meeting made in the 1980s. The ideal for me would be anything that feels festive but obviously was not stressful to pull together, nor a pain to clean up.
- I think I like round tables better than long ones because you can have better conversations and feel more connected.
- There will be spots for me and my family at a table with people who are happy to see me and are fun to be with.
- There will be no one sitting at a table feeling a bit forlorn because no one chose to sit with them, or the one person who did was obviously motivated at least in part by pity or lack of other options. In the All-Stars ward, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen.
- Food must happen first. If people are hungry they feel very cross about having to sit through a program. Having a program second will possibly keep kids busy or entertained instead of tearing around like maniacs. Possibly. The program can happen in the gym so I can continue to nibble brownies and talk quietly to my friends as necessary.
- As someone who frequently ends up playing piano or singing this time of year, I think the gold standard on this should be stress-free. It should not be a pressured performance, and given the context it is okay if the spiritual and less spiritual Christmas tunes rub shoulders.
- One great option is the ever-classic nativity play, as long as I do not have to organize it. You really can’t go wrong with the greatest story ever told, complete with fidgeting angels.
- Another great option is singing a few songs as a ward, everyone still at their tables. The song list shall not include Frosty the Snowman, for I hate that song. It has the thumpity-thump of witchcraft about it in my opinion.
- I love hearing instruments that usually get banned from Sacrament Meeting. If a young woman wants to play “Good King Wenceslas” on her trombone, I am happy to applaud it.
- My favorite memory of ward Christmas parties of my youth was our tradition of singing “the Twelve Days of Christmas” by birth month. Everyone was divided up so you took the verse that corresponds to your birthday — I am a May baby so I along with those of my ilk joined together to represent “five golden rings.” Maybe I like the tradition because mine is definitely the best verse — the best present, and the maximum opportunity for dragging it out. It had everyone in the ward involved, and it was fun to join with people I didn’t really know since what we had in common was our birth month, rather than our age or gender or other factors. Five goooooooooooolden riiiiiiiiiiings!!!!!!!!
I have often wondered if in other parts of the world the Ward Christmas Party is a firmly entrenched institution. It seems like wards or stakes get into patterns of what is expected and tradition can easily resemble doctrine after a few years. It seems unthinkable that I would experience December without this mandatory fun, but I suppose the church is true even without dry ham and jingle bells.
You might have read my description and thought “that is everything I hate about ward parties. The perfect ward party is _______!” If so, please weigh in! Remember, this is an armchair exercise. No one is going to ask you to actually run the thing (you hope….).
What would be the Best Ward Christmas Party Ever for you?