What do your holiday parties look like?

Cartoon by Rea Irvin for "Life" magazine, ink over graphite underdrawing. Via reproduction online at Library of Congress website
Thanksgiving last night; the first party of the holiday season. And it was a blast.

Yes, we ate the required phenomenal amounts of turkey, carbo-loaded until our pancreases (pancrea?) screamed, and foundered on vegan chili and pumpkin pie. And while good food is always the center around which all great parties are built, what happened after the food fest was what made the party a blast.

It started with the mathematician and I playing some tunes. Normally, when we play tunes, people gravitate away, into the other room. “Oh, we’re listening,” they say, but they’re really not. The fiddle and whistle are loud, and make conversation difficult. Folks would rather gab.

But last night the other guests actually sat in the same room with us while we played! In between tunes, my dad and the host traded bad jokes about the Irish (we play traditional Irish music. These jokes go with that territory)

Boldly, we asked if someone wanted to sing a song. Someone did! A lovely piece.

Then, we asked, did someone else want a go?

The host didn’t bake a ham for that party; she didn’t have to. The room was full of hams!

The host’s sister and boyfriend dragged out a lap dulcimer and a ukulele and we sang Amazing Grace. A guest told a poem.The dulcimer and ukulele played Greensleeves. Someone told another joke.

It was fun, people! Nobody turned up their noses and sniffed. Rather, nearly everyone participated in some way; everyone had some sort of party piece that they could contribute.

That was a perfect party, as far as I’m concerned. No canned music, no artificial conversations, just folks sitting around, trading turns and entertaining the rest of the gathering, bringing their own selves to the center, then cycling out to allow the next song, poem, or joke.