A great way to celebrate Christmas is to throw a Christmas party! Christmas is a brilliant opportunity to be intentional about building relationships with the people you share your life with.
Kay & Stuart Cathcart have been hosting Christmas Parties for their neighbours in Buckstone for a number of years so we asked them to write a blog with their stories and some top tips:
“We want to build community and share life with people around us, being ready to help and come alongside them whenever we can – as Jesus commands us to do. Over the years we’ve found that parities are a great way to start, and Christmas brings the perfect opportunity for it as well. However, building community and trust it is not an easy or straightforward thing. We’ve hosted Christmas parties for many years now, and we wanted to share with you some of our story and the things we’ve learned.
I grew up in an area where we knew all of our neighbours – small collections of colony houses where we tripped over each other and the kids all played together. Having good relationships with our neighbours has been a given – they’re the people God’s placed us to live amongst and seek their blessing.
When Stuart and I committed to an area in our first flat together, we tried to have our first Christmas party. It was an obvious time to invite people in. We just did coffee & mince pies on a Sunday afternoon. A few people came but calling it a party would have been a bit grand – it was a start. After that we found it much easier to take cups of tea or beers down to the shared garden in the summer when our neighbours were out (they all worked much harder than us in their parts – we just distracted them so ours wouldn’t seem so bad).
In our next flat we had a total mix of students and home-owners. There was really only one person up for doing anything together, and we didn’t even try a big Christmas thing the first year. But then our roof broke, and we had to start working together on it. People were much more up for doing something nice together in the midst of all the roof angst, we had a Christmas party and relationships started to grow.
In both contexts, it was really just our neighbours who we invited – our stair. It would have been odd to invite others in. We had other parties at different points and invited a mix of friends & neighbours, but nowhere near as many people came to those as came to the things which were specifically for them.
Where we are now is somewhere we’ve been able to build some good community. We’ve been here ten years, being intentional with our neighbours – choosing to be around home rather than out in the city, choosing to give our house keys to them and borrow things from them rather than just rely on family or church friends.
Our first party wasn’t actually at Christmas. We invited lots of friends and one neighbour came, so we invested in that relationship. So, we had a summer barbecue and about half the neighbours came. Next, we invited both sets of immediate neighbours for a meal in December to say thank you for being brilliant, putting up with our mess of a garden and being so kind to our kids. And now, for the last four or five years we’ve had a Christmas party (we actually called it Jingle & Mingle – don’t you do that!) and most people come. Winter is for celebrating – from Halloween when our neighbourhood knocks on our door all night, through Thanksgiving, Burns night, a gin night and our birthdays we gather our community and our neighbours in whatever configuration we can. It keeps relationships live over the cold, dark days. Christmas sits in the middle of that, and that party is specifically for our street, so people know it’s their party and come.
So, here is a list of practical things that have we learned about hosting Christmas parties:
– December is busy, so think when the best time is for your people. Ours is in the wee chink between work & school parties finishing and people travelling for the holidays.
– Go shorter, especially at the beginning. Better to have a wee crowd for an hour or so, than lots of individuals over a drawn-out period of time – at least if you want to call it a party!
– Mulled wine & mince pies are a bit of a middle-class thing – we’ve only ever had about 1/3 of people genuinely like these things. We always have to have a decent amount of lager & sausages, though that doesn’t have the same festive feel on an invitation!
– It’s an additional spend at an expensive time of year, so you have to budget for it.
– It takes people time to trust you – look for the people of peace first.
– Now that we know people well, things like Christmas jumper competitions and activities for kids can be thrown in, but we’re glad we kept it simple at first.
– It’s a good way to invite people to Christmas things at church, but it’s not the main reason for inviting them.
As I said before, a party is not going to instantly build or strengthen a community, but it is definitely a good way to give of what you have to others, and to have lots of fun while doing it!”