Article by XIANEASE
‘Tis the season, and as the holidays rapidly approach, many people will be heading home for the holidays to experience the joys and wonders of festive glee. For those of us without the good fortune of time off, we will attempt to celebrate here in the heart of the ancient capital to the best of our ability, squeezing out time between work, traffic, and everyone else trying to celebrate in their own way.
We here at xianease have been to our fair share of Christmas celebrations, some splendid and some decidedly less so. Therefore, we thought we would help the would-be party hosts with this guide on how to throw a party that will bring the cheer.
A party is no party without good food, and holiday parties are at their best when the grub matches the occasion. However finding the foods of your childhood might be difficult, unless you know where to look.
The traditional main protein of Christmas dinners tends to be turkey or ham. Frozen turkeys can usually be found at Metro (西安市雁塔区长安南路86号) through the month of December or are available to order through jinkoustores.com. Hams are harder to come by, but occasionally are also available. Just remember that you will need 24 hours/ 5 lbs. (2.27kg) to defrost the turkey safely in the refrigerator. You will also need an oven large enough to hold the bird. Plan on 1.5 lbs. (680g) of turkey (pre-cooked) per guest if it’s dinner, less if you are serving alongside other proteins. Alternatively, you could opt for something a little less traditional and go for a Beijing roast duck. Many duck restaurants will be willing to give you the duck whole, if you want the carving experience.
The only remaining ingredient that can be somewhat hard to find is the cranberry sauce. Some people are hard and fast fans of the stuff that comes from a can, and that can be found on Taobao by searching 蔓越莓果酱 (Mànyuèméi guǒjiàng). At the time of this writing, both Ocean Spray and Trader Joe’s were available. You also might make your own (it’s very easy) by purchasing some frozen cranberries 冷冻蔓越莓 (Lěngdòng Mànyuèméi).
As far as the remaining dishes go, you’ll have to get cooking. Most of the ingredients for staples like mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and so forth are available at local markets.
If you are culinarily-challenged, you can buy a few high-quality cheeses, meats, olives and some bread or crackers and put together a nice simple charcuterie board. Arrange those ingredients on a spare cutting board and let the guests have at it.
Decorate Your Place
We know, your place is lovely. However, three bare walls and another one with a painting of the Yellow River doesn’t exactly scream “Christmas”. Decorations should not be too hard to come by. Beside the aforementioned Metro and Taobao, many supermarkets will put out a small section of Christmas themed decorations, such as strings of lights, garland, and Santa hats.
There tends to be a small selection of fake trees and decorations available at Metro as well, though they tend to be a bit pricey, so your best bet is still going to be finding one online by searching 圣诞树 (Shèngdànshù). Some options will come with decorations or you can buy them piecemeal.
To Gift or Not to Gift
You can have a perfectly fine Christmas without presents, but is it really the same? Admittedly, if you decide to go the gift route, then you will need to stop at some point during your party and open them, which also tends to signal to people that the show is nearly over. If you’re a party-til-dawn type, then this would be a fatal flaw. This also helps avoid the ever-awkward people who show up without a gift.
Going with gifts leaves you with a few traditional options. A white elephant gift exchange, where each person brings a gift under a certain value that goes under the tree. Numbers are drawn out of a hat and each person chooses a gift from under the tree. You can either have people open the gifts all together at the same time or one-by-one. The second option allows you to introduce the dynamic of “stealing”, where people can take a present already opened instead of choosing one from under the tree, leaving the now giftless person to choose another.
Another option is to do a Secret Santa, in which people buy a gift for a particular person instead of a general gift. This tends to work better if everyone at the party knows each other. Either way, gifts do have a certain way of increasing the holiday spirit.
The Holiday Spirits
This month’s issue is packed with top-level options for festive spirits including Mesh’s Glühwein (PAGE 16) and the cocktail creations of Jason Rogers (PAGE 18), but if their culinary creations seem too difficult to craft, never fear. Most people won’t say no to alcohol in any of its forms, as long as there is enough of it.
Calculating the amounts that people will drink can be a challenge, as it will vary greatly person to person. A good general rule is to have people bring a bottle (or case) of their favorite something and then plan on providing a little extra to have on hand. There’s always 1919 if you run out too early.
Don’t forget that not everyone will drink and very few will drink for the entirety, so it is good to have some soft drinks on hand, as well as plenty of water.
Is it really necessary to do all of this? Of course not. You can have an awesome time with four concrete walls and some friends. However, this time of year holds special significance for many people, and the absence of the holiday atmosphere and the lack of close family at this time can leave many feeling down. If it is possible to bring some of that holiday spirit to our little corner of the world, to brighten our lives here at all, then we should do it. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Stephen Robinson is the editor-in-chief at xianease and would love to get your thoughts on everything we are doing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org