The first one was out in rural Alberta where we were living at the time. We rented/looked after a farm for ten months and it was a great experience. It was just a little far from our friends to drop in over the holidays. We wanted to build a fire, make good food (because is that not of the main points of a party?) and have good conversation with our friends but we wanted a bit more purpose then all of that. So we created the Book Party. Each guest would bring a book that had become a favourite over the past year (or years) with the purpose of going home with a different book. After everyone has mingled and gotten cozy with a drink of choice and refreshments, we each talk about the book we brought and then exchange them, similar to a white elephant gift exchange.
That first year it was a month before our oldest girl was born, we hauled the kettle and espresso machine down to the basement and made eggnog lattes, peppermint lattes and gourmet hot chocolate all evening. We talked about books and feasted on sweets, cheeses, and deer sausage.
The next year it was in our rental house in Montreal. I made doughnuts and we stuffed ourselves on tapenade, goat cheese and baguette. It was a smaller crowd but the conversation was just as good. I got Still Alice at that Book Party, a book that I cried my way through and then lent to my Mum and her sisters as they processed their own Mum’s journey into dementia.
The year after, we were settled back in Alberta in our hobbit hole, my kind name for our basement suite. We filled the living room with friends and family that lived in the area and had sleeping children in every other room. We had our second daughter that summer and our daughters were joined by their cousins who made a bed in the laundry room while their parents joined us for the party.We skipped last year, our first year in Nova Scotia, deciding instead to have a doughnut party/come and spend the evening with us party with some of my husband’s fellow students.
But this year. We knew we wanted to bring back the Book Party and last Saturday we did that. Our front room was filled with friends and candles and good food. We sipped cider and laughed and got to know each other more. And we swapped some books. I made lots of food, Christmas cake and yummy balls. Cream cheese penguins and Gruyere gougeres and an amazing chocolate cheesecake brought by one of the guests. We simmered apple cider in the slow cooker, next to the Christmas tree and it smelled like Christmas all evening.
Our girls were put to bed early and one of them woke up halfway through the evening, slightly appalled that we would have a party without her. They helped make the penguins earlier in the day as well as reminding me many times that it doesn’t have to be perfect. And by reminding me, I mean that they wanted to help me in every way they could and also wanted me to stop sweeping the floors and play playdough with them. I had prepped a lot of the food earlier in the week and I highly recommend that for any sort of event you host! I went with paper plates and pretty paper napkins because I don’t have enough small plates yet and it’s okay to serve fancy food on paper plates. In the moments before the guests arrived, I soaked up all the pretty lights and breathed in the quiet. And then opened the door wide and welcomed our friends in.
The Book Party tradition is here to stay.
What are your favourite holiday parties that you’ve hosted (or attended)?