The 10 Commandments of the (COVID) Party SeasonNovember 25, 2021

Your mother frowned at your suggestion of having a Christmas party, if not a gathering of extended family or friends (on Christmas Day). She still hasn't get over your brother's travel buddy, who told everyone that God was a big, happy chicken. (Your brother tried not to laugh out loud, oblivious to your father's shocked reaction.) Is it a good idea? Yes. However, there are rules to follow and topics to avoid.

The lack of enthusiasm (and support) in the household didn't discourage you, as you brought up the subject to your mates. They were excited, as it seemed like ages when you saw each other. And they haven't forgotten your brother's travel buddy. (They wondered all the chickens he'd eaten. Breasts, thighs, giblets, nuggets. And omelets. Western. Spanish. Californian.) One of your mates advised you to keep your expectations low, fearful that Australia could have another surge in Covid cases. No one seemed to listen to him, though. It was hard to blame the others, as the never-ending lockdowns took a toll on everyone. You had a case of cabin fever, so you yearned for a change of scenery lately. Your parents didn't understand it, though. (And they supported your brother's backpacking in South Asia. Gap year, your brother argued.) Your friends were thinking of who to invite, as they didn't want it to be a small gathering. You expected it, and you don't want to get it out of hand. In other words, it mustn't be a superspreading (SSEV) event, and you don't want to end up on the front page of a newspaper.

COVID Changed the Way We Let Down Our Hair

Party success often comes down to adding a Switzerland or two into the mix . Having the gathering set outside your home, if not the campus grounds, would be a great idea. (If no one would observe health protocol, then don't ever think of having an indoor gathering.) The pandemic can bring out those fraught emotions, and it can happen when you least expect it. There must be someone who must know the attendees well enough, such that sitting like-minded together would be possible. And that neutral person should be you.

Don't forget the" C word . It won't be rude to ask everyone about their vaccination status. And you must not feel guilty if you must let go of one (or two). Everyone must not worry about the coronavirus, which means having as many touchless options as possible. As for the uninvited, you can assure them that there will be a next time.

Serve food most will want to eat . If it's chips and soda (or beer), then don't think of anything else. You don't want to add stress to the occasion.

Thou shalt prep . Paper writing would come to mind, as procrastination is for the competitive-minded students who get better during stressful moments. You don't want to try it during the hours before the gathering, as it could affect the outcome. Prepare the night before the big event (if it's a must), and don't hesitate to ask your mates for help (if you really need it).

Will you consider younger guests ? Your mates would love to have your brother's travel buddy by their side, who made them laugh about KFC (or the horrible retribution those chicken wings would bring upon all mankind). Your other mate, geekier than the rest, suggested his little brother. The latter could be very annoying at times, but your curiosity was piqued. He is interested in literature, which is quite unusual for an eleven-year-old.

Avoid contentious topics . The list would include White Australia policy, personal achievements, and Covid's future. If someone would predict a strain more transmissible than the Delta variant, then shift the topic to the pizza. (Bland?) If someone persists in your opinion on a vaccine (brand) that won't be effective on any strain, then share your travel plans. (Your brother claims that some parts of Taipei would remind him of Tokyo. There must be a Shibuya equivalent, which might not be a tourist trap. Yet.)

Don't expect anything from the others . Christmas gifts would be the first thing that come to mind, but it's ain't. A neutral person must clean up (after the gathering is over). Never place expectations on others unless one offers help.

Music( or no music ). Let's assume that you know most of the attendees very well, such that you can create a playlist after half an hour (or less) of planning. It must set the mood. And someone must save those songs on a mobile phone. Ask first.

To decorate( or not to decorate ). If your idea of cleaning is to sweep the room, if not the (outdoor) venue, with a glance, then don't go full Martha Stewart. Your mates would understand.

Thou shalt play Santa . It won't be a Christmas gathering without one. You can ask your mother to help you in baking those cookies and place it in paper bags. (Your friends would understand if it lacks the lovely touch. It's the gifting spirit that counts.) And be the first to compliment. You can also join others' conversations, ending each one with a positive tone.

One More Party to Go?

If you can pull it off, then you can look forward to New Year's Eve - and Australia Day. Summer should be an omen of good things to come, but you don't want to celebrate too early. You won't forget health protocol.

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