Here We Come A-Wassailing--a Little Women Brunch Party

Loveys, if you're wondering, wassail is a warm holiday-ish drink, a lot like apple cider. My mom would buy these little cartons of 'wassail' from the Hallmark store when we were growing up. She'd mix the spices with apple juice or cranberry juice and warm it on the stove around Christmastime. I loved it. Another tradition from my childhood is watching the Little Women movie. We'd watch the 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo, or the 1994 version with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. In the latter, the movie starts at Christmas, and the March sisters go walking through the snow (to carry their breakfast to share with neighbors less fortunate) and the girls start singing, "Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green; and here we come a wandering so fair to be seen..."

Both the wassail drinking and movie watching are wonderful memories for me. So this year, when it came time for my annual ornament exchange party, I decided to go with a Little Women theme, since that story is special to me, especially at Christmas. And the truth is that the writer in me loved researching Louisa May Alcott as I clipped quotes for the table and read about the inspiration behind the story. (She hadn't wanted to write the story to begin with, but once she was finally persuaded, she wrote it in just two and a half months!)

The story of Little Women, to me, is a picture of sisterhood--women banding together to make it through difficult times. A woman and her four daughters, keeping things going while the men are away at war. There's love and romance and self-discovery, but also courage and strength and heartache. And this underlying thread of what it is to be a woman with few options but so much capability.

That brings me to thoughts on Christmas. How many moms and grandmothers and sisters make the holiday season extra special for their families, through hard times and good times? (Dads, too, of course, but we're talking Little Women at the moment.) The resolution, and also creativity, of the sisters (and their mother) in Little Women reminds me of so many women I know. It reminds me of my own mother and sisters.

We can do things.

Like Christmas. (Which can get a bit hectic and crazy and exhausting.)

I love hosting this Christmas party. I start planning it out early--lists of things to buy and what I need to do. And I get so excited for every 'yes' RSVP that rolls in. Just a little gathering with food and friends. For several years, I'd host an evening ornament exchange, with appetizers and wine. But the last couple of years I've switched to a morning brunch, with mimosas and a potluck. The main reason for this is that December is so busy for everyone, evenings fill up quickly,  and it seems more doable for most of the women to squeeze in a morning get together. While I really enjoy setting up the table, or going with a theme, I know deep-down that actually, everyone would be just as happy with no decorations and some store-bought cake. Because it's truly about spending time together. The door opens and friends walk in, bringing homemade blueberry French toast bake and savory dishes and donuts and breads and fruit and scones and sweets and champagne and juice and everything you can think of! And everyone wants to help. That's one of the things I love about these women. At every gathering I host, friends are scurrying around, always willing to jump in and help with anything.

Because we're doing all this together.

When it comes to December, we're juggling schedules and shopping and cooking and baking and wrapping and running ALL the time. And when women get together as a group, we pitch in and help. That's how it goes.

When planning out the party, I scoured the Internet for ideas on throwing a Little Women-themed party. There were a few blog posts out there that really helped. (That's why I like to do a recap and share the ideas!) For our party, I paid homage to the book and movie with a few tie-ins to the special Christmas breakfast in the story--oranges and sausages and sweet breads. There were limes for decoration because sharing limes was popular for Amy March and her friends. I printed off descriptions of the four sisters and quotes from Little Women and Jo's Boys for each table setting.

(Again, doing this stuff is fun for me. The party would be just as fun with all of us eating bagels, drinking champagne, while hanging out and wearing messy buns and pajamas.)

One of my favorite decorations this year was the wreath above my chandelier. My aunt was in town just before the party and she made that for me. It was absolutely perfect and went with the theme of greenery and garland that I was going for.

A girlfriend who's been coming to the ornament exchange for several years walked in and said, "Our party seems to be growing this year!" I loved that. We were squeezed together and running out of room over here this year, but I enjoyed every minute. My husband ran to my neighbor's house the night before, to grab extra chairs. (Thank goodness for neighbors.) I'm thankful for every person who could come, and I missed every person who couldn't make it. (December is crazy, loveys.)

One of the reasons I love this particular party every year, is that while there may be work parties to go to and kids' class parties to attend, not all of us have the opportunity for a low-key get together with our girlfriends. Or maybe we seem to be on the edge of every group of friends, and we're never quite sure if we'll receive an invitation. That's okay. (Trust me, lots of women are living on that edge. I know that edge well.) For myself, I love Christmas. And I love food. And I love holiday music. And I love parties. So I'm going to have a party and hope some people will come hang out. (Win win!)

Friends and food and Louisa May Alcott--these things made up the ornament exchange this year.

I look forward to it for so long, then in a blink, it's over. The truth is, I know how much I love to open my inbox and find an invite to some type of gathering, it's for this reason that I love to throw a Christmas party every year. Sometimes I start saying to Jeff, maybe in late September or early October, that I probably won't do a party this year. Jeff just shakes his head and smiles and says, "You're going to throw a party. I know it. You know it. Vegetable lasagna knows it." (Yes, he quotes Seinfeld, and truly, I love that guy so much and couldn't do any of it without his help.) It doesn't have to be fancy, lovey. A party is just people coming together, sharing their time and space with each other. Maybe December is too hectic. A January get together or night out would be just as fun, a chance for friends to share their hopes and dreams for the new year.

Now it's on to class pajama parties and more family coming to visit! Christmas dinner and presents and carols on Christmas Eve. We saw Santa this week, and I felt like I was mentally checking off another thing on my to-do list. Santa? Check. Ornament party? Check. Shopping? Christmas cards? Check. Check. And on it goes until December 25th.

But we hold on to the memories that come with these days. I was sweeping late the other night, preparing for my sister and brother-in-law to arrive, and I turned on Christmas in Connecticut to watch while cleaning up. One of my favorites. And I love it because my Mimi introduced that movie to me. It was almost as though she was with me. She made Christmas special--cooking for her family, buying gifts for her grandchildren, welcoming us into her house--she loved these things. And that reminds me, the memories last long after the moments have passed.

I love Christmas.

For sure there's stress. A crowded schedule. Too much to do. Tired kids. Tired parents.

But woven through all that, there are these moments that are making imprints on our hearts that will last. I hope my kids remember how it feels on the nights where we bake cookies, or watch a Christmas movie, or decorate the house, or read the Christmas story.

I know I do.

Merry Christmas, loveys. I hope this holiday is extra special for you and your families.

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