Christmas can be an excellent time to step out of your comfort zone and bring a bit of holiday cheer into the lives of people you don’t even know. It can be as simple as bringing presents to a local shelter or donating a trunk-load of canned goods to a food bank. Or you can open your home to strangers and plan a party to spoil and surprise people you’ve never met in your life.
Find Some Strangers
So where do you go to find people you don’t know who might need a place to celebrate Christmas? It helps to imagine where you would be if you had just moved to a new city or new country.
Contact your local university or community college to see if there are any students stranded for the holidays who might appreciate a home-cooked meal and an evening with nice people. Check nearby churches and find out if they know of any families, singles, widows, or widowers who could use some extra love over the holidays.
Talk to ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers and ask if they know of any recently immigrated people who might like to practice their English and learn the holiday customs of their adopted country.
Ring up the managers of shelters or halfway houses and see if there are any residents who’d like to take the next step in their recovery by connecting with people who aren’t part of their old world.
Or simply reach out to those you may only have a nodding acquaintance with and invite your barista, bank teller, or waitress.
Hanging out with people you don’t know for an entire evening can be a bit daunting, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure a safe, happy evening for all concerned.
Before you plan your guest list, secure the assistance of a friend or two. Choose people-people, those who can strike up a conversation with anyone and put your guests at ease. It can be difficult to juggle food, drinks, and mingling with all your guests, but with a few cheery souls to help you, conversation and comfort for all concerned will be easier to manage.
The goal of a Stranger Christmas Party is to meet new people and make those people feel welcome and valued. So keep things as stress-free as possible. Make sure everyone has a comfy place to sit, plan a menu that is delicious yet easy to prepare, and look for a few ways to make your guests feel special: a personal chocolate or ornament to take home, a Christmas cracker at their seat, a wine glass bauble so no one loses their drink.
While the thought of inviting strangers over to celebrate the holidays may conjure up nostalgic scenes from “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Christmas in Connecticut,” it is wise to take precautions to protect both you and your guests. Clarify any food allergies ahead of time, avoid political and religious discussions, and keep alcohol consumption to relaxing (not drunken) levels.
Photo Credits: SplitShire, Jon Sullivan, Bdieu, and Edward Russell.