HOLIDAY CHEER DOES NOT REQUIRE ALCOHOL!
As we enter the holiday season, I would like to wish each of you a joyous holiday. This is a time of celebration and most of us will be attending or hosting holiday parties where drinking is often more prevalent than at other times of the year. We associate drinking with celebration and, indeed, it is often an integral part of a festive occasion. Many of us, however, will experience holiday celebrations where someone has too much to drink and ruins the party for everyone.
Responsible party hosts know that holiday celebrations don’t have to center on alcoholic drinks. Good cheer can be experienced with few alcoholic beverages or none at all. The best parties are those that are well planned and take into account who’s on the guest list. The best parties let guests know that “a drink” doesn’t necessarily mean an alcoholic drink. Especially with children and nondrinkers present, it is important to offer an attractive variety of nonalcoholic beverages. In fact, if children are on hand, strongly consider an alcohol-free party.
As a party host, let your guests know up front that they don’t have to have an alcoholic beverage. If you offer drinks upon their arrival, begin by listing a range of nonalcoholic beverages followed by drinks with alcohol. An excellent approach is to avoid letting alcohol dominate your entertainment. You can welcome guests and “break the ice” by directing them to people they know or to games or activities that will engage them. Once they are relaxed they can choose a beverage based on taste rather a need to relieve social anxiety.
The nonalcoholic drink should be presented as equally appealing as an alcoholic beverage. For instance, offering wine in long-stemmed crystal glasses appears more attractive than soda pop in cans. The possible implication: Wine is more important and thus more desirable.
If teens or young adults are present, this distinction does send a message about the importance of drinking in our celebrations. Our youth are already bombarded with advertising promoting drinking. Research has found the alcohol industry spends almost a third of its magazine advertising dollars in ten magazines with at least 25 percent youth readership.
Holiday parties offer adults an opportunity to serve as good role models for children. In homes where alcohol is not the focus of holiday celebrations, children are less likely to grow up thinking that drinking is the key ingredient to having a good time. Kids are keenly aware of persons whose anti-drinking talk conflicts with their behavior. Parents need to “walk their talk” when it comes to alcohol use. Children will question and challenge their parents when they’re being sent mixed messages.
Party hosts need not offer guests a limitless supply of alcoholic drinks; figure on one or two drinks per guest who drinks. Nothing can ruin a party faster than an inebriated guest who becomes obnoxious, unruly or ill. Intoxicated guests can change the mood of a party. People start feeling uncomfortable and often think they have to watch what they say or do. Always be on alert for signs of excessive drinking. If necessary, inform the overindulgent guest that he or she has had enough, and do it graciously. Enlist the help of a spouse or friend if necessary.
Bear in mind it’s not always the number of drinks that impairs driving ability after the party. As few as two drinks may compromise driving ability for some guests. Medication, body weight, amount of food eaten, fatigue, health and mental attitude can all play a factor in the way a person responds to alcohol. You can help prevent guests from drinking too much by limiting salty, thirst-inducing appetizers. Generous helpings of cheese, meat, vegetables and fruits are nutritious and help absorb alcohol.
If in spite of your best efforts if a guest has drunk too much, do everything possible to prevent him or her from driving. That might mean asking a sober guest to drive an impaired one home. It might mean calling a taxi. It might mean providing sober transportation yourself. It might mean having the person stay in your home until they’re sober. It might mean taking their keys or temporarily disabling their car. It might even mean calling the police if they insist on driving. They will thank you later.
Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and joyous holiday season. Hopefully it will be one free of alcohol-related problems.