23rd Dec 2019
Niamh Hopkins dissects the glittering madness of party season, and how it’s the one time of year to truly let loose.
We’re in the depths of December and the annual festive frenzy is well and truly underway. WhatsApp groups and email threads are alight and the party season is in full flight.
Social anxiety stifles even the most seasoned-party goer — whether it’s panicking about ‘double-booking’, convincing yourself you’ll be totally fine to follow your festive school reunion with a family brunch — or panicking about having to go out at all. But it’s the season of ‘must-go’ and ‘FOMO’, where meeting old friends you would happily avoid all year becomes compulsory and everyone must wear sequins and glitter and drink hot wine they wouldn’t dare touch outside of December.
Personally, I love party season. While it’s become de rigueur to admit to preferring to stay in, wrapped in fleece and engrossed in Netflix with networking primarily done through social media, it’s the one time of year when friends, even the oldest and stalest of friendships, can benefit from a hot drink and a sprinkle of glitter. I love staying in on my couch (a couch I’ll be paying off for another 22 months), but equally I love a chance to get dressed up and catch up under the twinkling lights amid the festive cheer and I’m not ashamed to say it.
My love of parties
My love of parties began at a very early age. As far back as five, I remember my father bundling myself and my two younger brothers into the car to depart for his Aunt Toni’s on Dublin’s Navan Road. Christmas, and some other choice occasions throughout the year, was a time for the Hopkins clan to gather and exchange stories and catch-up. The table was adorned with a ‘spread’ – a most magnificent buffet feast that remains one of my favourite meals to this day.
From hard boiled eggs expertly halved, tiny squares of brown bread layered with smoked salmon and butter sneaking out from underneath, to endless slices of ham decorated with quartered tomatoes and cucumber. Drinks were poured from crystal decanters and my uncles sipped from tumblers while the aunts fussed and ensured everyone was topped up throughout.
Later, at aged 12, I had the privilege of being the only grandchild invited to my grandparents 40th wedding anniversary party. As the eldest grandchild, I was in awe of going to a party on a Saturday night surrounded by adults. I got to choose a new outfit, from Dunnes Stores in the Northside Shopping Centre – and, decked out in my green corduroy pinafore and white blouse and knee-socks, I bounded up the stairs of my Dad’s office to show off my party style to his colleagues as we collected him for this special occasion.
Later, as a teenager, parties took a less enjoyable turn. Forced somewhat to attend parties with my friends, I looked forward to bedtime far too much. Yet, I persevered to be part of the gang; talking to people I didn’t like, kissing boys I didn’t fancy and downing drinks I would later throw up, such was my distaste for them. This continued into my early 20s when the gang’s party of choice was an after-hours session following a night of techno – music I never quite got into. I danced throughout and savoured this new city centre social life but my favourite part was always the Nitelink home, where I could indulge in hour-long chats without the loud music in my ear. So many nights were spent shivering on D’Olier St. waiting for the ‘Fightlink’ or ‘Nightmare’ as we dubbed this eventful bus home.
I once tried to earn bonus social points by turning up at a session with free pizzas from my part-time job. Arriving into the smoked-filled sitting room of a house along the beach, my pizzas were rejected as the guests were busy dancing with eating the furthest thing from their minds. While I think back and shudder, some of these nights also helped me forge lifelong friendships with people I still see nowadays – only now we can afford to get taxis home and there’s no awful techno.
I dreaded certain parties for several years until I reached that point in adulthood where I realised I could control my own social life. Nowadays, I have rediscovered my childhood love of a good gathering and enjoy partying on my terms. I have progressed to drinks I enjoy, have settled on a man to kiss under the mistletoe and have mastered the art of leaving in good time so as not to be hungover the next day (mostly!).
I’m really looking forward to this year’s party season – to the double-bookings, the party dresses and blow-dries, the office party antics and the unexpected ‘sure feck it it’s Christmas’ last minute parties. All that eating and talking! It’s my favourite time of year and for good reason – I will eat smoked salmon for 12 days straight and embrace mulled wine for a month.
I’ve even got my eye on a new pinafore dress – a party look that’s back in style!
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