DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have hosted a large Christmas party in our home almost every year since 1994. We invite around 300 people, a combination of business associates and friends, with about 150 usually attending.
We skipped a year some years back, due to our financial situation at the time, and the fact that I was working two jobs. My husband insisted on inserting a little note in our Christmas cards, stating something to the effect that we didn't have a party that year because we were taking a break, but we wished them all well. I didn't feel that it was necessary to explain ourselves to everyone, especially business associates, and that just sending them a Christmas card was fine.
The party is usually catered, with a theme of Christmas in another country, with that country's food and traditions. I decorate the house lavishly, in connection with the theme for that year. We've had bagpipers, hula dancers, high school chamber groups and other musical entertainment to enhance the evening.
Needless to say, it's a lot of work and a major expense, even when I do the food myself. We love to do it, and our friends look forward to it, always eager to visit with friends they haven't seen in a while, and to enjoy whatever the theme is. They ask me about it all year -- what is your theme this year, what is the date, etc.
We're pretty sure that we won't be able to have the party this year, and my husband would like to send out a note to everyone again, because he doesn't want them to think that we can't afford to have one or that we had one and didn't invite them. I don't know exactly what we would say, but I feel that this is not necessary and will just draw more attention to the fact that we aren't having it.
Some of the guests are people he still deals with in his business, or may need to do so in the future, so I do understand his concern about them thinking he is still prosperous, although surely everyone understands the state of the economy this year.
In your opinion, is it appropriate to send such a note, and if so, what message should we convey?
GENTLE READER: It hardly seems fair that the burden should be on long-time hosts to announce a non-party, as if they were shirking an obligation.
Yet Miss Manners is aware that many guests come to think of annual parties as an entitlement. People who may not have made any effort to extend hospitality to their hosts during an entire year often feel aggrieved if they are not invited annually.
For this reason, Miss Manners cautions generous hosts to vary their habits. They should either skip a year or two now and then, or give, for example, a Twelfth Night party instead of a Christmas one, or choose some other holiday or occasion.
She agrees that explanations, and even warnings, are unnecessary. But if anyone should be so bold as to complain, you could say cheerfully that while you love to give parties, you thought you would give someone else a turn to do so.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is a proper response to a compliment bestowed upon one's pet? Because of his striking appearance, my dog receives numerous compliments when out in public.
GENTLE READER: "Say 'thank you,' Fido."