The problem: I’ve been hosting a holiday party for my neighbors for many years. I drop a handmade flier with an RSVP request into everyone’s mailbox, then spend a lot of time cooking, baking and creating a warm and festive atmosphere. The feedback is always positive. The problem is that, over the past few years, I have had to chase people to get their responses, sometimes via e-mail and sometimes by calling them. Last year, a few people who didn’t say they were coming just showed up at my door. A few others called the day before to see if they could still come. This causes me so much stress.

Low road: Invite them in, take their coats and usher them into your designated “holding area,” where they can take a number and wait until the guests who did respond have made their way through the tantalizing cookie selection and have departed. 

High road: Here are a few reasons people no longer respect the time-honored tradition of stating their social intentions: 1) They forgot. This is a busy time of year, bordering on chaotic. Details get dropped. 2) They’re waiting to see if something better comes up. Feh! Good luck! 3) They don’t want to take someone else’s “place” should they need to decline at the last minute. Maybe they’ll get sick, or their kid will get sick, or they’ll just be sick of holiday parties. Almost thoughtful.

You have a few options.

This year, it’s probably best to accept that your neighbors are imperfect and rude, but you like them and you’re having this party. Trim back on the homemade tapenade and buy cookies, veggies and dip in bulk.

Next year, though, you can choose to go intimate. Limit your guest list to the faithful neighbors who make your party a priority. Do it up big for them — and for you.

A third option: If your merry and bright have run off with the reindeer, stop hosting altogether. Send out a cheery note next fall explaining that, with so much going on, you’re taking yourself out of the party mix. Wish them all the joys of the season. If you feel relief, instead of regret, you’ll know how to proceed. 

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