Middle Class Problems: We're throwing a Christmas party ... but when to send out the invitations and how many of those little pastry things should we make?


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The merry-go-round of Christmas parties has cranked reluctantly into action: at 23 Orchard Rise, there's already one stiffy on the mantelpiece pledging punch of dubious origin, and the lacy number is out of the wardrobe and ready for action.

Last year was a fallow season, so it's time for No 23 to throw a drinks do of its own, knock off a few hospitality debts, cultivate some promising new people and throw down the gauntlet to those who have already been at least once before, and whose party list it would be nice to appear on, too, once in a blue moon.

With usual suspects and newbies, there is a list of 60 or so. Minus the 30 per cent who decline at once and a 10 per cent casualty rate on the day (forgot/mother poorly/couldn't find it), a take-up of about 36 is perfect – big enough to be worth the effort, small enough to be able to get around the room twice before chucking-out time.

Harder than the list are the timings. Pick a party date at the very start of December, and the turnout could be too healthy by far. But right on top of Christmas and No 23 will be lucky to raise 10 carousers.

Communication is easier: everyone understands that the £1 per head spent buying and posting a card is better blown on prosecco, so email it is.

But when to press Send? This is even trickier than making those little pastry things. For there is only one thing worse than hosting a party, and that is discovering, once the invitations are out, that you've been invited to A Much Better Party on the same date.