Holiday parties are highly overrated. Unless someone else is hosting them.

Every year in early fall, I start planning a fabulous party, with great food, lovely decorations and a guest list that includes not only family and friends, but neighbors and other folks I’ve wanted to invite over for years. Along with their dogs.

You would be invited, too. No need to bring anything. Unless, of course, you really want to.

But somehow my party never happens. Halloween starts off with a bang. No costume party, but plenty of candy.

Then it’s Thanksgiving, which in my family’s tradition, is more about giving thanks and overeating than entertaining.

Next thing I know, it’s two days before Christmas and I’m still several gifts short. And it’s too late for prime shipping.

So I take a deep breath, slather my knees in Biofreeze, knock back two Advil and join the throngs of not-so-jolly shoppers, while praying I will find just the right gifts and that when I get home, exhausted and broke, I’ll remember who each gift is for.

Tell me this: Who’s bright idea was it to put New Year’s Day on the calendar just a week after Christmas? Seriously?

I don’t know about you, but the week after Christmas I don’t feel like celebrating anything except the surprising fact that I’m still alive. Which is not a bad thing to celebrate. As long as I don’t have to host a party for it.

Honestly? I think the best thing we could do for ourselves and each other is to declare a national holiday for the first week after Christmas – better yet, let’s make it two weeks – in which we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do, not even get dressed or go to work or talk to each other.

We would still need to eat, of course. That’s always a problem, especially if we have children to feed. I remember picking my three up from school, thinking, “Oh, Lord, they’re probably going to want to eat. Again.”

The holiday I’m proposing wouldn’t ban eating. Or bathing. Or other necessities. It would simply be two weeks off from things that involve work. And socializing. And politics ...

Forget two weeks, let’s make it a month. Maybe then, I’d host a party to celebrate doing whatever we want – providing, of course, that it doesn’t hurt anybody or break any laws.

The truth is, I love a good party. Take the one my husband and I attended recently.

It was hosted by dear friends who have hosted it faithfully every year for 50 years.

He’s a retired teacher who taught with my late husband. She is the angel who took me under her wing long ago and answered all my questions on nursing and mothering and life.

I was a regular at that party until I moved 500 miles away. Fortunately I moved back and could make it this year.

A lot can change if you don’t see someone for 20 years or so. But when I looked in their eyes and hugged their necks, they seemed the same as always.

That was also true for others at that party – old friends I had known and loved and missed for far too long. My new husband (of 15 years) had never met most of them, but they welcomed him and, as usual, he fit right in.

It was such a gift. And the eggnog and ham were better than anything I’d have served.

That’s the mark of a great party. It welcomes oldtimers and newcomers alike. It lets us connect and remember who we were once, and who we are now.

We may never get to celebrate a National Do What You Want Month. But who knows? Maybe next year, I’ll host a party and invite you and everybody I can think of, and all your dogs.

Or not.

Either way, I hope my friends will invite me to their party. It’s a lovely thing to renew old ties and make new ones. Especially if I don’t have to host.

– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.