Advice for Enjoying the Festivities

1. You don't have to accept every invitation, so choose gatherings that make you most comfortable: Wild and woolly bashes with masses of guests??Holiday open houses? Small dinners with friends?

2. Promise yourself that you can leave after 30 minutes if you're truly miserable. Just knowing you have an out eases the stress of schmoozing—and you'll probably end up staying longer than half an hour.

3. Instead of going to a party alone, contact a friend who's also been invited and arrange to meet for a drink before. It's easier to face a crowd with a partner, and you'll have someone to compare notes with.

4. Collect a few icebreakers: When you find yourself standing at the bar or reaching a dead end in a conversation, news of a sighting of Bessie, the Lake Erie monster, or some other tidbit that caught your attention will make it that much easier to mingle.

5. When all else fails, take a break from small talk and spend a few minutes with the host's children, dog, hamster, Lava lamp, etc.

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