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Myth 1: The Hostess Never Has Fun at Her Own Party
Why throw a party if you're not going to enjoy it? That's the attitude of Rita Konig, the author of Rita's Culinary Trickery: How to Get Dinner on the Table Even If You Can't Cook. England's low-maintenance entertaining expert says rule number one is to avoid obsessing over pleasing every individual guest.

It's your party: play the music you love, serve what you like to eat, keep it simple, and lead by example. "Just remember to have a drink, smile, and dance," she says. "That's about all you need to do." Konig also suggests stirring things up by inviting a few people you don't know very well but whom you think will have a good time, which keeps things interesting for all.

If you're going for hostess of the year, make inexpensive but thoughtful goodie bags. For a Saturday night gathering, Konig picks up the first run of the Sunday papers and hands them out with breakfast treats (such as scones) to departing guests. And for those who are going to be nervous about running the show no matter how prepared they are, Konig suggests teaming up to throw the party with a pal. That way you share the responsibility, the expenses, and the rockin' good time. 

Charlotte Druckman
Wrapping Paper

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Myth 2: Wrapping Pretty Presents is Back-Breaking Work
Okay, this one could be true—if you're armed with a near-depleted roll of tape and rusty scissors. "The experience won't be grueling if you have the right supplies ready to go and in one place," says Melanie Nerenberg, special projects director at Kate's Paperie, a New York City stationery chain that wrapped several thousand gifts last holiday season.

Nerenberg recommends using a heavy, office-style tape dispenser, so you can rip pieces off with one hand, and razor-sharp scissors. Simplify the process by choosing a single color scheme, white paper and red bows, for example. Or you can go the gift bag route, which doesn't have to cost $5 a pop. Nerenberg suggests you buy brown paper bags with handles, snip off the handles, and replace them with velvet ribbons. (Just use a hole punch and thread them through.) "Tie on an ornament if you want to make it really festive"—without breaking a sweat.

Jenny Bailly
Holiday Shopping

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Myth 3: You Have To Go Broke Buying Gifts
The average American's top holiday wishes are (1) Good health, (2) Winning the lottery, and (3) World peace. So dig deep for perspective, and refuse to spend yourself into debt this year. With a little thought and creativity, you can cut your December purchasing by half—yes, I said half. Here's how:

1. Decide who on your list doesn't need a present to feel loved/valued/professionally maintained. Make a donation to charity in their names. Voilà, you've given a bit to world peace.

2. Don't buy cards—send back the ones your friends sent you last year. After a few years, the notes become a log of your friendship (Cost: $.44).

3. Give yummy treats from your home state, like California's Marie Callender's Original Cornbread Mix ($4.54; or Rhode Island quahog (a local clam) clam chowder ($5.50;

4. For those few regular sorts of gifts you must spend more on, George Whalin, president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants, advises that you comparison shop (using Google Product Search or, be aware of online shipping costs, and shop early—two to three weeks before Thanksgiving in stores, and online in October.

Amanda Robb

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Myth 4: Traditions Must Be Followed

O staffers tell tradition to buzz off.

"My family got tired of eating the traditional holiday menu every year. So we experiment with new recipes together, and there's no pressure for the meal to be perfect. The key to being creative with confidence is having the number for a takeout place that stays open on Christmas." 
Senior copy editor Susanne Ruppert

"Every Thanksgiving my family goes out to eat. The first time we did it we were embarrassed, and we skulked into a neighborhood spot only to find it packed with other families. Now we use the holiday as an excuse to try a new fancy restaurant." 
Executive beauty editor Jenny Bailly

"Years ago my family decided that the nicest Christmas present we could give each other was no present—eliminating a major source of holiday stress. Instead, we put our gift energy into birthdays, and have made Thanksgiving our family holiday." 
Deputy editor Sudie Redmond 

"At holiday time, my family celebrates our mix of cultures. Our get-together has become a blend of foods, from Chinese (my mom's stewed pork) to Italian (my brother-in-law's pasta) to British (my husband's bread pudding). It's actually as American a tradition as you can get." 
Executive fashion editor Jasmine Chang

"Missing Christmas is generally grounds for disownment in my family, but last year my husband and I passed the holiday in his native Germany, and spent a weekend with my parents in mid-January. There were no huge meals, no receiving line of second cousins, just quiet quality time opening presents and trading stories. It was so civilized and relaxing that in the end I think even my folks were convinced it's the way to go." 
Senior editor Lauren Iannotti
Woman in Winter

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Myth 5: 'Tis The Season with The Highest Suicide Rate
In fact, suicide rates are lowest during winter months. But you wouldn't know that if you read your local daily. For 30 Christmases and counting, Florida psychologist Peter A. Wish has been hearing the same grievance from clients: "Women feel that they have to do it all—and everybody would just as soon dump everything on them." When you're spread too thin, everyone around you suffers; doing less is good for your sanity and for your family.

Repeat that mantra until you're convinced, and then start cutting. Psychologist and stress expert James Quick suggests going down your errands list and asking yourself, Is this chore most important to me right now? If the answer is no, cross it off and forget about it. And when all else fails, do what we do: Pour a glass of wine, put Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" on playback, and breeze out island-style, because every little ting gonna be all right.

Carla Murphy