A special hour devoted to happy times with friends is revered in American bars from coast to coast – but the Happy Hour is now being brought home by some of the world’s closest families.
Some pre-dinner time-out after a long day of work and school can easily be incorporated into the family routine. Casual conversation, small-bite plates and special non-alcoholic drinks can create a feeling of camaraderie between family members before moving on to dinner, homework and separate activities. Here’s now to pull off a successful Happy Hour with those nearest and dearest to your heart.
“Omit no happy hour …”
~ Shakespeare, Henry V
- Have a dedicated Happy Hour time.
Start a weekly Happy Hour tradition, preferable on a Wednesday, when everyone needs a break from the daily grind. If it’s a big hit, expand it to three times a week, or even daily. The important thing is to be consistent, and to make sure every family member knows that their presence is expected. It will soon become a favorite activity that everyone looks forward to.
- Create a relaxing and fun ambiance.
Choose a neutral place that’s not used for other activities. Set it up like a cozy coffee shop, pub or ice cream parlor – and use it strictly for the family Happy Hour. Remember that this is about the entire family, including adults, so resist the inclination to make it strictly a kid-oriented atmosphere. Turn on low-key, relaxing music, and place lighted candles on tables. You’re laying the foundation for family relationships that evolve over the years, encouraging open dialog and strong connections with other people through conversation. This means no electronics, cell phones and computer games for that one hour of the day.
- Make a miniature bar and keep it stocked.
Treat the family Happy Hour as a special treat, with a dedicated serving bar that is stocked and ready to go. The preparation for Happy Hour should not become a chore for one family member; everyone can make a small contribution, which encourages the “give and take” that forms family bonds. Purchase a small martini bar, or create one yourself out of a tall chest of drawers and a wood or stone top. Use the drawers to store colorful cocktail napkins, straws, utensils, glasses and small appetizer plates.
- Invent special Happy Hour drinks and appetizers.
Have family members create and name interesting non-alcoholic, juice-based cocktails and simple appetizers. Use fancy cocktail glasses and uniquely designed small-plates that come out only for Happy Hour. Take turns serving and “taking orders,” with a dedicated host or hostess for each Happy Hour session. Put out a “tip jar,” and let each family member leave a small token for that day’s server.
- Leave out judgments, lectures and stress.
Topics to avoid include homework, chores, work-related stress and family conflicts. Treat one another as you would a close friend, with mutual respect, equality and affection. Show a genuine interest in one another’s day, and encourage opinions about what’s going on in the world or the community – but without judgment or a lecture. Use the time to keep everyone informed about extended family members; did Grandma learn how to make pottery? Is cousin Kelly going skiing? Make family an integral part of daily conversations.
Happy families go out of their way to spend dedicated time in a safe environment where everyone matters. Create a consistent “happy hour” in which the world is not quite as big and intimidating as it sometimes seems to be.