Traditional get together party menu, theme, ideas , decor

Traditional ceremonies come with a baggage of rituals. However it also works in favor as most of the planning is taken care by the same rituals. You are free to add but do not opt to delete oops, avoid any of it. Your intention is to enhance the experience so in the bargain do not end up displeasing elders.
Ask the elders on what have they been doing especially in the years when they had newly started following. Most probable answers would be when I was younger my mother or mother in law did so and so but then who does it now. Probe them here exactly to know what is it that is not done now.
You may end up finding some really exciting ideas. 

Theme & Decoration - You really do not have to do anything extra but follow the rituals. If there are guests expected encourage them to dress up traditionally. Once the food and guest list is confirmed decide on the decorations. Traditional decorations are really fun and can be a family activity on the previous nights. 
I am listing some of the ideas for events celebrated in this part of India. 
- Rangoli made at the entrance and near the pooja place. 
- Small flat pots filled with water having floating candles or seasonal flowers
- Embroidered & Jari borders cushions, table runners, clothes etc.
- Flower garlands for the entrance door.
- Pearls or beads garlands for the entrance.
- Knitted or Crocheted garlands can also be used for decoration to be kept under the pooja or Prasad dishes
- Fancy and traditional pottery, hand painted crafts can also be exhibited during this time. 

- Creative garnishes with vegetables and fruits can be displayed now

Activities & Favors  - Most functions are associated with some rituals which can be made exciting by being pompous. Invite everyone around to participate and give roles to each to ensure participation.
Haldi- Kumkum – Plan some games which are specifically focused on ladies. In Maharashtra we play ukhane (rhymes with spouses names), other small tele matches (sniffing the confetties with straws, threading needles, separating mixed bags pulses or beads etc.)
Holi – Besides playing colors you can also arrange antakshari, singing and dancing events while you are busy managing the food preparations.
Diwali – Popular game is playing cards, you can be innovative by deciding on the kind of games. You can also play housie or bingo to make it a test your luck event. Otherwise, bursting fire crackers (environment friendly) can also be included

Some customs ask for giving back favors to the guests. Most popular in Indian context is giving piece of cloth with coconut and rice (Oti bharne). You can add bangles, Bindi packets, accessories etc to jazz it up.
For diwali gifts you can consider including diyas, rangoli packets, garlands etc.

Fortunately we have so much variety in the traditional recipes and luckily every festival or ritual has its standardized menu which means we just need to follow it.
Sankrant – Gul poli, payasam, kheer
Holi – Puranpoli, gujiya, pakode are more popularly made.
Ganesh festival – Modak, laadoo
Diwali – Sweets and Savories

You should look at the customary courses and serve all at one go in the standard sit down format(pangat). If space is a constraint, you can opt for move around with your dish option. Put all the food at one single place so people can help themselves. Normally, ladies serve the kids and males before they eat (Don’t hold me for gender bias – it is usually helpful) Once they are satisfied, you can easily sit down with the ladies and enjoy your meal peacefully chitchatting or gossiping.
To compensate , make the counterpart serve or help you with the post clean up process.
A detailed menu for vegetarian fare can be as described below. I have more western recipes, but will be updating with more dishes across India as I start collecting or posting them.
Snacks (farsan) – 1 or 2
Dhokla/ Alu wadi / Khandwi/ mutter patties/ kothimbir wadi
          Chapati/ Tandoori Roti/ Naan/ Puri/Puranpoli
Vegetables /Gravy
          Dry – Aloo Methi/Aloo Jeera/ Bhindi Fry/ Kale Channe/ Undhiyu
          Gravy - Chhole/ Usal/ Mix Vegetable Kadai/ Vegetable Kolhapuri/ Vegetable Kurma
Rice (1 variety)
            Pulav/ Jeera Rice / Biryani/ Masala Bhat/ Masoor Bhat
  Set aside some portion of plain rice as it may be required for naivedyam
Dal/ Kadhi 
               Katacha rassa(if puranpoli)/ tomato saar/ Dal tadka/ Gatta Kadhi/ Gujarati Kadhi/Dahi Kadhi/
           Koshimbir/ pumpkin bharta 
           Gajar halwa / Gulab Jamun/ Jalebi/ Kheer/ Phirni

Serve  pickle, salt, chutney, curd, buttermilk along side.

General tips
-Do not serve it as separate courses, Serve all dishes except rice in the first serving including sweet. Serve rice as second serving only when they are done with the rotis. Vegetables, snacks, sweet and everything else should be re-offered at regular intervals. 
- Insist on serving even when the guest refuse the first time. But do not overdo as it also become an issue later on.
- Pooja place should be separate and out of general sitting area to avoid any untoward happenings.
Do not force  elders or guests to participate in fun activities too much if they appear uncomfortable – this may not go well with all.
- For guests who are not familiar with your rituals, introduce them the same in detail, they would be happy to go along or step aside until we are done with it. It is also okay to ask them to join just before or during lunch time to avoid their inconvenience


Harini said…
very interesting compilation!
preeti garg said…
Good one post.....Awesome

Preeti's Kitchen Life
Unknown said…
beautiful post - Love the rangolis and the menu ideas :)
Anjali Shukla said…
I loved that utter-colorful Rangoli!! :)
Aarthi said…
nice useful post

Anusha said…
the rangolis are so beautiful pradnya and i m sure you are a party butterfly by now
Sangeetha M said…
Interesting n your rangoli looks so beautiful n colorful...great work!!
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Rasi said…
great tips again.. i love all the suggestions & the rangali's are fab :)
veena said…
Again a very useful post. Loved the rangoli
Suma Gandlur said…
I have been enjoying this series of yours.
Srivalli said…
That's wonderful that you managed to cover this festival part of our customs too..
Gayathri Kumar said…
Very nice write up...
Unknown said…
Very use ful and beautiful post good job..
Unknown said…
Nice write up n beautiful ...
Unknown said…
Nice write up n beautiful ...

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