HOC National Christmas Party – November 2022
The weather was kind as we travelled to The Bentley Hotel, Lincoln, for another weekend of partying with some of the HOC family and friends. Friday night was an informal get together in the bar and then in our own private Crystal Suite – where a delicious hot buffet was served to all. There was a happy flow of banter and meeting and greeting of friends old and new.
With folks from all over the country attending, it was great to see everyone getting along so well.
Guests had all received a bag of home cooked, decorated, home-baked cookies, and a full itinerary in their rooms when they checked in.
Saturday arrived too soon, and some popped out to visit the NEC and the Bike Show, or in the hotel enjoying the spa facilities, or in the nearby pub – whilst others did some local sightseeing and shopping. (There is a fantastic garden centre close by). Very generously, guests had brought gift-wrapped Christmas raffle prizes. These were placed in the disco area.
3 of our guests were celebrating birthdays close to the party date – Becky (who had a cake and flowers waiting in her room when she arrived), Tony (Pegg) and Andy (Smith) – Andy hit the big 60 a few days later! They each had birthday cupcakes and decorated chairs with birthday banners.
By the evening the scene was set, and the Crystal Suite transformed into a festive wonderland with a beautiful backdrop and Santa’s chair, a large reindeer and garlands and lights draped tastefully around the room.
The tables were beautifully laid and had party poppers, blowers, streamers, Christmas confetti and screamer balloons. With individual place cards in their holders and individual menu reminders made for each individual guest. Every guest had a unique drinks charm too, each table had a little box of table games, just to help break the ice and get everyone chatting. Everyone looked incredible – all suited and booted. Our HOC family scrubs up well!!
I booked a fabulous caricaturist to work for 3 hours capturing the characters of guests – she was costly but as you can see from the photos – she is superb at her job and all who were drawn were delighted with their pictures.
The food was exceptional (not my words – but those of several of our group) – duly passed on to Phil (the Head Chef), crackers were pulled, drinks flowing, food going down nicely. Loads of laughter and chatter filled the room and I could now relax. Our guests were happy, my job was done (almost).
There were a few surprises still – boxes of After Eights or Matchmakers for each table, or sugar-free biscuits for our diabetic guests. (Our table did the After Eight challenge – Dave and Marc were both winners!) Also – after the coffee – the guests all received a surprise Christmas present (a little bag crammed full of gifts).
It was time for the raffle before the disco… I did this somewhat differently to make it quicker. Whilst all were tucking into their deserts, I drew the raffle tickets and stuck the winning tickets to prizes (no idea what the prizes were apart from the ones that we donated).
Previously I had asked the guests to nominate a charity of their choice – noted on a piece of card. The beautiful Sophie drew 2 charities from the bag of nominations – and we all cheered when she pulled Cancer Research UK, and Dementia UK. Both very worth causes which most of us can feel connected too (especially as we get older).
We chose to split the raffle proceeds between 2 charities as it had raised the incredible, jaw-dropping amount of £430 !! Then further topped up to £450 by the wonderful Pauline Hocking.
Each charity to receive £225. Raffle done and there was just one final surprise – under 2 chairs, at my request, the staff, completely at random, had stuck envelopes. One said “Time to Celebrate” – and the winner was delighted to win a large tub of Celebrations! The winner with the Golden Ticket was then presented with a huge hamper packed full of all manner of goodies.
Then it was disco time. Brilliant disco, fabulous DJ Hannah. She played all the requests made in advance, and the playlist she had been sent. Some boogied the rest of the night away, others moved around the tables catching up with their friends, others retired to the bar.
I am so grateful to all who came (there were 68 booked, but in the end we had 63 folks partying together, (almost half of those being from East Midlands branch – what a great bunch).
We missed those who, for several reasons, could not attend and hope to see them all next year.
Some of us sat up in the bar until 2am, mixing with other late-night partygoers from another large function held in the hotel.
Sunday morning was here before you could blink and we all assembled back in the now clean and tidy, Crystal Suite. So many super Christmas jumpers, headwear and assorted festive clothing on display. Quick group shot taken by Ryan (hotel staff member who was just amazingly helpful all weekend!) – and then time to say our Cheerios’ and go back to our rooms, pack, and check out. Promises made to keep in touch and not just meet up once a year.
This was the very last National Christmas party I shall ever organise, so it was a huge relief that it all went so well. I loved doing all of it and look forward to being a guest at all future parties held.
My heartfelt thanks to my partner in crime, Dave, for his support and lugging around the heavy stuff and to hotel staff Hayley and Ryan whose help was invaluable.
I know that there was the odd niggle to do with the hotel but they were dealt with efficiently.
East Midlands branch will be delighted to hear that their very own Becky, is organising the 2023 party! Becky will be advertising it in due course…
The biggest thank you goes to all who came and supported this annual national event – what a fantastic group you all were – thank you so much.
Hoping that all had a very Merry Christmas and hoping that 2023 will be a year filled with HOC events and good times, and memorable for all the right reasons.
See you in 2023! Jennie xx