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Christmas Day Lunch dilemma - what would you do?

hi there Chowhounds, have got a curved ball situation regarding a Christmas Day Lunch that I've been invited to at a friends house.

This year, I've been unable to spend Christmas with my OH who has had to travel overseas so I am staying at home this year. A good friend of mine who lives nearby had suggested that I join him (and fellow christmas 'orphans/waifs & strays' at his house for Christmas Lunch, which I thought was very kind of him to do.

Last week, I asked if there was anything I could do to contribute to the event (you know in terms of cooking/bringing something etc - apparently he and another friend (who I have met 2 times but do not know so well) were going to be doing the cooking. He did say that if I could bring a few bottles of wine for the meal that would be great. So I've bought 2 bottles of white wine, 2 bottles of red and some nice chocolates. From what I understood from my friend I think there will be around 7 or 8 people in total at the lunch.

I've been out and about today, visiting friends and doing some last minute shopping. When I got back, there was a message from my friend on my answer machine, saying that for some reason, the cost of the christmas dinner food shopping was much higher than expected and that I now need to make a financial contribution towards the lunch, which totally contradicts our previous conversation and to be frank, for an English person a bit of a "nasty surprise".

I'm a bit at a loss to know how to react appropriately to this. I feel rather like I have been tricked, conned or stitched up. I am starting to feel like I do not want to attend, it has upset me that much that I might end up getting bitter and twisted which would ruin the spirit of the shared meal on this special day.

Do I just suck it up and pay up?. He has said he requires a contribution from me of US $50..

I would say this seems quite out of character to me for him to behave like this. He frequently eats at my house, we've eaten dinner at his, he's normally a good host. The subject of money has never got involved in our prevous transactions and it is leaving a bitter taste as it now feels like a "done deal" without any prior consultation. I've not yet returned his call as it is late here in the UK and I'm still at a loss to know what to say!.
There will be time to make a call in the morning. Lunch is due to be served at 3pm.

Should I just put this down to Christmas over-emotion?
Any insight/angles or coping strategies for dealing with this graciously, tactfully yet appropriately assertively would be most appreciated.

It's not a topic that I can really ignore, it is like an elephant in the room!

Seasons greetings and really welcome your diverse advice and wise counsel on this one...

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  1. I would be very annoyed to receive such a message, especially as you already bought the wine.

    I'd just say that you don't have the extra $$ available as you had only budgeted for the wine and therefore will be unable to attend.

    1. This is upsetting on a number of levels. Your host and his pal had no idea how much they'd be spending or if they had a budget? And fifty bucks per? That's $300 from six guests. Wow. I think I'd either point out the cost of my contribution if I still wanted to go, or restock my cellar (!) and hunker down with a book and the television. I can't help with the bitterness, because I'd have it in spades. Merry Christmas, however it plays out!

      1. I would not suck it up. As has already been pointed out, that is a very large food budget for a home-cooked meal. I agree that you could politely apologize that (with the wine) this is more than you'd budgeted, so unfortunately you won't be able to attend. And I would stick to that ... it doesn't sound like these folks are necessarily in the Christmas spirit.

        1. You could put that story in the dictionary under the definition of chutzpah.

          I’d bail. And probably lose a friend over it. But I’d be dying to know what’s on the menu. Caviar, foie gras, and a standing prime rib roast? I think I could bring that in for 7 or 8 at $50/head--including wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JoanN

            I was thinking the same thing! What's on the lunch menu that takes a home cooked meal to $3-400?!? I think the caviar, prime rib, king crab etc route can be about the only way to spend that much on lunch that's cooked at home.

          2. I don't think yours is Christmas over-emotion. This would piss me off at any time of the year. If they needed to pool money, that should have been clear at the time of the invitation, not the day before. And the fact that they had already asked you to contribute the wine just adds insult to injury.

            Here in the Eastern US, I am hosting 9 for dinner. The food cost (6 lb roast, 3 lb fish, 1 lb shrimp plus salad, fresh green beans, peas, corn, a couple loaves of good bread, etc) was under $300 (Yeah, I know, 3 times the food needed ;). The wine, beer, champagne, etc and desserts are not included in that amount. But then your friends asked you to bring the wine, so perhaps the other guests are providing the other non-dinner elements? So $50 seems really steep. Then again, I wouldn't dream of asking $1 to share a holiday (or any) meal at my home.

            So to answer your question: "<Friend> I am so sorry I did not get your message until late last night. I hate to call on the morning of the lunch, but I really cannot make it today. Like most people, I'm stretched very thin at holiday time. After purchasing the 4 bottles of wine, and even purchasing some nice chocolates for the occasion, I just don't have a spare $50. Had I been aware of the need for a contribution weeks ago, I may have been able to adjust my spending accordingly. Unfortunately, that's just not possible now. I'm sorry I'll miss your company today and hope to see you soon."

            Then relax, have a glass or two of the red with those chocolates and enjoy your holiday. And perhaps contemplate that lunch without wine and chocolate (I say snarkily).