The other day I googled “When are the Oscars?

For the very first time in my life.

Most years, I am barely even aware of the event until it hits the news the next day. This year, I’m wondering why no one has invited me to a Mennonite-themed Oscars party.

After all, it isn’t every year that a movie based on a book based on an event in an obscure corner of the Menno-world is nominated for an Oscar.

So there ought to be parties.

But it has occurred to me now that there could be a good reason for my mailbox remaining devoid of an invitation to a Mennonite-themed Oscars party: no one actually knows how to throw one. The worldly people don’t know how to make it Mennonite and the Mennonites don’t know how to do an Oscars event.

So in the spirit of public service, I quickly googled “How to Host an Oscars Party” and have drawn up some tips for how to Mennoify the event.

The Red Carpet

The Oscars famously begin with The Red Carpet. Here, various celebrities walk along a red carpet on their way into the theatre while onlookers gawk and take photographs. Mennonites famously hate being gawked at and aren’t always crazy about strangers taking our photos. Moreover, red is one of our least favourite carpet colours, according to my exhaustive but unofficial and rather haphazard survey of Mennonite Church sanctuary carpeting.

To resolve both these difficulties, I suggest using a Beige Carpet, preferably one of those rag rugs your great-aunt made from old pantyhose back in the 1970s (if you don’t have one, go ask your great-aunt why not). Beige is less flashy than red and will give your party that festive yet frugal atmosphere of separation from the world that you are looking for.

The majority of progressive Mennonites are perfectly fine with photography and would probably have fun dressing up in finery and having their pictures taken. However, to honour the more conservative Mennonites of our faith, I suggest you take a page out of the Old Order Mennonites’ book and allow gawking and photos but enlist your children to subtly sabotage any photography with the clever use of mirrors. This is a fun way to include children and make the party an inter-generational event.

Dress Code

Do not even consider encouraging your guests to dress plain for the event. Someone will invariably mix up which head covering is appropriate for which dress pattern and you could well find your guests enacting a Church schism right there in your living room.

Instead, for a fun twist, ask them to dress up as their favourite Mennonite. Your guests can easily pick up a Doris Janzen Longacre or Armin Wiebe costume at a local thrift shop. If I’m their favourite Mennonite, they can just wear a tunic and leggings or you can tell them to head over to Shelley Klassen designs where I picked up the dress for my own awards nomination ceremony back in November. Remind any Mennonite guests that they should not come as themselves as that would be prideful.

Making Predictions

The Academy is made up of humans and humans can make errors.

Add fun, excitement and truth-telling to your evening by determining the proper winners through the traditional method of choosing by Lot. To prepare for this activity, secure 5 hymn books and enough slips of paper for every category and every nominee you want to predict. For each category, one of the slips needs to have a passage from the Book of Proverbs. Traditionally, Mennonites used Proverbs 16:33 but feel free to use other proverbs that will help get your guests into the party mood. Place empty slips of paper in 4 hymn books and the slip with the proverb on it in the remaining hymn book. Do not allow the guests to see which book has which slip.

Once your guests are gathered, assign a nominee to each person and ask them to select a hymn book. The one who chooses the hymn book with the proverb in it, is the winner in that category. Either that, or they have to preach for the next four Sundays. Make it both for extra excitement!

Don’t bother with the predictions for the Best Picture category as we are all going to just assume we know that the one with Mennonite content should win, even though all those worldly judges probably won’t realize it.

Women Talking notably did not use this method to decide whether to do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. But, to be fair, this wasn’t a method that was traditional to Old Colony Mennonites and I would have complained heartily if Miriam Toews and Sarah Polley had dragged that Swiss Mennonite tradition into the story. Because, although the book and movie aren’t a realistic portrayal of the Old Colony, I for one am grateful that they did not commit the grievous sin of mixing them up with the Old Order Mennonites, unlike some others I could mention.

Viewing the Awards Show

I haven’t been to a lot of Mennonite parties where watching TV has been a major feature of the evening. Some of us don’t even own a television set, and among those of us who do, any who own a large screen TV are probably a little embarrassed by the indulgence.

That’s OK. You can still host a Mennonite-themed Oscars party.

One option is to dig out the small TV that you bought in 1978 and that still works perfectly well, thank you very much. If you do own a large screen, you can subtly hide it behind a quilt for the evening.

Alternately, you could stream The Oscars on the computer that you use for work and devotional purposes. Simply borrow the projector from your Church and throw up the stream on a white sheet tacked up on your wall (over top of that embarrassing large screen TV if necessary). Most Churches are perfectly happy to let you borrow their equipment as long as you attend from time to time. The time-honoured procedure for this is to show up and take the equipment and then fervently pray that no one notices it is missing before you return it.

Note that the protocols for borrowing equipment also apply to hymn books should you not have enough of these for the above Predictions by Lot party game.

Mennonite Oscars Bingo

Because Mennonites are not accustomed to watching TV at their gatherings, be aware that any Mennonites in attendance might wander off and start playing Rook, Dutch Blitz or Cards against the Mennonites, begin a discussion of Biblical hermeneutics or religious ethics, or even start an impromptu hymn sing.

To avoid this, and also because the Oscars are pretty dull viewing, you may want to introduce a party game. Enough other people find the show dull that several people have created Oscars Bingo Cards which seek to keep the viewer engaged by asking them keep their eyes peeled for someone stumbling up the stairs or crying. These cards are unlikely to prevail against the lure of Dutch Blitz.

Try these Mennonite Oscars Cards instead. Download, print and cut out the cards, ignoring pages 1 and 2 (i.e. do not use the Caller Card). Provide each guest with their own card and a marker to strike off the events when they happen. Once someone has a completed a row of their Bingo card, they should yell Blitz! and then everyone else should then take the opportunity to scrutinize the answers, declare at least one of them invalid and then continue with the game.

It is true that it may be more difficult to win this version of Oscars Bingo given that some of the squares ask for things like a mention of the Sermon of the Mount in an Oscar acceptance speech. But, hey, we can’t all be winners.

Swag Bags

The Oscars are famous for presenting their guests of honour with extravagant party favours. Mennonites, on the other hand, are famous for being too cheap to even tip their service providers. The Mennofication of swag bags, therefore, requires some creative thinking. To put together More-with-Less Swag Bags for your guests, you will need to consider how you can create more guilt and work for your guests with less work and expense for you. My first suggestion is back issues of the Canadian Mennonite magazine and your own Church bulletins. These are especially appropriate if you have guests who have not been to Church in awhile and/or if you suspect they do not read their own copy of the Canadian Mennonite from cover to cover.

It’s also fun to include something thematic in the swag bag. You could, for instance, include a pencil stub like the one August uses in Women Talking to take down the minutes, or a live chicken. Alternately, how about going through your pile of scrap fabric and providing each of your guests with a square of black fabric that they can fashion into their very own Women Talking head kerchief? Not that they should wear it at the party — see note above about the dangers of trying plain dress at parties.

Food and Drinks

There is no shortage of food options for your Mennonite-themed party snacks. The lack of food in Women Talking is by far the most unrealistic aspect of the film. It is a strange female imagination, indeed, that did not include regular interruptions of other women bringing the makings of faspa or plates of verenijke up into the hayloft. You may want to serve faspa at your own party as it is always good for a festive occasion. Mind, you do not need to limit yourself to foods that Russian Mennonites in Bolivia might eat. The movie played fast and loose with setting and so can you. It was filmed in Southern Ontario after all, so feel free to add summer sausage or even shoo fly pie to your menu.

For beverages, you will serve cocktails (and/or mocktails). I have included a brand new cocktail here but you could also serve your favourites from Menno-Nightcaps. You might even include a copy of the book in each of your guest’s swag bags. Just to show that you’re the cool kind of Mennonite.

Because that wouldn’t be prideful at all.

Send me a DM if you want a bulk order discount.

A Mennonite in Hollywood

Looking for a cocktail for your Mennonite-themed Oscars Party? I’ve Menno-fied the “Hollywood Cocktail” here for your drinking pleasure.

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz pineapple juice
  • 3/4 oz chambord
  • 3-4 dashes of rhubarb bitters

Measure all ingredients into a shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake thoroughly and serve in a cocktail glass.

Here’s to the most controversial Mennonite movie since Hazel’s People, award ceremonies, and the Mennofication of everything.