Holiday Entertaining Made Easy
Whether it’s a family gathering or an opportunity to welcome friends or work colleagues into your home during the Christmas season, the holidays are a great excuse for a party. It can be a busy season, though, so consider your timing carefully to make it as easy as possible for people to attend. Send your invitations early, whether they’re going via e-mail or regular mail. Give your guests clear information, too, about what to expect, especially if you’re doing something unique this year.
Party Ideas for Adults
Gear your party to your audience; you know best whether they’ll appreciate Frank Sinatra or Frank Zappa, after all. That being said, the following ideas can be adapted to all ages and interests.
If you have lots of house to decorate, or if you don’t mind exactly what your Christmas tree looks like, considering inviting friends and family for a decorating party. Theme it for the holidays, with carols on the stereo, movies on DVD in case the kids get bored or tired, and plenty of eggnog and hot chocolate.
All for One
Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? Consider hosting an event that raises awareness or funds (or both) for the cause. Let your guests know ahead of time what’s happening, and whether they can bring along charitable donations such as food, toys, books, or even money to help out.
Since holiday baking can often be a solitary endeavor, why not welcome company in the kitchen by inviting a few friends over to help?
This works especially well if you have a double oven, but even if you don’t, you might be able to juggle the cookie baking so that cookies that are quick to prepare get made and into the oven first. Or, stick to cookie recipes that can accommodate fridge or freezer time for the dough: You can all exchange dough and baking instructions and then bake a variety of cookies at home.
If your kitchen is too small to make this practical, consider making your party into a cookie exchange. The guidelines can vary, but one way to handle it is for everyone to bring a dozen cookies for each person—if you have six people, everyone goes home with six-dozen cookies!
Songs for your Christmas party playlist might include: "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bill Haley and the Comets; "2000 Miles" by the Pretenders; "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band; and "Wonderful Christmastime," by Paul McCartney. Look for compilations of carols and classics in the stores, too.
Suggest that guests dress up as characters from famous holiday films and videos. Examples might include George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, or Frosty the Snowman. Have one person become Santa Claus for the evening and surprise your guests with inexpensive gifts, such as homemade bread or fudge. This could also be a good way to distribute Christmas favors to everybody in attendance.
Charades might be an old chestnut, but it’s great fun when you use elements that fit the season. Try Christmas movies; traditional Christmas figures such as Santa Claus, the Little Drummer Boy, or the reindeer; and the names of Christmas songs.
Another classic Christmas-party idea involves a memory game based on the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Gather the players into a circle; let each person review the lyrics for a few moments, and appoint one person as judge. The judge takes the lyrics and selects a person to start the song, beginning with the first day. From memory, each player must sing a single day—and all the days that preceded it! If you miss a day (or, depending on the harshness of the judge, if you hesitate unduly), you must leave the circle. The judge then reads the correct lyric for the remaining players. When the circle has been reduced to two players, the judge gives each the twelfth day. If both can recite it, the game ends in a tie. Otherwise, the person who gets furthest through the longest and most difficult day wins the game.
Christmas is the season of giving (and receiving), so how about a Secret Santa gift exchange as a theme for your party? You can adjust the amount of money to be spent according to the income of the guests, but $10–$15 is usually a good maximum amount to spend on a gift.
Secret Santa can be done in a variety of ways, but the easiest is probably to have everyone bring a wrapped gift that will be good for either gender, then draw numbers at the party (number 1 picks a gift first). Or, if you know for certain who is coming, put all the names in a hat and match people up so that everyone has a special Secret Santa.
Consider giving small gifts away, or holding a draw for a larger, donated door prize as a thank you to those who’ve attended. And be sure to offer receipts for tax purposes if your cause is a recognized charity.
Party Ideas for Children
If you’re looking for a good way to keep children occupied during those long days before the holiday, why not throw a Christmas party? Try a few of the following ideas for your festive gathering.
Find a large roll of paper and roll it out across the floor. Assign each child an area and the tools to decorate, and have the group make a giant holiday banner for a children’s hospital, nursing home, or other charitable institution.
Buy card and craft supplies and have the children make Christmas cards for parents or brothers and sisters. Not only does it keep children happily and creatively occupied, it’s also a lovely surprise when parents come to pick up children from the party.
Festive Game Twists
Play a holiday version of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” with “Pin the Nose on Rudolph” or “Pin the Star on the Tree.” Just set up the appropriate poster, and place adhesive tape on the object the child tries to affix to it. Children can also play the old game of “Duck, duck, goose,” as “Rudolph, Rudolph, reindeer.”
“Rudolph in the Middle” is another fun game: Children form a circle with one child in the middle. The children hold hands and walk in a circle, singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” On the word “glows,” the children all drop to the floor. The child in the middle must tag someone on the outside before they sit down; if she succeeds, the tagged player goes to the middle.
These games easily lead into an all-time favorite: musical chairs, played with Christmas songs such as “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” or other Christmas songs. When playing with very young children, have the number of chairs equal the number of children, so that nobody feels left out; for older children, it ups the fun factor to take away the chairs.
To borrow from another holiday, entertain with the “Christmas Stocking Hunt.” Fill many small stockings with various candies, nuts, crayons, gum, or other small items and then create a Christmas version of an Easter egg hunt, with stockings hidden in various out-of-the way spots around the house.
The “Stocking Puzzle Game” is another great party activity for children. Using magazines, cut out pictures of toys and trinkets that would be appropriate to put in a stocking. Tape the pictures to cardboard, then cut the cardboard into irregular shapes like a puzzle. Put each puzzle into an envelope and put the envelopes into stockings. (Depending upon the size of the puzzle, you may wish to put more than one in each stocking.) Give each child a stocking and have them complete the puzzles; the one who finishes first gets to pick the first simple prize from a big stocking. (Have plenty of trinkets on hand—you don’t want to leave a player unhappy!)
For a quiet interlude or as a prelude to an afternoon nap, gather the children around for story time. Pick out a favorite Christmas reading that’s both age and culture appropriate, and share some holiday fun.