Christmas Party Ideas

Invitations

Decorations

Give your Christmas tree a makeover this year with one of these tree-decorating styles:

Minimalist decorations

Opt for a unified, modern style by hanging just one type of decoration (like ribbons or lights) or choosing different decorations in a single color.

  • Hang different kinds of decorations in one specific color, such as red tree lights, red balls and red tinsel. Varying the shape and size of your ornaments while sticking with one solid color creates a dramatic overall look.
  • Colorful paper can be turned into origami ornaments and decorative garlands. Don't think you're up to origami? Fold and cut paper into snowflakes like you did in elementary school. Poke an opened paper clip through one snowflake point and hang on your tree.
  • Buy good-quality ribbon and tie bows on your tree branches. Make smaller bows on upper branches and bigger bows on lower branches. Choose ribbon in a traditional red or white, a shiny metallic for extra sparkle or even raffia for a rustic look.

Old-school food ornaments

Going for an old-fashioned, homey appeal? Try popcorn-and-cranberry garlands and homemade dough ornaments. These food-based projects are great for kids and guests to help with, and less great if you have hungry pets within snacking range of your tree.

  • Popcorn-and-Cranberry Garlands. String popcorn and fresh cranberries into garlands using a sewing needle and thread. Pop corn in an air popper for best results; microwave popcorn and oil-cooked popcorn can be too greasy.
  • Dough for Ornaments. Make your own ornaments using a simple dough recipe of 2 parts flour, 1 part salt and 1 part water. Combine flour and salt, then slowly add water and stir. Shape dough into a ball and knead until combined and pliable. Use cookie cutters or your hands to shape into holiday ornaments like balls, candy canes or gingerbread men. Bake in the oven at a low setting until dough hardens. Color ornaments with paint or markers.

Tree-trimming party

Share the fun — and the hard labor! Invite guests over to help you trim your tree.

  • Before guests arrive, hang candy canes on your tree so it looks dressed when they get there.
  • Buy decorations for guests to put on the tree, or ask each guest to bring a decoration to contribute. Request kitschy or classy ornaments, or let your guests make that call themselves.
  • If guests are bringing ornaments, return the favor by hanging small gift bags on the tree for each guest to take home. Fill each bag with a small candle, chocolates or other holiday treat.
  • Looking for a tasty twist on the traditional decorations? Go for a candy theme! Think gummy bear garlands and mini chocolate bar ornaments. It's cheap, colorful and lets you snack while you work.
  • One note to keep tree-trimming from turning into tree-trashing: So you don't risk your most treasured, fragile ornaments turning to dust, either put them on yourself before the party, or leave them in their boxes until after guests have left.

Decking the halls? Visit the Evite Party Store to get more ideas and buy supplies!

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Play Santa

Spread a little extra good cheer by giving gifts at your party. Here's how:

Host a gift exchange

A gift exchange keeps costs low and suspense high as people figure out who their Secret Santa was.

  • Make it easy on yourself: Use Evite's gift exchange feature. This ensures that choosing names is completely random and nobody knows who gets who.
  • When you're creating your invitation, select "Gift Exchange" as your event type. The gift exchange box will automatically open on the invitation, and you can set a price or a price range for gifts, if you like.
  • When guests respond to your invitation, they can check a box indicating that they want to participate in the gift exchange. A week before your event, we'll send everybody an email with the name of the person they're shopping for.

Give each guest a personalized gift

A small, thoughtful gift is an unexpected, and welcome, touch at any holiday party.

Two easy holiday gifts to make:

  • A mug filled with hot chocolate mix: Choose your favorite recipe for hot chocolate, and put together bags of the dry ingredients. Write out the recipe, and attach the recipe to the bag with a ribbon. Place the bag in a holiday mug — no gift wrap needed!
  • A CD of your favorite holiday songs: Mix classics by Frank, Mel and Dean with some modern pop hits.

Before any guests leave, put out your gifts near the front door. If you're giving identical gifts, just wrap them and place them in a basket. If your gift is specific to each guest, put a prominent gift tag on each gift and lay them out on a table so people can easily find their gifts.

Request donations to charity

Remember those less fortunate during the holidays by asking guests to bring charity donations to your party.

Before the party, contact reputable local charities and find out the items they need most. Your guests will appreciate this convenient way to donate to a worthy cause.

Set up your donation table in a separate room, so guests don't feel judged for their contributions. Put out a bowl or covered box where guests can make cash or check contributions, if they like. Leave a stack of pamphlets about the charities next to your donation area so guests can familiarize themselves with the organizations.

Commonly needed items:

  • canned food
  • clothing
  • educational books
  • toys

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Activities

Keep in mind that your holiday party may be one of many — or way too many — for the people you've invited. Stand out from the holiday crowd with these activities:

Make holiday gifts at your party

Multi-tasking is key during the holidays. Turning your holiday gathering into a DIY gift workshop lets you party with your friends and prepare for Christmas.

Take your guests' skill levels, interests and attention spans into consideration when you're planning what projects to undertake.

Holiday-tastic DIY projects:

  • greeting cards
  • body scrub
  • beaded jewelry
  • candles
  • soap
  • scrapbooks

Plan a cookie exchange

People go kooky for cookies around Christmas. Hosting a cookie exchange lets you sample all kinds of sweet treats and gets you and your guests on a happy sugar high, which we all need around the holidays.

  • Ask guests to make a big batch of small cookies so everybody gets to sample them all at the party without getting too sick. That also makes more leftovers to take home and enjoy later.
  • Serve coffee and ice-cold milk for dunking and sipping, and put out Chinese food containers or gift bags that guests can take home cookies in.
  • To avoid a table stacked with a sea of identical cookies, ask guests to choose a cookie category: bars, cookies, truffles, bark, cutouts. If you think your guests may be intimidated or uninspired by choosing a cookie, include a link to a recipe Web site on your invitation.
  • Feeling extra thoughtful? Ask everyone to email you their recipes before the party, and put them all into recipe books to give to each guest.

Decorate cupcakes

Cupcakes are all the rage. Make the most of this tasty trend by decorating cupcakes (instead of, or in addition to, cookies) this holiday season.

  • To add a new twist to traditional cookie decorating, sprinkle your artistry on cupcakes instead.
  • All you need are cupcakes, frosting and the traditional cookie garnishes: sprinkles, sugars, candies and decorating gels.
  • For grown-ups and older kids, incorporate the cupcake baking and icing into the party. For younger kids and adults with shorter attention spans, pre-make the cupcakes and just leave the finishing touches to your guests.

Host an alternative Christmas party

Don't be afraid to think outside the gift-wrapped box when planning your holiday party.

Since we're bombarded with Christmas music and decorations starting the day after Halloween, come December we can feel a little ho-hum about all the ho-ho-hoing. Break out of the cookie-and-eggnog party mode and try something a little different this year. How different? That all depends on you.

Everybody loves holiday movies, so host a Christmas movie marathon with classics like It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Or grinch it up with Bad Santa and Santa-themed slasher flicks like Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Or create a winter break with a tropical-themed fantasy vacation party. Travel posters, fruity drinks with paper umbrellas and poppy, beachy music gives everybody a min vacation from that holly, jolly stuff.

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Food

A casual open house with delicious but limited food choices keeps things easy on the host and on guests, who may be traveling from party to party. Here are three ways to keep the menu festive and low-stress:

Holiday brunch

A few make-ahead dishes and hot drinks are all you need for a filling midday meal.

Offer a savory dish like a quiche or strata, as well as sweeter dishes like French toast, zucchini bread and muffins.

Round out the meal with trays of fruit, holiday cookies and even a decadent dessert. Remember, it's the holidays — you're supposed to indulge.

For drinks, serve coffee, tea and fresh-squeezed juices.

Cocktails & hors d'oeuvres

Snacky parties are easier on the cooks and the wallets than most other holiday parties. So break out the cocktail shaker and start cutting food up into bite-sized pieces.

Keep the menu simple with olives, cheese and crackers and assorted nuts — include roasted chestnuts to really get into the spirit of the season.

For heartier snacks, add mini-sandwiches, meat or fish skewers or a cheese fondue.

Stock bar basics, or keep your sips simple by sticking with wine and a holiday cocktail (see our favorite holiday bevvies in the drinks section).

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Drinks

Christmassy spirits are a great way to get you into the holiday spirit:

Eggnog (serves 6)

Put down that carton and make your own nog! (Or if you simply must go store-bought, check out our eggnog reviews.

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/3 cup Cognac or other brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg

Bring milk just to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a large bowl, then add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking. Pour mixture into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170°F on thermometer, 6 to 7 minutes.

Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into cleaned large bowl and stir in cream, bourbon, brandy, and vanilla. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 24. Cooks' note: Flavor of eggnog improves when it is made a day ahead to allow alcohol to mellow.

Wassail (serves 8)

The word "wassail" comes from an Old English toast meaning "Be in good health." For a non-alcoholic version of this recipe, replace Calvados with more apple cider.

  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks plus 8 for garnish
  • 10 whole allspice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 qt cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 qt apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup Calvados or apple liqueur
  • Special equipment: a 6- by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth; kitchen string

Wrap 2 cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Simmer cranberry juice, cider, sugar, and spice bag in a 5-quart heavy pot, uncovered, skimming froth occasionally, 10 minutes.

Halve apple and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add apple slices and Calvados to cider mixture and simmer 2 minutes (slices will remain crisp). Serve hot and garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Looking for the Christmas version of a cosmo? You'll love our Sugarplum Sherry.

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