20 Easy Holiday Party Ideas Slideshow
December 1, 2011
Crazy fun and totally unique parties to get you in the holiday spirit
Feast of the Seven Fishes Cocktail Party
Mario Batali says, "It's what Italians do when they say they're fasting," according to Epicurious.com. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is still the way many Italian families celebrate Christmas, so it's a classic way to share the holidays with friends. One TDM editor is convinced the meal even outranks Christmas.
The feast is typically a dinner, but works just as well as a cocktail party theme to keep things easy. Pass one-bite shrimp salad cups, or go all out and roast up a whole salmon in salt that people can serve with toasts. Round out the party with other dishes from the sea, like shrimp-topped deviled eggs or smoked salmon served on fish-shaped platters.
Country Fair-Style Pie Exchange
It's been said that pies are the new cupcakes — after all, what is more comforting than a slice of still-warm pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? This holiday season, plan a blue ribbon challenge of your own, with each guest bringing their best homemade pie.
Let the menu be inspired by country-fair food favorites like roast turkey legs, candied apples, and deep-fried avocado. Set the scene with burlap tablecloths, red-checked napkins, forks for tasting all those pies, and a playlist of bluegrass favorites. Give each pie a number and ask guests to vote (blindly) for their favorite. Winner takes home the blue ribbon!
Gingerbread Diorama Decorating Party
Adults and kids alike can get creative at a gingerbread house-decorating party, but this year take inspiration from the dioramas you made in elementary school to design gingerbread scenes using Christmas candy. Begin with a simple gingerbread recipe and instead of tracing out walls for the house, simply bake off sides, a back, and a roof, sized so the structure resembles a shoebox.
Challenge everyone to make their own holiday-themed diorama, inspired by a favorite carol, Christmas movie, or story. Guests should bring along any candy, fabric, or supplies that they'll need. Offer guests something warm to drink, and plenty of plain snacks to counter all the sugar sure to be ingested.
Santa’s Workshop Party
Thanks to the help of his elves, Santa Claus is able to travel the world, all in one night, delivering gifts to each child. But what if the elves all got sick? Who would help Santa then? Kids! Breathe new life into the traditional cookie making and decorating party by recreating Santa's workshop in your own home.
Help Santa save Christmas by donning elf hats and creating care packages filled with cookies, bar treats, and candies to send to soldiers abroad. AnySoldier.com offers contacts for those who can distribute packages for troops to share, and the USPS will provide free packing supplies and boxes for troop mailings (just ask for the military kit).
Hanukkah Fried Foods Party
When it comes to celebrating the Festival of Lights, it's hard to beat the universal appeal of potatoes, fried in oil until just golden crisp on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. And if you're going to fill up the pot with oil, why just stop at just one kind of fried treat?
In the spirit of the eight-day holiday, celebrate the miracle of oil with a feast featuring eight courses of fried food. Start with a plain potato latke, perhaps topped with a variety of garnishes. Then add in zucchini pancakes, apple fritters, and even tempura. And for dessert, pull out the big guns — raised doughnuts, cookie dough, even avocado if you dare. As fried food is best served hot, keep things casual and gather your guests around the kitchen counter or table and serve the food on a wooden board or cooling rack, and keep any accompanying dipping sauces and garnishes nearby for quick dipping.
Christmas Carol Karaoke
Once Thanksgiving is said and done, many of us look forward to playing Christmas music, and not just slyly on our iPods. And after a drink or two, what's more fun than screaming "Dominick the Christmas Donkey..." (he haw, he haw)?
With a little planning (and a computer or an iTunes playlist), you don't need to have a fancy system to host karaoke night at home. Pull together a list of songs to play and assemble a songbook so everyone can follow along and judge the person performing. For the non-singers, put out some bells, triangles, and tambourines. Serve up holiday-themed drinks, be it Christmas ale, inexpensive bubbly, or a vodka cranberry, and red and green party snacks like chips, salsa, and guacamole; basil, mozzarella, and tomato skewers; or crostini with pesto and tomatoes.
Pig roasts are a holiday tradition around the world, from the Philippines to Puerto Rico and even in U.S., where people in the Deep South celebrate Noche Buena. But our favorite version is Cuba's lechon asado. Instead of a traditional party this year, infuse a whole lot of Cuban mojo into your holiday celebration.
Prepare a spread of Cuban classics, like moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), yucca fries, plantain chips, and a citrus and tropical fruit salad, with lechon asado at the center (or order one cooked for you from one of these places). Perfect your mojito-making skills to kick off the night over a dominos tournament, in proper Cuban fashion. After the meal, turn up the salsa music for dancing and end the night with a fruity flan for dessert.
An International Potluck Party
Pay homage to the melting pot that is part of America's heritage, drawing inspiration from international holiday traditions to host a potluck party with a global theme. Assign a dish for each guest to make and bring, beginning with Swedish glögg.
Round out the smorgasbord with holiday dishes like Danish ebelskiver, Finnish smoked salmon, and a grand French bûche de noël. To accompany the meal, create a playlist of holiday carols with origins from countries around the world, including the French "Il est ne le Divin Enfant," Basque "Gabriel's Message," and Ukrainian "Carol of the Bells."
You know that ugly scarf your mother-in-law gave you last year that's still hanging in the closet, tags on and all? If you've thought of secretly gifting it along, don't run the risk of being discovered by a savvy shopper. Host a regifting swap where one's reject gifts can become someone else's discovered treasure.
Ask each guest to bring two old gifts to donate to the pile and a festive drink to share with the group, like sorbet-topped prosecco or a holiday punch. As the gift table is apt to be the focus of the party, serve easy-to-prepare finger foods like crostini, crudité with dip, one-bite tacos, and a hearty cheese plate. At the end of the night, donate whatever is left over to charity.
Scottish Highland Party
Mince meat pies and whiskey aside, the best part about hosting a Scottish-inspired get-together has got to be the attire guests will show up wearing if you add "Mad for Plaid" attire on the invite. From authentic tartan kilts to a Royal Stewart suit, you never know what to expect.
Use traditional Scottish tartans to guide the decorations, with one pattern for the tablecloth, another for cocktail napkins, and even light plaid candles. Then feast like they do in Scotland, dining on fish and chips, welsh rarebit, scones, and puddings, washing it all down with a selection of Scotch whisky of course. Assemble a playlist of bagpipe music to play in the background or recruit a friend who plays the violin to do a little fiddling. And you know after a whiskey or two, you'll be up there doing a jig, too.
Christmas Morning-Themed Dinner Party
Apart from the presents and stockings on Christmas morning, nothing quite beats the lavish breakfast spread that awaits after gifts have been opened. So before friends travel away for the holidays, get everyone together to celebrate with breakfast for dinner, complete with something from Santa.
Begin the evening with brunch cocktails like mimosas or bloody marys. Once everyone is seated, roll out a grand spread that can be shared family-style, including fruit salad, scrambled eggs, berry muffins, and a rich coffee cake. Set the table with holiday linens, Christmas crackers, and place a miniature stocking filled with a small gift and chocolate treat at each place. Or coal, if you dare!
Office-Themed Holiday Party
Shake things up a bit and host a quirky get-together inspired by the the stereotypical office holiday party. Send out invitations on Post-it notes for a post-work get-together and add touches of worker-bee décor, like a dry erase board or a jar filled with M&M's just like the one on the receptionist's desk.
As no conference room get-together is complete without something a little strong, serve coffee-inspired cocktails like espresso martinis and spiked iced coffee in white office mugs. Satiate guests hunger with office pantry-friendly snacks like chips and salsa, dips, cheese, and crackers. Then set up a water cooler for guests to gather (and gossip) around, filled with a clear cocktail like white sangria.
If there is going to be one time of year that you're going to pull out the bubbly, it's now. No festive celebration is complete without the pop of a cork. And when there are so many kinds of sparkling wine, from champagne to Spanish cava and Italian prosecco to German sekt, it's probable you haven't tasted your way around the world in bubbles just yet.
Organize the gathering like a tasting. Ask each guest to bring a bottle or two of sparkling wine. Purchase inexpensive champagne flutes with a monogram for each guest to use during the evening (and take home as a memento) or that you can personalize yourself. Set up the bottles like you'd find at a tasting and include a spread of appetizers that pair perfectly with champagne for guests to savor, like gougeres, cheese straws, stuffed potatoes, and candied nuts. By the end of the night, everyone will have had a fun time sipping and snacking and identified a new favorite bubbly (and what to pair it with).
A Southern-Style Oyster Roast
A month with an "r" in it means it's oyster season. And down South, there is no better way to celebrate the holidays than with an oyster roast. Think about it — hanging around with friends, a beer or hot bourbon cocktail in hand, shucking warm oysters, and plunging them into an array of dipping sauces. It's a lot more fun, relaxing, and hands-on than a traditional holiday meal.
For a roast, you'll need a fire pit, plenty of wood (oak is best), a grill or sheet metal top for cooking, and if you can entertain outside, perhaps some lanterns and twinkle lights. Toast with champagne while the oysters roast — it's thought to be oysters' best friend, after all. Set out sauces like melted butter, hot sauce, and cocktail sauce in small bowls for dipping. Have the makings for s'mores on hand for later if you still have room.
Reverse Christmas Party
For many, Christmas conjures thoughts of snow-covered lawns, cold temperatures, and icy sidewalks — just the kind of weather that makes many want to buy a one-way ticket to the Caribbean and not look back (until April at least). For those who can't hop a flight, add a little tropical flair to your traditional holiday get-together.
Instead of warm and cozy attire, ask guests to come dressed as if it were 90 degrees out — sunglasses, Bermuda shorts, and flip flops. Stick with the red and green holiday décor, but light some mini tiki torches instead of candles and put on music that will instantly transport you to the islands. Serve up frozen drinks, like the Gilligan, topped with umbrellas, and have guests make their own leis to wear. Round out the menu with tropical inspired dishes like coconut-curry scallops, grilled kebabs, and a spicy macadamia nut snack mix.
Christmas Movie Marathon Party
From the 1946 classic It's A Wonderful Life to 1990's Home Alone, there are so many holiday movies out there that never, ever will grow old, and the holidays aren't complete without them.
Instead of trying to get through all of your favorite films in one evening, pick three and create an homage to them all by hosting a movie marathon party. Use each film as inspiration when crafting what food and drinks you'll serve, like Polar Express hot chocolate, Grinch-stuffed crab shells, Charlie Brown Christmas peppermint patty stuffed-brownies, and lots of Home Alone junk food à la Kevin Arnold. (Raising a glass every time you hear Santa Claus or Christmas Spirit, however, is up to you.)
Holiday Cooking Class Party
Yes, you can host a party and have someone else do the cooking! Whether you tremble at the thought of providing a fabulous meal for eight hungry folks or are the kind of person who could throw a party in their sleep, there is always something to be learned from someone more experienced like a private chef.
Start by inviting over a couple of friends for a night of instruction and dining. Hire a private chef who can offer tips on what to make, how to host the perfect holiday dinner party, and share advice on food and wine pairings. Then continue the conversation over the meal, complete with wine pairings. The best part? No cleaning of the kitchen involved.
An Elvis-Style Blue Christmas
Say goodbye to the same old, "White Christmas"-themed parties of yore. This year, summon the king of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley with a "Blue Christmas"-themed party. As one of his biggest hits, the song inspired the King to completely decorate his Graceland home driveway — trees, bushes and all — in blue lights.
When planning the party, let blue guide whatever you do — blue napkins, blue plates, and a centerpiece constructed with a variety of fruits and flowers in various shades of white, violet, and deep blue. Serve guests blue cocktails, Blue Moon beer, and plenty of red wine (it kind of stains your mouth blue). Set out trays of blueish foods, from beet salad on endive spears and a roasted eggplant dip, to a blueberry cobbler for dessert. And be sure to create a playlist of Elvis favorites.
Crazy Christmas Pajama Party
This year, instead of pulling out the ugly Christmas sweater, we're pulling out the Christmas pj's. You know you've missed those childhood pajama parties so here's your chance.
Ask guests to come wearing their holiday finest — think Christmas, like candy cane-striped onesies or footed jammies for the whole group. To accompany the morning theme, serve up a selection of brunch favorites in miniature form, like prosciutto-wrapped melon balls, bite-sized French toast with maple syrup for dipping, smoothie shots. And don't forget the mugs of spiked hot chocolate.
12 Days of Christmas Dinner Party
It's one of the most classic Christmas carols, so it's only fitting that it inspire an entire dinner party. Worried about finding some swimming swans and calling birds? Don't worry. We've done most of the guesswork for you. Read our tips here for setting the scene, and ask guests to don their most festive attire.
Let the food and drink be inspired by each verse, like roast chicken with pear compote on crostini for the partridge in a pear tree. Serve roasted Cornish game hens in lieu of French hens, and roasted rings of squash for the golden rings. Deviled eggs are a must for the "geese a laying," chicken drummettes for drummers drumming, then festive sparkling cocktails for the ladies dancing (and hot rum cocktails for leaping lords).