How to Throw a Christmas Party

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Throughout the busy year, it's easy to lose touch with family and friends. During the holiday season, gather them together for an evening of reminiscing about the years past, planning for the year ahead, and enjoying each other's company at a Christmas party. For a simple yet festive Christmas party, plan the details, including the date, menu, entertainment and decor, well in advance.

Getting Started

Make three key decisions before solidifying Christmas party plans: Whether you’re planning a sit-down dinner party, casual cocktail party or a holiday open house; what day you plan to host the party; and who will be invited. You can also choose a theme, such an ugly Christmas sweater party, if you like. Saturdays in December are ideal for holiday parties, but your guests’ weekend calendars book up quickly. For fewer conflicts, plan a party earlier in the month rather than close to Christmas. Send out invitations at least four weeks in advance. For a formal party, send proper paper invitations featuring holiday themes; for a casual or small party, an email invitation or phone call is probably sufficient.

Planning the Decor

Adorn your home with even more Christmas decorations than you normally would for the season; a thoroughly decked-out home makes a party’s ambiance that much more festive. Aim to have a good number of presents wrapped and under the twinkling Christmas tree; if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, wrap up some empty boxes in matching paper tied with satin ribbon. For a simple decoration, collect vintage ornaments and place them in glass bowls or pitchers. Don’t forget to hang a large wreath or red bow on the door so guests know where the party is located.

Picking the Menu

The menu can vary drastically based on the type of party you’re planning. For an elegant holiday party, “Gourmet” magazine recommends serving roasted prime rib with a side of potato and porcini mushroom gratin, broccoli and cauliflower and rosemary popovers. This follows the “keep it simple” mantra noted by Style At Home: Keep it simple with a salad, main dish with a starchy side and two vegetables. For cocktail parties, focus on bite-sized appetizers that you can make in advance and freeze. “Bon Apetit” magazine suggests miniature crab cakes, beef sates and pear and cherry and pine nut tartlets as some dessert options. Serve both red and white wine, a seasonal beer and a signature cocktail; something red, such as a cranberry margarita or spiced sangria, is festive and widely appealing. Stock up on nonalcoholic drinks, too, such as coffee, sodas, cocoa, cider and water.

Selecting the Entertainment

For many holiday parties, all the entertainment that guests need is the ability to catch up with other family and friends. Put on seasonal music, but keep the tunes low so guests can hear each other easily. For a cocktail party, choose upbeat jazzy Christmas classics; at a dinner party, low and slow traditional carols might be more appropriate. If many of your guests don’t know each other, a game such as the Christmas-themed “Guess Me” icebreaker might get them talking. Write classic Christmas characters, such as Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol,” Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone” and Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” on name tags and place them on guests’ backs when they arrive. Guests must ask each other questions to figure out who their character is; the first three to correctly guess win a prize.