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Free Christmas Party Ideas for a Successful Holiday Gathering

Updated on March 7, 2012

December is a month for parties and celebrations as friends, family and co-workers gather to celebrate the old, ring in the new and enjoy each other's company. If it's your turn to entertain this year, get creative. There are plenty of Christmas party ideas that are simple to implement, fun to put together and easy on your budget. Adding a little spin to your holiday event will ensure the gathering's success.

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a Christmas party, unless it's an office shindig, is choosing the date and pinning down the number of people who plan to attend. Send your invitations early, preferably in late-November, to ensure the invitees still have a relatively empty holiday season calendar. Keep in mind that your event will have a lot of competition as you move closer to the holidays, and weekend nights are the most popular time for Christmas parties.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/c h e e s e roc
Photo courtesy of Flickr/c h e e s e roc

Keep the size of your group in mind as you plan your Christmas party. While a formal sit-down dinner might be perfect for a small group of close friends, larger groups will benefit from a buffet. Look for make-ahead recipes if you are doing the cooking yourself, or consider a caterer if finances are not a concern.

Consider sending each attendee home with a small gift from you like elegantly wrapped boxes of homemade cookies or ornaments for their Christmas tree. Make sure you have holiday-themed music playing in the background to lend a festive air. Mannheim Steamroller and George Winston have instrumentals that are perfect for a holiday gathering.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/e skene
Photo courtesy of Flickr/e skene

Color it Red and Green

Unless you decorate for the holidays in Gothic style, your house is already filled with shades of silver, gold, green and red. For your Christmas party, incorporate these colors into your buffet, and serve as many foods and beverages as possible that feature red, green and gold colors.

Serve beverages like red wine, mulled cider or a cranberry-based cocktail like a Cape Codder. For the main course, set out plenty of red and green finger foods like prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, mini-Margherita pizzas with plenty of red tomatoes and fresh green basil, roasted red pepper soup or split pea soup with ham served in shotglasses or small bowls of pasta salad using tri-color rotini. Serve yummy desserts like individual strawberry cheesecakes with fresh mint leaves or fresh strawberries dipped in white chocolate.

Holiday Open House

A holiday open house is perfect for a Christmas gathering late in the month as you won't have to compete with parties held on Friday and Saturday nights. An open house party lasts longer than a normal party, usually three to five hours, and guests are invited to stop in for food and beverages at any time during the open house and stay only as long as they wish to. Make yours a Christmas brunch buffet with hours from 11:00am until 2:00pm, or serve an assortment of nibbles and cocktails from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.

Selecting the right foods can be tricky, as you will need foods that can stand reheating and a long holding time. Try mini quiches, a vegetable, olive and cheese antipasta skewers, Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, a selection of gourmet cheeses and crackers or a carving station with roasted turkey and baked ham. Keep dessert simple with bountiful platters of Christmas cookies and an assortment of pies.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

And you thought you would never have an occasion to wear that embarrassing Christmas sweater your grandmother gave you years ago.... Guests attending your holiday shindig must pay a price -- admission is only granted to those who wear butt-ugly Christmas sweaters. Have a voting box set up so that guests can vote on the ugliest sweater at the party which, of course, you will reward with a fitting prize -- an ugly tie perhaps? Make the event an annual one, and you will see the Christmas sweaters get uglier as the years go on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/pmarkham
Photo courtesy of Flickr/pmarkham

Over the River and Through the Woods...

If you live in an area that sees snow during the winter, impress your guests with a Christmas party that features a nighttime sleigh ride. These holiday get-togethers are best suited for smaller gatherings of up to 20 people. Your budget may determine the size of the party, however. Find out how many people each sleigh can hold and use that to determine the number of invitees.

Make sure to present guests with pints of blackberry brandy and plenty of lap blankets for the ride. Bring them back to your house afterwards where a crackling fire, mulled cider and Christmas music awaits them. Keep the food simple and rustic with an assortment of cheese fondue, croques monsieur sandwiches a la Julia Child and baked brie platters with slices of apple and pear.

Bad Gift Party

Gift exchanges of the Secret Santa gift type can be nerve-wracking as the gift you choose to give will be opened in front of a crowd. Turn what can be a gift-giving disaster into a fun event for all by declaring a prize for the worst gift of the bunch. Think toe socks, light-up ties, a garden gnome, nose hair tweezers or a very large fruitcake as you shop for your gift recipient.

After everyone has had their fill of food and beverage, gather the crowd together and let the fun begin. Be sure to make the prize for the worst gift equally bad.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Samdogs
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Samdogs

Cookie Swap

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a good, old-fashioned cookie swap. The key to a good swap is to invite the right amount of people -- enough so that each person gets a good variety of cookies, but not too many so that everyone is stuck in their kitchen for weeks before.

Each person commits to making one type of Christmas cookie, as plain or as fancy as they would like to make them. If 10 people are attending the swap, each person makes 10 dozen of their cookie variety. At the party, all of the cookie platters are put on display and each guest goes home with one dozen of each of the cookie varieties there. If more than 10 people are coming, cut their cookie-making time down by only allowing people to take 1/2 dozen from each cookie platter.


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    • mistifields profile image

      mistifields 6 years ago

      Super informative. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Sara 7 years ago

      I just got The Christmas Lights it!!

    • rosariosblog profile image

      rosariosblog 7 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      Great hub. With regards to the way it's written, you also get thumbs up from me.

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping by, HH and LCG!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I can only repeat the words form Icg4jc. Thank you for a great hub.

    • lcg4jc profile image

      lcg4jc 7 years ago

      Great ideas and wonderful advice to have the perfect Christmas gathering. Thank you for this hub. Blessings to you