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Creative Holiday Party Ideas

By Elizabeth Beal, December 1, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Beal

Holiday parties don’t have to feature tacky sweaters and cheese balls – though if that’s your thing, live it up. And they don’t have to be stressful, expensive or leave you with a hangover, either. Here are some creative and cost-conscious ways to celebrate the season with friends.  

Swaps We’ve all got to eat, and not just on days when big meals are called for. Show your busy friends some love by hosting a soup or one-dish swap – everyone brings their dish ready to serve and another batch portioned to take home. That way, you can taste what you’re going home with, have a great dinner party and have enough meals to get you through weeks of shopping and hosting.

Theme Nights Pick a favorite country, movie or historical event and build a night of food and games around it. My favorite so far was Moonstruck night – we made pasta, drank Spumante, listened to Verdi and watched Nicholas Cage and Cher fall in love. Or have each guest bring a dish from a particular country, like Spain or Germany, with recipe cards printed out to share.  (Our Advanced Recipe Search will help you find great international recipes.)

Progressive Dinners What’s more fun than a dinner party at a friend’s house? A dinner party at all your friends’ houses! Start with appetizers at one address, move on to entrées at another, dessert somewhere else, and finish up with coffee and games at the last destination. The night stays lively and one host isn’t stuck doing all the cooking (or shopping). Note: this type of party works best if folks carpool and live relatively close to each other, and designated drivers are a must if alcohol is served.

Obscure Holidays We’ll take any excuse to party. Celebrate an obscure December holiday, like Pastry Day (December 9th), Dewey Decimal System Day (December 10th), Look on the Bright Side Day (December 21st) or Haiku Poetry Day (December 22nd). Use the out-of-the-ordinary opportunity to serve something new – try a great cheese or new cocktail recipe.

Get Crafty Up-cycle ordinary goods into great decorations and ornaments by encouraging guests to bring old magazines, buttons, twine, wine corks – whatever works for crafting. Keep the eco-vibe going by serving locally-sourced goodies and organic wine. Need inspiration? There are tons of great websites out there. Try Craft Gossip and Design Sponge for starters.

Get Active Warm up before you party down with group sports like Capture the Flag, followed by an outdoor cookout. Bonfire nights are a plus!

Give Back Organize a cleanup event in your community, or hold a toy drive or canned food collection at your party. Reconvene at your place for feel-good drinks and snacks. We’ve got delicious recipes for make-ahead dishes, and check out our Top Ten Wines for affordable and delicious options for good cheer, and of course our guide to entertaining on a budget will come in handy.

How do you like to party down?