There are many good reasons to throw a Christmas party. You might want the opportunity to provide a warm environment for your friends and family. You might want to host a Christmas gift exchange or attract some homemade treats. You might even want to show off all the Christmas decorations you put up this year.
Whatever combination of motivations is driving you, you know that throwing a Christmas party is both exciting and stressful. You’ll enjoy the process of planning, but you’ll also want to make sure everything goes right—and that you throw a party no one will forget.
Fortunately, there are some easy steps to take to make that happen.
Starting the Planning Process
First, you should note the importance of starting the planning process as early as possible. While it may seem like a breach of social norms to send invites too early, you can comfortably start pushing “save the date” options as early as October (and possibly even earlier than that). People are notoriously busy in December, jumping from party to party and/or traveling, so the sooner you can get your party on their calendars, the better. This is especially important if you think you’ll have friends coming in from out of town. Plus, the further in advance you start planning, the less stressed you’ll be during the process.
Deciding the Central Theme
Your party doesn’t have to have a central “theme,” but it could help add something unique to the party. If you do choose a theme, you should plan to decorate your Christmas tree, other decorations, and outdoor Christmas lights around the chosen theme. For example, you might plan an event around peppermint, with candy-cane-related décor and plenty of peppermint snacks. Or you might focus on an element of Christmas imagery, like elves or reindeer. If you don’t choose a specific theme, think about which key elements of the holiday you want to emphasize most—is it the food? The wonderful Christmas music? The movies? Or just the cozy atmosphere in general?
What to Wear
If you want to make a bold impression at your Christmas party, you’ll need an outfit that’s unique, stylish, and festive, all at once. A Christmas-themed suit is a nice blend of all three qualities, but if you’re looking for something more traditional, you might go with a Christmas sweater. You could even dress up as Santa Claus or an elf for an added layer of Christmas immersion—especially if you decide to invite children.
Managing Social Relationships
A good party unfolds when you have the right people interacting with each other in the right ways—and that means paying careful attention to your social relationships. Everything starts with your invite list; you’ll need to invite the people you think would most enjoy a Christmas party, or who are most likely to get along with other people. You’ll also need to decide the following:
- Whether or not to invite kids. You can throw a good party with kids or without kids, but you’ll need to adjust the activities and ambiance based on this decision. For example, you would not want to have Christmas decorations centered around alcohol or other adult topics when children will be in attendance. Also, if children will be present, be sure to have small Christmas gift bags to hand out to the kids attending the party.
- How many people to invite. Big parties are a blast and allow for more types of interactions, but they can also be overwhelming (and expensive). Smaller parties tend to be more intimate, but quieter.
- How to encourage mingling. You’ll probably invite at least a few independent groups of people who don’t know each other, so make sure you make the proper introductions—and have plenty of opportunities for those people to mingle comfortably with each other. Activities like ugly sweater contests or “pin the tail on the reindeer” games can easily bring people together.
Food and Drinks
Christmas has no shortage of signature foods and drinks, so pick a handful that fit your theme—and possibly, a handful of unconventional options. If you’re looking for a way to simultaneously ease the burden on yourself and make your party guests feel more engaged with the event, consider asking each invitee to bring a dish of their own to act as a Christmas gift.
Fan favorites include gingerbread, cookies, ham, egg nog, and of course, hot chocolate.
Parties live or die by their ambiance—their ability to set the stage for meaningful interactions (and provide a tone for the event that people will remember indefinitely). There are several ways to accomplish a meaningful ambiance; you can use effective Christmas lights to adjust the lighting and darkness of the space to create a unique vibe, as one example. You can also create a custom playlist, filled with fan favorite Christmas music along with non-Christmas songs, to capture the right mood and create a nice flow in your house that allows people to roam (or one that makes them get cozy in a specific room).
No Christmas party would be complete without Christmas decorations to set the right mood. Consider stringing Christmas lights both inside and outside your home, and make sure you have at least one tree up and decorated with your favorite ornaments. If you’re low on decorations, you could invite your guests to create some new ones as part of the party—and make sure to keep them for next year.
Related: 21 Unique Christmas Tree Ideas
You may also want to include some Christmas-themed games, which can be a valuable opportunity for your guests to interact with each other. Depending on the ages of the people participating, you could take an existing game and put a unique, Christmas spin on it, like “pin the tail on the reindeer” instead of “pin the tail on the donkey.” If you’re hosting adults, you could host a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt, or even a drinking game to warm people up.
The Gift Exchange Factor
Many Christmas parties also have a gift exchange, but there are many ways to host one—and many ways to get things wrong. Failure to consider the circumstances of your Christmas gift exchange can lead to an event that seems unoriginal, or worse, hurt feelings among your attendees. If you’re going to host a gift exchange, make sure you announce it—and all the rules attached to it—well in advance of the party, to give people plenty of time to find something to bring. Make sure you specify when and how gifts will be exchanged, and which types of gifts are appropriate—including a strict upper-limit and/or minimum for costs.
Playing the Host
During the party itself, you’ll need to play the role of host, to make sure all your plans are executed the way you intended, and to make sure your guests are as comfortable as possible. Make it a point to talk with each of your guests individually at some point during the night, and keep the food and drinks refreshed. Go out of your way to introduce people who don’t know each other, as well.
Photos and Social Opportunities
Your event will be even more memorable if your guests are taking photos and videos, or if they’re posting about it on social media. Consider creating a hashtag for your event, and encourage your guests to take lots of pictures with props and other photo opportunities.
If you manage to knock your first Christmas party out of the park, you shouldn’t have any trouble building excitement for the following years. Take note of which elements worked, which elements didn’t, and which ones were more trouble than they were worth; your next party will be far less stressful, and even more astounding for your guests.