Hosting a Christmas party that they'll remember for years and years to come is all about creating an environment that fosters some energy. We've all been to those Christmas parties where we can't help but check our watch every five minutes hoping that it's come to an end. Have you ever gotten a text message from your spouse asking "Can we go?" That's what I'm talking about. Being at these parties feels like the air has been let out of the room. We're zombies, hoping to avoid any conversation with the people we can't stand, drinking as much eggnog as we can to tolerate the monotony, and desperate for an emergency that will take us away.
This article is here to say that your Christmas party doesn't have to be that way. I've been hosting a Christmas party every year for the past 15 years and it has consistently been a memorable, exciting experience for all involved. Most of those 15 years have involved a big mix of friends, family, and people I've never met. They've heard about the party and wanted to be a part of it. Now let me preface this by saying I'm not talking about the kind of Animal House or Old School parties where the booze is flowin' and the girls are wrestling in Jell-O. In fact, I've never once even had alcohol available at one of the parties. So what's the difference between my Christmas parties and the tired old parties that we all dread every year?
That's right. You walk into one of my parties and you can feel the excitement in the room. Everyone is anxious to see just what's going to happen. Without the "I'm going to regret this tomorrow" chaos of alcohol, we're left with the memorable enthusiasm of someone who can't wait to see what's next. Because it's unlike any other parties that the attendees will experience, it becomes the party of the year. I constantly keep experimenting each year to see what will be a hit and what to eliminate in the future. And here's the great part:
YOU CAN DO IT TOO.
I'm here to share with you just one of the many ideas for parties that I've done that's been a hit. Now, you don't have to follow this exact guideline. In fact, I'd highly recommend changing parts and pieces of it to make it uniquely yours. Suit it to your friends and family. Incorporate family traditions (not tired and hated ones, but the fun ones everyone looks forward to). Most importantly of all - go into the planning intending to make lasting memories. This is your chance to bring out the best in your personality and bring Christmas joy back into peoples' hearts. It may sound corny to talk about it like that as an adult who's not a character in The Santa Clause, but speaking from personal experience, I'm here to say that Christmas is the best time of the year. Even if you've been known as the Grinch in years past, this is your opportunity to have a bangin' party and redeem yourself for the holidays. Without further adieu, here is how to throw the best Christmas party EVER.
1) Who should I invite?
Every year that I've thrown my party, I've tried to make it an experience where everyone can have an amazing time - even that random friend from work who isn't in my normal circle of friends. How? Well, my parties are open invitation (to an extent). Everyone who I invite is welcome to extend the invite to anyone they wish. This means that people who might otherwise be uncomfortable being surrounded by strangers can bring a few friends of their own. This step alone can make the biggest difference. Have you ever been that standalone person at the party? It's awful. You're stuck with the choice of either being a wallflower or awkwardly starting meaningless chit chat with someone you've never met. Sure, it can develop into new friendships, but more often than not ends up being a time waster. Allowing your attendees to invite their own friends and families will ensure everyone feels welcome and accepted. It also fosters an environment where people feel like they can let loose a little bit. This is where the fun begins.
2) What kind of food should I provide?
Although it may not always be the most cost effective method, I always have a full meal available, as well as snacks and hors d'oeuvres. There are several issues solved by this tactic. First, it allows you to limit the number of "party casualties" caused by hunger. If your party ends up lasting quite a while because people are having a blast, eventually there are going to be stomach rumbles. You (and your guests) won't want the good time to end due to lack of sustainance. On the other end, your guests won't be able to use the "dinner plans" excuse as often if they're expecting a cornucopia of food at the party. Finally, a well executed meal can be a memory in itself, especially with a little experimentation. Try themed dinner menus or region specific specialties.
3) Should we play games/have events?
Every party I've thrown has had a few different events. I've done some testing to see what would be the perfect number of events, and I've found that the number is completely irrelevant. The one and only thing that matter is QUALITY. One event that has been such a crowd pleaser that it just had to become tradition is one I call "Goofy Santa." This does take a fair amount of planning and preparation, but it's magical when pulled off.
- First off, you'll need to require your guests to make a guest list for you for anyone coming that you don't know. This is crucial to the success of the event.
- Second off, you'll need to have a small budget set aside for this portion. I've spent as much as $300-400 on it and I can say for sure that it's worth the investment! What you're going to be doing is buying 2-3 gifts for each party guest from the dollar store. What I've found to be the most fun is buying completely ridiculous gifts that the person will never forget. For example - one year, I had a guest who was single and was very against relationships. My idea? Get him a pregnancy test, a bib, and a sign that said "mommy." It was one of the most well-remembered parties that I've ever thrown. This is an opportunity to be super creative. Now, chances are, since your party will be sort of open invitation, you'll want to grab enough extra gifts for 2-3 extra people in case they don't RSVP. If extra people don't show up, just give the gifts to people who you think would get the biggest kick out of them.
- Finally, it's time to pass out the gifts. Since you're the host, you get to have all of the fun passing them out. What I typically do is try to make sure almost everyone gets at least their first gift before handing out the second ones. You could also always hand out both gifts to each person, however I feel like the excitement of waiting to see your own gift is best if you split it. I am very particular about letting someone open their gift before passing out another. Part of the fun of this is letting everyone see the ridiculous gifts that everyone else gets. It makes it so it's not just fun for the gift recipient, but for the entire party.
Be sure to bring a stupid level of enthusiasm to whatever events you decide to hold. Do it right and this event will become one that people remember forever!
4) When should I hold this party?
I've found that the best day to hold the party is on a Saturday, since many people will end up sticking around for some late night hangouts after the event. I've done some experimenting with Sundays, but typically people leave early due to working the next day. A fantastic starting time is 3:00 PM, since people won't have to wake up early to get there, but people with families and kids won't feel like they're missing all of the action due to time restrictions.
5) How should I decorate?
How you decorate your party is very much a matter of personal preference. What I've done to be sure that the holiday spirit is all around is go completely overboard. I've amassed quite a collection of Christmas decorations and I make sure that all of them find their place. This can be huge when it comes to overall feel. Going to a Christmas party in a mostly un-decorated house can feel a bit bland. Make it an event and throw some panache into it! Don't worry as much about making sure everything matches. Get Christmas lights in places they don't belong. Put the giant inflatable Frosty The Snowman outside to proudly say, "I'm throwing the biggest Christmas party ever and I don't care who knows it!" Put the stockings over the fireplace and deck the halls! Oh, and don't forget the mistletoe for those random party kisses.
Using this guide, you'll be able to throw an amazing, unforgettable party. Keep in mind, parties are all about energy and personality. Use this as a guide, but you don't have to follow it word for word. Inject your personality into it, be creative. Try things that no one has done before. Toss some tradition in for good measure and you can't go wrong. Best of luck, and Merry Christmas!