How to Plan a Christmas Party

A group of friends having a Christmas party.
Christmas parties are great for bringing people together. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

A successful party lives on in everyone's memory long after the last glass of punch has been sipped and the last bite of dessert eaten. But the fuss and frustration of planning can be a big party pooper. All the details -- What kind of party should I have? Whom should I invite? How should I decorate? What do I serve? -- can make even the most experienced host or hostess a little stressed.

If you add to this equation the many demands and complications of the holiday season, you have the recipe for a real headache. Though the rewards of a successful Christmas party will carry on all year, some people might feel that the planning and execution is just too much of a burden.


That's why we've included lots of party themes, ideas, and menus that make it easy to pull off a spectacular event. Our tried-and-true secrets for entertaining will ensure that your party is one to remember! We will walk you through all the steps of planning and hosting a Christmas party, including:

  • Decorating for a Christmas PartyWhen you are hosting a large party or celebration you want to create an exciting environment for your guests to relax in. Some simple decorations can turn your house into a seasonal wonderland for holiday revelers. In this section, we will show you hot to decorate for a Christmas party, including how to choose a color scheme and how to create a festive Christmas centerpiece.
  • Planning a Christmas PartyIt's easy to think of the perfect Christmas party, but it's a whole other matter making it happen. As with any large project, the only way to ensure success is careful planning. On this page, we will show you how to plan a Christmas party, from conception to picking party invitations to choosing a theme to enjoying the night of the party.


Decorating for a Christmas Party

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The right decorations can make your Christmas an event to remember.

The sound of a crackling fire. The joy of newly fallen snow. The anticipation of Santa Claus. The smell of a cedar tree. The taste of a freshly baked Christmas cookie. At its very essence, Christmas is a holiday that excites our senses. How things sound, look, feel, smell, and taste evoke memories of holidays past, flooding us with emotions.

The best way to re-create these memories -- and to create new memories for our families and friends -- is to surround ourselves with things that remind us of the season. Decorating is one of the easiest ways to accomplish this. Whether you are planning a small get together or a large party, decking your home in seasonal splendor will satiate the senses and fill all your guests with holiday spirit.


Ornament Centerpiece:Before you begin constructing your Christmas centerpiece, you'll need to assemble the following items:

  • Dry floral foam
  • Knife
  • 4- to 6-inch-high brass bowl
  • Hot glue gun, glue sticks
  • Ruler
  • Evergreen bough
  • 14 Christmas ornament balls
  • 12 small pinecones
  • 1 spray of plums (or about 7 plums)
  • 4 berry sprays, cut into pieces
  • 3 poinsettia flowers with leaves

To create an ornament centerpiece:

  1. Cut floral foam to fit the bowl; glue. (Use a plastic liner if you don't want to glue bowl.) Cut bough into five- to six-inch lengths. Form width and length by gluing greens around edge of container.
  2. Mound Christmas ornaments, pinecones, plums, and berry sprays on the greens and floral foam and secure with hot glue.
  3. Glue sprigs of greens, poinsettia flowers, and other poinsettia leaves to fill in holes between ornaments and pinecones.

The Colors of ChristmasChristmas is all about color. Glowing strings of lights, festive stockings, and beautifully wrapped gifts take center stage. The colors you choose to emphasize in your Christmas decorations can impact the feelings they evoke. Consider your goals -- icy and intense, cozy and traditional, modern and fresh, elegant and luxurious -- before deciding on a color scheme.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.not have to stop there.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas: A white Christmas can be classic and traditional or glamorous and fresh. That's the beauty of decorating with such a versatile color. With contemporary interiors, an all-white Christmas is en vogue: current, up-to-date, modern. With traditional decors, all white lends a homespun feel to the holidays. Twinkling white lights and touches of silver are spectacular accents to an all-white decorating scheme. Flickering candles or a roaring fire add warmth to pure white and play up the shimmery effect of any gold or silver accents.

Now that you have your decorations picked out, it's time to plan your party. On the next page, we will help you make your Christmas party a reality.


Planning a Christmas Party

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Your dream Christmas party can be a reality with the right planning.

Any event planner or caterer will tell you the key to a successful party is planning. It's not enough to simply make a few dishes and send invitations. A little advance planning saves you time and headaches later so spend five or ten minutes envisioning the party and walking yourself through as a guest. When party time comes, both you and your guests will have a night to remember!

Dreaming of the Perfect Party

The holiday season is packed with parties, so it's a good idea to send invitations three weeks in advance. The sooner you send your invitations, the less likely it is that your guests will have committed to another event. Your invitations should state the starting and ending time of your party and should mention the food you will be serving, whether it is light holiday fare or a traditional sit-down dinner. And don't forget to include directions!


Choose a menu for which many of the items can be made ahead of time. Some appetizers and desserts can be made and frozen several weeks in advance. Other recipes can be mixed together a few days before and stored in the refrigerator. Simply bake and finish the day of the party. Remember that parties aren't the time to try a new recipe. Either test a new menu item before the party, or stick with tried-and-true recipes.

Opt for heavy finger foods instead of recipes that require dinnerware. Foods that can be eaten without a fork and knife keep spills and dribbles down, and they reduce the amount of dishwashing you have to do later. If you do serve dishes that require dinnerware, make sure you have table seating for guests to sit down and eat. Make it easy on yourself. If you dread cleanup, opt for nice plasticware that can be tossed in the trash.

Think about traffic flow. Place your bar close to ice and water. Place trays of finger foods on side tables and buffets throughout your entertaining area. Provide enough chairs so that at least half of your guests can be seated at a time. Position several trash cans inconspicuously near the food tables and bar to prevent precarious pileups of plates and traffic jams in the kitchen.

If you don't have time to deep clean your home the day of the party, hit the heavy traffic areas such as your living room, dining room, and bathrooms, and leave the rest for later.

Set the mood with holiday music playing in the background and lit candles sparkling throughout the house. Personalize the night with a special activity. Invite your guests to write a holiday wish in a guest book displayed on your coffee table or ask them to join you for some caroling. Little details such as these help make your party an event to remember.

Guests love party favors. Send yours home with a little something extra: a small ornament, a bag of cookies, even a candy cane with a bow is a sweet way to say happy holidays.

Inspired Invitations

An invitation is your guest's first impression of what your party will be like. To build the excitement, don't settle for a phone call or purchased invitation. Instead, use your party's theme to inspire your own quirky creations.

For a nice personal touch, use a photo from last year's party as the front of your invitation, or send one with your family dressed in holiday garb or outfits that complement your party's theme. You might also have your child draw a picture of the nativity scene, your party, or a present. Scan the photo onto a computer and print onto cardstock.

Get guests into party mode by making a custom CD of holiday music or other music that goes with your party theme. Write the party details on the CD label and send in a bubble-wrap envelope.

If you'd like an invitation with a hand-crafted look, purchase holiday stamps, and use them to make custom invitations. Stamps are available in a variety of seasonal motifs, making them ideal for expressing a particular party theme.

No time to make your invitations? Purchase nice note cards, and write a handwritten invitation with black ink. This is an elegant and personal way to announce your party.

Themed Christmas Parties

There are many different Christmas parties you can plan aside from the traditional tree-trimming parties. Here are some colorful alternatives.Boxing Day: In merry old England, servants were required to work on Christmas Day. However, they were given reprieve the day after to visit family. Their employers would send them off with a box containing gifts and food, hence the holiday "Boxing Day." Today, people continue to celebrate by taking the day off to visit family and friends.

This event is a combination of Christmas festivities and those of Boxing Day. Decorate the table with pine boughs, holly, mistletoe, juniper berries, cinnamon sticks, oranges with fragrant cloves, bowls of fruit, and tiny Christmas trees. Wrap small boxes with metallic and holiday paper and use for decoration or add small gifts that your guests can open after dinner.

You can also fill English "crackers" (colored paper tubes) with candy and small presents. For a unique Boxing Day invitation, write the party information on a piece of paper, fold it up, then place it in a small, wrapped box to hand-deliver to guests.


Le Reveillon

What was once a simple meal after midnight mass has blossomed into Le Reveillon, a nighttime dinner for French families with many of the same dishes as those served on Christmas Day. Some families use the event to decorate the tree or give presents. Like many other nationalities, the French often decorate with a nativity scene, greenery, and candles.

An old-world Christmas: Celebrating the season is a month-long tradition in Germany, with festivities culminating on Christmas Eve, the night the Christmas tree is unveiled. Children are not allowed to see the tree until a bell is rung and it is brought out, fully decorated with cars, trains, angels, tinsel, lights, and ornaments. Families sing Christmas carols and place presents underneath. The night later gives way to a feast so lavish that the evening is often called "Dickbauch," or "fat stomach." Legend has it that those who do not eat well will be haunted by demons during the night.


Invite guests to an old-world party by printing out an invitation, leaving the front blank. Then glue greenery to the front in the shape of a wreath. Clippings from your tree, mistletoe, and ivy are easy choices to work with.

On the day of the party, decorate with nuts, fruits, greenery, marzipan, and adorable carved, wooden figurines of angels, trees, and Santa. Don't forget candles and trimmings.

Party Time!

The date has finally arrived. Guests will be arriving on your doorstep in minutes! You've prepared as much as possible ahead of time to ensure your plans run smoothly. A few finishing details should be all you need to make the event memorable.

Anticipate the comfort of your guests. Set appetizers in the living room, on the buffet, and in other places that make it easy to nibble. Play music and light candles for ambience.

Take guests' belongings when they arrive. Introduce people by pointing out what they have in

common with each other. Accept any gifts graciously and take to a discreet place so that other guests won't feel guilty if they didn't bring one.

Finally, stay out of the kitchen as much as possible so you can mingle with your guests and enjoy the party. And most importantly of all, you should enjoy yourself. Your holiday party should be for you as much as it is for your guests.


Heidi Tyline King writes on a variety of decorating and home improvement topics for a number of national magazines. She has also written several books, including Beautiful Wedding Crafts, and All About Paint.


Holiday Dinner Party -- Alan Howze