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Holiday Party Ideas: Fun, Food & Gifts

Hosting a holiday gathering for family or friends, perhaps both? Switch things up and make it a memorable event by planning an entire day of fun. Here, we provide a variety of ideas to get the party started, including a fill-in-the-blank, holiday word game. Feel free to make it your own based on your guest list.

First, start with a theme and carry it over to how everyone dresses. You can go as simple as an ugly sweater or flannel shirt party—or get more creative by asking guests to come dressed as their favorite character from a holiday movie. And your theme doesn’t have to be holiday related if you’d prefer to have an 80’s party or have everyone dress as their partner or spouse.  

Activities: Prevent Awkward Conversations

While small talk and holiday movies can help pass the time, you don’t want a friendly conversation to veer into a full-blown political debate. So, up your host game by having activities at the ready.

To keep the convo going and everyone in jolly spirits, check out our holiday word game. Without reading the story, have your friends or family provide answers for each blank. Read the story out loud for some holiday laughs and perhaps, provide a prize for the best story. You can also play holiday or regular trivia, charades, or holiday-themed Pictionary-type games.

If you want to keep it low-key, you can set up a table or two with holiday arts and crafts. And not just for the kids. Gather materials and supplies for a gift-wrapping or wreath-making table. How about customizing holiday cards, stockings or mini trees? You can also print free coloring pages for kids and adults alike. Here’s a quick example and another for bigger kids and adults.

And if you have room for it, try a gift wrap relay race! Divide guests into two or more teams. Next, set up a table with unwrapped gifts (empty Amazon boxes are fine) and wrapping supplies. One by one, each member of all teams will race to get a gift wrapped. The winning team is the first to have all members wrap a gift. 

Food: Let’s Talk Turkey and More

Keep the party going with a delicious holiday meal. If you prefer a traditional approach, you can't go wrong with a turkey, ham or roast. However, if you just cooked a huge feast for Thanksgiving, go ahead and make side dishes a potluck. You can even assign dishes to your guests to ensure your meal is complete. You don’t need seven riffs on mashed potatoes after all. And you can play to each guest’s cooking (or non-cooking) strengths. 

Want a more casual and adventurous option? Make the party a full potluck. Have guests bring a dish based on the first letter of their name and dig into an eclectic mix of dishes and cuisines!

As host, you could then be in charge of drinks and set up an egg nog, hot cocoa, or cocktail bar. Have various mix-ins, toppings, straws/stir-sticks, and other accouterments available, so everyone can customize to their own liking.

For the kiddos, a great food meets crafts idea is cookie decorating. Whether you roll out the dough and have them pick a festive cookie cutout or grab some plain cookies from the store, it's a great way to keep the little ones entertained and out of mischief. Stock the cookie station with icing, a variety of sprinkles, small candies, you name it!

Gifts: ‘Tis the Season for Giving

Beyond traditional gift exchanges, you have a few options that are great for big families and friend gatherings. One great way to keep budgets manageable is a Secret Santa. Everyone draws names in advance and buys a gift for just one person. You can even set a price limit or request that the gift be handmaid, repurposed, or thrifted.

Another fun approach is the White Elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings a wrapped gift to contribute to a communal pool of presents. The first person then chooses a gift from the table and unwraps it. The next person can either steal it or choose from the gift pile. You progress through all participants with everyone having the ability to steal any gift that’s been unwrapped. The exchange only concludes when all gifts have been opened.

In the spirit of giving instead of receiving, you can also have all guests bring a toy or food that will be donated to a local charity. Be sure to pick and research an organization ahead of time so you know what items are needed and if toys or other donations should be wrapped or not.

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