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Christmas Party Ideas
DECORATING THE HOUSE AND LAWN
Here are some suggestions for decorating for your Christmas party without resorting to plastic lawn elves.
Nothing says Christmas like a six-foot pine chopped down and erected in your living room for your holiday enjoyment. If you choose to buy a real tree and not a plastic one, here are some tips on how to keep it fresh for you party:
Cut off an inch from the bottom of the tree trunk so that it will absorb water better. Then place it in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water, and water the tree every day.
Before any tree-trimming takes place, spray the tree with an antitranspirant, which will prevent the needles from losing water. You can also prevent the tree needles from browning by keeping decorative strings of lights off during the daytime - the heat from the light dries out the needles.
Keep the tree away from the fireplace, furnaces, heating vents, and candles. An inflamed tree is not a fresh tree.
Decide on whether you want to decorate the tree before your party, or if you want to make tree-trimming a party activity. Either way, get out your box of ornaments and supplement it with such cheap additions as candy canes, bows, and popcorn or construction paper chains.
You might also want to decorate your tree with miniature stockings that have your guests' names written on them. Just stuff the stockings with candy that you can buy in bulk, and give them to your guests as party favors.
One last suggestion: ask everyone to bring one hugely tacky ornament, and have a contest to see who brings the worst one. You'll start a tradition and cover your tree all at once!
Christmas lights are a great way to decorate your house. Buy a couple of sets and string them along the walls. Turn off the room lights to create a cozy atmosphere. If you want to decorate your house with candles, attach them to the inside of clear jars with a few drops of wax. This way if they get accidentally knocked over, they won't set your place on fire. Lest we were unclear, we will repeat: KEEP CANDLES IN JARS, ATTACH THEM TO THE BOTTOM OF THE JARS, AND DON'T GO CANDLE CRAZY OR YOUR HOUSE WILL BURN DOWN. Subtle enough for you?…
Poinsettias and wreaths are relatively cheap and make beautiful and festive decorations.
Tack up some mistletoe at each doorway and enforce that your guests follow the kissing-under-the-mistletoe rule. (We're big fans of embarrassment.) This will also provide a great opportunity to plant wet ones on all the finer-looking guests.
A lot of candy companies sell their products wrapped in Christmas colors this time of year. Buy a few bags of the stuff, pour them into large bowls, and you get edible Christmas decorations-the best kind.
SERVE OLD FASHION CHRISTMAS TREATS
Here are recipes for some tasty treats to prepare for your party. And they're all traditional (people love traditional).
These cookies necessitate a three-hour chilling period, so don't decide to make them at the last minute.
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 tbsp. water
You'll also need:
People-shaped cookie cutters
Icing pens (to draw their little faces)
- In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until it forms a creamy consistency.
- Add the molasses, eggs, and water, then continue mixing.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the salt, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, cloves, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.
- Dump this dry mixture into the wet one and mix.
- Chill the mixture for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.
- Roll the dough out into a flat disk over a floured surface and use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
- Place the cookies an inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for five minutes at 375° F.
- Decorate the cookies after they've been cooled with fine-tipped icing pens.
We have thoughtfully included directions on how to make alcoholic and non-alcoholic eggnog. You're welcome! (This recipe makes enough for eight small servings.)
6 egg yolks
½ cup half and half
½ tsp. nutmeg
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
for alcoholic eggnog add:
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup rum
for non-alcoholic eggnog add:
An extra ½ cup half and half
1 tsp. rum extract or ½ tsp. orange extract
- Beat the egg yolks, nutmeg, and vanilla in a bowl.
- Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat until it starts to steam. Ladle one scoop of the milk into the egg mixture bowl, then turn the heat off and slowly pour the egg/milk mixture into the saucepan, stirring the mixture in the pot as you pour.
- Set the heat on low and continuously stir the mixture as it cooks, being careful to keep the bottom from burning.
- Cook for 20 minutes, or until the consistency of the mixture is thick and doesn't run.
- When the mixture ready, pour it into a heat-safe bowl and add all the remaining ingredients.
- Chill the concoction thoroughly before serving.
- Sprinkle some nutmeg on top of each cup for decoration.
You can roast chestnuts the traditional way (over a fire), or the 21st century way (in the oven).
- Thoroughly clean the dirt off of chestnuts with paper towels.
- Cut an X into the shell of each chestnut with a thin, sharp knife.
- If you're using an open fire, place chestnuts in a large pan with the X-ed sides up and cover it, then roast them over the fire for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the shells begin to open.
- If you're using an oven, preheat it to 425° F, arrange the chestnuts on a baking sheet with the X-ed sides up, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the shells begin to open.
- Let the chestnuts cool a little, peel the shells back, and eat. Try adding a bit of salt for extra flavor.
CHRISTMAS GAMES & ACTIVITIES
Sure you can let your guests just chat and eat, but this is a Christmas party, so we demand that you do some Christmas-y things. Here are some suggestions:
Trim the tree
We already touched upon this earlier, but we'd like to reiterate that this is the perfect dorky activity for a Christmas party (especially after everyone has already had a few drinks). Purposely leave your tree naked, and invite your guests to dress it up for you. Lay out your collection of ornaments and lights, as well as art materials like construction paper, glue, glitter, cardboard, magic markers, yarn, cotton balls, and popcorn. It'll be a fun group activity and everyone can take pride in the finished product. Even if it comes out hideously, it'll be funny. And you can always re-trim it after the party is over!
Go Christmas caroling
Here's a site with the lyrics of popular Christmas carols. Print out copies of your favorites, hand them out to your guests, and go caroling around the block. Here are some extra tips on caroling:
- Inform your guests of your intentions to lead them on a caroling expedition, so they'll know to bring gloves, hats, and scarves.
- If you go caroling at night, bring along a couple of flashlights, in case it gets too dark for your group to read the song sheets.
- Ring your neighbors' doorbell and wait one minute before moving on. If your neighbors don't appreciate your musical stylings, don't push it.
- Buy some drinks that you can heat up, like hot chocolate or cider, and prepare it for the carolers when they get back to warm them up.
Instead of having the gingerbread men already made for your guests, gather the ingredients and get your guests to make the cookies themselves. Baking is another great group activity. You can have your guests bake several kinds at once - just make sure you've got enough materials. Here are tons of holiday cookie recipes.
Secret Santa style. If you've invited a small group and your guests all basically know each other, ask them if they'll agree to a Secret Santa gift exchange. If everyone is game, arrange for it to happen.
- Throw everyone's names into a hat and draw "Secret Santas" for everyone at least two weeks before the party. (Or you, as host, can stay out of it and assign everyone a Secret Santa via e-mail.)
- Inform each guest that they are the Secret Santa for someone else and must buy a present for him/her. Set up a spending limit of $10 to $15 (or some other range with a discrepancy of $5).
- Ask your guests to wrap the presents, label them appropriately, and stick them under the Christmas tree upon arrival. Then designate a segment of your party to opening up each others' gifts.
Grab bag style.
Make sure that everyone is willing to participate in a grab bag before you decide to hold one at your party. Then limit everyone's spending to $10 to $15. On the day of the party, get a large garbage bag and have your guests throw their (wrapped) gifts into it. Designate a segment of your party to randomly picking out gifts and opening them. To be particularly fun, institute a rule of no gift certificates, lottery tickets, or anything else that could be construed as a cop-out.