Give me your glittery, fun, slightly tacky Christmas Party ideas!
December 4, 2010 1:41 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are throwing our very *first annual* Christmas party. We just bought a house, and I've been dying to entertain in it. The thing is, though, I don't want it to be too "grown up" - ya know, a boring adult party. Our number one requirement for our wedding was that the reception be fantastically fun - where everyone dances all night and no one sits around awkwardly, being bored. This is the kind of party I want. I don't want it to be boring BUT I do not want it to be because people are drunk out of their minds (I cannot stand ridiculously drunk behavior).

SO here is what I'm thinking so far:
Ugly sweaters are encouraged; prize awarded for ugliest one
Seasonal cocktails/beverages, including my favorite hot apple pie recipe.
Super awesome Christmas cookies/treats (I'm talking about gourmet type stuff, not your basic sugar cookies and crap-- I love baking)
Vintage, tacky Christmas music on vinyl
Some kind of photobooth set up.
Perhaps awkward, tipsy caroling outside if the house becomes too crowded.
Awesome party favor bags
Maybe a viewing of favorite movies later in the evening - Elf, Charlie Brown Christmas, etc.

I'm really into making stuff and decorating... I want the party to be slightly tacky but I don't want it to be half-assed. I want it to be obvious that every detail has been thought through. Think Martha Stewart-esque but more young and hip.

Go crazy! Tell me all of your ideas for throwing the awesomest party ever! Ideas for prizes, favors, food, cocktails, activities, and tips in general for not having a party bomb.

Oh, and I'm not super crazy about the idea of organized games or like, white elephant gifts. But it's not necessarily out of the question.
posted by nataliedanger to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Hire a Santa to stop by?
Do you have a fireplace? If so, light it. If not, play a "fire" dvd on your screen (I think comcast has one in on demand). It's a bit tacky, but if the rest of the party is cool it'll add a nice touch.
posted by kylej at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some of my best parties had a theme that let everyone get in of the planning - they could dress the theme, or bring stuff related to it, and the decorations went with the theme too. Your guests will be more into the fun if they can participate themselves. It's good to not make dressing up mandatory, though, because that will drive some people away. Anyway, what about a theme that lets people be a bit racy - like XXXmas
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2010

White Elephant / Yankee Swap? Big hit at my parents party. A $5 max on the gifts also means most people will participate and that the gifts will generally be on the humorous side.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 1:51 PM on December 4, 2010

Well, you may not be able to control how ridiculously drunk everyone gets, but other than that....

Set up a good "flow"; in other words, it's easy for guests to move from one area to another and each area is relatively comfortable and welcoming. Lots of little groups of chairs, don't have too many fussy little end tables that people might trip over, that sort of thing. Don't let your guests get crowded out by the decor.

From a guest's point of view, when I go to a party, it's to relax, imbibe, and talk. Games are fun, but only if it's voluntary. Karaoke is always good for that, if you have the room/aren't worried about too much noise. But if not...why not hire some musicians or a DJ and have a dance area?

Instead of a photobooth, why not set up a videocamera corner where people can drop by and give their best wishes/thoughts? You can send everyone a full set later or post highlights on Youtube.
posted by emjaybee at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2010

where everyone dances all night and no one sits around awkwardly, being bored

Not being bored is good. But overcontrolling, overly-programmed is not. A great party has karaoke or dancing or games or whatever, but also has spaces that work for people who want to chat and be more mellow. I really dread the kind of party where my amazing conversation with neat people is interrupted so the host can make everyone do something together.
posted by Forktine at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2010 [16 favorites]

I think the best parties are a combination of spontaneous fun and controlled chaos. I love to cook, I always have someone appointed as "bartender" who'll pour and mix, and keep cold stuff cold (not always my husband.) I like to pass food on trays and introduce people to each other, so they get chatting. I usually rent glassware, but use paper/plastic for the rest. (I have about 100-150 people come to these, so I'm not washing glasses.)

Great mix tapes or play lists are important to keep the energy up (vinyl means someone has to change records--no one I know wants to do that.) I try to have some quieter places for those who want to watch the fray without having to in the middle of it. Some people will sit and chat and even look at magazines or coffee table books--that's cool, too. Mistletoe in a discreet place, not smack in the middle where the shy can't escape. If you have a room for it, people will watch TV, dvds, etc. Boxing is always popular, but I don't announce that we're all going to watch TV promptly at 10:30.

I've had mariachis drop by, and Santa, and one year someone brought a girl who did fire juggling, but it freaked my neighbors.

But I hate themes and prizes and such. People who want to wear holiday sweaters will do so, but what about those who want to get gussied up?

If you want to give gifts as people leave, that's nice, but it's a little too kids' party for me. I'd spend the money on food and booze, personally.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Traffic flow, as emjaybee says. Be sure there are two exits from any station (eg the drinks station), people should not get cornered. Think about how you will spread out the food and drink (and whatever other stations you have) to encourage flow.

Food and drink - think about people being able to eat it while standing and holding a drink - so one-handed finger foods are best.

Music - have a few playlists for active dancing and mellower times; pick one area that's for dancing, drunken karaoke, etc, and one area that's for quieter conversation

Activities - I've enjoyed Christmas parties where there is some very low-key, low-stakes activity in one room like stringing popcorn/cranberries for a garland, roasting chestnuts, decorating gingerbread men cookies, etc. This kind of activity is a way for people to make friendly chitchat with other partygoers they don't know.

Party games? - like charades, pictionary on a big whiteboard, 25 words or less, taboo, or whatever appeals to your group. this kind of thing is good for some groups and not others. If you want 70s-tacky, you could play Twister?

Scavenger hunt in your house - you can have lists of things that are hidden in plain sight in your house, let people roam around and tick them off their lists (or say, hide 20 plastic Santas in plain sight, and guests can list the locations of all the ones they find). You can have various things like this that don't require everyone to do it at the same time. Guess how many m+ms in the jar, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not to be too contrary, but it sounds like you might be overthinking this. Tacky music is great, as are yummy hors d'ouvres, or perhaps even some spiced punch. Running guests from one activity to the next can get a little tiring, though, and suck all the fun out of chilling out and chatting with friends. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but do consider it.
posted by Gilbert at 3:43 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're making drinks with Everclear but don't want anyone to get crazy drunk? That . . . might be a problem.

For my own holiday parties, I usually serve mulled mead. Mead is still insanely strong, though, so I try to be understanding if anyone needs to crash there. I think that's really important for grown-up parties with alcohol: balance understanding with being firm about cutting people off and not letting them drive.

For movies, just to warn you, if you haven't seen the Charlie Brown special in awhile, it's surprisingly Christian. Other fun film suggestions that trend a little more non-denominational are Pee-wee's Christmas Special, various muppet Christmas films ("The Christmas Toy" and "Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas" are my faves), and Santa Claus: The Movie, which features Dudley Moore as a ridiculous magical elf. And sparkling, flying reindeer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:33 PM on December 4, 2010

Ugly sweaters are encouraged; prize awarded for ugliest one.

I don't want to rain on your parade, but this is exactly the sort of thing that "boring adults" would do.

Your food ideas sound great. The photobooth has always been a hit at parties ive been to. The best advice I can give for not having your party "bomb" is to invite a lot of people to ensure that even if only a fraction show up, you still have a good turnout.

Let me advise against a Yankee swap/gift exchange. Don't stress out your guests or make them decide to skip it by putting some sort of obligation on them that they have to fulfill before showing up. And besides, even if a Yankee swap activity is successful, your guests are still stuck with yet another $10 trinket that they don't actually need cluttering up their house.
posted by deanc at 4:47 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the great ideas!

Maybe I didn't emphasize enough, but I am really NOT interested in "planned" games or whatever. I just don't want people to be bored.
posted by nataliedanger at 5:36 PM on December 4, 2010

How about "Pin the Sack on Santa"--complete with blindfold and turning person around three times?
posted by 6:1 at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2010

Re: Yankee Swap -- We do one at our holiday party, but with specific guidelines that a) anyone can opt to play or not, b) $10 or less, and c) it has to be something that can actually be used vs. landfill fodder, and d) creativity is encouraged. The best gift last year was a frozen turkey, which was really amazingly weird looking while wrapped up.

My best suggestion for having a not-boring party is to invite not-boring people. They'll take it from there.
posted by bizzyb at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2010

Give people something to do at the party besides stand around, eating and drinking. Most drunken parties are because there's nothing else to do BUT that. You might not like organized games, but that will help keep people from being so bored they do flaming shots or something. Movie night partying is ah, pretty similar to that though, i.e. still sitting around drinking.

I'd suggest Wacky Craft Time (let people make uh, stuff out of stuff). Hell, I used to bring Legos to parties in college and people would build weird things (Lego strip club...) out of them. Go to a dollar store and buy a bunch of stuff and let them make wacky statues. It's silly, but if they've got something else to do than hit the booze...

I know you don't want activities, but if you find a good enough one, it can be a fun tradition for people to look forward to every year.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2010

Maybe I didn't emphasize enough, but I am really NOT interested in "planned" games or whatever. I just don't want people to be bored.

From an introvert who enjoys being around but doesn't like being forced to participate, thanks for thinking of this!

It sounds to me like the things you've mentioned already would be pretty fun to either observe or participate in, while adding the flexibility to just chill and enjoy the company of others, if desired.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:00 PM on December 4, 2010

If you don't want people to sit around being bored, hide the chairs. A party with mingling is a party in which everyone talks to everyone and has fun. A party with sitting (which is what I accidentally had last night) is a party where you talk to the 3 people closest to you and get annoyed with another group is laughing too loudly. I could have solved this by inviting more people, but it just so happened that we had enough chairs for everyone.
posted by oreofuchi at 7:30 PM on December 4, 2010

Buy or borrow an XBox with a Kinect and Dance Central. Not everyone will do it, but the ones that do will have a lot of fun and be a lot of fun to watch (as in laugh-with, not laugh at). I know it's a lot of money but maybe you have an Xbox already?
posted by Brainy at 9:49 PM on December 4, 2010

hide the chairs

If there's any chance at all that people might be wearing high heels, please do not do this. Hiding the chairs will solve the problem of people sitting around being bored because they will have left for someplace where they can actually sit.

My housemates and I once unloaded our surplus craft supplies on a table and set up a "make your own ornament/crown" station at our Christmas party. People could wander over as they wanted and it was an excuse for people to get up and move around. Great fun.
posted by corey flood at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2010

Yes, please don't hide the chairs. No where to sit at a party is kind of sucky. You don't want everyone sitting the whole, ideally you want people standing, mingling, circulating, but every so often people want to take a load off and/or get intimately acquainted on a couch (I mean talking/flirting, nothing x-rated). My husband and I attended a fun holiday party last night, where there were no specific planned activities but just a lot of interesting people, food and plenty of drinks, and the place was festively decorated (lights and a Christmas tree mainly). Oh, and they had guests sabering champagne for a bit of extra fun (I did it and it was surprisingly easy -- plus kind of an amusing thing to watch).

For food, have a variety of finger foods and desserts, just try to minimize the items that need to be cooked during the party. I barely spoke with our good friend, the hostess, since she was so busy running around all night cooking, washing glasses, and keeping things neat. I know there's no getting around some of that work but if you can have most of your food prepared in advice, it would save you stress during the party. And have enough glasses on hand that you don't have to run the dishwasher during the party. This also frees you up to attend to guests, speak to the ones who don't know any one else and make introductions.

Keep things dimly lit, using white lights and candles. Nothing kills a mood quicker than too bright lights.

We didn't play any games, but at a different party I attended the white elephant thing went over really well. I think your ugly sweater idea really depends on the crowd; some groups would love this and others consider it annoying or burdensome.
posted by JenMarie at 5:19 PM on December 5, 2010

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