Creative ideas for the holiday hostess (without all the stress)

Party Tips to Help You Throw Your Jolliest Bash Yet

Story by Eddy Hoyle

The holidays are upon us and entertaining is a huge part of sharing time with family and friends. Do you find it exhilarating or intimidating? A joy or a frustration? With busy schedules and too little time to shop, bake, wrap gifts, decorate, travel and keep up with day to day obligations, stress can overwhelm us and crush our enthusiasm for what otherwise should be holiday joy.

Perhaps we can reignite holiday magic by changing things up, trying something new, and putting some of our regular traditions aside. We have some creative, no-fuss ideas that can be fun, imaginative, and engaging for you to consider.

International holiday food fest

Celebrate diversity with a culinary trip around the world. Ask your guests to bring a traditional holiday dish from another country. A potluck dinner is always easier for the hostess and it gives your guests an opportunity to show off an old family recipe that showcases their heritage. Each dish will inspire conversations about family traditions and ancestry. And think of the yummy possibilities: figgy pudding or mince pies from England, potato latkes from Israel, Italian roasted lamb, Polish pierogis, caviar or smoked salmon on blinis from Ukraine, Hungarian bejgli (nut and poppy seed rolls), or German Stollen pastries. Just make sure you know what everyone is bringing so you have a complete meal (appetizer, main dish, side dishes and desserts).

Holiday tea party and cookie exchange

Easy-peezy! Invite your guests to an afternoon tea party. All you will need is lovely holiday platters and beautiful plates to display each guest’s batch of their favorite holiday cookies. Make sure to let them know to bring their favorite home-baked holiday cookies. Serve tea, hot chocolate, cider or mimosas and settle in for a relaxed afternoon of conversation, holiday music and camaraderie. The bonus is that each guest takes home a dozen cookies of different varieties.

Pump up the music

Whether you croon in the car, sing in the shower, or hum your way through the holidays, music sets the tone for whatever you do, and wherever you do it. Everyone’s got a favorite carol and probably even knows the words. How about hosting a Christmas Karaoke party? Simple snacks and beverages will suffice, although a little alcohol goes a long way in getting even the most introverted among us to loosen up enough to croon a tune. Use a clever theme to entice them – something like Sparkles and Spirits, Margaritas and Mistletoe, Martinis and Mistletoe, or Music and Mistletoe.

Fireside roasting and toasting

Mild winters in the Lowcountry allow us to take advantage of outdoor activities year-round. Consider a simple barbecue around a firepit to keep entertaining casual and stress free. S’mores and hot chocolate always are welcome treats for kids and adults alike. Provide adult beverages that give that warm glow like hot chocolate with Kahlua or Baileys. And for fun, add a theme – a Whoville Grinch theme, Elf hats, a Dickens theme, or a contest for the best Santa costume. Or for those chilly evenings, hold an ugly sweater contest.

Ooh, the smell of gingerbread

Nothing sends your olfactory senses into a Christmas wonderland like the scent of gingerbread. Host a gingerbread house-building party. You can take the easy way out and buy some cookie kits, or you can pre-bake gingerbread house shapes. Stock up on candy canes, sprinkles, icing in tubes, M&Ms, gumdrops and cinnamon hearts. Off to the side, use a slow cooker to keep hot chocolate warm and set up a hot chocolate bar. Serve hot cocoa drinks topped off with Bailey’s Irish Cream, peppermint schnapps, or Kahlua. Set out mugs, marshmallows, cinnamon sticks and candy canes as accoutrements. Guests can take their magnificent productions home with them, or you can donate them all to your favorite charity to be auctioned off (please arrange ahead of time with the charity). The internet offers a wealth of photos to reproduce to inspire your guests, and it’s a handy place to find good gingerbread recipes and templates for the house shapes.

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