Skip to Main Content Skip to Accessibility
How to Throw a Kick-Ass Holiday Party

Photo credit: ricka_kinamoto

How to Throw a Kick-Ass Holiday Party

December 20, 2018

This time of the year, your weekends are likely stacked with holiday parties. And chances are you know exactly what to expect—from the dress to the music to the food—because it’s the exact same every. single. year. But when it comes to throwing your own epic party, make it stand out from the rest with a few twists on the classic holiday celebration. Whether you’re getting creative with drinks at the bar, taking the party outside, or changing up the gift exchange, these ideas will take your holiday party from predictable to one-of-a-kind.

1. Think Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box

Holiday parties, no matter how creative, typically have the same holiday theme. Change it up this year with a different take, and make sure your guests know the theme ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. On-theme costumes are highly encouraged.

  • Celebrate a Christmas favorite: It’s a Wonderful Life is a fine movie, but everyone knows that Die Hard is the Christmas classic everyone really loves. Celebrate a Die Hard Christmas with German beer, Japanese food, and convenience store Twinkies. Just make sure the guests know to leave the windows intact, and that tight, white tank tops à la John McClane are required attire. The best Hans Gruber impression goes home with a prize.
  • ¿Donde Esta Santa Claus? Put your guests in the holiday mood for a Feliz Navidad celebration. Go wild with the decor here, including a piñata, a Chimayo Cocktail, and a giant platter of tamales.  
  • Hold a winter barbecue: No one can resist a holiday-themed BBQ (though maybe avoid the venison burgers for this one). Keep a Santa suit on hand for the grill master, and grill up barbecue twists on holiday classics. A honey-glazed ham, grilled pineapple skewers, and if you’re feeling fancy, grilled lobster tails will have guests reminiscing about the meal while enjoying the Jello salad at their holiday potluck.

2. Add Holiday Cheer to Classic Cocktails

Gingerbread sidecar anyone? Or how about an eggnog martini (trust us, it works). Take classic cocktails and give them a holiday twist with a pomegranate Manhattan, an old fashioned with cinnamon, or a cranberry mule.

Of course, you’ll never go wrong with an old-school bowl of punch—just make it a little more exciting with a few ingredient swaps. A pitcher of sangria gets the holiday treatment with a cranberry-apple twist: add diced apples and a cup of whole cranberries to a blend of apple cider, cranberry juice, seltzer water, and white wine. Want to be even more hands-off? Let your guests kick back with a festive beer like the Toasted Marshmallow Fun Size from Pollyanna Brewing. Stock your bar with plenty of holiday garnishes (like a sprig of rosemary) and offer up recipe cards ideas based on any fun and unfamiliar ingredients on display.  

Holiday-themed cocktails
Create holiday-themed cocktails to make your party one to remember. Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

3. Games, Shmames. Find a Unique Twist to Gift Giving

Forget the boring the white elephant gift and take your party games to the next level this year. Whether you choose a theme for the gift exchange or combining two classic gift-giving games, these will be far more entertaining than passing around a regifted pair of holiday socks. Having fun is more important than the whatever gift your guests end up taking home. Think outside the box with clever gift exchanges. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make some rules: Add a theme to your gift-giving by requiring guests to bring something already in their home or apartment. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—or is at least good for a laugh. Or pick a specific store type, like the liquor store, farmers’ market, or a unique shop in town, and have all the gifts come from there. You also can pick a fun and random category, like spices, hats, or beverages and see what people come up with.
  • Play gift-card roulette: Have everyone bring a $10 gift card (it’ll go further than you think) and throw in a few extra bucks to spring for a $100 gift card to throw in the mix. Pick the cards out of a hat, and one person will receive the big payout at the end.
  • Combine the classic secret Santa with white elephant: Sure, you bought a gift for your secret Santa, but what if someone else really wants the unicorn-shaped tape dispenser? Once everyone has unwrapped their secret Santa gift, pull numbers out of a hat, then, in numerical order, allow each person to “steal” a gift from someone else. Like a traditional white elephant, each gift can only be traded twice.

Holiday gift exchange
For your holiday gift exchange, make it more about the game than the present. Photo Credit: Freestocks

4. Nix Jingle Bells for a Fiesty Holiday Playlist

Who can come up with most obscure (and awesome) Christmas song? Maybe you can play David Hasselhoff’s German version of Silent Night? Or Bob Dylan’s Must Be Santa? Try to find the most random song by the most unlikely artist and play Name That Tune. This playlist has a solid blend of obscure songs, classics, and fun tunes to keep your guests on their toes.

5. Take the Party Outside

Who says the roaring fire needs to be inside? Go ahead and roast those chestnuts on an open fire for real at a kickass bonfire. Add sledding to the mix if there’s snow, and watch the fun notch up a couple of levels, especially with some of those holiday-themed beers.

Don’t forget to set up a table near the fire and organize a make-your-own s’mores bar. While everyone appreciates the standard graham-cracker-chocolate-marshmallow combo, mix it up with a few surprising flavors and ingredients to get the taste buds popping. Putting Oreos, jam, bacon, or peanut butter into the mix will mean no one gets bored. Who can come up with the most surprising (and most delicious) combination?

Outside Holiday Parties
Shake things up by taking your holiday party outside.

Written by Maggie Slepian for Knockaround

SEE MORE Journal