Is it your first time hosting a holiday party or maybe you’ve done it before but you noticed your party-planning game has been stale and you need some holiday party ideas? If so, this article is written for you! In it, we will discuss how to throw the best holiday party whether you are throwing the Christmas party at home or just in charge of the company holiday party.
Throwing a Christmas party at home
If we were to strip down the components of what makes not only a good Christmas party but almost all good parties, it would come down to something like: food + drinks + the people attending and the integration between them. Since you are the host, it is your duty to make those components great in order to ensure the party is great.
Let’s start with the drinks. First thing to do if you’re hosting a holiday party and you want to make things more fun is adding alcoholic drinks to the mix. No joke. We’re not advising for anyone to get drunk, but - if you drink responsibly - alcohol can make grown-ups less uptight. And if someone does drink a bit much, it’s okay. Cut that person’s drink, feed the person and slow them down. That’s what’s great about throwing a Christmas party at home; you’re in a controlled environment. One good holiday party idea is to only serve drinks you prepare yourself in your home bar. Have some custom made Christmas drink recipes in your sleeve and prepare them yourself. The activity itself will be a way for people to interact - if not with each other - with you. Some showmanship required here. Plus, this way, you’re in control of how much people are drinking. So, have your home bar essentials ready!
Food can be an important component to neutralize possible alcohol problems. A nice caloric food – and Christmas food usually is pretty caloric – will make the alcoholic beverages give that little fun edge to people without basically disabling them for the rest of the night. Plus, it’s usually cold during Christmas and our bodies metabolism works faster, so it’s natural for us to look for that kind of food so we can have the energy for longer; otherwise, we’ll eat and sleep and no one wants that. So a good holiday party food idea is to make food available in portions in a way that your guest bite a little bit here, a little bit there, feeding themselves in turns rather than in one big bite that takes them out of combat. Nuts are the big winner here. Put salty mixed nuts in several little pots so that people eat a handful and then drink, rinse and repeat. In an hour everyone should be super integrated.
Integrated for what?, you ask. Well, to mingle! That’s what a party is all about, gathering people to interact and have a good time.
With that in mind, another important holiday party idea when you are throwing a Christmas party at home is having some party games and activities organized beforehand in case your guests are not mingling – or worse, there are scattered groups that won’t interact with each other and you have to spend a few minutes interacting with one and then saying “Sorry, I have to go talk with that other group for a moment now”. If you don’t have any idea of what to play, don’t worry, we have written a party game ideas to play with friends and most of the idea require nothing but essential home items like pen and paper.
Music can also be important to get the party going. You can either go for the “top 40” kind of music if your guests like current songs, or “oldies but goldies” so that everyone gets a kick out of nostalgia. But even if the crowd is not feeling like dancing, you should have music in the background, and your best choice is for classic Christmas songs - you know the drill; “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, “ White Christmas”, “Linus and Lucy”, and the ever sing-along anthem “All I want for Christmas is you”.
One last thing to keep in mind when throwing a Christmas party at home is the house rules for gift exchanging. While it’s supposed to be fun, Secret Santas can wreak havoc to relationships. You might be doing everything right, everyone is having fun and interacting, and then, one badly chosen gift is given, the person becomes angry, decides that gift will be regifted and, then, the other person finds out and next thing you know our society is divided irreparably and World War III is next. Whatever your house rules for gifts, be sure to tell everyone in advance and with a crystal clear communication so everyone has the time to get ready, no one gets left behind and no one can complain afterward.
Organizing a company holiday party
Most of those ideas get thrown out of the window when the celebration in question is a company holiday party.
A company holiday party is one different animal and the main idea you need to instill in your mind – whether you are organizing it or just attending – is this one: you’re going to have to meet and work with those people two days after, so calculate the amount of shame you can recover from in two days in order to walk with your head up high next time you meet them.
Focus on the food if you’re organizing a company holiday party. Because you won’t be giving people a lot of liquor – you don’t want them drunk throwing up on the floor – you have to spend good bucks for the most awesome meal you can offer your co-workers. It’s a good investment the person responsible for paying for the party will understand; the employees worked hard for the whole year and deserve nice hearty food. And you know what? It’s tax deductible so go get that good food, man!
A company holiday party is supposed to be more restrained but that doesn’t mean less fun. For instance: why not make the dress code for the party be “Ugly Christmas sweaters”? What to wear to an office holiday party is a big question both for guests and management, and this idea is an interesting way to ensure no one will use anything too revealing that might lead to unprofessional rhetoric and harassment. Plus, it will be a nice ice-breaker for everyone: “OMG! Did you see the one Lucas is wearing?! Hysterical!”. You can even make a sort of contest and the one who gets voted the ugliest wins something funny or thoughtful – if the company can’t afford a real prize. As a whole, any competition-like activity in a company holiday party makes sense, as most workplaces are competitive by nature. Just make sure to leave alcohol out of the equation and tell everyone it’s just for fun, so that no one kills anyone over it.
Additionally, differently from throwing a Christmas party at home, when you are responsible for the company holiday party it’s important to set limits hour-wise for the party. When it’s your home and guests are family and friends, you can let the party decide for itself when it’s time to end it. Hey, if people are really into it, they can even stay and sleepover, right? That’s by all accounts the best sign of a total success. However, when it’s a company holiday party, you have to (i) make the party start and end early and (ii) make clear the time it ends and enforce it does. Why is that? While everyone can say they love their jobs and really like the vibe of the place etc. they are still employers and employees. If no one sets an ending time, the employee might feel like he’s being coerced to stay. He might feel bad for leaving or even afraid of leaving. And this is Christmas, guys! We’re supposed to stay with family and loved ones. An office party is more to give the employees a sort of “thank you” for everything, providing nice food for them and sharing a moment, but we bet all of them will appreciate even more if you let them out of any responsibility and awkwardness a company party might bring despite your best efforts and just give them more free time to spend with the family. For instance, a good idea is to – if possible - do an office party with an extra (paid!) hour of lunch on the 23rd and letting them free for the 24th and 25th. We bet they will like it!
In the end, for people organizing a company holiday party or throwing a Christmas party at home – or a Hanukkah party, Thanksgiving Day Celebration; any party really - it’s all about making sure your guests are having a good time, so – despite our best effort – there’s no universal truth on how to do it. Sometimes we don’t do anything and the party turns out unforgettable, sometimes we worry so much we just cripple the fun. So, if there’s one advice we can give you is this: Try having fun yourself! There’s nothing like a fun host. And once you are having fun, be generous about it and invite everyone else to have fun with you. Happy Holidays!
Hope it's a wonderful party, Debe! One note that I forgot while writing and it will be important for you, the host: we get so caught up with making sure everything is perfect that sometimes we forget about ourselves. Remember to eat and drink something before everyone eats and all you have is leftovers (though to my taste they are lovely). You deserve it!