10 Surefire Ways to Savor the Season

By Amy Mangan

This festive time of year is always a good reason to pull out the holiday decor, have some friends over, and get in touch with your inner Elf. The goal, of course, is to accomplish this while still having fun, minus the stress of cooking, wrapping, and trying to find that errant bulb on the Christmas tree causing a major electrical breakdown.

So, put on your hospitality stocking gap with these fun activities. They should give more “ho ho” than “ho hum” this season.

1 – “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” Movie Night
It’s a tradition in our home to dim the lights, pop in the White Christmas DVD, and sip some steaming hot chocolate. Matter of fact, send a hot cocoa packet as the invitation to watch this holiday classic starring Mr. Christmas himself, Bing Crosby, and the ever cool Rosemary Clooney. Invite another family over with only two requirements: wear pajamas and bring extra marshmallows. Send them home with personalized hot chocolate mugs and you’ll be on their gift list for a very long time.

2 – Music & Martinis
An empty CD case with a customized cover is the invitation for a merry evening. Ask guests to join you for chocolate peppermint martinis while listening to some classic sounds of the season. (Dean Martin’s “Making Spirits Bright” is your best bet. Not a fan? See the sidebar for some other choices.) After one smooth cocktail, you might even convince friends to play Name That Holiday Tune. Trust me, everyone sounds better after a martini. Remind guests to bring their CD case so they’ll depart with a copy of your favorite songs.

3 – Ornament Swapping Party
Each year, our movie club exchanges ornaments that are symbolic of films we’ve seen in the past year. Okay, Lord of the Rings was a little tricky, but the object of the evening is to be creative. You can easily adapt the theme to a common interest with a special group of friends. Be sure to attach an ornament hook to your invitation since guests will go home with a new tree bauble.

4 – It’s a Wrap
Grab a piece of wrapping paper and send it as an invite for friends to join you in a major wrap fest. It’s a BYOP (Bring Your Own Paper) kind of party, so offer some hot apple cider and wine along with mucho Scotch tape.

5 – Cookie Exchange
What are the holidays without a cookie party? The rules are simple: Bake five-dozen cookies, exchange with friends, and return home with a plate full of delectables sure to make your family happy. Consume enough cookies within a 24-hour-period and you’ll never want to eat another cookie again — until next December.

6 – Low Hassle Cocktail Party
Two words for this easy event: take-out. Order appetizers from your favorite restaurant. If they deliver, that’s even better. Spread out the tasty samples on tables around the house and enjoy the evening as much as your guests.

7 – Carol Time
Does anyone still go a’ caroling? Does anyone still talk a’ this way? Regardless, it’s time to revive this musical tradition around your neighborhood. Send sheet music as the invitation to meet at your home for some pre-singing libations — which usually eases inhibitions — then, off you go! Distribute songbooks so everyone is on the same page. Literally. (Tip: Make sure there’s a solid Soprano and Alto in the group.)

8 – Toys, Books & More
Tis’ the season for giving. A popular way to support a local cause is for guests to bring an unwrapped toy or gift to your party. The local college’s book club plays on this tradition with members donating a favorite title to the college library. Personalized inscriptions add to the spirit of the night.

9 – Dream Poster Time
One of my friends hosts an annual New Year’s Day Dream Poster party giving every guest a poster board, some magazine clippings, a few markers, and free range to make personal goals for the New Year. Use the clippings to make a collage representing your hopes and dreams creating a visual reminder for the next 364 days.

10 – Soup and Sentiments
In addition to the requisite black eyed peas, ham, and rice on New Year’s Day, invite some friends over for “Soup and Sentiments.” Share a bowl of hot soup — make mine corn chowder — while reflecting on past days and years. If you’re really industrious, deliver your invitation in the form of a ceramic soup bowl with instructions to bring it to the party, along with the person carrying it, of course.

Bonus Suggestion – De-Stress Yourself
Whew. Having fun yet? Reserve one afternoon or evening with friends and family and do nothing except soak in the sights and sounds of the season with each other. It’s the best gift of all. Give everyone bath fizzies to take home for a different kind of soaking later on.

Chocolate Peppermint Martini Recipe
2 1/2 fluid ounces chilled vodka
1/2 fluid ounce chilled peppermint schnapps
1/2 fluid ounce chilled white Crème de Cacao
Shake ingredients in a martini shaker and drop two Junior Mints into each drink.

Sounds of the Season
• The Chieftains, “The Bells of Dublin”
• Frank Sinatra, “The Sinatra Christmas Album”
• Diana Krall, “Christmas Songs”
• Harry Connick, “When My Heart Finds Christmas”
• Dean Martin, “Making Spirits Bright”
• Dale Warland Singers, “A Rose in Winter”
• Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song”
• Windham Hill Artists, “A Winters Solstice V”

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