11 Holiday Party Ideas to Consider If You Actually Want Guests to Have Fun

Updated 10/15/18
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Stacie Flinner—Holiday Party Ideas
@stacieflinner

The holiday season is a notorious time for parties, but if we're being honest, sometimes the occasions can feel monotonous. Since everyone is likely attending multiple parties at this time of year, which all usually have the same sort of vibe, it's hard for one shindig to stand out from the rest. When you're a host, that's not what you want to happen.

If you're thinking about hosting a holiday party this year, plan to go a little outside of the box. Not only will it make you feel more creative, but your guests are also more likely to remember your effort. We came up with 11 different holiday party ideas ranging from the silly to sophisticated. You can ask your friends to dress up for a costume party featuring their favorite movie characters, for instance, or you can throw a dinner party that would make Nora Ephron proud.

Whatever you choose, don't be afraid to go all out. This is your chance to make your party a lasting holiday memory—and maybe an ongoing tradition, too.

Winter Wonderland

Spoon Fork Bacon—Holiday Party Ideas
Spoon Fork Bacon

Remember how fun it was to go to a winter wonderland dance as a kid? Well, relive that magic—minus the awkward phase and curfew—with this themed party. Ask your friends to wear '80s or '90s-style formalwear and create a photo booth that mimics what you had in the high school gym. Then clear the way for a dance floor, and play some throwback hits.

What to Serve: Since this party is reminiscent of a school dance, set up a buffet table of easy finger foods. This recipe for popcorn chicken in cheesy waffle cups from Spoon Fork Bacon should speak to your teenage selves. 

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Pajama Party

Half Baked Harvest Pretzels-—Holiday Party Ideas
Half Baked Harvest

Ask your guests to put the least amount of effort into their wardrobes as possible—by showing up in their pajamas. As long as their pajamas are holiday-themed, they'll fit right in to a cozy setting of fuzzy blankets, floor pillows, and maybe even a small fort. Then, turn on film favorites like White Christmas or The Holiday, and have everyone gather round.

What to Serve: Keep the menu limited to things that can be easily shared during a movie marathon. Popcorn is a must, of course, as well as candy. This recipe from Half Baked Harvest for roasted nuts and pretzels should be perfect. 

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Hawaiian Holiday

How Sweet Eats Pineapple—Holiday Party Ideas
How Sweet Eats

Crank up the heaters and pull out the bathing suits, because this party is all about having a tropical getaway at the start of winter. Make sure your guests know to show up in vacation-ready outfits—think frayed denim, tank tops, and sunglasses—and deck your halls with Hawaiian-inspired décor. You can make a photo booth using raffia and fake palms, too.

What to Serve: As part of your tropical theme, your dishes should be colorful, flavorful, and perfect for a day at the beach. These hot honey pineapple wedges from How Sweet Eats fit that bill. 

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Holiday Happy Hour

Half Baked Harvest Moscow Mule- Holiday Party Ideas
Half Baked Harvest

If you want to gather your friends for a lighthearted party that won't take up a full night, open your house for happy hour. Serve holiday-themed cocktails and appetizers, and stick to a set time in the early evening. You can also put a football game on in the background or set up a place for darts.

What to Serve: Since this party is all about cocktails, make sure guests have a few to choose from. This frosted Moscow mule recipe from Half Baked Harvest is a good choice. 

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Santa Showdown

Foodie Crush- Holiday Party Ideas
Foodie Crush

This idea should bring out the silly sides of your friend group, since everyone should be encouraged to dress up like Santa, but don't just leave it there. The Santa Showdown is a costume contest, and the best one wins—so creativity is key. Hold a vote, and create a trophy for the guest who gets the most praise.

What to Serve: This is the perfect opportunity to make cookies, of course. These chocolate-dipped almond cookies from Foodie Crush would be great with a glass of bourbon milk. 

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Classic Dinner Party

The Modern Proper Chicken- Holiday Party Ideas
The Modern Proper

This party idea is all about the cozy feeling of good friends and an even better meal—think Nora Ephron and her accounts of having loved ones over to eat. Keep this guest list intimate since you'll be designing a menu that's all about traditional fare. Be sure to include an appetizer and dessert and have some conversation topics picked out for the main course, too.

What to Serve: Stick to comforting dishes, like this recipe for honey mustard chicken and vegetables from The Modern Proper.

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Holiday Movie Costume Party

Half Baked Harvest - Holiday Party Ideas
Half Baked Harvest

Everyone has a favorite holiday movie, and this party idea asks guests to show up dressed as their favorite characters. For instance, a group can come dressed as the gang from A Christmas Story, another can personify the Grinch, and someone else can re-create the scream as Kevin Mccallister in Home Alone. If your friends enjoy Halloween, this gives them another opportunity to make the most of their costume ideas. Be sure to play some movies in the background as well. 

What to Serve: Try to keep the menu specific to different foods from these movies. Kevin Mccallister loves cheese pizza, and Half Baked Harvest serves one up with French fries. 

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Hanukkah Potluck

How Sweet Eats- Holiday Party Ideas to Consider
How Sweet Eats

For this party, ask your friends to bring classic Hanukkah dishes to your home for a festive but casual potluck. Someone can be in charge of latkes, for example, or the jelly donuts sufganiyot. You'll be in charge of a larger main dish, like brisket. Then, serve everything in a buffet style and let everyone mingle as they eat.

What to Serve: Aside from your main dish, serve up this recipe for blackberry champagne from How Sweet Eats to go with dessert. 

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Holiday Card Decorating Party

The Minimalist Baker- Holiday Party Ideas
The Minimalist Baker

Calling all crafters! This party is for you. Set up a photo booth and a table of supplies—like cardstock, glitter, stencils, and stickers—and ask your friends over to make different holiday cards from the images. Be sure to remind your friends to have addresses ready, too, since you'll also hand out envelopes and stamps for the finishing touches. In fact, end the party by walking over to the nearest mailbox and depositing your creations together.

What to Serve: Keep the menu light for this party since most of the time will be spent working on the cards. These cheesy chili baked potato fries from The Minimalist Baker will be gone before you know it. 

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Ski Lodge Holiday Party

Hello Glow- Holiday Party Ideas
Hello Glow

This is a party theme for hosts with an outdoor space. Why? Because it's the perfect place to re-create the look of a ski lodge. String lights above a patio, crank up a fire pit, and ask guests to attend wearing their best après ski outfits. You can roast marshmallows for s'mores, serve hot chocolate, and set up board games for people to play.

What to Serve: Keep the menu focused on small bites and chocolate desserts. Healthy chocolate almond butter cups from Hello Glow will be a serious crowd-pleaser. 

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Ugly Sweater Brunch

The Modern Proper- Holiday Party Ideas
The Modern Proper

Sometimes the best time for a get-together is during the day—especially if mimosas are involved. Put a twist on the ugly sweater party trend and make it attire for an at-home brunch. Serve up various classic dishes, like waffles and cinnamon rolls, and then offer multiple types of mimosas, too. It'll be a fun way to start a Saturday or Sunday.

What to Serve: Brunch classics are the name of the game, like these coffee cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese icing from The Modern Proper

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