10 Fun and Creative Holiday Party Ideas


Are you tired of the same old tacky-sweater Christmas party? Do you want something more for your guests to do at your annual holiday bash this year? Are you thinking of hosting a family friendly party or a kids only event?

Today, we have 10 holiday party ideas from adults-only to gift exchanges to family and kid friendly gatherings that are sure to entertain your guests and spread some holiday cheer. With this season so quickly upon us we are all looking forward to enjoying great food, having great fun, and spending time with great friends.

1. Christmas Beach Bash

“There is no ice, there is no snow at Christmas time in Florida…” We’ve all heard the adage “Christmas in July.” Well, it’s time for your guests to enjoy themselves at the beach for Christmas.

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Crank up the heater and the fireplace and warm up the house so your guests can dress in their best beach attire. Flip flops, sunglasses, and some sunscreen are even a part of this holiday shindig. Décor can include palm trees strung with Christmas lights, beach chairs, a tiki bar, a blow up pool as a beer cooler, and of course, some beach balls to toss around.

While your guests enjoy Christmas carols by the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet, mix up margaritas and daiquiris and serve them in coconuts with tiny umbrellas and have plenty of Corona and limes on hand. Easy to eat finger foods can include coconut shrimp, steamed shrimp with cocktail sauce, barbecued ribs, Hawaiian chicken kebabs, fruit salad, homemade or store-bought salsa and guacamole, and pina colada cupcakes for dessert.

As your guests leave for the evening, send them home with a seashell ornament to hang on their Christmas tree. By the end of the night your guests are sure to have enjoyed their “beach break” from the cold and dreary weather outside and will later go to bed dreaming of sunny skies, the smell of sunscreen, and the sound of crashing waves.

2. Holiday Trivia and Appetizer Potluck

This holiday party can be adult-only or family friendly depending on the level of difficulty of the games you choose to play. With a little bit of effort, you can host a holiday trivia night. Using a bit of online research, the party host or hostess comes up with trivia questions all related to the season at hand. Questions can be open-ended, true or false, or fill-in-the-blank.

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For example:

What are two other names for Santa Claus? Answer: Kris Kringle and Saint Nicholas

In Frosty the Snowman, who brought Frosty back to life? Answer: Santa Claus

In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, what biological shortcoming made the Grinch so mean? Answer: His heart was two sizes too small.

These trivia questions could easily include all three December holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Questions can come from facts or fiction, books, movies, and music as long as they are about the holidays. Funny enough, when it comes to many of the holiday or Christmas questions, kids know more answers than adults do because they are often learning historical information about the holidays around this time or are watching the movies or reading the books questions will often be about.

As an added option and to be more cost-effective during the holiday season, this party can also be hosted as an appetizer potluck. Guests are oftentimes asking what they can bring to a party because no one wants to come empty-handed. So, instead of leaving them to guess what bottle of wine to buy, include on the invite that the guests should bring their favorite appetizer to share. If each guest brings an appetizer to share, you will have plenty of food and something everyone will enjoy.

Tip: Include on the invitation the number of guests invited so everyone can decide how much of their dish to bring.

As the host, you can then spend your time preparing the trivia game rather than the food, and provide the alcohol (or drinks of choice) only, making the party more affordable. Make sure to remember to have plenty of small plates, napkins, and cutlery too. Hosting as an appetizer-only party will make it easier for people to eat, drink, and be merry all while enjoying this sure to be entertaining trivia game. Gifts for the game winner could include small holiday related items such as Christmas ornaments or scented candles.

3. Holiday Karaoke and Cocktail (or Mocktail) Potluck

Even as adults we all have at least that one friend who starts listening to Christmas carols as soon as the trick-or-treaters head home, so this party is for them! Christmas Carol Karaoke – Come one, come all, let’s sing, and have a ball!

This adult-only party will be a hit as guests choose what carols they wish to karaoke and take the mic and center stage. Singing, dancing, and holiday cheer are what this party is all about. This party can be hosted economically or it can be a bit pricier depending on whether you chose to use a portable karaoke machine or hire a professional DJ with karaoke equipment.

There are pros and cons to both depending on the number of guests and the space you have available. A portable karaoke machine is smaller and takes up less space and you may already have one. If not, you can pick one up for under $100. These machines are easy to attach to an iPod, and most new models have Bluetooth capabilities. However, these portable machines do not project a very good sound quality. Also, depending on whether or not you already own several Christmas albums, you may end up having to pay for the music which can become costly as you want to make sure you have a wide selection of carols for your guests to choose from.

Hiring a professional DJ will guarantee better sound quality and variety of music, but can be expensive and oftentimes professional DJ equipment can take up a bit of space. If you choose to hire a DJ make sure you find out how much space they need and determine where you will have them set up before they actually arrive. Professional DJ’s often provide additional equipment such as disco balls and other fun additions to the party atmosphere. Make sure they know you are mainly interested in Christmas carols for this party so they can have the selection list ready for the guests, but they will likely have other music available too for those who may have a favorite songs they just have to sing. A professional DJ will also take charge and ensure music is playing throughout the party, even when no one is singing, which takes another burden off you as the host.

Ramp up the fun by hosting this adult-only party as a Cocktail Potluck as well. Have each guest bring the mixings for their favorite holiday drink. This would significantly reduce your costs as the host or hostess, especially if you would have otherwise provided the alcohol. Thus, you might be more likely to spring for the DJ karaoke option.

Sure to make everyone cheerful and bright, guests can share their favorite drinks with friends while they sing and dance to the Christmas carols. Hot toddy’s, candy cane cocktails, Santa shots, and egg nog are just a few holiday themed drinks your guests may choose to share. As with all potlucks, make sure to include the number of guests on the invitation. Finally, make sure you have plenty of finger-foods available so people can snack while they enjoy the boisterous holiday atmosphere.

4. Ornament Exchange and Cookie Party

This versatile Christmas exchange party can be hosted for any age and gender, but is really ideal for a daytime get together for your local women’s group, mommy group, or book club. The idea is that everyone comes with an ornament of their choosing and leaves with one from someone else. While there are a variety of ways to exchange the gifted ornaments, a simple and succinct way of doing so is that the host simply sets up an empty Christmas tree (one strung with white lights to accentuate the ornaments would be lovely) and as each person comes to the exchange with their ornament, they simply hang it on the tree.

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Each guest should write their name, the date, and if they choose a special message to whoever may receive the ornament, either somewhere on the ornament itself or on an attached tag.

As the party goes on, each person will get a chance to admire all the hanging ornaments. Each guest can then take an ornament as a party favor as they leave, or the host can plan to draw names deciding the order in which a person gets to choose an ornament, or there could even be a game such as incorporating the holiday trivia where holiday themed questions are asked and the person with the correct answer gets to choose the first ornament and so on.

Whether hosted as a brunch, afternoon or evening party, another great addition to this gift exchange would be to include on the invitation that each person should bring their favorite Christmas cookies to share. Similar to the appetizer and cocktail parties above, remember to include the number of guests invited. Cookie exchanges are a fun and exciting way to taste many delicious treats, but also to get new recipes and ideas for holiday baking.

So many of us are busy during the holidays it is always nice to sit back and snack on treats baked by others in the company of great friends. Hosting as a cookie exchange also significantly decreases the cost of the party to the hostess. If hosted as a dessert-only party where no alcohol is served and before or after a mealtime, the hostess would then only need to provide refreshments such as coffee, tea, hot apple cider, or cocoa; although it is always perfectly acceptable to pair wine with cookies as well.

5. Dirty Santa Party

The Dirty Santa party is a popular adult-only gift exchange option, although it can easily be made family-friendly, and for some families is a Christmas tradition. A Dirty Santa exchange makes gifting fun and more economical. There are a few basic rules for this type of party and plenty of room for creativity in making this gift exchange suit your needs.

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  • To play the game, each guest must first bring a WRAPPED, unmarked gift so no one can tell what is inside.
  • The host or hostess then writes a number on scrap paper for every gift and places the numbers in a basket. When it is time for the gift exchange, each participant draws a number and the game begins.
  • The player with the #1 picks a gift and opens it.
  • The next player, #2, can choose to select a new gift from the pile to open OR steal the gift from player #1.
  • If a gift is stolen, the empty-handed player can then select another new gift to open OR steal a gift from someone else. Once a gift is stolen 3 times it is considered retired from the game and cannot be stolen anymore.
  • At a Dirty Santa gift exchange, drawing a higher number to begin with puts a player at an advantage by giving the player a larger selection of gifts to choose from.
  • The game continues until every player has opened or stolen a gift. The last player can choose to steal a gift or open the final wrapped present.

The possibilities are endless with a Dirty Santa gift exchange, and the hostess can get creative with this type of party depending on the guest list. The party could have a specific theme, such as Christmas items only – decorations, knick-knacks, or jewelry, and guests could be asked to bring a specific type of gift; for example, an adult-only Dirty Santa liquor or wine exchange, or there could be a monetary amount guests are to spend on each gift.

This game is tons of fun, and your guests will enjoy lots of laughs and camaraderie as they try to “steal” the best (or at least not end up with the worst) gifts from one another. In order to play this game, everyone needs to have a sense of humor and you need to know your guests so that no one gets upset if their gift is the most “unwanted.” Pair this gift exchange with some simple appetizers and cocktails, and you’ll have an unforgettable holiday party.

6. Favorite Things Party

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…” This Christmas gift exchange party is a fun way to connect with others and learn more about their “Favorite Things.” The premise of a favorite things gift exchange is that each guest brings a specified number of gifts (oftentimes 3) which consists of their favorite things to exchange with other guests. The possibilities are endless as you as the host can choose the number of gifts each guest is to bring, the dollar amount to be spent on each gift, and whether the gift is to be wrapped or unwrapped. Each guest then purchases items and brings them to the party where all the gifts are placed together.

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At a specified time during the party, you then choose a manner in which to allow guests to select a gift, draw names, draw numbers, etc. Each guest chooses a gift which is obviously something the gift giver considers a favorite thing. This exchange has a great conversation component as the gift giver can be given an opportunity to explain why this gift is one of their favorite things. Some things may be something the recipient really wanted, or it may be something they will appreciate simply because the gift giver selected something from the heart.

There is the option of turning this gift exchange into a Dirty Santa exchange as well so people have a better chance of getting something they like, but this is not really recommended as it could hurt the feelings of someone who really put a lot of thought into their gift. The idea of this party is really to get closer to your friends and to enjoy the gift giving more than the receiving.

“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…” The food and drinks for a favorite things party should be warm and comforting. Mulled wine, spiced apple cider, and hot cocoa are excellent beverage choices for a favorite things party. Baked brie with crackers and fruit, bacon wrapped dates, and fruitcake are classic holiday appetizer options.

Look for classic Christmas recipes, family recipes, and even your own family’s traditions. If you live where it is cold a fire would be a perfect touch to this type of party, as would the scents of evergreen and cinnamon coming from the Christmas tree and holiday cookies. Create a warm and cozy atmosphere where guests can mingle, eat, and drink some holiday favorites, and enjoy an intimate day or evening among friends.

7. Pinterest Party (Craft Party) or Wreath Party

Hosting a holiday craft party has never been easier! With so many craft ideas on the Internet and so many crafty, small businesses willing to host small groups there are a variety of party plans available. This type of adult-only party is probably best suited to your women’s group, mommy group, or book club, although it can include significant others and may be more entertaining that way!

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The party can be hosted as a brunch, afternoon, or evening event depending on your guest list and your craft. Refreshments can vary depending on your group from hot cocoa and cookies, to appetizers and wine. There are no set rules for this type of gathering, and it can really be a laid back affair with lots of conversation and laughter while you craft.

In terms of budgeting, both options can be a bit pricey, but ultimately depends on your craft and the number of guests. An in-home craft party is probably going to cost you more as the hostess because you will need to provide all the craft supplies.

Plan ahead and make sure you get your RSVP’s so you know how many guests you need to have craft materials available for. Hop online and decide what project you want everyone to complete. Make sure you choose something that is not too difficult as many of your guests may not be very crafty or artistic and you still want them to have fun.

Be prepared if there are steps that need to be completed ahead of time in order to have the individual components of the craft ready. Have those done before your guests arrive – meaning don’t have your guests standing around waiting for a machine to die-cut the pieces they need for their craft.

Choose wisely and make sure you pick a craft that can be completed start to finish in an allotted amount of time, probably 1-hour maximum. Finally, make sure your craft is something your guests will be able to take home that day without paint, glitter, or glue ending up all over their car.

Another alternative craft party is to plan and organize the party to take place at a venue that hosts craft nights such as a paint party or a floral party. With the holidays right around the corner, many establishments have Christmas craft evenings planned already and many will host private parties for a group.

In this scenario, you plan the party and provide the refreshments, but the venue provides the craft materials. To make it more economical, each guest could be responsible for the cost of their craft. Paint parties are popular these days, but at Christmas, many florists also host fresh evergreen wreath or Poinsettia floral arrangement parties as well. This option is less stress on the hostess, and also your guests will receive personalized instruction and assistance with their craft if need be so they take home a lovely holiday decoration.

8. Cozy Christmas by the Campfire Party

This comfy, cozy, outdoor themed Christmas party can be adult-only or family-friendly. All this holiday get-together needs are some chairs or logs placed around a roaring campfire, good food, and great friends. Whether the guest list only includes adults or invites them to bring along the kiddos, this chilly weather, nighttime party celebrates the season by allowing guests to spend some time outdoors enjoying the crisp, cold evening by the warmth of the fire.

Flannel and jeans would be the appropriate attire for this type of relaxed Christmas gathering. Make sure you have plenty of marshmallows because s’mores, hot cocoa, and hot toddy’s for the adults are a must for this themed party. As the host you could also serve barbeque if you were planning for a more filling, but still easy to eat meal. Picnic tables and Christmas lights would be a great addition to this mainly outdoor affair.

Christmas carols are also a must and could be played from a portable outdoor or bluetooth speaker to add to the Christmas spirit and ambiance of the evening. Depending on the guest list, games could also be placed around the yard to entertain those movers and shakers who don’t like to sit still. Cornhole, horse shoes, and outdoor Jenga are just a few ideas of games guests could play while still enjoying themselves near the fire.

Finally, if the party is being hosted on a large property or farm, adults and children alike would enjoy a hayride through the brisk evening air while singing carols and enjoying the company of great friends. Although it may be cold outside, your guests are sure to enjoy a beautiful evening cuddled around a campfire celebrating the Christmas season.

9. Gingerbread House Party

Gingerbread houses are a Christmas classic that can be enjoyed by all, especially the children in our lives. These houses range from simple kits containing premade pieces requiring building and decoration only that can be purchased at the nearest big box store, to bakeware that allows you to bake your own pieces before building and decorating your gingerbread house. If you are looking for a holiday party for your child’s friends, your friends with kids, your mommy group, or your child’s homeschool peers, look no further because this fun and bright party for children of all ages is all you need!

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Building gingerbread houses is a fun, holiday tradition for many families, but it is always more fun when you do so with a friend. Also, let’s be honest, oftentimes when children are building a gingerbread house with their parents, there is a level of perfection we as parents are looking for and we may take the reins a bit too much. Imagine a party where your child is allowed the opportunity to create the gingerbread house of their dreams! A house made of cookies and colorful candy is something any child will love! As the hostess, invite your guests to enter your gingerbread workshop where you will provide all the fixings.

  • When making the guest list, ensure you have enough workspace for the children to move around and not be too crowded so as to avoid any knocked over houses or meltdowns.
  • Make sure you know how many children plan to attend (and have a few extra supplies on hand in case of a last minute guest or even any mishaps since these houses will be handled by tiny hands) so you have enough house pieces, frosting, and candy decorations.
  • Plan a designated space where the kids will be building their houses and have everything set up beforehand. You may want to choose a workspace with a hard floor or place a sheet or rug under the designated area to simplify clean-up.

Helpful hint: Have the kids build their houses on a tray (you can purchase inexpensive plastic trays at the dollar store) or a sturdy piece of mat board (oftentimes frame shops will give you their scraps if you tell them it’s for a children’s craft project) so as to make them easy to take home after the party.

Snacks for this party are simple… Gingerbread People Cookies! Gingerbread boys and girls should be baked ahead of time and can either be kept warm for a tasty treat, or allow the kids to use the leftover frosting and candy decorations from the houses to adorn their cookie snack. Milk, hot cocoa, apple juice, and hot apple cider are all delicious kid-friendly drink options to serve alongside the cookies. Parents and children alike will love this child-friendly, crafty Christmas party celebrating the season!

10. Holiday Pajama Party and Book Exchange

Look no further than the Polar Express for a popular family-friendly or children centered holiday pajama party, movie night, and book exchange! Guaranteed to get everyone into the Christmas spirit, host an evening event that inspires children and families to play together, learn together, and read together. Parents can be encouraged to wear their matching Christmas PJ’s alongside their littles, or only hosted for the kids. With pajamas as the attire, this party is certain to be comfy and cozy as children and parents gather around to enjoy a Christmas movie.

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If you are going all out, rent a large outdoor screen and ask that families bring blankets to spread on your lawn or patio to cuddle up and enjoy the Christmas movie of your choosing. Rather than a meal, serve child-friendly snacks such as caramel Christmas popcorn, a variety of Christmas cookies, and hot cocoa.

Conclude the evening with a holiday book exchange to encourage reading and allow each child to take home a special Christmas gift. There are a variety of options for the book exchange which can include the host simply providing a book for each child, or asking the parents to bring a wrapped book with their child’s name on it that will be secretly placed under the tree for the child to find at the end of the evening. If you have each child bring a book to exchange with another, have all the books placed under the tree and have each child pick a number to take a turn choosing a book from under the tree. This type of holiday exchange is fun and educational! End the evening by giving each child a Christmas bell necklace on their way out the door so they can enjoy the spirit of the season and remember to believe…

With these 10 holiday party ideas, you are sure to find a fun and creative option to fit any budget. Spending time with friends and family are what make this season something to celebrate, so do it with flare by hosting an event to remember!

If you want to spread a little more holiday cheer, check out our Official Guide to Christmas.




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Kristin dePaula
Kristin dePaula
Kristin is a Montessori Mama who spends her days working as a lawyer with at-risk youth and her nights chasing her 4 boys on their latest adventure. She spends a significant amount of time in the kitchen creating healthy, organic, and delicious meals for her family, reading books with her boys, and at the soccer fields. Aspiring to make a difference in lives of others one child at a time, Kristin is passionate about social justice, early literacy, and early childhood education. While she loves scarves and boots, Kristin lives at the world's most famous beach with her husband, kids, extended family, and enough pets to open a zoo.

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