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family and friends sit around a table and cheers before their holiday meal

Holiday Party Ideas: 19 Tips for Planning, Decorating, & Hosting

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones, and what better way to enjoy quality time together than to have fun at a holiday party! With some delicious food, cheery decorations, and a bit of merriment, you’ll have friends and family talking about your party until the next holiday season. Check out these holiday party ideas for games, food, decor, and more so you can host a party your guests will surely enjoy!

How to Decorate for a Holiday Party

Looking for holiday decorating tips and holiday themes that will help you deck the halls, bring some cheer, and make your party pop? We’ve shared some great ideas for holiday party decorations below!

Add a Dash of Sparkle

Gold and Black Sparkly Hats, Plates, and Other Decorations for New Years Eve Party. Photo by Instagram user @toteshost

Photo via @toteshost

Hosting a giant New Year’s Eve bash? Go from dull to dazzling by adding a bit of sparkle to your holiday party decor! Hanging metallic streamers from the ceiling and placing different-sized gold votives on surfaces will give rooms a glamorous look. Twinkle lights can also add a glow to your holiday party venue!

Go with a Harvest Theme

Dinner Table with Decorative Pumpkin in the Middle. Photo by Instagram user @ulcchicago

Photo via @ulcchicago

Throwing a Friendsgiving? Stick with a harvest theme. Incorporate various shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown in both your table setup and wall decor. Make some DIY holiday decor pieces with a few painted mason jars and bouquets of flowers, or hang some faux leaves on a mantel and above cabinets. And consider adding a Thanksgiving horn or cornucopia decorations into the mix to tie everything together!

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Create a Winter Wonderland

Silver icicle lights, paper snowflakes, and cotton ball snowmen are just a few pieces of DIY winter decor that will give your party a winter wonderland feel without the cold temperatures. For a more authentic snowy look, gather a few pinecones or branches to place in large clear vases and spray them with fake snow.

Embrace Nature Indoors

Elaborate Dinner Setting with Plants on Table. Photo by Instagram user @dhowelldesigns

Photo via @dhowelldesigns

Looking for simple holiday party decorations? Bring nature indoors by adding some greenery to your home. Garland on banisters, branches in vases, holiday wreathes, or holly on napkin holders are all great ways to give your party some color without looking cluttered and chaotic. And many pieces of holiday and winter decor that use natural elements can be kept up after your holiday party!

Pick Traditional Holiday Colors

Table Decorated with Menorah and Christmas Cookies. Photo by Instagram user @lanterradev

Photo via @lanterradev

Picking a color scheme to match a particular holiday is an easy way to decorate! Hosting a Hanukkah party? Fill large glass bowls with blue and white ornaments to use as centerpieces. Celebrating Kwanzaa with the family? String up black, red, and green garland and scatter balloons on the floor. As long as you stick to a color theme, your holiday party decorations don’t need to be too elaborate!

Give Your Home a Movie Makeover

Allow your guests to step inside the big screen with movie-themed decor. Choose elements from popular holiday movies to transform your whole space, or pick a few blockbusters and designate a different film for every room! You can also incorporate movie-specific treats as part of your holiday decorations, like a dessert spaghetti table from Elf and cheese pizzas from Home Alone.

What Food & Drinks to Serve

Whether you’re hosting a fabulous soiree or a small gathering with friends, holiday food and drinks that embrace the festive season are a must! Check out the ideas below for your holiday menu!

Assemble a Holiday Brunch

Mini Belgian Waffles on White Plates with Holiday Decorations on the Table. Photo by Instagram user @liegemanila

Photo via @liegemanila

Trade green beans for bacon by serving up a holiday buffet for brunch. Cater the flavors of your holiday party foods toward seasonal favorites. Dishes like gingerbread waffles, eggs benedict, hash cakes, and more make for the ultimate breakfast food spread. And don’t forget to mention that pajamas are appropriate holiday party attire!

Stay Warm with Soup

Looking for holiday party food that’s quick and simple to make? A soup bar is the way to go! Just combine all the ingredients in a slower cooker in the morning, and they’ll cook all day while you run any last-minute errands. Autumn squash soup and chili are perfect dishes to serve at a fall party, while heartier french onion and potato soups are ideal for winter festivities!

Set Up a Small Bites Buffet

Plate with Christmas-Themed Zucchini Quichettes. Photo by Instagram user @afrenchbite

Photo via @afrenchbite

Rather than spending hours perfecting a turkey feast, set up a table full of holiday appetizers people can nosh on while mingling! Some holiday party finger food ideas that will fill up your guests include mini quiches, burger sliders, cucumber sandwiches, a holiday charcuterie board, or walking tacos.

Try Dishes from Around the World

Let your friends or family help decide what food will be at your party, and change up the menu with a multicultural potluck! When sending out holiday party invitations, assign each person a different country and tell them to bring any holiday dish from where they’re assigned. For example, a person with Greece can bring baklava, a person with Spain can bring paella, and a person with Poland can bring pierogis.

Assemble a Hot Cocoa Bar

You can’t go wrong with having a hot chocolate bar at your party! All you need are some cheery mugs, a hot water container, cocoa powders, and jars of goodies—like caramels, cinnamon sticks, and marshmallows—to customize your chocolaty drink. You can even purchase inexpensive holiday mugs for your guests to take home as favors from your holiday get-together.

Mix Up Some Festive Cocktails

Instead of having company mix their own drinks, make some holiday party cocktails. Offer up a variety of different drinks like eggnog with a twist, cranberry mules, specialty holiday punch, and candy cane cocktails. And serve them out of large bowls so guests can try a little bit of everything at their convenience.

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Holiday Party Games & Activities

Want to be a good holiday party host? Add a holiday game or activity to the festivities! It’s the perfect way for your guests to bond, and your family and friends will be talking about it for weeks!

Capture the Party with a Photo Booth

Setting up a photo booth is one of the best holiday party ideas! Rent a professional photographer and booth from a company, or make your own photo backdrop by hanging colorful streamers, putting up stick-on bows, or covering a wall in wrapping paper. Holiday photos are always a hit, so be sure to properly store your reusable backdrops for future use!

Sing Your Favorite Holiday Hits

People Wearing Santa Hats and Singing Karaoke Into a Microphone. Photo by Instagram user @barhisamladih

Photo via @barhisamladih

Karaoke is not only a fantastic activity for everyone to join in on, but it’s also good for adding some holiday party entertainment. Create a playlist of both traditional and chart-topping holiday hits for singers to choose from, and hook a computer up to a TV or large screen for guests to see the lyrics. You can even make this activity into a game and have holiday prizes for participants!

Hold a Costume Contest

Woman in a Mrs Clause Cosplay. Photo by Instagram user @kirileecosplay

Photo via @kirileecosplay

If you’re hosting an ugly sweater party or a holiday movie-themed party, a costume contest is the perfect activity to get everyone in the spirit! Have attendees vote for who they thought had the “ugliest sweater” or “most original costume,” and give awards like gift cards to the winners. Having a special gift for group costumes can also be a great way to get more people involved in the fun and games at your holiday party!

Swap Delicious Treats

Send your guests home with good memories and holiday party favors with a holiday dessert swap! Instead of leaving out the traditional tray of cookies, have each person bring their favorite desserts. Hand out cute takeout boxes, and let guests create a personal treat box to take home.

Laugh It Up with White Elephant Gifts

For smaller holiday parties, a White Elephant Gift Exchange is a must! Not only will people walk away with something special, but they’ll also get a chance to steal the best gift. Just be sure to let everyone know the maximum amount to spend—and the goofier the gift, the better!

See Who Can Unwrap the Fastest

Large Ball of Saran Wrap with Christmas Present Inside. Photo by Instagram user @shoppingkim

Photo via @shoppingkim

The plastic wrap game is one of the best holiday party games for kids and adults. Wrap small items like candy, fuzzy socks, and gift cards between layers of plastic wrap until it forms a tight ball. Players have to then unravel the ball as fast as possible to collect prizes before time runs out!

Design Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread House Making Kits. Photo by Instagram user @makelifelovely

Photo via @makelifelovely

Building gingerbread houses is another kid-friendly activity for your holiday party that everyone will have fun doing—not to mention, it’s a delicious treat to eat when you’re done! Buy graham crackers to construct the foundation of the home, assorted candies to decorate the outside, and some white frosting to hold it all together. There are even pre-packaged gingerbread kits, too!


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Holiday Party Ideas