Tuesday, December 11

celebrate a less-stress holiday: easy holiday party options.

As the holiday season swings into full force, many of us daydream about entertaining friends and family in our homes.  However, many of us become intimidated by the pressure to throw the best Christmas party ever, or remember the stress of parties thrown in past years, and become to overwhelmed to invite anyone over!  There are many low-stress options for holiday parties.  My girlfriends and I like to have some sort of "swap" party each year so that there is less pressure to find the "perfect" gift for each friend - after all, it's really the time together that matters.  Here are some options for holiday gatherings you may want to consider this year:

Secret Santa
Secret Santa is great for large groups of friends or family members because you get to focus on finding ONE gift for ONE person.  I suggest setting a guideline that gifts must be either under a certain price limit or homemade to discourage the impulse to "one-up" the other guests.
Why not serve:  Sausage Balls from Allrecipes.com

Dirty Santa
I've also heard this called a White Elephant Exchange; Martha Stewart calls it a Yankee Swap.  Dirty Santa is ideal for a group where most of the members are around the same age, and even better when most are the same gender - my dance team did one every year growing up and it was always a lot of fun.  At a Dirty Santa party, everyone brings a wrapped gift from within a set low price range.  Guests draw a number from a hat, and the person with #1 opens her gift.  Then #2 opens her gift, and has the option of keeping that gift or "stealing" #1's gift.  #3 can "steal" either of the gifts. You might go home with nice bubble bath, or you might go home with a dancing hamster that plays "Jailhouse Rock."
Why not serve:  Crescent Pepperoni Roll-Ups from Plain Chicken

Favorite Things
YOU get a lip balm!  And YOU get a lip balm!  This is a perfect idea for a close-knit group of girlfriends.  Have each guest bring the same number of one of their favorite things (in the same price range) as there will be people at the party.  You could set a theme - health and beauty products, treats, music - or have a free-for-all a la Oprah.  Everyone goes home with a collection of fabulous new things to try!  A twist on this idea with fewer items to buy is putting together Lucky Bags.

Why not serve:  Olive Cheese Bread from the Pioneer Woman

Ornament Swap
I think ornament swaps are my favorite!  There are several ways to set up an ornament swap party:  either have each person buy or make as many ornaments as there will be people at the party (for small groups, this is nice because you end up with a little set of ornaments), have each person bring one wrapped ornament to the party and have each guest select a package before leaving, or set things up Secret Santa style so that givers can choose an ornament that suits the recipient's personality.  As with the Secret Santa party, setting a guideline that ornaments must be under a certain dollar limit or homemade is important so that no one feels cheated.
Why not serve:  Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies from Call Me Cupcake

Cookie Swap
The yummiest party option!  Have everyone bring a big batch of their favorite cookies, and give everyone a take-out container or tin to fill with a few of each type.  Camille Styles shared a great idea for a cookie swap on the Cooking Channel's website - don't just bring cookies for everyone, but make copies of the recipes too!  This is a great low-budget option and saves the hostess the work of preparing multiple desserts for the party.

Need take-out boxes?  World Market has them to match anyone's holiday decor.
Need cookie swap recipes?  Check out this holiday cookie link-up at Clean and Scentsible
Why not serve:  Peppermint Cocoa from MyRecipes

Group Outing
The easiest parties to host are those that AREN'T in your home - little or no clean-up, and you still get to feel like a rockstar.  A fun group outing to an ice rink or bowling alley may be just what people need this time of year to get away  from the holiday hustle and bustle, or take your female family members on a spa date.
Why not serve:  Christmas Sangria from Care2

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