Is there a better time for a party than Christmas? Everyone’s in a festive mood, it’s chilly, but not freezing (most years), and people just seem to genuinely want to spend time together.
Last year we threw our first Christmas party, a Christmas Bonfire & Carol Sing. If I do say so myself, it was fabulous. And, here’s the best part, it’s pretty simple to pull off. So I’m giving you my step-by-step guide about how to throw your very own Christmas Bonfire & Carol Sing – you can even do it this year!
Pick a date. The holiday calendar gets pretty crowded, pretty quickly, so decide on a date as soon as possible. Last year we had ours 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, this year it’s the week after. Personally, I think we’ll go back to 2 weeks next year just to give some more time for decorating and cooking. For us 3-5 pm is the perfect time. It’s between meals so we can serve appetizers and cookies (which saves a lot of money), and it allows our guests to get to other parties in the evening (which means more people will be able to come).
Invite people. There’s no need for formal invitations, in my opinion, but if that’s your thing, go ahead. You can also set up an event on Facebook, use email or Evite, or walk on the wild side and let it spread through word of mouth. One thing I’ve learned is that when having a big party, don’t worry so much about RSVPs. Most people who are coming will respond, and a handful will show up unexpectedly. The more, the merrier.
Plan your menu. Simplicity is key here. We told people they didn’t have to bring anything and nearly everyone showed up with a plate of food or a bottle of wine anyway. For our party I make a couple of crock pot appetizers, Michigan Rock Cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and a HUGE pot of hot cocoa. I’ll also put out some chips and dip for a salty flavor… and that’s it!
I highly recommend a good hot beverage dispenser, like this one from Amazon*, to keep your hot cocoa hot:
Buffet all the way. Set up tables for food and drinks and let guests help themselves. You can set up hot foods on one, cold on another, and drinks on another, or mix them up. We use one table for a hot cocoa bar with a big pot of hot cocoa and lots of mix-ins. Favorites are marshmallows, candy canes, whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, flavor syrups, and Bailey’s and Kahlua. Yum!
Set up your fire pit. You can build a fire pit, or you can pick up a decent fire bowl at most stores. Make sure it’s in a location that is near enough that people will go there and far enough to be safe. I also recommend giving your local fire department a call to make sure you’re not violating any fire codes – no one wants a citation in the middle of their party.
Decorate. It’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit without decorations, but you don’t have to go crazy either. If time is a factor, just focus on the places your guests will be. Remember you’re going to need an indoor and outdoor space if you live in a colder climate. Hang some lights, put out some festive tablecloths (I just got a few yards of fabric from Joann and laid them out).
Stock up early. As soon as you know you’re having a party, start looking for sales on what you’re going to need. I usually make a kielbasa appetizer in the crockpot, so when I see kielbasa is buy one, get one free, I buy a bunch. Buy paper plates after Labor Day when they’re on sale. And don’t worry about getting Santa plates – the food tastes just as good on plain old white. If you really plan ahead you can throw a great party without spending anything extra on your grocery budget.
Print your songbooks. Sure, most people know the words to common Christmas carols, but taking the simple step of printing up songbooks means everyone will feel more comfortable and confident. It also gives your party an extra bit of purpose, and flair.
Have fun! The best thing about this party is that you can actually enjoy yourself. No being stuck in the kitchen making tons of fancy h’orderves. No running around filling drinks. Once the fire is going, grab a drink and have a good time!