Holiday parties can start to blend together as the season heats up. Between work, friends, and family, every night could bring a new opportunity to celebrate. Give your get-together a memorable theme, though, and you’ll get your party guest in the spirit of the season as soon as they receive their holiday invitation. You might even turn it into a memorable new holiday tradition. Themes make party-planning decisions easy by inspiring (and narrowing down the options for) the holiday decor, food, music, and dress code. Ahead are a few of our go-to ideas for a holiday party theme.
Holiday party ideas for adults
Sometimes, you want to deck the halls with a more adult crowd. Here are a few ideas for a grown-ups-only Christmas party:
#1 Christmas dinner party
There’s nothing more elegant and intimate than sitting down to a candlelight dinner, surrounded by Christmas decorations, good conversation, and the scent of delicious foods. This theme is perfect if you enjoy having a chance to mingle and meet with your guests, with the only distraction being the delectable courses you serve.
#2 Have a stocking-stuffing party
Know some other adults that dread this part of Christmas gift-giving? You can combine efforts and create an enjoyable event by planning a stocking-stuffing party. Invite each person to bring their family’s stockings and some stocking stuffers to share. Be sure to serve some Christmas drinks and snacks, and keep an upbeat atmosphere with your Christmas playlist.
#3 Ugly sweater party
What’s not to love about a Christmas party idea that encourages you to come cozy, get toasty, and celebrate the season in a very low-key (and potentially lowbrow) way? Have a contest with a few categories on the ballot and hand out cheesy trophies or candy cane prizes to the winners. Create a menu that gives you an excuse to indulge in classic Christmas party food that feels dated but delicious. Our guide to ugly Christmas sweater parties goes into all the wacky details.
“Ugly Sweater” by Hello!Lucky for Paperless Post.
#4 Dolly Parton sing-a-long
Crank up the kitsch and host a Dolly Parton-inspired sing & drink-along. Pick up a karaoke mike, turn on Dolly’s holiday playlist, and let the good times roll. The bigger the hair and the longer the nails, the better.
#5 Apres ski party
Aspen has long been the height (pun intended) of celebratory holiday chicness. Your party can cut the lift line to a night of Rocky Mountain glitz with just a few adjustments. Sit around the fireplace or backyard fire pit in cowboy boots and fur for s’ mores, seasonal songs, and merriment.
Family holiday party ideas
For many, the holidays are all about bringing loved ones together and feeling that Yuletide cheer. For family (or the people who feel like family), here are our favorite party ideas:
#6 Christmas card-making party
Christmas crafts can be one of the most fun parts of the season for families with younger children. Why not combine crafts, the spirit of connection, and your gathering in a Christmas card-making party? Provide some supplies like blank cards in different hues of paper, along with glitter paint pens, watercolor markers, stick-on decorations, and more. At the end of the party, families can exchange cards or send them off to loved ones far away.
#7 Christmas-themed scavenger hunt party
Plan a scavenger hunt that both adults and kids can enjoy by planting small Christmas party favors around the party location and handing out clues on where to find them. You can keep most of the prizes small, like ornaments, small toys, candy canes, cookies, and other sweets, but offer some bigger prizes for the person who finds the more difficult clues.
#8 Plaid tidings party
Shake up the ugly sweater soiree with tartan—whether it’s a scarf, socks, or a tie. This holiday party theme is not too daunting but great for sparking conversation. Plus, it’s easy to match your decor to the theme (like these tartan cocktail napkins).
#9 Cookie swap
Cookie exchanges are great ways to experiment with new cookie recipes. Our design partner Cheree Berry believes that presentation is everything: “We love lining a silver tin with patterned wax paper for a pop of color, which also ensures that the doughy delights don’t stick together. Then, top it with a bow. We also love delivering cookies with cute oven mitts and leaving them behind as a hostess gift. And a print-out of the recipe as a tag is a great detail.”
#10 Holiday movie night
There are almost too many good Christmas movies for the season, so we’ll leave you the challenging task of picking just one. For extra credit, try making a few themed bites: flatbreads with extra cheese to accompany Home Alone or something frozen for A Christmas Story.
#11 Christmas game night
A board game is a great way to ease a small group into conviviality. There’s only room for so many players, people need to work together (or at odds with each other), and having an activity gets people’s minds off their shyness. Here are some of our favorite Christmas games.
#12 Gingerbread house-making party
For a gingerbread house decorating party, we give each child an assigned workplace. Line the table with butcher paper so once the houses are in their boxes and out the door, you can roll up the paper.
“Gingerbread Chalet” by Paperless Post.
Holiday party ideas for friends
Here are some festive themes to try when you want to get a little extra holiday cheer with your friends:
#13 Cookie decorating party
This Christmas party theme will delight your sweet-toothed friends, but take heed—it may get messy. You can make this party a hit by baking up a few cookie variations in advance and providing some easy decorating options, like pre-mixed tubes of icing, sprinkles, and other edible adornments.
#14 Christmas murder mystery party
Do you enjoy your Christmas party with a side of drama and suspense? A Christmas-themed murder mystery party might be the perfect choice. You and your friends will get the chance to dress up in their characters’ seasonal garb while acting out a holiday-themed mystery. If you’re not up for planning your own murder mystery, try a pre-made kit like this T’was the Night Before Murder option.
#15 A favorite things party
Instead of bringing gag gifts for your next gift exchange, ask each guest to bring something they love. We have a guide to hosting a favorite things party to match your guest count and budget and our go-to gifts.
#16 Wreath-making party: Sometimes, all it takes to breathe new life into an annual event is an activity. Set out greenery from the local farmer’s market or your backyard for guests to get creative with– we love using evergreens, eucalyptus leaves, dried citrus slices, magnolia, or wheat. Warm up with cups of soup once everyone has finished.
#17 Traditional holiday potluck
Encourage everyone to show off their best sides and save yourself some work. Take care of the main course and leave the rest to your guests: assign appetizers, side dishes, cocktails, and desserts to those you know will shine at the task. Just make sure to stock up on festive plates and placemats to serve everything.
#18 Holiday open house
There’s no wrong way to host a holiday open house. The drinks can be pre-made, the food can go out in nibble-friendly increments, and the kids can roam free. We sat down with Los Angeles-based caterer Annie Campbell, who has quite literally made party-making her business, and she shared her tips on creating a party that feels traditional with a twist, even if it’s 60 degrees in December.
#19 Scandinavian holiday brunch
Scandinavian design is known for its minimal elegance, but it doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its array of cozy tricks to beat the brutal winters. Set out tea lights, pick up gravlax and smorrebrod, and finish with lots of aquavit to chase.
“Greenery Garland” by Meri Meri; Image by Laura Butler-Madden.
#20 Hawaiian holiday Not all holiday parties need to be winter wonderlands. Pair poinsettias and palm trees with Christmas lights. Ask guests to wear their best aloha shirts and hand out Christmas leis when they arrive. Serve roasted pork and wish everyone a Mele Kalikimaka.
Image by Half Baked Harvest; “Cocktail Cheer” by Paperless Post.
Holiday cocktail party ideas
Hot toddies, mulled wine, spiced rum—there are so many delicious concoctions that taste so much better when the weather gets colder. Try these holiday party ideas if you want to break out your bar cart:
#21 A Silver and Gold cocktail party
Invite your guests to attend the party dressed in their finest Christmas garments, with just one stipulation—their clothing must be silver or gold. With this metallic dress code, your guests will become part of the décor.
#22 Christmas cocktail tasting party
Ask around at your favorite local restaurants, breweries, and cocktail bars, and you might find they’re willing to bring the festivities to you. Such locations can bring a slew of delicious, creative, and professionally made cocktails for your guests to enjoy. If you want this to be a tasting party, ask the cocktail servers to offer petite versions of each cocktail so guests can try more than one or two. If you’re worried about tipsy guests with crystal glassware, try acrylic instead.
#23 A Texas Christmas party
Take a bit of inspiration from somewhere that’s warm nearly year-round. String some lights on a decorative cactus and put on Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family.” Ask guests to come in pearl snaps and boots—formalwear the Western fashion—and line dance the winter blues away.
#24 Christmas in Provence
Use the region’s rustic elegance to inject your annual holiday cocktail party with some Old World charm. Deck your halls with eucalyptus and olive branches, boughs, or garlands to give it that “away from home” feel, no passport required. Set out earthy reds like Syrahs and serve up hearty classics like coq au vin and Bûche de Noël.
#25 Winter palace party We might spend much of winter trying to get out of the cold, but there’s plenty of beauty to embrace in it, too. Ice sculptures and snow-themed décor will be your go-tos with this party theme. Serve fresh blinis, caviar, and Stoli and look to Dr. Zhivago for outfit inspiration.
“Wrapped Up Nicely” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio; Image by Half Baked Harvest.
Corporate holiday party ideas
The end of the year is definitely a time to celebrate with all the people in your life—including your coworkers!
#26 Christmas trivia party
One of the best ways to plan an enjoyable corporate Christmas party is to pair it with an activity. You can invite a local trivia company to host or plan the questions yourself. Opt for seasonal trivia that’s not too obscure—like lyrics to Christmas songs, the plot twists of your favorite holiday movies, and other Christmas lore. Don’t forget to plan some prizes for the winners.
#27 Host a Christmas cookie competition
There’s nothing like a little competition between coworkers. This party idea is like a cookie swap, except you and your colleagues will place votes on the best ones. You can give multiple prizes, like “best in class,” “best decorations,” or “most creative” to celebrate more than one winner.
#28 Go on a group outing
A morning at a museum and a formal lunch is perfect for small teams. Skip the decor or party favors and spend on a luxurious lunch.
#29 Use a theme for your gift exchange
Update a white elephant gift exchange simple and work-appropriate with a book or cookbook swap or gift each other desk upgrades.
#30 Host a toy drive for families in need in your community
Looking for the perfect party idea for your company holiday party? Spread holiday cheer together, organizing or wrapping gifts before dropping them off.
#31 Turn water into wine
Take one of the holiday party ideas designer’s tips from stationer Cheree Berry “One year we had the party in our office, so we turned our water cooler into a wine cooler. Out of this came our Wine Cooler invitation. It’s a festive spin on a universal office motif. And yes, the water came out slightly pink the next day.”
#32 Rent a party bus
The founders of Sugar Paper once hired a party bus and toured the speakeasy bars of downtown Los Angeles. Food was served street-side from a taco truck.
#33 Make mocktails
Our design partner Jonathan Adler hosts one every year. “My husband Simon Doonan and I are both big fans of hosting an informal cocktail—or in our case—mocktail party. It allows guests to mix, mingle, and motor if needed. There’s nothing worse than being shackled next to someone boring at a sit-down dinner party.”
#34 Host a game night
Design partner Gray Malin loves a little friendly competition at his office party: “Any party game that gets everyone involved makes the party that much more fun. Splitting into teams for Charades or Pictionary is fun, but if you don’t want too much competition, bring out a microphone for some karaoke, a crowd-pleaser.
“Get Merry” by Paperless Post.
FAQs of Christmas party planning
Need some extra advice on how to make your Christmas party a hit? We’ve gathered a few tips that can apply to most parties to help ensure your planning is North Pole-approved.
— How do you name a Christmas party? Entice your invitees with a catchy name for your party. Lean on alliteration and plays on seasonal words, like Cocktails and Candy Canes, A Not-So-Silent Night, and Mistletoe Madness. When in doubt, thumb through the lyrics of your favorite Christmas carols.
— What does every Christmas party need? While there isn’t a “holy grail” of Christmas party checklists, you can count on a twinkling success if your party has an overarching theme, enticing invitations, sinfully delicious hors d’oeuvres, a playlist brimming with nostalgic classics, and of course, hall-decking decorations.
— How should you decorate an elegant Christmas party? Remember: less is more. For the outdoor entrance, enchant your guests with classic, white string lights and seasonal plants like poinsettias. For a tasteful indoor gathering, wrap tables in cozy plaid beneath winter floral arrangements or glass cylinders of pinecones and ornaments.
— How do you plan a Christmas party for adults? The dazzle’s in the details. Plan for entertainment like games—especially ones that get people breaking the ice. Prepare plenty of ho-ho-holdable foods like dips, bites, and snack wreaths. And, of course, don’t forget the Christmas cocktails. From vodka jello trees to candy cane cocktails, there are plenty of drink options to spread the holiday cheer responsibly.
Browse Holiday Invitations with Paperless Post
Once you’ve brought joy to your corner of the world with your holiday party, wish friends near and far a Merry Christmas with our guide to Christmas card ideas. Not sure what to say? We’ve rounded up 101 holiday messages and wishes for your holiday cards and everything you need to know about when to send holiday greetings.
The holiday cheer doesn’t stop there.
When you’ve found an invitation with just the right amount of merriment, you can use Page Styles to adjust the style of your invite to match your party’s theme and details. From the text font and size to the invite’s background color and envelope, you can customize it to your heart’s content.
We’ve also made sending invitations easier than ever. With Paperless Post’s new feature, you can text Christmas party invitations directly to each guest. It’s quick and easy, and you can receive their RSVPs instantly, helping you to better coordinate your party planning.
Spread the holiday joy this year with Paperless Post.
Once you’ve brought joy to your corner of the world with your holiday party wish friends near and far a Merry Christmas with our guide to Christmas card ideas. Not sure what to say? We’ve rounded up 101 holiday messages and wishes for your holiday cards and everything you need to know about when to send holiday greetings.