The day after Thanksgiving, I start getting calls for holiday party help... People either want to do something totally different and need ideas or it is their turn to host the annual holiday gathering and they are in panic mode. Here is a roundup of a few of my no-fuss ideas for holiday get-togethers; modify them to suit your own style. The only rule is that you need to have fun, too! xox

CAROLING PARTY: One of my favorite party themes--- kinda like Christmas karaoke! My in-laws have been hosting a neighborhood caroling party for as long as I can remember. It is a tradition even the college kids do not want to miss. Because everyone brings something, it is one of the easiest parties to host. Now, my in-laws happen to have two concert grand pianos in their living room, she's played at Carnegie Hall, and most of their friends are musicians or singers....  but even if you only have a sound system or karaoke machine, this is a party you'll want to make an annual event. GET THE HOW TO....

SANTA'S COOKIE WORKSHOP: The kids are out of school and you're going to need something fun to do... this is it. Bake up some memories with a Santa's Cookie Workshop party. Bake the cookies in advance or at least have some already baked. Cover a table with kraft paper (secure it so it won't slip) and set out bowls of sprinkles, candies, and other edible decorations the kids can use to decorate cookies and even personalize a cookie to leave for Santa. You can host this party with your girls and bake cookies to swap and gift.  GET THE HOW TO FOR A SANTA'S COOKIE WORKSHOP PARTY...

WINE AROUND THE WORLD PARTY: This party theme works for almost any occasion but it is particularly fun around the holidays. Guests bring a bottle of wine and a bite to share from a favorite travel destination; one they have already been to or one they'd like to visit. GET THE HOW TO FOR A WINE AROUND THE WORLD PARTY...

GIRLFRIEND PAJAMA PARTY: If you are like me, you probably have seen very little of your friends this year. Plan a guilty pleasure party-- filled with favorite snack food, movies, gossip, and fashion magazines. Don't let the holidays get away without getting together! GET THE HOW TO FOR A GROWN UP PAJAMA PARTY....

FAMILY PHOTO SWAP PARTY: So... your team isn't in a bowl game and you've got 8 people staying at your house for three days after Christmas. What do you do with them? A family photo swap party is an excellent way to spend some quality time together reliving family history--- and you'll all end up with copies of cherished family photos. The menu is as easy as leftovers, soup and sandwiches, or delivery pizza.  GET THE HOW TO FOR A FAMILY PHOTO SWAP PARTY

CHAMPAGNE TASTING: Warm up for New Year's Eve, test drive some bottles for your wedding, or simply try something new... invite the gang over for a Champagne tasting! This is perhaps one of the easiest parties you can host during the holidays. All you need is 3-4 bottles of Champagne, sparkling wine, Cava, or Prosecco. Add some good music, pretty stemware, and a few simple appetizers or a cheese board and you've got a party! I've even got some great tips on what to buy! Martie's TOP Sparkling Picks

Photo Credit: Arden Photography and MyRecipes.com


Have some holes in your family photo album?

If you do and you’re looking for something fun to do with your family and holiday house guests the day after the big day, why not plan a family photo swap party? While sitting around the TV to watch the big game is tradition for the adults, it’s not much fun for the kids. It’s essential to have some activities planned so the kids don’t get bored and cranky. A family photo swap is a fun way to keep the kids busy while the adults talk about good times and reminisce about family history. Each sibling or family member can bring their pictures to be scanned and printed to share with the others. Even mom’s best handwritten recipes can be scanned so everyone has a copy and you don’t lose them. 

Set up card tables for the kids so they can create their own mini albums or crafts using the printed copies. This is also a great party to host for class reunions, childhood friends, sorority sisters, or the gang from the old neighborhood.


  1. Tell your guests to bring their own photo albums, scrapbooks, and favorite family photos to share.
  2. Hit the craft stores when there is a big sale to scoop up extra frames and supplies to have on hand. Get glue dots, photo corners and scrapbook stickers, etc.
  3. Have plenty of USB flash drives available. If guests save scanned images to a flash drive, they will have for future use.
  4. Make sure your printer is working well and get extra printing cartridges.
  5. Keep the menu simple. Set up a buffet so guests can serve themselves. 
  6. Cover tables with brown kraft paper or white butcher paper to prevent stains and damage.
  7. Set up several work stations for scanning, printing, and assembly.
  8. Let the kids make their own books with pictures important to them.
  9. Invite older relatives to come and relate the “back stories” behind the photos so the kids can learn about the family’s past, heritage, and your memories are passed along to the next generation.


Make-ahead recipes like soup are easy to make and easy to serve. Make up one or two soups before the holiday and reheat in a Crockpot or large pot on the stove right before party time. Serve with sandwich halves or warm crusty bread.

Reliving old memories and making new ones… my kind of holiday fun!


This has to be one of the coolest holiday traditions I know about. My in-laws (ex) host a huge neighborhood caroling party on the 23rd of December each year. It started out as an actual house-to-house caroling party but quickly evolved to a party at their home with a hundred folks gathered around the two beautiful Steinway concert grand pianos in the music room. (She's a classically trained pianist and has played at Carnegie Hall, twice!)

All of the neighbors come and bring a dish, many of them have become almost as much of a tradition as the party itself. The college kids always make it home from school in time for this party... everyone arrives early and stays late. Certain songs are sung each year and people wrangle for the best parts. The Twelve Days of Christmas parts are handed out and some of the youngest kids have a chance to perform, too. Many of the neighbors are also talented musicians and singers; many are involved in local theater and very respected church choirs. In other words... the music is good. Now, I am sure you are wondering how I am involved and why I still get to go even though it is the ex-in-laws... well, I bring all of the fresh cut greenery from the farm and help do all of the decorations. And I'm fun :)

This is a party for all generations and a wonderful tradition you should start in your own neighborhood.


Like I said, everyone pitches in and the host provides the beverages and a couple of the most requested dishes. Amy's Egg-Nog is also one of the highlights... in both high-test (spiked with bourbon) and regular versions. Sam's famous Erma Bombeck Dip has been a Christmas tradition as long as I can remember. But it doesn't last long!


Since the house is already decorated for the holidays, decorating is easy. Vases of fresh greenery, Poinsettias, and candles (where the kids cannot knock them over) are all you need. Snip the ends of greenery and keep it outside in buckets of water until party day. Put your arrangements together the morning of the party and they should stay fresh through the holidays.


Print copies of your favorite Christmas carols and staple them together so guests can have the words in front of them. If you are not lucky enough to have a concert pianist in your group, call the local college music department or a nearby church... and if you don't have a piano, get someone who can bring a keyboard. If all else fails, there are plenty of sing-along CD's or Karaoke tracks available. Have a well-rounded mix of carols to sing... include classics like Oh Holy Night to popular hits like Santa Baby and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. One of the highlights of this party is when the men sing "Walking 'Round in Women's Underwear" to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland. It is hysterical to see bankers and lawyers and even cops singing that one.

Here's to the holidays... create some memories with those you love. And your neighbors, too!

Photos: Arden Photography