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Throw the Perfect Holiday Party

From refreshments to décor to entertainment, we've got you covered

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 11, 2019

Joy to the World

Holiday parties serve as bright spots during these bleak midwinter days. Twinkling lights, tasty snacks, warming beverages, and sparkling chitchat liven up the dark nights. Maybe you've been longing to host a holly, jolly gathering, but don't know where to begin. Well, here you go! Think of this as your holiday entertaining toolbox—filled with all the essential elements for a splendid seasonal soiree.

Chestnuts Roasting

First and foremost is the menu, of course! Yummy food makes everything better. We love The Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, with accessible recipes for parties year round. Her Cook Like a Pro is another great choice for simple, streamlined, yet impressive, recipes. For seasonal baked goods, try The Nordic Baking Book by renowned chef Magnus Nilsson. And for more than 450 recipes for the perfect party treat, check out the classic Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, a ThriftBooks customer favorite!

Deck the Halls

Time to spruce up your crib. There are the obvious holiday festoons, but to take your style to the next level, we recommend Country Living Christmas at Home with ideas for decorative touches, holiday crafts, and even more recipes. Or you could go with Decorating for the Holidays by the ultimate entertaining pro, Martha Stewart, herself. Or just keep it simple. Truly, you can't go wrong with a few evergreen boughs, some mistletoe, and a bit of sparkle.

A-Wassailing We Go!

One of the keys to keeping your guests happy is plenty of liquid holiday cheer. It's true! Tasty (and plentiful) beverages will go a long way toward a successful party. And we're not just talking about booze, either, but maybe that's where we should start. If you're looking to get more comfortable with making cocktails, The Essential Cocktail by Dale Degroff is a great tool. For a robust collection of wintry drinks, including nogs, punches, hot drinks, and nonalcoholic options, pick up a copy of Holiday Cocktails by Nick Mautone. And don't forget to put a crowd-pleasing pot of wassail on the stove.

Easy Wassail

  • 1 apple, studded with 5–10 whole cloves
  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a large pot over medium low heat and bring to a simmer for 30—45 minutes. Your house will smell amazing!

Avoid a Silent Night

Setting out a couple of irresistible coffee table books will give guests a starting point for chitchat. With Colorstrology by Michele Bernhardt, partygoers can look up the specific colors associated with their birthdate and learn what this means about their personality and relationships. A subtle way for your various acquaintances to get to know one another! The Bucket List by Kath Stathers offers a gorgeous pictorial of a thousand potential adventures for people of all ages to consider. And for some light, all-ages humor, pass around The Very Embarrassing Book of Dad Jokes by Ian Allen. It'll have folks chuckling and cringing in equal measure. Bonus: these attractive volumes also make great gifts!


It's good to have a few easy activities available: A jigsaw puzzle set up on a card table or a simple game for people to play. And maybe the easiest option: a beloved, classic holiday movie playing in another room can be a great diversion for restless kids or even adults who just need a break from socializing. Or it could even be an activity for your entire group. A few of our all-time favorites include Elf, A Christmas Story, and Babes in Toyland. Now that we're thinking about it, a holiday movie-viewing party doesn't sound half bad!

We hope this little guide helps you plan a perfectly festive fête. Let us know if you have any tips for holiday hosting!

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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