Party Planning: Horror to Holiday Themes



We love to have people over and entertain especially when the weather starts to get chilly. I am usually in the kitchen prepping sides and desserts and my hubs is at the grill firing up the meat. Parties can get old as conversation gets recycled and the dishes start to pile up. This year my family and I are looking for alternatives to the typical holiday season this October through December.

I have taken some time to compile a list of ideas so we can have some ready-made fun. I am not using “pins” for this or tons of decorations. I plan to use my own creativity and keep it low stress and low cost. Here is what I have come up with so far:

Halloween Themes:

Sure, I will do my fair share of pumpkin patches and a corn maze but what about a…

  • S’mores Bar and Wine Tasting—You can build a fire or grab some long neck lighters (parent supervision a must!). Toppings can include strawberries, bananas, fudge, caramel, chocolate/mint/butterscotch/toffee chips, peanut butter cups, crushed graham crackers, etc. Wine can be paired with the sweet treats for an indulging evening for the adults.
  • Soup Off—My friend hosts this every year at her house. Folks work all year to craft their special soup. There is a competition and a golden ladle awarded to the winner (gold spray paint on a ladle will do). Some folks even share recipes while others guard their secrets!
  • Outdoor Movie and Putrid Picnic—There are a few outdoor movies offered across town, so why not pack a picnic of “putrid party food” and a few costumes to have an outing with your family and another. Some ideas for “putrid party food” include: sandwitches, eyeball subs (meatball subs), headless bucket of chicken…
  • County Fair Festivities—This lends itself to a Sunday funday party potluck. Gather a few families and host a pumpkin carving, cake walk, face painting, go-fish, bean bag toss, and sidewalk chalk art contest. Other families can contribute pumpkins and cakes to offset any costs.
  • Halloween Candy Swap and CrockPot Chili—After trick or treating I just want a healthy meal to celebrate the witching hour. Invite a few friends over after prowling the streets to trade candy and chill with some chili. Kids love to trade so dump the bags out and make a game of it.

Thanksgiving Themes:

I love the idea of a “Friendsgiving” but I am typically too stuffed to eat more food. This year my get-together alternatives include being more intimate by doing things, like…

  • No Small Talk Event—I recently read about this concept from this link. The idea is to create an invite ahead of time that has some ground rules. Invite a mix of new and old friends. Set a time for arrival to be between a short duration, say 6-6:30pm and some other ground rules like topics not to be discussed to include “What do you do for a living? Where do you live? What music/movies/books do you like?”And have a list of suggested alternative topics like, “When you are alone and have time to reflect, what do you think about the most? Which recent news story affected you the most? Describe the happiest day of your life.” If you need some other ideas, ask folks to post suggestions through the Facebook invite.
  • Meet Up at the Soda Shop—Make your own ice cream sundae bar or float station like the soda shops popular in the ’50s. Knoxville actually has one called the Pharmacy and is well worth the trip in case you do not want to have a sticky kitchen clean-up.
  • Game Night—Good old fashioned cards and cocktails will work for the adults. Some of my fave kids’ games include “Guess Who,” “Connect Four,” “Old Maid,” or have the adults and kids play flashlight hide and seek in a local field or playground!
  • Freezer Meal Frenzy—Invite all the hens over (and a few roosters who like to cook) and chop ’til you drop for a few freezer meals that everyone can bag up as they head out the door. This is a great way to get rid of and consolidate those Thanksgiving leftovers. A few of my specialties include: turkey enchiladas, lasagna, tetrazzini soup, or stuffed peppers.
  • Clothes Swap—This past spring I invited eight ladies of all shapes and sizes to bring bags of their unwanted clothes, shoes, and accessories. We dumped all of the clothes on the floor, popped open a couple of bottles of champagne and picked through the pile. I found at least six new outfits and a handful of necklaces all for free. When it was all over, friends loaded the discards up in my truck and I hauled a load to the local ladies non-profit. If you are looking for a new winter wardrobe, this is the best no-cost way to do it. This idea could be turned into a toy swap too so parents can save a few extra dollars during the holidays.

Non-Specified Religious Holiday Themes (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa):

I love the “holidays.” All things sparkle and shine. Typically friends who I only see once a year come to stay for a spell. It is a perfect time to end the year with magic moments that could be shared at a…

  • Winter Solstice Gathering—A little pagan for some but nonetheless this day (December 21st) is a marking of time and inner reflection to light your heart’s fire for the new year. Ideas for this evening can include a candle light dinner and evening of family storytelling. Solstice can be celebrated with a fire releasing ceremony where everyone is given a slip of paper to write down a negative thought or habit they want to release; once everyone has had a chance to write, the slips of paper are offered in silence and one at a time to the fire for burning.
  • Holidays Around the World Potluck—I love international food so this is the potluck for it. It is a great opportunity to make an international dish for the first time. Kids might get a kick out of learning about world-wide holiday traditions and games too. This could even be turner into a “progressive dinner,” where you travel to several neighbors’ or friends’ homes to sample international delicacies (you could incorporate a passport for the kids).
  • Cookie/ Ornament Swap—Invite a few bakers or makers to your house with their kids (or not). This party usually takes a couple of hours. Making cookie dough ahead of time or prepping ornament stages will save some time so everyone will leave with goodies.
  • Carol Karaoke—Whatever holiday you choose to celebrate: Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, whip out the mic and a few maracas, get shakin’, and start singing. If you feel ambitious, you can arrange ahead of time a few neighbors who would be interested in having you and your kids visit their house and serenade them.
  • Murder Mystery—This is a fun way to start the new year off with a sense of intrigue with a few adults. Invite folks to dress up in period costumes and BYOB or design a signature themed cocktail. You can order ready-made murder mystery box sets that include a script for each person that can be sent out ahead of time. A few online freebies can be found here or search for “Free Murder Mystery Games.”

I am ready to party this season–especially if my friends reading this want to host one of these (shameless hint, hint). If you have fun ideas, please share in the comments. I would love to hear any alternative traditions you have!



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