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4 Steps for Throwing the Perfect Holiday Party


With finals winding down, there’s a limited amount of time to celebrate the holidays on campus. But in between studying nonstop and living entirely off of coffee, take advantage of the time we have to get festive with all our friends on campus. Whether you’re into smaller, intimate celebrations or bigger, crazier shindigs, here are four tips for throwing the perfect holiday party!

1. Choose a Theme

Even the biggest fan of holiday parties can admit that they tend to get unoriginal. If you want your party to stand out, put a twist on the ordinary holiday theme with one of these options.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

A classic and silly way to celebrate the holidays is to host an ugly Christmas sweater party. Whether you have to take a trip to a local thrift shop or scavenge for crazy vintage pieces in your attic, you can find ridiculous holiday sweaters easily and inexpensively.

“Last year, my friends and I got dressed up in Christmas sweaters, decorated our dorm room and made a huge holiday dinner for ourselves while listening to Christmas music,” says Kelsey Pomeroy, a junior at Ohio State University.


Since Hanukkah and Christmas fall within a few weeks of each other, you can take a hint from The O.C. and merge the two holidays to create a big Chrismukkah bash.  The decorations can include everything from mistletoe to menorahs.  And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without The O.C.-inspired cute and crafty yamaclauses, or yarmulke Santa hats, which you can easily DIY for all your guests!

Classy Christmas

Who doesn’t love an excuse to dress up? You and your friends can create your own classy event simply by dressing nicely and making more upscale arrangements with food, drinks and decorations.

Boston College graduate Meghan Gibbons has thrown a "Classy Christmas Party" with her friends for the past two years. “With all of us in college, I felt that we can act like grown-ups,” she says. “I had all my friends dress up in cute holiday dresses, and guys looked nice in button-downs. We served fancy appetizers [and] cocktails (or mocktails for those under 21), and it was a great photo op!”  So if you have a great dress that you’re dying to wear and you appreciate fun and fancy festivities, then this is the party theme for you!

2. Set the Atmosphere

Holiday parties are all about the atmosphere, so you can’t throw one without decorations and music! For a more casual party, red and green cups are a good choice for drinks, and you can buy either solid-colored plates and napkins or ones with holiday motifs. 

As for decorating the room, holiday lights, tinsel and wreaths are classic options that will set the mood and also tend to be relatively inexpensive. However, there are many DIY decorating options that can keep you from overspending and serve as fun activities to do with your friends to get you even more pumped to party! You could make paper snowflakes and a popcorn garland.

While any and all of these ideas will come across as festive, your décor will look even better when you stick to a decorative theme. For example, you may want to choose colored lights when going for a warm and traditional holiday look (great for an ugly sweater party), whereas white lights are a must if you want to turn the room into a winter wonderland (great for a classy party or Chrismukkah theme!).

As for music, classic, upbeat songs are perfect for a more casual event. If you want to give your party a more modern feel, you can include recent remixes of traditional holiday songs by artists such as Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey. A good option for a classy Christmas party is to skip the expected songs in favor of instrumental performances of traditional carols. For lots of (free!) Christmas music streaming stations, check out YulePlay.

3. Get Festive Food and Drinks

When throwing a holiday party, there are a ton of options for food and refreshments that will help set the mood. Holiday cookies and candy canes are a definite must, and to spice up your beverage selection, you can make holiday cocktails (or mocktails for those younger than 21). 

If you want your party to include dinner but you don’t have the time to spend in the kitchen or the money to order in for everyone, an excellent option is to have the party be a potluck, where everyone brings a food item to share. “For Christmas, my friends and I have a potluck dinner,” says Emma Chapple, a junior at St. Thomas University. “It's a cheap alternative to going out, and there's always tons of food left over!”

You can even turn unhealthy holiday classics into healthy alternatives so that before your finals diet of coffee and processed food sets in, you can enjoy festive food with your friends and save the leftovers as healthy study snacks! 

4. Include Activities

Even though you and your friends are bound to have fun just hanging out together at a holiday party, you can amp up your event with a few holiday-themed activities. A great idea to get a smaller, more intimate party started right is to have a secret Santa gift exchange at the beginning of the party. This requires planning, since all the guests will have to meet beforehand to draw names, but you can keep the gift-giving aspect as stress-free as possible by making DIY gifts or sweet treats.  

Barnard College graduate Christina Madsen recommends using Elftster for your gift exchange. “It's pretty cool because it will randomly assign everyone a person to buy a gift for and you can create wish lists so your Secret Santa knows what to get you,” she says.

Another easy activity option for a bigger group is to cut cards in half and throw them in a basket for people to select as they walk in. Then, the guests will have to find their match by the end of the party. This is great for a party where everyone may not necessarily know each other because it creates an excuse to go up to people with an obvious icebreaker. Other games that everyone can play include holiday movie trivia or card games like spoons or poker using candy canes.

With so many different ways to celebrate the holidays, there’s no reason not to throw a party! Whichever way you choose to get festive, the important thing is that you’re having fun with your on-campus family, which is what the holiday season is really about.

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