Plan a Christmas party around one of these editor-approved holiday party activities for a gathering that’s fun—and, more importantly, stress-free!

By Brian Kramer

I’m Brian Kramer, editor of Do It Yourself magazine. I’ve planned a lot of holiday parties over the years, and what I’ve learned is that less is more when it comes to brainstorming Christmas party ideas. I usually select a headliner activity and plan my gathering around it. At the end of the day, the opportunity to simply spend a little time together is what makes a gathering a success—the party theme or activity is just the tinsel on the tree.

Pick one of my tried-and-true Christmas party activities and plan a gathering around it. Throw an ugly Christmas sweater party, host a white elephant exchange, or focus on Christmas party foods. As long as guests have a small activity to do and something to munch on, your holiday party will be a total success.

Revisit a tradition

Trust me: It’s been years since many of your guests have done a classic holiday activity like string popcorn and cranberry garlands, dip pretzels in almond bark, or stuff homemade Christmas crackers. Have everything ready for one activity and encourage guests to try the tradition and take home their finished projects.

Bring something, share something

I love a good Christmas cookie exchange, and I’ve learned that swapping handmade holiday goodies is a great way to enjoy little bits of lots of food. Ask guests to bring two dozen portions of a favorite treat on a plate or tray. At the party, ask everyone to add their plates to a serving table and fill out blank signs that describe the treat. When it’s time to swap, provide each guest with a cardboard box or cookie tin and squares of colorful tissue paper. I love this holiday party idea because your guests will provide most of the party food for you!

Related: Our All-Time Favorite Christmas Cookies

Gather donations

Generosity is a Christmas party theme that never goes out of style. Ask guests to bring an item for a family or an animal shelter (check the organization’s website or call nearby locations to verify their needs first) or plan a preparty outing with guests to gather items for shelter bags. Many shelters and food pantries accept bags of hygiene products or food items that are packaged up and ready to give out. If you choose this for your party activity, send out a photo of the final delivery to everyone who contributed.

Related: Christmas Gifts That Give Back

Make food or drink the event

A decked-out make-your-own hot cocoa bar or a cookie-decorating station is a big deal to set up, so make it this your party’s centerpiece. Keep serving sizes small (6-ounce cups or 2-inch prebaked sugar cookie rounds, for example), which encourages guests to make and share multiple versions over the course of the party.

Take a crack at it

One of my favorite Christmas party ideas is making fun holiday favors that pop open to reveal a surprise hidden inside. To make them, glue a cracker snap (you can find these in party stores around the holidays or online) to a piece of kraft paper that measures 7½ x 12 inches, then roll and glue the paper around a 4-inch-long paper tube. Insert a cardstock strip into each open end (you'll pull on this to open the cracker) and fill the tube with treats, candies or small trinkets, then pinch the ends closed and tie with ribbon. To dress them up a little more, add a piece of decorative paper or gift wrap to the center of the popper.

Expand the tacky trend

Freshen the ugly holiday sweater party idea by asking guests to also bring something fun (their tackiest tree ornament, the oddest holiday candy they can find, the weirdest holiday tchotchke). Host a contest—with the winner receiving  a tacky award, of course.

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