The day before Christmas is a time for last-minute preparations, travel, worship, and gathering for a Christmas Eve party. It's time for children to hang their stockings by the fireplace, set out cookies and milk, and anticipate a nighttime visit from Santa.
If you're hosting this year's Christmas Eve celebration, you're probably feeling some stress. Remember that everything does not have to be perfect. There are several ways to honor the occasion and create some good, old-fashioned fun.
Christmas traditions are practiced by families around the world. Mix in some new traditions with the old and you'll have a party based on customs, one that will create cherished memories. The primary age of your guests will probably play a big factor in your choice for decorations and activities. A religious theme will be ideal for a church gathering, a traditional theme for families, and a Santa Claus theme will make children happy.
Honestly though, I feel that all Christmas parties should have some religious elements because Christmas is Christ's birthday. Only if you're having a general "holiday" party with guests of different religious beliefs should you make it more "generic." If necessary, do some checking and tailor your theme to your guests and your party will surely be successful.
Nowadays, the hustle and bustle of our lifestyles create fast-paced holidays. We try to pack in as many parties and get-togethers as possible, in just a few days. Due to time constraints, some families can only gather on Christmas Eve and adjust their activities accordingly. Below are some traditional things to do that may fit into your celebration perfectly.
An early worship service or midnight mass will nurture your spiritual side. If possible, go together as a family and savor the moment. This is a wonderful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and may even help reduce tension that occurs in some extended families.
Why not make decorating for the holiday a group effort? Play some Christmas music, serve eggnog, and trim the tree. Don't start from scratch. It's a good idea to have the lights on the tree and in good working condition before letting your guests do the fun stuff like add garland, icicles, and ornaments.
Let children make their own decorations with cut-outs. Have them trace cookie cutter shapes onto construction paper and glue on lace and candy embellishments. These figures can be hung on the tree or taped on the fridge to make them proud. Hang a strategically-placed mistletoe for the adults.
Form a choir and take it to the streets! Christmas caroling is a custom that not only gets you into the holiday spirit, it spreads cheer to others as well. You don't have to be an American Idol contestant to sing. As long as you have a group of people who know the words and can reasonably carry a tune, you're set. You can provide a book of hymns or print out sheets of preferred songs that will refresh memories and help with second and third verses.
If you don't wish sing door-to-door, gather around the piano and belt it out. Some guests may need a little coaxing so it's best to have a "leader" that will take the initiative and get things started. Whether you're caroling indoors or out, have some treats ready for guests when you're finished. Hot chocolate, coffee, and tea will help warm them up and they'll never turn down typical Christmas goodies such as cookies, candy, and fudge. Check out our complete Guide to Caroling for much more information.
You could give your Christmas Eve party a movie theme, complete with popcorn and soda. If you have a fireplace, fire it up to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. Hand out blankets, dim the lights and show some good-ole Christmas classic movies such as "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Carol," or "Babes in Toyland." Got mostly kids? They'll love "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Prancer," or "Elf."
If you know that your guests will be eating a large meal on Christmas, you may wish to keep things "light" for Christmas Eve and serve soup and crackers, sausages, cheese, along with traditional goodies and snacks. If possible, mix things up by asking guests to bring along something to share with others. This is a great time to exchange recipes and discuss other menu ideas for future holidays.
You can organize a gift exchange by setting a price limit and asking guests to bring gifts that are appropriate for their own gender or for any gender (one or the other for all guests.) However, drawing names makes the gifts more personable and fun. The fishbowl or hat technique works great but there are other alternatives if everyone can't all be in the same place to do this prior to the holidays.
For those that aren't comfortable using an online service or software, find one trusted family member to draw the names and mail them out, making sure to keep their own records in case any of the names are lost.