Our series “Moments in the Making” shares stories of anticipation for the holidays and how people create memories during the season with those they love most.

If you’re one of those people who lives for the winter holidays, then we can relate. Whether it’s a tree or tinsel, menorah or mistletoe — or just the change in weather — that gets you in the spirit, we understand. After all, there are so many joyous ways to enjoy the holiday season, and we’re all hoping to celebrate together.

In fact, this year we may just be a little bit more spontaneous — and, hopefully, less stressed — than in year’s past.

“I’m noticing this myself,” says Steve Bales, owner of Bold Catering & Design in Atlanta. “Folks are transitioning through COVID-based considerations, so this year expect the emphasis to be on family, close friends, and the simple joy of spending time together.”

With a seasonal focus on gathering, here are five easy ideas for planning a holiday party.

A photo of a holiday party with a woman smiling at someone outside of the camera angle while she holds up a glass of wine.

Rethink the ‘boxed’ meal

One fun way to serve your festive fare at a holiday party is in pretty boxes with magnetic flip lids. Print the name of the item on top of the box so guests can see what they’re about to eat. “Then, when the host opens the lid, your guests will be able to pick up an individual serving of the item along with a disposable utensil,” Bales says. “The lid closes, and it’s on to the next guest.” This keeps the food from being too exposed to various elements (sneezing, coughing, etc.), and, in keeping with the spirit of the season, provides a kind of gift for your guests to open.”

Don’t let supply chain challenges dampen your décor dreams

While the current supply chain shortages can be frustrating, you can still find decorative alternatives for your holiday party by sourcing what’s right around you.

“Nothing says home like what’s available in your backyard,” Bales says. “This might be magnolia leaves and branches, birch branches, pine, or cedar. If you’re on the coasts, paint a few small palmetto palms red and pop those in with your foliage and branches.”

Similarly, if red candles are hard to find this year, use a floating white candle in red water (food coloring always does the trick). “And don’t forget old school ‘paper chains’ and strings of popcorn to decorate the tree or your mantle,” Bales adds.

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Make your holiday party picture perfect

People are craving nostalgia this holiday season, says Annemarie Schumacher, founder of Make Every Day an Event in St. Louis. “This is the perfect time to rifle through the boxes in your basement and find vintage photos,” she says. “Put those photos in matching white frames, and you instantly have conversation starters with your guests.”

“Nothing says home like what’s available in your backyard.”

Steve Bales, owner of Bold Catering & Design

Another idea, which Schumacher does in her family, involves all those posed pictures you’ve taken with Santa over the years. “Pull them out of your closets and boxes, and display those fun childhood photos of holidays past. You know this will be so fun!”

Rethink how you plate (or pour)

A photo of a holiday party with a spread of dessert and charcuterie

If you’re tempted to buy plastic serving pieces, stop. You can make a more earth-friendly choice by taking down those antique cordial glasses stored high up in your kitchen cabinets and repurposing them as serving vessels.

“You can do fun vegetable crudités or individual desserts in a cordial glass, and it will look fantastic,” Schumacher says. “Or, take that china and crystal that has been stored away in a sideboard or in an attic and find creative ways to use it to serve food or drinks. It’s fun and festive, and these pieces will evoke memories of those before you and bring them to the table.”

Light up your space

One of the best (and least expensive) ways to create a holiday party atmosphere is through lighting, says Emily Klassen, an event planner at Alexandria Partners. Klassen recommends using patio lights, electric candles, or colorful uplights to help set the mood. She says, “Lighting adds a new level of décor, and allows you to take the same space and give it any look you want — whether that’s modern, clean, and contemporary, or cozy by the fireplace.”


Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based journalist who specializes in trends, lifestyle stories, and issues of importance to women.

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