Hot holiday party themes to shake up the season

Nov 26, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. ET

Pot lucks and Secret Santa gift exchanges aren't the only way to gather groups of friends and family this season. Shake things up this year and do something different. We're sharing some new takes on holiday parties thanks to an expert in the field.

We asked celebrity caterer/event planner and Lenox's new home entertaining expert Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs for some fresh takes on holiday entertaining. She's planned thousands of holiday parties for families, businesses, corporations and A-listers like Mariah Carey, Jimmy Fallon, Donald Trump, Liam Neeson and many more.


Seasonal Sunday brunch

Holiday brunch ideas

Dinner parties are a standard occurrence during the busy holiday season, so why not switch things up by hosting a holiday brunch? "Instead of competing with the multitude of evening cocktail parties this season, create the ultimate holiday brunch and invite the whole family as a fun alternative," says Correale. "During this time of the year, many people have double-booked evening commitments, so throwing a Sunday brunch is the perfect solution."

For Sunday brunch during the holidays, Correale suggests setting up a deviled egg bar and a salad bar, serving up a platter of eggnog French toast and putting together sandwich wreaths (serve them in the shape of a wreath to add a festive touch to your table). This spread encompasses all the traditional holiday favorites, along with some lighter fare. "Cookie decorating and stocking decorating coupled with a mulled cider bar and a candy cane coffee bar are fun activities and treats for kids," she adds.

Best for: A Sunday brunch appeals to everyone — children, adults, friends and family.


Champagne and dessert tree-trimming party

Champagne and dessert tree-trimming party

Because there are so many commitments during the holiday season, take the pressure off yourself and your nearest and dearest with an open house — one that involves treats, bubbly and tree trimming. "It’s easier to make your house the last stop for everyone to convene," advises Correale, which is something you can discuss with your family in advance of sending out invitations. "Additionally, a dessert party is a cost-effective alternative to a traditional dinner party," she adds. Drinks for the dessert party can include sparkling cider, a spiked hot chocolate bar and spiked holiday coffee cocktails. Correale also recommends serving eggnog creme brulee and plum pudding bites (smaller servings of the festive classic), and setting up a cookie and milk bar for a touch of whimsy.

Best for: Dessert parties are great for adults and perfect for adult couples.


Charles Dickens party

Charles Dickens party

Correale suggests hosting a Charles Dickens-themed holiday party with all the nostalgic trimmings. "During this time of the year, people love that nostalgic flavor. Christmas caroling, beef Wellington, plum pudding and all things Dickens are all things that'll bring people to that warm and fuzzy place," she says. For a Charles Dickens party, a traditional menu with beef Wellington, eggnog and mulled wine is a must. "A roaring fire and an abundance of candles are critical to the decor. Christmas caroling booklets, piano music to sing along to and old-fashioned Christmas dances and games greatly add to the nostalgic feel."

Best for: A Charles Dickens party is great to throw for the entire family, especially the ones you won't be with on the actual holiday.


Farm-to-table party

Farm-to-table party

A popular trend this season is a farm-to-table rustic Christmas party. "Since people are generally healthier, creating a rustic setting and serving up a buffet full of organic vegetables and grass-fed beef elicits a hearty menu packed with nutrition," advises Correale. For an organic approach, she suggests serving wild mushroom and sage-stuffed Cornish hen, roasted root organic vegetables and sweet potato celery root puree. Beeswax candles and nature-focused decor add to the rustic appeal.

Best for: This healthy option is perfect for friends and family.

More holiday ideas

3 Edible gifts in a jar
Up on the Housetops-themed holiday party
DIY scrap paper wreath

Photo credits: Elegant Affairs