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Williamsburg Holiday Party Planning Tips

If the holiday season is about nothing else, it is about getting together with friends and loved ones. Nothing beats a gathering at home of all the people you enjoy and love.

We know you want to have a holiday gathering that's just the right mix of food, fun and holiday festivities. Below are some tips we've compiled.

The Invitation

You have enough to worry about this holiday than to stress about putting a gathering together in just a few days. Give yourself a minimum of three weeks to plan and prep. This includes sending out invitations. If your holiday party will be formal, invitations are a must; if you're aiming for a simple gathering of people to sit around the fire, singing carols and perhaps opening some gifts, an invitation may not be requried.

Regardless, let your potential guests know of your planned party a few weeks in advance - you'll feel less stress and they'll still have openings on their holiday calendar.

Decorations Set the Tone

This is Williamsburg: We just ooze American history. We're a living history museum in so many ways. Perhaps you'd like to decorate in a Colonial motif, with candles glowing in your home's windows, baskets of fresh fruit throughout the house, as well as evergreen boughs on the fireplace and tables.

Going for something more whimsical? Put out lots of Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines. Don't forget Victorian or Dickens-style ceramic houses with tiny lightbulbs inside.

Just want simple and traditional? Red tablecloths and a red runner on your dining or buffet table will do the trick, as will red and gold ornaments on your tree. Poinsettia plants scattered about on tables, as well as red candles on side and coffee tables set a casual holiday tone.

And don't forget the Christmas carols playing on the radio or sound system.

THE FOOD

We put the heading above in all caps because, next to the people gathered together, the food is the most important part of any holiday party. From turkey to roast beef, from stuffing to mashed potatoes, from three-layer chocloate cake to pumpkin pie, whether your gathering is formal or casual, we know you'll want to smother your guests in the sights - and aroma! - of great food.

Will your gathering be a sit down affair, or a come-when-you-can and sit-on-a-floor-pillow--with-a-plate-in-your-lap kind of party? Either is wonderful.

For any kind of party, you'll want cookies and cheese platters (perhaps even popcorn and cranberries so that the young-at-heart can string popcorn garlands together for your tree). You'll want eggnog and coffee. Perhaps even hot cider. Fresh fruit. Lots of crackers. And stuffing. Lots and lots of stuffing!

Music for All

Between Sirius satellite radio and music downloaded to an ipod from the Internet, your holiday gathering surely will not lack for background music. You can burn a CD of your favorite Christmas songs - from monastery chants from the Middle Ages to orchestral compositions of the classics to Bing Crosby singing White Christmas to Mannheim Steamroller's A Fresh Aire Christmas, there's a holiday song for everyone at your party. And, if your music system allows, perhaps you could take requests!

Games for Young and Old

Games are a great addition to your holiday party, especially if it's a more casual gathering with good friends and family. Often, the goofier the game, the better. Here are two of our favorites:

Stand everyone in a circle. Hand someone a bag full of different kinds of clothes - pajamas, clown pants, tutus, ballgowns, funny hats. Play a Christmas carol and ask the person to pass the bag to the right. The bag continues around the circle until the music stops (try to stop it randomly). The person holding the bag must reach in without looking, take a clothing item, and no matter what it is, put it on. Start the music again and the bag goes continues around until the music again stops. The more clothes in the bag, the better, because then most everyone will have to put on at least one item of goofy duds. By the time all the clothes are gone from the bag, the person wearing the most items "wins." Ever see Grandpa in a tutu wearing a tiara with cowboy boots? You will this Christmas!

A great game for the kids is to have a package wrapped in several layers of paper. Get the kids seated in a circle on the floor. Start the Christmas music. The kids pass the package around the circle. When the music stops, the child holding the package gets to take off one - and only one - layer of the wrapping. The child who unwraps the final layer gets to the keep the present.

Great Music... Even if there isn't a drop of your killer punch or a single cookie left, they'll stay for the music! Gear your tunes to your guests, but don't be afraid to mix it up, and include plenty of holiday themed music! "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" can go a long way toward loosening up even the most reserved of guests! Have a plan in mind ahead of time for how and where to move that furniture around so your guests can dance.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving... Holiday parties are a great opportunity for giving. Add a 'cover charge' to your invitation that includes a small, unwrapped toy or a non-perishable food item to be donated to your local Salvation Army, Red Cross or other non-profit.

No Holiday Budget Busters... Don't have a huge party budget? Not to worry! A little creativity and your guests will think your event was created from beginning to end by your own personal event planner! Party food doesn't need to break your bank...homemade pizza, 6-foot long subs, finger sandwiches and vegetable trays are always a big hit. Consider making it a pot-luck, with each guest bringing their favorite "munchie"!