Clever and easy ways to make yours the most memorable party of the season.

Holiday parties are tricky. On the one hand, you’ve got a ready-made theme around which to build any gathering, big or small. On the other, you’re probably unwittingly competing against a number of other invitations your friends and family have received from other hosts, which means your festivities may be compared with others’.

To ensure maximum holiday awesomeness, here are a few tips that will make your holiday party stand out from the pack — no magical helper elves necessary.

Fair warning: If you throw a really awesome holiday party, your guests may demand you make it an annual tradition.

1. Christmas tree, without the tree

Instead of investing in an expensive living tree, find a large dried tree branch and spray-paint it white or silver. Place it in a vase or an embellished bucket, decorate it with lights or balls, or make it stand out on its own with glitter, as this Momtastic blogger demonstrates. Not into nature? You could also up-cycle a broken umbrellawith lights.

2. Cranberries float

These sturdy red fruits seem like they were designed for holiday décor. Float some in a mason jar around candles for an impressive (and cheap) centerpiece like so.

3. Grown-up balloons

This tip actually comes from someone who did it for her toddler’s party, but I think it’s got a sophisticated, um, air. Fill clear balloons with glitter before you inflate them and voila! Festive sparkling balls.

4. Potpourri is still a thing

I thought it was reserved for moms’ bathrooms, but it turns out, you can instantly make people feel cozy and happy with a homemade batch of the stuff. The holiday season doubles your chances at pleasing all of your guests’ senses in the winter.

5. “Christmas” is in the air

Even if you’ve opted to skip the tree, or don’t celebrate the holiday, you can still get that lovely pine-tree scent with essential oils. Deposit a few drops onto a bowl full of pine cones for a natural scent diffuser.

6. Make-your-own hot chocolate bar

The fixings for hot chocolate are inherently beautiful, and you can up the ante with cute labels. (Feeling indulgent? Don’t forget the adult beverage additions, too.)

7. Punch without punch

The reason people traditionally serve punch at parties is so they don’t have to worry about mixing individual drinks. You can keep the convenience but forgo the sickly sweet variety with a good drink recipe, like Wolfgang Puck’s Spiced Apple Cider. Or provide guests with both ingredients and instructions for making a pleasingly simple drink like this white port and tonic recipe.

8. Hat in hand

Party hats make amazing appetizer cones. You can get away with all kinds of store-bought treats if they’re presented cleverly.

9. Not yo mama’s meatballs

Then again, you can pretend you got this recipe for orange-glazed meatballs made in a slow cooker from the old country and slaved over them all day for your guests.

10. Edible Santa

We never noticed how much Santa’s hat looked like strawberries until we saw this adorable recipe … and this much easier one.

Image via Brit + Co)
Image via Brit + Co

11. Holiday card station

Photo booths with silly props are all the rage at weddings these days, but they’re just as fun at a holiday party. Set up a backdrop, props, and a printing station for your guests, and let them make their own cards to give to others.

12. Grown-up dreidel

These guys had the genius idea to combine the dreidel game with Texas hold ’em. Players of all creeds (well, maybe limited to those who are OK with gambling) can enjoy it.

13. White elephant ornaments

For another two-in-one activity, have all your guests make or bring holiday ornaments and hold a White elephant exchange (otherwise known as a Yankee swap). It’s a hilarious icebreaker and ensures that everyone will go home with a favor and remember your amazing party.

Got a favorite holiday hosting trick? Don’t be a Scrooge — share it with us!

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