13 hacks to help you throw a budget Christmas party (without anyone realising)
Jingle all the way into the new year with these foolproof tips
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — unless you haven’t yet planned your weekend Christmas party. Between the holiday whirlwind of last-minute work, visiting relatives from out of town, attending shaadis, and buying gifts for your kids and for the office Secret Santa (we have some options here), it slipped your mind that you’ll be entertaining too. Or you’re faced with the prospect of the same old Christmas get-together over cocktails, and perhaps an elaborate dinner you definitely don’t want to be stuck making. Is there any chance you can pull this off? We’re pleased to report that the answer is yes.
As any fan of The Office will tell you, trying to improve on the classic Christmas party is almost always an act of folly. Whether it’s a Moroccan theme with dubious belly dancing or an austere Schrute Pennsylvania Dutch affair, better to leave well enough alone when it comes to Christmas. You don’t have to spend hours making delicate canapés and artfully arranging tinsel to throw a traditional party that captures the spirit of the season.
And if you, like many of us at this time of year, are counting your chillar until your salary hits, conserve your coins for buying stocking stuffers. We’ve got DIY and budget options to take your night from silent to holy. Between decor ideas, festive activities, and recipes, you can pick-and-mix the Christmas party you want with these tips.
‘Tis the season to be giving
Charity starts at home, and this festive season, it can be the highlight of your Christmas party. Sharing is caring, and as the all the scrooges and grinches eventually learn, the true spirit of Christmas is about generosity and community. Go back to the basics with these sustainable suggestions for a party that’s equal parts fun and meaningful.
When in doubt, donate
What better time for everyone to clean out their cupboards in anticipation of the new year? Have guests bring their discarded clothes that are clean and in good repair, and take some time to sort them into bags. Old toys, games, and books will bring some holiday cheer to less fortunate kids. Tie up with your local charitable and religious organisations, or reach out to the Clothes Box Foundation for information on where to donate clothes. A package of Christmas treats will doubtless be a welcome addition to the donation box.
Shaadi season and the holidays collide
It is a truth universally acknowledged that by the time December rolls around, we all have a bunch of weddings and functions to attend, and absolutely nothing to wear. Although we at Tweak are proud outfit repeaters, there’s only so many times you can wear the same shaadi outfits with the same group of people before you run out of new ways to style them. Turn your party into a clothing swap — so that when that cute sharara suit has already made it to your Instagram feed, it doesn’t have to be decommissioned. You might find some treasures in your friends’ wardrobes, all while cutting down on unnecessary waste and expense. A trip to the dry cleaner and darzi later, no one will ever know these outfits weren’t made for you.
Decking the halls
On one hand, you could haphazardly stick up banners and bunting that will likely as not fall on someone’s head before the night is done. On the other, you could outsource the decorating to your guests, or even your kids. Abandon your moodboard of charming Goan churches and Christmas markets; the end result of decorating by committee won’t look quite as perfect, but it will be just as magical.
Make your own Christmas ornaments
These adorable gnomes don’t require you to buy anything from the store; just sweet-talk your local raddiwala. Made with plastic beverage bottles, fabric scraps, and cotton wool, they’re a fun way to use up things you might otherwise throw away. So are these mini Christmas trees made from fabric strips, bits of ribbons, and wooden skewers or orange wood sticks. Give your kids a lesson in sustainable crafting without so much as laying down a newspaper.
If you’re too short on time to supervise a crafts session, these old-school snowflake cutouts will be enjoyed by adult guests too. As author Erma Bombeck noted, there’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning and not be a child. Unless you get to experience anew the wonder of unfolding a perfectly symmetrical snowflake — this time with a glass of wine in hand. Pre-fold the paper squares to make it easier, and provide scissors and pretty twine.
Turn the tree into a living memory
This year, I didn’t buy a Christmas tree. Instead, I’ve draped my long-suffering potted hibiscus with baubles and lights for a minimal yet definitely dressy take on the evergreen. Sprinkle your existing plants with sparkle (and try not to murder them in the process).
Regardless of what kind of tree you go with, decorating it with friends and family is the real star on top. Ask each guest to bring a special ornament, so the whole party is represented on the tree. If you have an hour to spare, bake a batch of these salt dough ornaments using a handful of basic pantry ingredients. Cut out different shapes with cookie cutters, and set up a craft table with acrylic paints, glitter, and ribbons. Each guest can take home their very own design, ensuring they’ll never forget your party.
Eat, drink, and be merry
Is it even Christmas if you aren’t munching your way through mounds of plum cake and orchards of marzipan fruit? No holiday party is complete without mouthwatering nibbles and drinks. But while Jesus transformed water into wine, your special skill is turning it into a smoking, charred saucepan. Luckily, you can have two left thumbs in the kitchen and still whip up some festive favourites for a crowd.
The time for celebration = libation
Even if your plan is to order pizza and happy-cry over The Holiday, welcoming your guests with a cup of mulled wine sets the mood. The aroma of cinnamon and oranges will instantly make your house feel cosy and Christmasy, and you don’t need to splurge on an imported bottle for a delicious mulled wine. This recipe makes it both easier and boozier than hot chocolate — a win in my books.
But there are times when only hot chocolate will do, especially when kids are involved. A simple hack is to melt a few squares of dark chocolate over low heat with milk of your choice, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Whisk thoroughly until you’ve got a frothy, creamy drink that you can ladle into mugs.
Now for the exciting bit: the toppings bar. Set out cinnamon sticks, candy canes, and chocolate cigars as stirrers, with marshmallows and candied fruits to top. Drop an eclair toffee in the bottom of each mug as a surprise. For the grown-ups, a shot of coffee liqueur or Baileys does the trick.
Let them eat cookies
Yes, you can have homemade Christmas cookies without doing any of the actual preparation. A trip to the bakery is all the legwork you’ll need, to pick up a selection of plain sugar cookies, ginger biscuits, and shortbreads.
Mix up a simple icing with powdered sugar, vanilla, and just enough milk to make a smooth, shiny paste. Divide the icing and tint each batch with food colouring, then stuff them into sandwich bags and snip off a small corner. Guests can squeeze colourful icing onto the cookies, and add sprinkles, chopped nuts, edible glitter – you name it. Swap your designs, take them home, or transport directly into your mouth.
Do you feel pot-lucky?
A home-cooked Christmas feast with all the trimmings is a nice postcard image, but in real life, it will only break your spirit and lead to stains on your glitzy outfit. Split the load with friends so everyone can appreciate the fruits of each other’s labour. Once the side dishes, snacks, and desserts have been taken off your plate, you can focus on an impressive main dish.
But if the thought of basting a turkey or dum-ing a biryani is already making you break out in anxious hives, make it a BYOB cocktail party instead. Think hummus that comes together easily in a blender, steaming packaged momos to serve with your favourite chilli oil, a cheeseboard, veggies and dip. Stir up a jug of cocktails (try these readymade mixers to make the job easy) and keep plenty of ice and mixers on hand.
For those who are really leaning into the season of indulgence, a Christmas cookie party is the way to go. Everyone brings a batch of homemade cookies or sweets to swap and share. All you have to provide is hot chocolate and cute gift bags so guests can take home a tasty assortment of cookies from the party. These fudgy microwave brownies, topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, will be the star of the show.
So cue up a Mariah Carey playlist and get cracking on a Christmas party that will stand out in a sea of holiday invitations. Remember, Christmas isn’t about having the most glittering soiree on the block, but basking in the warm glow of togetherness. That, and rewatching Home Alone.