Simple, Seasonal Celebrations, Gatherings & Get-togethers

‘Tis the season for, really, EVERYTHING. From the heavy hitters—Christmas and Hanukkah, for starters—to the holiday parties, cookie swaps and gift exchanges, there’s A LOT going on this month. To ensure you’re making the most of every feast and festivity, focus on ways to make each gathering your own—a festive signature drink, cozy dessert or twist on tradition that your guests will love. Beyond that, consider stretching your month to include some unique celebrations that extend outside of the usual suspects.



Even though we’re all about twists on tradition, there’s one seasonal go-to we want to see MORE of: COOKIES. Everyone loves holiday cookies so, this season, prep oversized batches of at least three to five favorites and freeze the dough. Almost any cookie dough freezes well—just avoid thinner, more watery doughs like pizzelles and cakey cookies like madeleines. The best freezable dough? Gingerbread, shortbread, sugar cookies and “drop” cookies—think chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal, for starters.

To freeze cookie dough:

  • Prepare dough as usual, then “form” cookies—for drop cookies or sugar cookies, roll 1” to 2” balls and place on a baking sheet. If you’re using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and place on a baking sheet.
  • Freeze cookie dough on the cookie sheets—this should take about one to two hours
  • Remove cookies from the freezer, take off of the baking sheet and put into a large freezer bag; put back in the freezer and freeze for up to one month
  • When you’re ready to bake, let cookies get to room temperature before baking, then bake as usual
fresh baked cookies

So what to do with all those extra cookies? Bake a batch or two fresh anytime guests come over—even if it’s not a holiday-themed get-together. Not only are these festive treats the perfect dessert, but—bonus!—your house will smell like fresh-baked cookies all season long.



Of course, we need to include this power player in our round up—what’s December without Christmas? This year, though, we’re all about putting some fun, simple and seasonal twists on Christmas. The goal? Create some serious memories for friends and family while building out traditions that are truly YOURS.


This Christmas, it’s all about BRUNCH in place of the traditional holiday dinner. Why? For lots of reasons. First, everyone loves brunch—including the host. For you, it’s easy to prep in advance—think strattas, casseroles, bakes, breads and salads that can be whipped up even days ahead of schedule. Then, post-presents, just pop them on the table or into the oven and you’re good to go. In other words, you WON’T spent the entire day preparing dinner, serving dinner then cleaning up dinner. Planned right, you could easily have Christmas brunch on the table in an hour or less.

Another perk to going brunch? Unless you have a very patient family, chances are the gifts are open on the early side. Who hasn’t spent a Christmas or two trying to kill time between the gift exchange and the big meal? And who hasn’t found themselves whipping up pancakes or omelets to feed a hungry crowd, only to turn around and put out an amazing dinner hours later? Serving brunch fills the day and fills every hungry belly. Then, for dinner, opt for something simple—a lasagna or prep-ahead pasta bake, or a roast chicken and veggies. Both can be prepped in advance and popped in the oven an hour before dinner time.


So back to brunch! Some of our favorite make-aheads are deliciously festive and, equally importantly, have that little extra something that makes them feel extra special—and perfect for a holiday brunch table.

Layer in some pastries, bagels and cream cheese and fruit salad and you’re good to go. For something even simpler but, still, equally special, whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles and create a holiday “bar” packed with loads of toppings. Some of our favorites?


  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate covered raisins
  • Apple butter
  • Pumpkin butter
  • Cookie butter
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped nuts


  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Sprinkles
  • Powdered sugar
  • Marshmallows
  • Granola
  • Chopped up candy bars


  • Chopped up bacon
  • Sea salt


  • Whipped cream
  • Butter
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Nutella
  • Ice cream


making gingerbread houses


After brunch, plan something fun to do as a group—think Christmas movie marathon, driving for lights or even a little friendly competition…

  • Buy pre-made gingerbread houses or kits, and have individuals or teams face off for edible architecture supremacy
  • Want something simpler? How about a Christmas cookie decorating challenge? Provide loads of frosting and topping and GO!
  • Host your own Christmas Olympics compete with seasonal competitions: a gift wrapping showdown, carol-off and more

    CHEERS TO...

    Focus on GIVING this season. Ask each guest to skip on ONE gift and contribute that money to a communal collection. Either give everyone an equal percent to donate on Christmas Day, or let the winners from your holiday competition choose the charity.

    #2. HANUKKAH

    Hanukkah lasts for eight nights—and, sometimes, it’s tough to make each of those nights feel special. This season, though, we’re celebrating all EIGHT with themed nights that are easy to execute and fun for the whole family!


    Eight nights of friends, family and FUN. Pick a unique theme for each night and roll with it. Some of our favorite themes?


    • Pajama night
    • Mystery Maccabee night (similar to “Secret Santa”)
    • Game night
    • Cookie baking/decorating night
    • Night OUT—head out to dinner or for a fun family activity
    • Movie night
    • Give back night
    • Latke night
    • Family memory-making night, complete with scrapbooking or family tree making

    The alternative? Let each member of the family choose a theme and run with it—the menu, the activities and how everything plays out. By putting the focus on a theme and the fun that comes with, you’ll avoid the same old, same old or, even, too much emphasis on gifts alone.

    give back night


    Pull your theme through all aspects of the night. For example, pajama night is a perfect night to serve breakfast for dinner. Family memory night is perfect for whipping up Grandma’s famous roast chicken or everyone in the family’s favorite meal. And, of course, latke night is all about LATKES—traditional, sweet potato and other faves.

    CHEERS TO...

    Why not truly give back on a dedicated “give back” night? Instead of buying gifts, encourage each member of the family to make a donation—a great Hanukkah gift or the money your family would have spent on that night’s gift exchange. Work together as a family to choose how to use the funds and where they’ll go—the more invested everyone is, the more positive the experience.




    This one’s a classic! Invite friends and family and have everyone whip up a few batches of their favorite holiday cookies. All you have to do is pop a cork or two and whip up some hot cocoa and you’ve got a party!

    ccokie swap party


    It couldn’t be easier. Ask every guest to bring a few dozen cookies—request the equivalent of two to six cookies per guest. Be sure you have freezer bags, plastic wrap and disposable containers at the ready so party-goers can pack up the cookies they’re taking home.

    As guests arrive, have them set their cookies out on the table or throughout the room or in some cookie jars on display so they’re easily accessible. Be sure to include a small sign or note indicating how many of each guests should take. Once the last batch has arrived, distribute containers and let everyone fill theirs up—make sure you leave extra for munching on AT the party.


    Be sure you have some drinks to go with the cookies:

    • Hot cocoa
    • Coffee
    • Tea
    • Champagne or prosecco
    • Seasonal beer
    • Big batch cocktails


    Making the party even more interactive! Have some classic faves available—think sugar, gingerbread, peanut butter and shortbread—along with frosting, sprinkles, candy and other seasonal toppings. Let guests decorate then swap, for a “batch” of truly unique, truly festive holiday cookies.


    Let’s face it—dessert is THE BEST. And with all the savory goodness that happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, sometimes it’s nice to indulge in a little guilt-free sweet…


    It’s a dessert-ONLY party, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve—anytime is perfect! Serve up classic seasonal treats and, really, ANYTHING you’re eager to sink your teeth into:

    • Holiday cookies
    • Cakes and cupcakes
    • Brownies and bars
    • Seasonal pies—think fruit pies, Chess pie, pecan pie, cheesecake and more
    • Milkshakes—“regular” for the kids, or with a splash of Baileys, rum or Kahlua for the grownups…
    • A holiday “candy bar”—chocolate, jelly beans, licorice, candy canes and other classic holiday treats
    • Dessert-inspired cocktails—Berry Prosecco Ice Cream Floats and Red Velvet Martinis, anyone?


    Consider some hands-on activities like cookie decorating or, even, an ice cream sundae station—anything that gets guests involved is a winner at this sugar-filled party.


    Why not make it a potluck? Assign each guest a category—cake, cookies, ice cream toppings, candy—and see what sweet treats roll in. You’ll be surprised at your guests’ creativity—just be sure to have disposable containers at the ready so you can pack up any leftovers.


    This daytime party is perfect for all ages. And the best party? Everyone walks away with some seasonal decor—so plan to host your crafternoon earlier in the month.


    An afternoon of holiday CRAFTING! Depending on skill level, there’s lots you can do:


    Be sure you have at least one or two options for every skill level, or that everything is suitable for beginners. Bonus points for tapping a crafty friend to help manage the group and ensure everyone has what they need to produce some beautiful holiday crafts.


    Set up stations around your home so guests can spread out and get their craft on. Make sure you have plenty of paper towels, wet wipes and newspaper or drop cloths—and make sure no stations are in areas you can’t or don’t want to get messy.


    Creating teams and encouraging friends and family to mix, mingle and work together on their crafts. Assign teams based on some fun, unifying fact—maybe it’s people who love certain sports teams or who were all born in the same season.

    One final note: make sure your snacks and drinks are easy to maneuver around the crafts. Cheese and crackers, crudite, crostini and bite-sized apps are all perfect and won’t get in the way of the crafting.

    pineapple funny


    We love December but, yes, winter can get LONG. So why not crank up the heat (literally!) and throw the ultimate summer bash?


    It’s almost Christmas—in JULY! This summer-themed party has it all: shorts and shades, flip flops and classic summer playlists. Did someone say Beach Boys…?


    Make sure your invites spell it out—it’s JULY, once guests cross the threshold into your house. That means winter boots OFF and flip flops ON—and that means shorts and Hawaiian shirts are, basically, the dress code. Crank up the heat in your house so no one gets chilly, and greet everyone with a Mai Tai or Pina Colada—cheers to summer!



    summer drinks for Christmas

    Make sure your menu is on-point—and, because it’s summer, that means BBQ or other grill favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers and kebabs. Some other must-haves? Tropical drinks!

    • Mai Tai
    • Pina Colada
    • Margaritas
    • Mojita
    • Spiked lemonade or iced tea
    • Sangria
    • Light beers
    • Rose
    • Prosecco or Cave

    And, of course, be sure you have PLENTY of paper umbrellas to pop in those drinks. What’s summer without them? Another great add-in? These festive paper lanterns. They add a warm, summery glow and practically scream, SIX MONTHS TIL SUMMER! And when it is, these are perfect for outdoor entertaining.


    It’s true—during karaoke nights we ALL sound like Mariah Carey and Michael Buble. So why not brush off the old mic for a night of classic crooning? The only rule? It’s holiday music ONLY.


    It’s karaoke night, HOLIDAY STYLE. Every single song MUST be holiday-themed or holiday-inspired. That means the classics like Jingle Bells and Oh Holy Night. It also means some rebooted and modern hits like:

    • Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen edition
    • Adam Sandler’s The Hanukkah Song
    • Christmas Lights by Coldplay
    • Hallelujah sung by Pentatonix—get a group together!
    • Ariana Grande’s Winter Things
    • Justin Bieber’s Mistletoe
    • All I Want for Christmas is You—sung exactly like Mariah Carey
    • Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson
    • Wham’s Last Christmas

    And don’t forget the classic crooners—Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Elvis’ Blue Christmas, of course. Here’s a great round up if you’re feeling stumped for songs.


    Print up lists of all the holiday songs you have at the ready and assign guests a number—when it’s their turn, THEY SING. And if “their” song gets snagged by an earlier performer? Then it’s back to the drawing board.


    Carol-oke is perfect for a little friendly competition. Hand out scorecards and work your way down to the final two. Bonus points for ugly sweaters and other seasonal add-ons. The winner gets holiday glory—and maybe a batch of cookies or two.


    Host a GIFT EXCHANGE PARTY. Every guest brings the WORST gift they received this year or in a previous year and they’re distributed Yankee Swap-style.

    Host a HOLIDAY MOVIE NIGHT. Screen your favorite holiday movies. If you have multiple TV-viewing spots in your home, consider playing a different flick on each—everyone’s seen these classics anyway, so it’s a great way to mix, mingle and remember your faves. Depending on your crowd, you may want to mix up the movie menu with cartoons, classic movies, live action and modern favorites. Then, whip up some simple snacks—a popcorn bar, champagne bar and hot cocoa should do the trick.


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