The annual Christmas shindig is overdue a makeover. Helen Raine gets us to ditch the tinsel and the mince pies and opt for one of these themes to pique guests’ interest.
It’s strange how every Christmas party I’ve ever been to merges messily into one. The unflattering Santa hats; the colleague who declared undying love to the boss then threw up on her shoes; drunken manoeuvres under a limp sprig of mistletoe; it’s all a bit last century.
Yes, the annual Xmas shindig is overdue a makeover. So ditch the tinsel and the mince pies and opt for one of these themes to pique your guests’ interest.
For the men; light up my life
There’s a tradition in Bermuda of spending an advent evening driving around the island looking at the preposterously overblown illuminations on some of the houses. Santas glow incandescently while diving into fake chimneys, reindeers light the way with enormous red bulb noses and fairy-light icicles drip from sun-baked roofs.
In this age of global warming, guzzling energy with Christmas lights is a tad irresponsible, but that’s why God gave us solar power. So let your party light up the night sky this year by asking everyone to bring a string of charged solar-powered outdoor lights (prices start at below €15).
Keep the wine flowing as you spend the first hour stringing them all over your property and then hit the switches for a starburst of festive cheer. The more people you invite, the brighter the effect, and offering a prize for the best lighting and/or the most daring installation will help to motivate any alpha males. After that, all you need to do is drink a lot and admire your handiwork.
To get the party started, find a strand of solar Christmas lights at www.nigelsecostore.com (€24); party lanterns at www.thesolarcentre.co.uk (€35); a solar Santa owl and solar tree at www.24studio.co.uk (€12 and €15.50).
For the ladies; all that glitters
For a twist on the dire offerings that are doled out during your average Secret Santa party, give all of your guests a budget of €15 to find something they really love and buy two of it (you could specify a shop like Accessorize if in doubt about the taste of your invitees). Wrap the items in newspaper, cover with glitter glue and place on a table. Every guest should wear at least one glittery item of clothing and preferably some body glitter (keep a tube on hand for your more reticent guests).
Before the game starts, serve margaritas with the glasses dipped in edible glitter (available on amazon) rather than salt to create a festive mood. Rest a glitter stick skewer of raspberries in the glass for a swanky effect. For nibbles, www.purlbee.com has an excellent recipe for glittering cookies too.
To get started, each guest pulls a number from the hat; the person with number one chooses a present to open first. However, the following numbers can choose to unwrap a new gift or steal a previous item, in which case the person who lost their gift will go again or can steal someone else’s. The only rule is that you can’t steal back from the person who stole from you (although since there is two of everything, you might get a chance to get the same item later). Keep going until everyone has two gifts and the table is empty, or until irreparable rifts in lifelong friendships seem inevitable.
For families; room at the inn
Unless you love a chorus of whining with your Christmas carols, then don’t try to mix small children and evening parties. But babysitters cost a fortune and can be thin on the ground over the festive period, so instead, get a few families together and hire a house where you can put the kids to bed and then party like you hadn’t been deprived of sleep since your child was born. www.abrahamgozofarmhouses.com has Ta’ Peppa available, which fits the bill perfectly. It’s a Gozitan farmhouse with a pool, which will sleep 10, just 20 minutes walk from Ramla. Prices are from €125 a night in December. Take some baby monitors, cajole the kids to bed at 8pm and then live it up with a couple of bottles of wine on the terrace. For a touch of luxury, the owners can provide a chef service.
For your colleagues; Christmas cocktails
Instead of wheeling out a crate of Cisk and a few outsize bags of crisps, impress your colleagues with some traditional Christmas cocktails. You can prepare all of these in advance for minimal hassle on the night. Ask your guests to bring snacks so that you don’t need to worry about the food.
Start with a Gluhwein; the smell of wine and spices in the air creates a great party atmosphere. Peel a handful of clementines, lemon and limes and mix with 200g of sugar in a pan. Over a low heat, add a pinch of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon plus a stick of vanilla and a reasonable red wine. Once the sugar has dissolved, boil the mixture hard for about five minutes until it turns syrupy. After that, lower the heat, add two bottles of red wine and serve when warm.
Eggnog is also redolent of Christmas. Beat six eggs until frothy and add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and nutmeg and 200g sugar. Stir in 500ml of cream and 500ml of milk plus healthy slugs of brandy and rum (to taste). Chill and serve sprinkled with nutmeg.
For a festive green and red Christmas shot concoction, pour grenadine into a third of your shot glass (don’t get any on the sides). Then put a spoon upside down above this first layer, touching the side of the glass and pour crème de menthe on top, raising the spoon as the level of the liquid comes up (you might need to practice this layering in advance). Sprinkle slivers of candy cane on top andserve chilled.
For the kids; hot chocolate party
Forget about using sachets; this is a Christmas Chocolate Bomb. In a large pan, mix 400ml of whipping cream, one can ofcondensed milk, 1.5l milk, a large packet of chocolate chips and a couple of large spoonfuls of Nutella. Cook on a low heat for an hour or so, stirring occasionally (or use a slow cooker).
To make the party pop, it’s all about the toppings and the presentation. On a Christmas tablecloth, have six matching bowls and write out little cards with the names of the toppings; marshmallows, chopped candy canes, sliced crunchie, hundreds and thousands, shredded coconut and miniature meringues. Get the kids to decorate a paper cup with glitter and ribbons (double them up so that the chocolate doesn’t make the cups too hot to hold). Pour the chocolate into the cups and garnish with a candy cane.
Once they’re surging on a sugar high, burn it off with some traditional Christmas games; pin the carrot on the snowman; sleeping Santas; pass the Christmas parcel; and a snowman piñata.