Christmas may come but once a year, but start planning early and avoid the rush. Decide what sort of party you want to have (i.e. themed, family and friends, etc) and when. Choose a date when you are sure that the Christmas spirit has just started to wear off, and you're sure to have a full house!
Depending on who you are sending them to, make the invitations as eye-catching and/or funny as possible. (A photo of you in full Santa gear, or wrapped in tinsel with a fairy stuck on your head, perhaps.) Remember, you want people to come to your party!
Send your invites all on the same day (no-one wants to feel like second choice when Hugh Grant says no). For a more informal party, call your guests well in advance. Always ask them to confirm.
For any party, the golden rule is only invite people you like! The holiday season is all about peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind, so if you can't work out how to stop Uncle Bill and Cousin Edith fighting over the wishbone again, the answer is clear. Don't invite them!
Money? You mean you still have some after all that pre-Christmas shopping? Now is the time to decide just how much you want to spend and how. Turkey and all the trimmings or a brunch buffet? A mid-winter feast or just a few friends for mulled wine? Decide on a budget, and stick with it. Remember, you'll be the one eating leftovers until New Year.
Decide if you want to cookâ€¦or cheat. Cut down on the stress and buy in the booze and nibbles if you can, otherwise why not try a few of these ideas for festive fare. (Just remember, if you are buying smoked salmon and champagne, these'll be gone long before the spam sarnies start to curl at the edges.)
Boil the water with the sugar and spices. Add the lemons, leave to stand for 10 minutes. Add red wine, heat but do not boil. Add apple and orange: strain and serve. (A non-alcoholic version can be made using apple juice).
Love it or hate it, you have to have Eggnog!
Heat milk gently without boiling. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together for a few moments. Slowly add brandy and rum. Fold in the cream, and pour the mixture slowly onto the heated milk. Whisk egg whites stiffly, fold into the nog. (8 servings)
Stick the cloves in the orange and roast in oven 180°/350F/gas 4 for 30 minutes. Heat the wine to just below boiling point, add the rum and sugar. Float orange on top, simmer for a few minutes. Remove orange. (1Â½ pints)
Christmas cookies are always a winner and will keep the kids amused through the long dark winter evenings. Buy some fun Christmas biscuit cutters and you're cooking!
Mince pies, dare we say, are better bought, but if you feel the urge to make your own mincemeat, we'll let Delia be your guide.
How merry you want Christmas to be is up to you. Always offer a non-alcoholic punch, or sparkling fruit juice, and don't forget lots of fizzy water for your guests.
Chose a fun and easy theme for the party. Get your guests to dress as Bing Crosby or Perry Como and have a50's Crooners Christmas. (For those under 40, try Val Doonican or Johnny Mathis!) Dig out some old LP's, slip on granny's hand-knitted reindeer jumper and have a totally un-cool Christmas!
Why not try a Pantomime Party? Get your guests to dress up as Buttons or Cinderella. It's a welcome opportunity to get responsible men to dress as ugly sisters and exciting to see if Prince Charming finally makes his appearance (oh yes he will, oh no he won't!)
Forget that it never snows at Christmas, and have a Polar Party indoors. Frosty the inflatable snowman in your garden and a few penguins will get your guests in the mood as they head for the silver spayed wreath at the front door.
Inside, hang icicles and snowflakes from the ceiling, spray frost on the windows and decorate the table in true winter wonderland fashion (frosted glasses, silver and white tableware, silver frosted candles, for example). Cover the furniture with white material, and don't forget to lay in a good supply of snow (confetti) to sprinkle on your guests as they arrive!
Whatever the party don't leave out the most important guest, Santa Claus. He might put you on the 'naughty' list if you leave him out!
Christmas is made for children, so forget your scruples, and spoil 'em rotten!
Get their help with decorating (you can always 'adjust' the effect when they have gone to bed.) or better still, make the decorations together. Salt dough (2 parts fine salt, 2 parts flour, 1 part water) Christmas tree decorations. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, make a hole with a knitting needle, dry and paint. Make paper chains (strips of coloured paper: hook each strip through the next then glue), pinecone table decorations sprayed silver, paper snowflakesâ€¦the only limit is their imagination!Don't overdo the food for the smalls: they rarely eat much so stick to snacks, juice and cookies. Send the leftovers home in goodie bags.
Fun and Games for the young (or not so young) are a must. Roll back the rug and try a few of these festive frolics.
Try to make this year's Office party a night to remember rather than one you would rather forget! Forget photocopying anatomy, issue disposable cameras to guests as they arrive for some candid Christmas reminders! (Don't forget to post the results on the bulletin board after Christmas!)
Games are a great ice breaker, as are handing out Santa hats with the names of the guest on. Use specialist pens from the stationer to write the name. A good pop quiz and other games ideas can be found here.
Left it too late for Christmas? Never fear! Have yourself New Year party and banish those post-Christmas blues.
For a family friendly New Year, why not hold an open house, say from 6 pm onwards, so that your guests can just drop in at will. Keep the atmosphere relaxed to start with: low lights, soft music and buffet style food (a good way to use up all those extra Christmas nibbles!). Get the children to make homemade Epiphany crowns while the adults chat. As midnight approaches, up the volume, and let the silly games commence! Hand out the streamers, poppers and party 'bombs', and stand well back!
Or to welcome in the New Year what about a News Years' Day Breakfast? Start at about 11 am and let everyone, their kids and their dog come to your place for mulled wine, full english breakfast (bacon,eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried slice of bread, sausage) and compare hangovers while the kids run riot.
Whatever the party, whatever the theme, rest assured that this time, you can go over the top!
Apart from the standard tree with all the trimmings, try creative lighting and scented candles for atmosphere. Decorate with holly and ivy for a traditional look; continue the red/green theme on the table with the napkins and cloth. Don't forget the festive balloons and garlands for the children. Place electric candles in each window of the house, and hang the all-important mistletoe over the door!
We have a range of large Christmas Scene Setter decorations which are ideal for covering large areas of walls, creating Santa's Grottos or livening up your pub, club or office space.
You are dreaming of a white Christmas, so indulge yourself. Buy a ready-made Christmas CD, or download a little mood music from the web.
Now is the time to forget your usually impeccable taste, and get on down to old chestnuts such as Wham! Last Christmas. Or how about Elton's Step into Christmas? Or Slade's I wish it could be Christmas Everyday! Go on, you know you can! For the more classically minded, King's College Christmas carols are always a safe bet.
HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
From our roving reporter Linda Evans Pahud
Check out our Christmas costumes and gift ideas.