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Holiday entertaining can be a great joy – a festive time to get together with family and friends, showcase your holiday decorating skills and celebrate everything the season means to you.

With these party planning ideas, you can throw the perfect holiday party – whether you have an over-sized family room or a small apartment for entertaining. The key is to be creative with what you have, and plan, plan, plan!

Plan The Mood

Set the tone for your holiday party even before the first guest arrives. Fill a baking pan halfway with water and cinnamon; then put it in the oven on a low heat, and let the aromatic smell of cinnamon fill the house. Plug in the holiday lights to cheer guests as they arrive. Have seasonal music playing softly in the background. Keep a fire burning in the fireplace to add to the cozy holiday mood.

Plan The Seating

There is nothing worse than not having a place to sit at a party! Make your guests’ comfort a top priority at your holiday celebration. You can borrow chairs and benches from friends. Depending on the formality, you can throw down some beanbag chairs or oversized cushions, which work great for kids. If you lack a large open area to seat everyone, arrange small seating areas separate from one another. Truth be told, most guests would prefer these intimate seating areas anyway!

Plan The Holiday Meal

To hold guests over before the meal is ready, offer plenty of appetizers and finger foods. These can include cheese and crackers, prepared veggie platters, cocktail shrimp, chips and salsa, fresh fruit, mozzarella sticks, sandwich quarters, etc. Add elegance to your hors d’ourves by lining each tray with colorful holiday foil and doilies. Know when you’re going to serve the holiday meal, and make that clear to your guests.

For the main course at your holiday party, you can go with a traditional ham, turkey or lamb… or opt for lasagna, subs or even pizza. It’s your party, so do things your way.

As far as beverages go, you can satisfy most guests with a variety of juice, soda and alcohol — or why not combine all three in a killer holiday punch? And don’t forget the egg nog!

Don’t forget dessert! If you are clever enough, your desserts can double as decorations. Picture this: rich, chocolate fudge brownies, drizzled with dark chocolate syrup and stacked delicately among chocolate-covered strawberries beneath the flickering silhouette of a red taper candle. Delicious and eye catching! Other desserts that are great for display are holiday cookies, apple pie, chocolate cream pie and cheesecake.

Or you can take the easy way out… and hire a local caterer!

Plan The Entertainment

If you want guests to stay awhile instead of taking off early, then keep the party alive with games and activities. Plan a holiday gift exchange — or better yet, a joke gift exchange. You may want to put a dollar limit on the gift so it’s not a burden on your guests. Fill out a few Mad Libs, or try creating your own with guests at the party! Announce that you’re hanging up the mistletoe to stir things up. Dust off the chess table, break out the poker set, grab Pictionary. You can even look online for icebreaker games that might be appropriate. But keep in mind, there will be those who would rather mingle than play games, so let the guests dictate their own entertainment schedules.

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