Getting together with friends and family to share holiday memories and traditions has got to be one of the greatest gifts of the season. After all, in addition to fostering a good mood, spending time with our loved ones strengthens the relationships we cherish. With that in mind, here are four festive ways to bring your loved ones together.
Outdoor singing celebration
Whether your group is going house to house to serenade their neighbors or gather in your driveway, there’s nothing like a catchy song to lift the mood. For the event, you’ll want to have on hand several songbooks or printed copies of the holiday tunes you plan to sing, lyrics included.
After singing, it’s time for refreshments, inside and out. For beverages, consider a hot beverage, such as hot cider with rum for adults or cocoa to top with marshmallows, candy canes, whipped cream and peppermint schnapps for adults. You can also offer juice, soda water, beer and wine.
For snacks, make your own or pick up smoked fish spreads, patties, charcuterie, cheese and crackers at Sea & Cellar in Rockport, which also sells wine, craft beer and sweets like halvah. Joppa Fine Foods in Newburyport also sells local wine and beer and offers a wide selection of crackers, cheeses, dried fish, olives, hummus and baked goods like homemade biscuits.
cookie decorating party
Perfect for kids and the kid in every adult, a cookie decorating party is bound to put a smile on every face. The process is fun, creative and tasty.
If you want to make the cookies from scratch, consider making a large batch of cut-out ginger or sugar cookie dough ahead of time. This way you can remove the chilled dough when everyone arrives and get to work, rolling and cutting the dough into shapes. You can embellish the cookies before baking with nonpareils, silver balls and colored sugars. Or bake the cookies and decorate with tinted frostings and add-ons, like hot cinnamon candies (great for the eyes) and raisins and mini chocolate chips (great for pimples).
For a little less work, get a roll of prepared sugar cookies. You can roll out the dough and cut it into shapes, or simply cut the dough into rounds and decorate the cookies before or after baking in the same way as above. For even less fuss, buy a box of sugar cookies or ginger cookies and decorate them with colorful frostings and decorations. Another option is to head to Appleton Farms in Ipswich and pick up a holiday cookie decorating kit (or two).
What’s so great about hosting an open house during the holidays is that it can span a weekend afternoon, allowing people to stop in at their convenience. The trick is to have food and drink in various places around your home that will satisfy those who stop by in the early afternoon for, say, a cookie and some eggnog, as well as those who who arrive later for a drink and a tasty bite before dinner. . What you choose to serve depends on your entertainment style. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, prepare and arrange everything in advance so you can enjoy the party and your guests, only working on restocking if necessary.
A great crowd pleaser is a cooked, sliced turkey or ham with buns and condiments nearby. Cheese, crackers, raw vegetables, dips and even veggie makis will satisfy non-meat eaters, while finger foods, like deviled eggs and tea sandwiches, will fill out the buffet nicely. For sweet treats, opt for bite-sized treats, like mini brownies and cookies, and candy bowls, like Hershey’s Kisses. For drinks, consider kid-friendly eggnog and punch with bottles of brandy and rum for adults, plus beer, wine, juice, and soda.
A word of advice: Consider hiring local middle or high school students to prep, help pass, and clean up. You can also hire a professional caterer, such as Vinwood Caterers in Ipswich or Fireside Catering in Burlington.
New Year’s party at home
Whether you’re big or small, luxurious or understated, ushering in 2022 in style calls for celebrating your friends with exceptional food, fun and libations. You can put everything in the hands of a professional by hiring an event planner, like Janie Haas of Janie Haas Events in North Andover and Boston, whose motto is, “Let’s give them something to talk about.” She will take care of the food, drinks, entertainment and decor, with unlimited consultations to make the evening personal.
Alternatively, you can prepare an elegant dinner for several friends. Make a splash by offering a different wine with each course, ending the evening with bubbles from hallowed houses like Bollinger, Perrier-Jouët and Ruinart, as well as winemaker champagnes (made and bottled by the winemaker) from small producers, including Egly-Ouriet and Marie Courtin. Put on some music, make an all-white table, and break out the crystal and china.
For a more low-key evening, invite a large group to feast on seafood dishes, such as chowder, clam cakes, coleslaw and crabmeat rolls from Woodman’s in Essex. Or, fill plates with smoked back ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and traditional sides like macaroni and cheese, southern-style green beans, and collard greens from Tennessee BBQ at Peabody. Serve cocktails, craft beer and sparkling wine to toast the New Year.
CONTACT seaandcellar.com, joppafinefoods.com, thetrustees.org/place/appleton-farms, janiehaasevents.com/contact, tennesseesbbq.com, woodmans.com