In the series The New Southern Hospitality, Editor-in-Chief Ashley Twist Cole explores the old and new traditions of Southern hospitality, what qualities and behaviors make us unique and, of course, tips and ideas on how to be the ultimate hospitable Southern host or hostess.
It’s the most wonderful time … to throw a party. If you’re anything like me, you love a good themed party and enjoy organizing soirees with food, drinks, decor and activities fitting the time of year or event.
Once it’s warm outside, spring garden parties and patio events gear up. In May, it’s all about Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby. Through the warm summer months, we celebrate America from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July to Labor Day, donning red white and blue and festively creating foods that resemble the U.S. flag. Fall means football and in my house, that’s everything red and black for the Georgia Bulldogs.
The holiday season, though, offers many opportunities to throw a festive event, and to step outside of the traditional holiday cocktail party. The countdown to the end of the year is on, so you only have a few weeks to squeeze in all that merriment.
In this week’s The New Southern Hospitality, it’s all about holiday party ideas. If you’re up for the challenge, here’s a list of three holiday parties to throw between now and New Year’s, complete with menu, activity and serveware ideas. On your mark, get set, host!
A holiday brunch pajama party
I’m giving away gold here, because this is an event borrowed from my group of close friends. One morning post-Christmas, we all gather in our PJs to watch "A Muppet Christmas Carol," eat brunch and drink mimosas. The event is aptly named “Muppets and Mimosas” and it’s a tradition that’s been going strong for over five years. We like to get creative with our menu items and dishes, twisting the names of recipes and serving pieces to reflect Muppet characters.
Vesper Scooter Mimosa
Cast Iron Cookie Monster
Pepe the King Prawn & Grits
Swedish Chef’s Morning After Mac & Cheese
Southern Kitchen’s breakfast casserole — no cute Muppet tie-in here, just a really good brunch dish.
Cookie swap contest
Everyone loves a cookie swap during the holiday season. You make one batch and in return get lots of really great cookies that you probably wouldn’t make yourself. Because competition sparks creativity, why not make it a cookie swap contest? Here’s what you do: All participants bring their cookies in an opaque dish, so other guests (read: competitors) don’t see what everyone has made. Each person puts their cookies on the table one at a time in secret. (The host can facilitate this process.) When all cookies are accounted for, everyone tries each cookie and votes on a piece of paper for their favorite treat. The host tallies up the votes and the winner(s) receive a prize. You can make this really fun by offering up a few fun awards such as most consistent cookie, best twist on a classic, prettiest cookie and best overall.
Here’s a pro-tip: Submit any of these cookies from our dear friend Virginia Willis to your cookie swap, and you’re guaranteed to take home a prize.
Spicy Golden Gingersnaps
Chocolate Snowcap Cookies
New Year’s Day Game day party
Kick off the new year right with two activities that Southerners love to do: watch football and eat. There are lots of Southern schools playing in the six New Year’s Day NCAA football bowl games, so make up a big batch of traditional New Year’s fixins and invite friends and family over for a day of relaxation and refueling. This is about as low-key of a party as you can get, but it certainly is rewarding — especially if your team wins the big game.
Festive mocktail or sweet tea for those who were extra festive on New Year’s Eve
Hoppin’ John Rice Fritters with Collard Green Pesto
Sweet and Spicy Collard Greens
Classic Southern Cornbread
Smoky Bacon and Black-Eyed Pea Salad
What's your favorite way to celebrate the holiday season? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or share with us on Facebook.