How to Throw a Chill Holiday Party

These low-key holiday party ideas will help you celebrate the season (as safely as possible) without making you stressed AF.

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"Entertaining during the holiday season can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be stressful, mentally or physically. If you're relaxed, your guests will feel comfortable and welcomed," says Brita Olsen, an event designer and a planner with an easygoing, stylish approach.

While the word party can imply overindulgence, Olsen says you don't have to go there — a festive but low-key get-together is easily within reach. Here, Olsen's holiday party ideas and tips for creating a laid-back, convivial atmosphere, so everyone — including you — can enjoy. The way it should be!

(Of course, navigating the holidays during COVID is tricky. It goes without saying, but it's important to prioritize everyone's health and safety, and continue to follow the Center for Disease Control's guidelines for safe get-togethers.)

1. Try Low-Key Decor

Don't blow your budget on a fancy table scape, says Olsen. Instead, invest in short bud vases, and clip evergreens or buy simple stems from the store. It's a simple holiday party idea, but a series of small vases takes the pressure off creating a perfect arrangement and they make talking easier without obstacles.

Use vintage postcards as place cards, and set your table in a mismatched way to make it feel more approachable. Then just add candles. (These relaxing aromas will keep everyone feeling calm and comfortable.)

2. Take a Moment for Self-Care

The week before your soiree, consider what you need to feel calm: Pick your outfit, prep some grab-and-go snacks, or assemble make-ahead breakfasts, like overnight oats or chia seed pudding. It's easy to forget to eat a balanced meal when you're cooking for a group, she says. And extra time on an event day is golden.

3. Accept Help

People will always offer to help, and there's nothing wrong with accepting it, says Olsen. If you have a friend who's a great baker, ask them to bring their homemade sourdough. Assign tasks like stirring the risotto, making salad, and lighting candles. Host a dumpling-making party or a deviled egg competition. Including your guests creates a communal, fun atmosphere and takes the emphasis off forced small talk.

4. Never Underestimate a Charcuterie Board

For novice cooks, a charcuterie board can be a showstopper, she says. You can leave it at that and serve drinks for a cocktail party. If you're hosting dinner, it can buy you time until the meal is ready. To make this holiday party idea a reality, mix in unusual things like thinly sliced kohlrabi, truffled almonds, and bright turmeric hummus (add 1 tablespoon turmeric, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil to your favorite packaged brand). Serve with gluten-free crackers and cucumber slices. Bonus: If you include fermented food like pickled beets and cornichons, you're starting the meal with gut-friendly probiotics.

5. Batch Your Cocktails

With make-ahead cocktails, says Olsen, you can welcome guests relaxed and focused.

Try this apple-maple punch: Mix 2 cups fresh Granny Smith apple juice, 1 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, 2 cups seltzer, 1 1/2 cups ginger beer, a pinch of cinnamon, 2 cups bourbon, and 10 drops angostura bitters, and serve in a punch bowl. For garnishes, put out rosemary sprigs, clementine slices, and candied ginger. Serves 8 to 10. (If you're looking for a big-batch drink that packs summer vibes, turn to the Hurricane.)

6. Don't Panic Over Special Requests

If a dinner guest has a dietary restriction, find a delicious dish and make that your meal for everyone, she says. Hosts can feel thrown by one meat-free or vegan diner, but keep an open mind. Your other guests may be excited to discover something new and different.

7. Take Your Party On the Road

Don't rule out a winter picnic, says Olsen. If you're planning on following through with this holiday party idea, bring plenty of blankets, and serve hot soup and mulled wine. Cold weather is good for metabolism, and sunshine gives you a dose of vitamin D and brightens everyone's mood. Even better: Work up an appetite with a long walk or hike.

8. Skip the Hangover

Brands like Ritual Zero Proof, Kin Euphorics, and Seedlip Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits make great non-alcoholic beverages. Have some on hand for guests who don't drink. They're special enough to make a toast with — pour into a vintage cocktail glass to get into the spirit.

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