Ideas for the Party Human

Archive for the ‘Holiday Themes’ Category

THEME: Neighborliness, South-of-the-Border Christmas Customs

INVITATIONS: Cut construction paper in the shape of a sombrero (or other Mexican symbol) and color appropriately. Write the message on the back, using a sprinkling of Spanish words, something like:

“Holá, Amigos! Come to our casa on (date) at (time) for una fiesta buena, Southwestern-style. We’ll have a supper buffet, then a piñata for the children, so bring the whole familia and celebrate for a Feliz Navidad!”

This is designed as sort of a block party, but you could invite relatives, co-workers and their families or friends from church as well. The idea is basically that it be for families.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES: A piñata filled with candies and small toys; ceiling hook and string; blindfold; plastic baseball or whiffleball bat; small paper sacks; parting gifts of food or crafts, wrapped or in decorative tins, jars or baskets.

FOOD: Some ideas for the Southwestern buffet might be salsa with flour tortilla and blue corn chips, chicken enchiladas,  Black Beans, and tamales. The best beverage might just be ice water or seltzer, to help combat the spiciness, or perhaps some sparkling apple cider or grape juice. For dessert, try cinnamon crispas, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Three Kings Ring, or oranges with peppermints stuck in them.  Serve this help-yourself buffet in rustic pottery with colorful Southwestern fabric as a backdrop.

DECORATIONS: Line the walk to your door with luminarias. These can be purchased or made out of paper sacks 1/3 filled with sand. Cut out a design in the sacks, if desired. Place votive candles in the sand and light.

Inside, have everything very colorful and festive. Be sure to have poinsettias about, but out of reach of small children. You could use a decorating motif like the Three Kings, creches or poinsettias. Hang colorful streamers and balloons in the large clear area where the piñata will be broken. The piñata itself may be purchased or made using strips of newspaper and wheat paste to cover a large, inflated balloon or other shape framed with wire, newspaper and masking tape. When the paper maché is dry, cut a hole on the top just large enough for putting the candy and toys in. Fill, then tape the cover back over the hole. Decorate with paint and/or crepe paper.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:  When the neighbors arrive, you (the hostess) take their coats and hand them plates to fill up at the buffet. After dinner, give each of the children small paper sacks to take into the piñata room. The piñata is hung on a string, run through the ceiling hook. Stand back, holding the other end of the string so you may raise and lower the piñata at will. Blindfold the youngest child first and give her the bat. Everyone stands well out of the way as the child gets five chances to break the piñata. If she doesn’t break it, then the next youngest tries and so forth until the oldest gets unlimited chances. When the piñata breaks, everyone cries ” Olé!” and the children scramble to fill their sacks. As the guests leave, give each family a homemade parting gift, such as a jar of jam or a crafted decoration.

Variations and Comments: We remember our parents giving a party similar to this for the neighborhood when we were small. For the piñata, we covered a large balloon with papier maché, then painted a Santa Claus face on it when it dried. We added a cotton ball beard and a red paper hat, and the result was charming and original.

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THEME: Christmas spirit, service, giving

INVITATIONS: Any Christmas-style invitations will do. One idea is to make them look like miniature songbooks, using colored construction paper for the covers and plain white paper for the pages. On the front, paste Christmas pictures cut from old cards or magazines and letter the words “Christmas Caroling Party.” Bind the “book” with staples, or punch holes and sew with colored yarn or thread. Inside, write some notes on a staff, perhaps the melody to a carol, and write the message as the words of the carol, written in a rhyme pattern and rhythm appropriate to the carol. For instance, if you choose “Jingle Bells,” you could write something like:

“Come and sing! Come and sing!

Caroling we’ll go!

Oh, what fun it is to spread

Some Christmas cheer, you know!”

In the message that follows, ask the guests to dress appropriately for the weather and to bring a funny white elephant gift wrapped for giving. You might also ask them to bring food items, if you desire. Start the party early, right after dinner, so there will be plenty of time to carol before visiting hours are over at the facility you have chosen to visit. This party is wonderful for any kind of group, except possibly for very small children.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES: Materials for making Christmas cards or decorations for the patients, such as old cards, Christmas magazines, colored paper, yarn, glue, glitter, scissors, crayons or markers, stencils and paint, ribbons, pine cones, etc.; hospital or nursing home to visit (Get permission to carol to a certain ward, floor or the whole building, and find out how many patients are there, so you will be sure to have enough cards or decorations to give out.); photocopies of words to desired carols; Christmas tree (small, tabletop variety is fine); clear area and music for dancing.

FOOD: Any kind of Christmassy dessert items will do, particularly warm dishes and drinks. Some examples: Hot Cocoa, Wassail, Christmas Crullers, Pumpkin-Spice Bread, Frosted Cinnamon Icebox Rolls (warm and fresh), Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffeecake, Popcorn Wreath, Festive Caramel Bars, Kringla, Pumpkin Cookies. (Recipes available.)

DECORATIONS: Just make your home as Christmassy as possible. Have a touch of Christmas in every room. Besides the tree, put lights outdoors and in the windows. Set up your creche; hang up your wall hangings; place centerpieces everywhere–on coffee tables, end tables, countertops, pianos, entertainment centers, dining tables, buffets, etc. If you would like to add to your collection of decorations, check out flea markets, second hand stores and garage sales. Or, try your hand at a new craft and make your own new decorations. Magazines, craft books, fabric/craft stores and bazaars offer many ideas. Just make sure the atmosphere in your house says, “Christmas!”, and you will need no other party decorations.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:  When the guests arrive, you (the hostess) put them to work immediately making cards or small decorations to give to the patients at the facility you have chosen to visit. When enough items have been made, place them in a big bag–perhaps the one carrying the bag could wear a Santa cap–and the carolers head for the hospital or convalescent home.

Entering the facility, you give them all copies of the words to favorite carols, and a talented guest accompanies everyone on a guitar as they sing through the halls, stopping to give out their handmade mementos to each patient. When the last patient has been serenaded, the carolers return to the house for the rest of the party. (If weather and distance permit, they might walk to the house, caroling to the neighbors on the way.) Once inside, the guests fall upon the refreshments, then gather around the Christmas tree for the exchanging of gifts. Set the gifts under the tree, and let each guest take a turn choosing a gift and unwrapping it. After the first guest has unwrapped his gift, the next guest may choose either to take his or pick a new gift. If she takes the first guest’s present, then he may choose another. This continues, until the last guest has the choice of all the previous gifts or the one still wrapped. This “swiping” of gifts is all done with plenty of good-natured banter. Since the presents are all white elephants or gag gifts, no one is upset if someone takes his gift away.

After the gift “exchange,” the music starts up, and guests may eat, talk or dance, as they choose. (If necessary, a dance gimmick–such as the snowball, dance card, etc.–may be used to get things rolling.) The evening may end with a last carol sung, if desired.

Variations and Comments: If the dancing doesn’t go over too well, have some fun parlor games in mind. Choose any familiar game and adapt to a Christmas theme. Perhaps you could have some word games using carols, or whatever. Another idea is Christmas Charades, where you divide your guests into groups and ask each to present a short pantomime about something directly related to Christmas. Onlookers must try to identify each scene, as in Charades.

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THEME:  Halloween, harvest time

INVITATIONS:  One idea is to make lollipop ghosts to carry the message.  Use spherical suckers like Tootsie Pops or Dum Dums.  Write the invitation on one side of a piece of white tissue, paper or fabric (or use a white handkerchief).  Place it message-side down over the lollipop and tie a string around the “neck” of the ghost.  When the guest uncovers the sucker to eat it, he will see the message.

            Another idea is to use “ghostwriting.”  Write the message on a plain piece of heavy white paper or an index card with an invisible ink, such as diluted lemon juice, ordinary cow’s milk, sugar water (about 1 teaspoon to a glass of water), orange juice, grapefruit juice, onion juice, honey water (about 1 teaspoon to a glass of water), or vinegar.  Use a toothpick or fine paintbrush to write the message in the secret ink.  Below the invisible message, write in regular ink something like:

                        “Ghostly writing you cannot see,

                        But on this page a message be.

                        To work the magic, have no fear;

                        Warm the page; see words appear.

                        A hot iron or stove will work just fine;

                        Use care, and you’ll soon read each line.”

            The inks are affected by heat quicker than paper, and thus the compounds in the inks break down to form carbon before the paper does.  The writing will usually appear brown.

            In the message, ask the guests to dress in Halloween costumes which do not restrict vision and movement.  Tell them to meet at a certain place, which is where the hayride will begin.  They may also be asked to bring food items, if you so desire.  This party works well for teens or young adults.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Truck or wagon filled with bales of hay; old barn; materials to make a short “spook alley,” such as cardboard, fabric, crepe paper, black lights and florescent paint, dummies, sound effects, etc.; prizes for costumes (Scariest, Most Original, etc.), such as oranges with jack-o-lantern faces painted on them, packets of roasted pumpkin seeds, or more ghost suckers; square-dance caller and/or music and stereo.

FOOD:  The way you serve the food can add as much to the party as the kind of food you serve.  Suggested beverages are homemade root beer or apple cider.  Mix the root beer in a big black cauldron and add dry ice.  Try serving the cider in a well-cleaned, chilled pumpkin with a face painted on it.*  (If you like sparkling cider, you could put  dry ice in your apple cider, too!)  For food, serve fresh doughnuts, popcorn balls and apples, and maybe a Halloween Pumpkin Cake (two bundt cakes put together to form a pumpkin).

DECORATIONS:  Decorate the spook alley area of the farmhouse or barn to be as scary as possible.  Use your imagination to create ghostly scenes, jack-o-lanterns, coffins, cobwebs, spiders, skeletons, witches, monsters.  You can make floating ghosts by covering large balloons with white plastic garbage bags, tied at the “neck,” decorated with eyes and mouth and hung from the ceiling with thread to match the background.  Or, you can dip cheesecloth in a stiffening compound, such as sugar-water or thinned glue, and drape it to dry in the shape of a ghost.  In the dark parts of the spook alley, make the most of different textures, sounds and smells.  A piece of cardboard shaken back and forth sounds like thunder, and raw rice dropped on a pie plate imitates rain.  A few flashes of a strobe light and you have a full-fledged “dark and stormy night.”  Haunted houses are most successful if they provide lots of surprises, sudden jolts when things appear out of nowhere or very loud noises sound without warning.  Before planning it all out, stop and think about what really frightens you!

            Decorate the barn dance area more in a harvest-time style.  You can arrange scarecrows, cornstalks, pumpkins, squash and Indian corn at the entrance and in the corners of the room.  Some black and orange streamers might be desired, or you could hang a giant spiderweb (complete with giant spider) in a corner.  Place bales of hay around the room for seating, and you might use lanterns for some of the lighting.  Keep the middle of the room  clear for dancing.

 BLOW-BY-BLOW:         When the guests arrive at the appointed place, take them by hayride to the place of the spook alley.  On the way there, you (the host) lead them in singing or tell scary stories.  Helpers may sound creepy noises from the woods. 

            At the farmhouse (or separate section of the barn), all is dark.  A silent, cloaked figure leads the guests through the “haunted barn.”  He may break the silence to offer information or stories to make it all the more eerie.

            The guests exit the darkened spook alley into a well-lit barn.  You or some parents then judge the costumes and award prizes for Scariest, Most Creative, etc.

            With the costume-judging done, the square-dance caller begins teaching simple dances, and everyone joins in.  He takes a break for refreshments and ends with more square-dancing.


Variations and Comments:  If you feel the costumes might be too much of a hindrance in the dancing, you can omit the costume-judging and ask the guests to come dressed Western, country-style or in Halloween colors.

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[*]Dian Thomas, Today’s Tips for Easy Living, Holladay UT:  The Dian Thomas Company, 1982, p. 73.

THEME:  Independence Day (4th of July), preserving history

INVITATIONS:  One idea is to take a miniature flag, place the message written on a small, folded piece of paper in the middle of the flag and fold it in the traditional triangular form.  It can then be mailed in an envelope or hand-delivered.  The guest will unfold the flag and see the message. 

            In the message, be sure to ask guests to bring swimsuits and towels, as well as an item to place in the time capsule, to be preserved for future citizens to discover.  This can be anything they deem significant to their lives and the times.  You may also wish to ask guests to bring food items for the barbecue.  This party will work well for families, teens or adults.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Mock “Declaration of Independence” guest register and feather-quill pen, if desired; swimming pool or lake; necessary equipment for playing desired water games, such as beach balls, inner tubes, net, trinkets for diving, etc.; barbecue grill; picnic table(s), benches, etc.; paper and pens; time capsule (This must be a sturdy, watertight container that will resist decay, such as the plastic containers used for wheat or other food storage.); simple fireworks, if allowed by area law.

FOOD:  Old-fashioned picnic “vittles” are the rule.  You may ask guests to bring their own meat for barbecuing, or some other items, but a very American menu might be something like this:  Hamburgers, hot dogs or steaks, corn-on-the-cob, potato salad, baked beans, chips or crackers, watermelon and root beer.  For dessert, homemade ice cream is a must, and you might serve it alongside  a cake decorated like a flag.  Beside each plate, you might also have little nut-cups filled with red, white and blue cream mints.

DECORATIONS:  Of course, red, white and blue will be the color scheme.  Since this is outdoors, you will need to rely on your landscaping, etc. to help hold up decorations.  Streamers, balloons and flags may be hung from trees, shrubs and around the deck.  Use appropriate colors of paper plates, cups, napkins and tablecloth(s).  A basket containing an arrangement of red, white and blue carnations with a small flag standing in the middle might make a nice centerpiece for the picnic table.  Have buckets of citronella to keep the bugs away, if your area has need of such precautions.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:  When guests arrive, they give their items for the time capsule to you, the hostess, and you may ask them to sign a mock “Declaration of Independence” for a guest register.  The fun starts with swimming.  Plan several water games, if the guests are interested. 

            When the swimmers are tired out, fire up the grill, and let the good old-fashioned barbecue begin.  As guests finish eating, give each one paper and pencil to use in penning some thoughts to include in the time capsule.  When everyone is done, they may share their writings with each other if they so desire, before placing them in a watertight bag or box to go in the time capsule.  When all items are in the time capsule, it is sealed and placed in a previously-dug hole.  A date is agreed upon for digging up the time capsule, and everyone helps to bury it. 

            If time permits, there may be some more swimming before dessert.  After the cake and ice cream, a musician in the group accompanies a sing-along of patriotic songs on the guitar, piano, keyboard, harmonica or whatever.  As a finale to the evening, the guests clear a space of dirt, cement or gravel for the lighting of fireworks.  (If private fireworks are illegal in your area, you might take everyone to the fairgrounds [or wherever] to watch the public fireworks display.)

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THEME:  Easter, Spring

INVITATIONS:  The simplest would be egg-shaped pieces of colored paper with the message written on them.  However, you could also write on hard-boiled eggs with a fine-tipped marking pen or hide a message inside a hollow plastic egg.  Whether you are inviting children in the family, friends of your children, or children in the neighborhood, you will probably want to ask them to bring their own baskets.  You should also inform them as to alternate plans in case of rain.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Decorated, hard-boiled eggs in the amount desired; baskets, if needed; hollow plastic eggs, if desired; jelly beans or other candy, if desired; slips of paper with scriptural references about Easter or pictures of Jesus Christ, if desired; prizes, if desired.

FOOD:  If the party is simply for some children, you might like to give them each a chocolate bunny or some such thing as a treat before they leave.  Or, you might like to give them hot cross buns, bunny-shaped sweet rolls or frosted cut-out cookies with some chocolate milk as a snack after the hunt. 

            One thing our family has enjoyed doing on the Saturday before Easter is getting all the relatives together for a brunch.  The adults enjoy visiting and watching the children hunt for eggs either before or after the meal.  Some of our favorite recipes for this event are Breakfast Casserole, Quiche Lorraine, Cheese Blintzes, Fruit Party Pizza, Potato Casserole, French Breakfast Puffs and Grandma Prengel’s Crumb Cake.  Nutbreads and juices are good choices also.

DECORATIONS:  Since the egg hunt is usually done outside, you may like to tie balloons, bows and flowers on the shrubbery and trees.  Hang a lovely spring wreath on the front door.  If you are doing something indoors, such as having the brunch for relatives, you may like to set out other Easter decorations.  The little, wooly-covered wooden sheep that are so popular in country decorating are quite appropriate now.  You can deck them out further by adding a tiny bow or flower around their necks.  Lots of fragrant, fresh flowers, attractively arranged will add to the Spring atmosphere.  Also, an “Easter Tree” might make a delightful centerpiece.  Generally, this is a gnarly branch painted white and anchored in a board or pot.  In an episode of “The Home Show” in March 1991, Dian Thomas gave some tips for fun decorations for an Easter tree.  She suggested saving your broken eggshells, washing them and letting them dry.  When dry, glue a small ribbon “handle” in each one to form a sort of basket to hang on the tree.  In the basket, you can make a tiny baby chick with two yellow pompoms, some felt and craft eyes.  Another idea is to blow out some eggs and wrap small ribbons around them like Christmas ornaments.   Final touches can be added by simply gluing small bows and silk flowers to the branches.  You can even purchase a string of “Easter lights,” if desired.  (A string of your plain white Christmas ones might work just as well.)

 BLOW-BY-BLOW:            You can organize this Easter egg hunt in any way you like, but here are some ideas and tips you might want to try:

            If you have children of varying ages participating, color an equal amount of eggs for each age group in different colors.  Tell each age group to look only for eggs of the color you have assigned to them.  This way the older children will leave the eggs hidden in “easy” places for the younger children to find.  For a special treat, hide hollow plastic eggs filled with jelly beans or other candy along with the regular eggs.

            To add a little spiritual significance to the event, write scripture references about the events leading up to the Resurrection on hard-boiled eggs or slips of paper tucked in plastic eggs.  When all the eggs are found, have the children read aloud the scriptures in order.  You could also put small pictures of Christ inside eggs, as well as hanging some on the walls of your house.

"He Is Risen" by Greg Olson

            Be sure you know the exact number of eggs hidden, so you won’t find some months later by following your nose!

            Try making it a treasure hunt, writing the clues on the eggs.

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THEME: St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Ireland and Irish traditions

INVITATIONS: A simple invitation would be a shamrock cut out of green paper. Write the message using plenty of Irish phrases, perhaps in a limerick such as:

     “Top o’ the mornin’ we wish to ye;

     On St. Patty’s Day a party be,

     So come for the e’en,

                                                        A-wearin’ the green;

                                                       Shure, and it’s you there we’ll see!”

You may also ask them to bring a dish of green food, if you wish.

This party will work well for teenagers or adults.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES: Several papers with first lines of limericks written on them; pencils; 6 plastic or paper straws; team prizes for the relays, if desired (such as green ribbons); 2 large potatoes; 2 soup spoons; table(s) and chairs (if serving supper); Irish music (for background), if desired; large, partly wooded area for treasure hunt; clues on shamrock-shaped pieces of paper, perhaps 7 in all (one for every color of the rainbow); “leprechaun” helpers, such as your children or younger brothers and sisters; small paper rainbow; large pot filled with small net or cloth bags of chocolate candy coins or butterscotch drops (one bag for each guest).

FOOD: For supper, make a large pot of Irish Stew and some biscuits, then supplement with lots of green side dishes: a green salad, cottage cheese colored green, canned pears colored green, green beans, green jello cut in shamrock shapes with a cookie cutter, etc. Serve ale (of the “ginger” variety) for a beverage. Dessert could be lime sherbet with gingersnap cookies.

If you prefer not to serve supper, ask guests to bring their favorite green snack or dessert.

DECORATIONS: Of course, your main decorating theme will be the color green. Many ready-made decorations for St. Patrick’s Day are available in stores, but you might also consider using other items like green houseplants; Irish artifacts such as old Irish literature, and sheet music like “My Wild, Irish Rose” and “Irish Eyes Are Smiling”; travel posters of the “Emerald Isle”; a small pot full of shamrocks (often available at a florist’s shop), a large rock labeled “Blarney Stone,” samples of Irish lace, and green candles. For candle holders–you could scoop out holes in raw potatoes for long tapers, and votive candles could be placed inside clear glass mugs or on the bottom of inverted mugs.

Drape a long “feast table” with a white sheet, and set places with green paper placemats (available at party stores). Use white plates (china, stoneware,Corellee, plastic or paper) and clear goblets or clear plastic tumblers. Fold green napkins (cloth or paper) into fans and place them loosely in the glasses. Those shamrocks in a brass pot might make a good centerpiece, set between two green tapers in brass (or potato) candlesticks.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:     When guests arrive, pinch them if they’re not wearing green, then divide them into groups of three to five persons. Give each group a piece of paper and a pencil. On each piece of paper is written the first line of a different limerick. Briefly explain the format for limericks, then let each group go to work to finish its poem. Allow about five minutes or so, and at the end of the time have each group reads its limerick aloud.

Next, everyone goes outdoors for some relays. (These games can be played indoors as well.) Group them into two teams and explain the first relay. Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, so this relay will simulate that story (sort of). The two teams line up at a starting line, and the first person in each team is given three straws (to symbolize snakes). They must get down on their hands and knees and lay the three straws in front of them. By blowing at them, they must “drive” the three straws to the finish line, about ten or twelve feet away. They cannot touch the straws with any part of their bodies. When they reach the finish line, they may pick up the straws and run back to the start, giving them to the first person in line, who repeats the process until the whole team has done it. The first team through wins and may be given a prize.

The second relay involves the Irish staple, potatoes, and covers a longer distance than the “snake” relay. The line-up formation is the same, but this time the person must transport a large potato on an ordinary soup spoon to the finish line. If he drops it, he must start over at the beginning again! When he reaches the finish line, he may hold the potato securely in his hand and run back to give the potato and spoon to the next teammate. The first team to complete the relay wins.

Now it’s time for the Irish feast, and the guests eat while Irish music plays in the background.

After dinner, you (the host) will “forcefully” bring in a small helper dressed as a leprechaun, who is kicking and complaining and struggling to get away. “Look what I found!” you call, and you relate a fanciful tale of how you caught the leprechaun. Now you demand that the leprechaun turn over his pot of gold, to which request the wee one replies by grudgingly handing you a small, shamrock-shaped piece of paper. As soon as you stop to read what is written on the paper, the leprechaun disappears to join his “kinsmen” in the woods! On the paper is the first clue to the treasure hunt, written in limerick form. You hand it over to the guests, who take over from there. If you know the whereabouts of the treasure, you do not give any hints.

The guests follow the clues from place to place until they reach the last one. During this time, several small helpers hidden in the woods make noises, play tricks and generally try to distract the guests from their quest. Now, the last clue might read something like this, if the “pot of gold” were hidden in, say, a child’s treehouse:

     “Our treasure ye’ve sought high and low,

     But to find it ye must now go

     Where a child plays high

     Under sparrow’s eye;

     Look at the end of the rainbow.”

A small paper rainbow sits above the door of the treehouse or is placed to mark the spot wherever the pot is hidden. The moment the guests find the treasure, a wailing howl is heard in the woods, coming from the disappointed leprechauns! Each guest gets a bag of golden candy to take home.

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Let’s start off A YEAR OF CREATIVE PARTYING with something just in time for Valentine’s Day.

THEME:  Valentine’s Day, homemade valentines

INVITATIONS:  Get together all kinds of craft supplies–colored paper, doilies, old cards and magazines, glue, scissors, glitter, fancy trims, lace, fabric, crayons, markers, paint, silk flowers, stickers, etc.–and create your own line of valentine cards.  Inside, put a rhyming message, something like:

“Roses are red; rain clouds are gray;

Come join the family for Valentine’s Day.”

            Give the time and place, and ask each family unit to bring their favorite Valentine’s Day dessert.  You might also ask them to dress in red, white or pink.  If this event is part of a family reunion, you may also wish to include other information.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  A slip of paper with each person’s name on it; hat or box to draw names from; materials to make valentines–colored construction paper, paper doilies, glue or paste, scissors, tape, valentine stickers, crayons or colored markers, pens or pencils, glitter, trims, old cards and magazines, etc.; a decorated valentine box; prizes, if desired–such as a small box of chocolates or small stuffed animal; materials for other game(s) desired; piano, keyboard or guitar and music to well-known love songs; riddle placecards, if desired.

FOOD:  Each family unit will bring a dessert, so there should be plenty of food.  You should provide a red or pink punch (how about “Raspberry Lemonade” or some other Party Punch), and maybe some strawberry cheesecake ice cream, if desired.  You could also have candy dishes of nuts and candy hearts set around the house.

DECORATIONS:  You can do as much as you want with the traditional valentine colors of red, white and pink.  There are the usual streamers and balloons, as well as purchased decorations.  A nice touch would be some floral arrangements, whether fresh or silk, set atop doilies.  You could craft a heart-shaped wreath for the door with a shaped coat-hanger, covered with fabric and lace.  Or buy a heart-shaped grapevine wreath and decorate with lace, ribbon, silk or dried flowers, white baby’s breath or statice, and perhaps a little Cupid.  Cover long tables with a lace cloth over a plain red one.  Cover round tables with a tablecloth in red, pink or white, topped with a small square of contrasting fabric or lace.  Set out pleasant potpourri in baskets or bowls of an appropriate color. 

            Dian Thomas, in her book Today’s Tips for Easy Living (Holladay, UT:  The Dian Thomas Company, p. 79), gives a fun idea for a centerpiece which could also be used as a prize for the best valentine, if you wish to award prizes.  To make a “Sweet Valentine Bouquet,” you will need:  a clean flowerpot or empty can, red paint or valentine wrapping paper, glue, eyelet lace to go around top and bottom of can, 2 dozen flower-shaped cookies with holes in the center, 1 to 2 dozen large heart-shaped red gumdrops, 1 to 2 dozen bamboo skewers, red ribbon, green asparagus fern (available at florist’s shop), and 2 3″-thick pieces of styrofoam to fit in the can. 

            Paint the can or flowerpot red or cover with the wrapping paper.  Glue eyelet trim around top and bottom of can.  Glue the styrofoam to inside bottom of can.  (It also works to fill the can half full of marbles or jelly beans.)  To make flowers, push a skewer through the center of one of the gumdrops, through the center of a cookie and then another gumdrop.  Push cookie and gumdrops together on end of skewer.  Insert other end of skewer into styrofoam inside pot or can.  Tie a red bow under the cookie “flower.”  Repeat to make as many edible “flowers” as desired.  Cut the skewers so flowers will be different heights.  Add the fern to contrast with your bouquet.  (This idea can be used for other occasions by changing color of can, gumdrops and ribbon.)

 BLOW-BY-BLOW:         As the relatives arrive, greet them warmly, and set their desserts  on a buffet.  They visit until all are present.  At this point, everyone draws a name from a hat or box.  (If a person draws his own name, he must draw again.)  The name drawn is the one for whom the person will make a special valentine.  This name should be kept secret until the valentines are handed out.

            Now, everyone sits down at a table or tables covered with supplies for crafting their valentines.  The only rule is that the valentine have the person’s name on it and some short message.  The message may be funny or serious, poetic or prosaic.  All that counts is creativity and uniqueness.  When the valentines are finished, they are placed in the special Valentine Box.

            At this point, another game is played.  (Depending on your group, you may wish to separate adults and children for two different activities suited to their ages, or you may have everyone join in an active game.)  You can modify just about any favorite game to fit the valentine theme.  For instance, Quick-Draw Relay can use words like “lovebirds,” “rose” and “kisses” for the artists to convey.  (One activity that teens and adults might enjoy is to have everyone sit in a circle.  Each person is given a paper and pencil and asked to write his name at the top of the paper.  Then, on a signal, everyone passes his paper to the right.  They are then given one to two minutes to write what they like most about the person whose name is on the paper, before they must pass it on again, folded down to cover what they wrote.  This is continued until the papers have completed the circle.  Then each person may unfold and read what everyone likes about him or her.)

            After the second activity, everyone gathers together and you (the hostess) hand out the valentines  ceremoniously from the decorated box.  The recipients may try to guess whom their valentines are from.  You may award prizes for prettiest, most creative, funniest, etc., if desired. 

            When everyone has read his valentine, it’s time for the dessert.  To find their places at the table(s), the guests must solve riddles written on the placecards.  (If you are having a more casual dessert and not sitting down at tables, just skip this activity.)  A sample riddle might read something like this:

“Roses are red; my hair is, too.

Dad’s on my left; to my right is Aunt Sue.”

            After delicious dessert and delightful conversation, the musician in the family sits down at the piano or with the guitar and accompanies a sing-along of well-known love songs, old and new, to top off the evening.

Variations and Comments:  Of course, this party can be adapted for teens, singles, or couples by adding some more games and maybe some dancing.

            One activity the children might enjoy while the adults are doing something else is to work together making a “candygram” for the oldest relative.  Give them a piece of posterboard, a marker, some tape and a number of different candy bars.  They collaborate and write a message including the names of the candy bars, taping the candy to the poster at the appropriate places.  Then they make their presentation.

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