A Holiday Open House Filled With Fun, Food, Family and Friends

Tips For Planning A Holiday Open House

We have hosted an annual Holiday Open House for the past 23 years. It is one of our most treasured family traditions that began as a "Waiting For Santa" party. The Sunday before Christmas, our local fire department drives Santa and the elves through town to remind the children they will be back in a few days. Our kids would run to the curb as soon as they heard the fire engine siren announcing Santa's visit to our street. When our oldest daughter was 4, she wanted her friends to come and wait with us. From that small gathering, our annual Holiday Open House was born. Our friends and family, the kid's friends and their families (all siblings included) would meet at our home for brunch on that Sunday. Everyone would bring something, so it was not difficult to plan. Best of all, due to the large crowd, Santa and his elves, would make a personal stop and come in to visit with the kids and have a bite to eat. It was a party loved by young and old alike!

santa arrives

Santa is heading our way!!

santa claus and the kids

Santa comes in for a visit with the kids!
As the kids got older and began playing basketball in the church league on Sunday afternoons, we adapted. We held the holiday open house in the late afternoon and Santa would still stop in..for dinner now. The crowd grew as the kids grew. Teachers, coaches, more friends, booster club cronies..all were invited. We usually were in the 150 person range. Yes, it was packed but it was FUN!! The potluck tradition continued. Everyone brought something. You never knew what would be on the buffet table, but there was always plenty!

Here are some of those little ones from the first photo with one of the Moms..they are in High School here..but still coming to the open house!
As the kids left for college and beyond, the annual open house continued! It gave them a chance to see all their hometown friends over the holidays. There were also many college friends who made their way to the gathering. The crowd did not shrink as the kids got older..but oddly enough expanded! It is truly one of the best family traditions we have made and with so much help from our guests..it is easy!

boys in christmas clothes

Some of those same boys.. now out of college.. they keep on coming. Last year, as a joke, they dressed in Christmas apparel and were the hit of the party!

Holiday Open House Tips and Ideas

Planning an open house can be tricky if you are not well organized. Best advice, get your invitations out early! People have so much going on this time of year, that you want to get your party on their calendar first. We have actually been holding ours after Christmas for the past two years and it has been much more relaxing! Also put an RSVP date of 10 days to 2 weeks in advance. You need a head count if you are planning all the food. Here are some sample invitations I made myself. I have also used TINY Prints as they always have unique Holiday Party Invitations at such good prices.

Holiday Open House Sample Invitation 1
Holiday Open House Sample Invitation 2

happy santa

If you are serving alcohol, keep it to wine and beer. Every year, one of our good friends makes a festive Sangria punch with fresh fruit. It is always a hit! Also keep an eye on the bar.. you don't want those kids sneaking over there!

Here's the sign I hang by the bar!

Be prepared, if you have a lot of smaller ones, there will be kids everywhere.. left to their own devices you may find them in the basement, in the bedrooms, or out on the lawn. Close off any rooms you do not want them to go into. If it is a nice evening, I have some glow in the dark frisbees or footballs handy so they can work off their energies! Some of the dads will always go out and play catch with them!

A Holiday Open House is one of the easiest parties to host. After all, your house is already decorated. You don't have to worry about entertaining your guests, people come and go. Some stop in for an hour, others may stay for the entire time. Come up with a central location for all the coats. As your guests arrive direct them to deposit their jackets there. This allows you more free time and they can get their things when they are ready to leave. We actually use our bedroom for that spot. Don't feel like this is tacky.... your guests are your friends! Set up both a buffet table and a dessert bar. Everyone can then help themselves depending on their own schedule. Don't make yourself crazy with dishes and glasses.. use paper goods. There are beautiful heavy duty festive goods available this time of year. By using paper, clean up becomes a snap! Trust me everyone pitches in to help. Finally, enjoy yourself and mingle with your guests. This party comes but once a year!!

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