How to Throw a Holiday Dinner Party

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By Kate Bigam

“There’s no place like home for the holidays” is a sentiment that applies far beyond Christmas, the day for which this was originally intended. No matter how you feel about your family or your hometown, there’s just something about spending the holidays back home that feels familiar and comfortable.

FriendsBut life can get pretty busy and plane tickets can be pretty expensive, and it’s just not always possible to get home for the holidays. If you’re not planning to travel for Thanksgiving this year, consider throwing a dinner party with friends who will also be in town. The Hanukkah overlap makes for double the holiday fun (and food!), and the unique occurrence of Thanksgivukkah offers new twists on old dinner party ideas.

We’ve compiled a few ideas to get you started, but don’t feel bound to these suggestions. Make Thanksgivukkah your own—and then tweet or Facebook a photo of your dinner party to tell us how it went!

Make Pinterest Your Best Friend

Yes, we are living in a do-it-yourself world, and you, too, can be a do-it-yourself girl (or guy). The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone: The Internet is here to help! Before you begin planning your event, turn to Pinterest, the web’s biggest bulletin board, to get ideas from others who have done it before. Try not to let yourself get swept up in the competitive mentality social media can sometimes foster (“If my decorations don’t look this perfect, my party will be a failure!”) and instead view Pinterest as a built-in method of brainstorming.

Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

You don’t have to be an expert chef to host a delicious dinner. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea—or the cost—of doing all the cooking yourself, ask each guest to bring something specific to the table (literally). Be sure to let them know of any special dietary restrictions—like if a few of your guests are gluten-intolerant or if you keep a kosher-style kitchen and will be serving a dairy-free meal—so their dish can be integrated into the larger meal and enjoyed by all.

Choose Your Menu

The overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, two heavily food-related holidays, presents the opportunity for new takes on old favorite foods by infusing traditional Jewish foods with classic American flavors. Try our recipes for savory challah stuffing, cranberry-filled sufganiyot, olive oil cake, pumpkin kugel, sweet potato latkes, fried pickles, cheese coins and apple-butter blintzes. And remember: Thanksgivukkah may never happen again in our lifetime, but you can make these tasty recipes long after the holiday has passed! A dinner party is the perfect time to find your new favorite food.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

A few weeks before your event, make a list of everything you need to do and make, from basting the turkey to decorating the table to vacuuming the carpet. The week before, put together a full shopping list, and then slowly bring the ingredients home over the span of a few days (especially important for city-dwellers without cars, who can only carry so much). This will give you time to grab anything you may have inadvertently left off the list and to stop by any specialty stores to pick up hard-to-find ingredients.

Clean, But Not Too Much

Self-professed neat-freaks may find this rule particularly difficult to abide by, but try your hardest: Clean your place a bit before the big day, but don’t stress too much about it! Your guests will track in dirt, crumbs will fall on the floor, someone will inevitably drop a drink—and for the most part, no one will notice. Really. If all goes well, your home will be dirtier when everyone leaves than it was when they arrived, so save the deep cleaning for post-party.

Set the Mood with Music

Whether your Thanksgivukkah party is a casual, low-key gathering or a more formal affair, the right tunes can help set the tone. In the weeks before your party, pull together a mix that represents the sort of atmosphere you hope to create, and, of course, pepper it with a few Thanksgiving and Hanukkah songs. To get started, check out this list of 10 of the best Hanukkah songs, this list of 50 songs related to Thanksgiving, and the brand-new Menurkey song by The Dirty Sock Funtime Band, sung to the tune of “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah.”

Double Up on Decorations

As the consummate autumn holiday, Thanksgiving and fall-themed furnishings are a natural pair—pumpkins and pinecones and leaf garlands, oh my! Hanukkah decor is typically blue and white, which the Jewish poet Ludwig August Frankl once dubbed “the colours of Judah.” This Thanksgivukkah, blend bits of both to create dinner party decor that’s as unique as the unusual holiday itself. If sophisticated is your style, you’ll love these DIY blue-and-white decorating ideas using traditional Thanksgiving elements from the blog What Meegan Makes. If fun and quirky is more your speed, try a latke tablecloth, a wooden turkey centerpiece or pumpkin dreidels.

Give Thanks

This one’s a no-brainer, right? Thanksgiving is a holiday all about giving thanks! But between family, food and football—and, this year, celebrating another holiday at the same time—sometimes the element of gratitude can get lost in the shuffle. At your Thanksgivukkah party, designate time with guests to talk about the things you’re most thankful for. You can do it the old-fashioned way, going around the table and asking everyone to speak their piece, or try a more directed discussion, like by using these “Turkey Talk” questions from the blog Dixie Delights.

Kate Bigam is a social media strategist and freelance writer living in New Jersey and pining for New England.

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