I hosted my first Mistletoe and Holly Affair – named after one of my favorite Rat Pack Christmas songs – back in my college days, if you can believe it. Even then I asked my friends to dress up in cocktail attire! The table and food have both definitely improved since the early days but the spirit of the party is the same.
“Oh by gosh by golly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly!”
Photo Credit: All photos that clearly aren’t from my iPhone are by the lovely Trish Dove of Beatbox Portraits.
Garlands, and wreaths, and poinsettias, oh my! My taste in Christmas decor is largely natural and green which went really well with my new mountain-style home. I added garlands to doorway, mantels, large furniture pieces, mirrors, et cetera. My Christmas tree (always real) was trimmed with ornaments and white lights, and I burned balsam candles all over the house.
Even the backyard halls were decked! A few days before the party, my dad set up a lighted reindeer and giant snowflakes to light up my courtyard. I lit lanterns on my patios, since so many guests hung out outside at my masquerade party.
I also swapped out little things that I thought no one would really notice: Christmas guest towels, my I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas where one of my many Paris cookbooks is usually displayed, and gingerbread oven mitts, to name a few. Imagine my delight when a friend of a friend whom I had never met before walked up to me and said, “When I heard we were going to a Christmas party tonight I wasn’t picturing this. You throw a hell of a party and the magic is really in the details.”
One of the many reasons I love this time of year is everyone else jumps on the 1940s swing train. What’s not to love? I had Christmas with the Rat Pack, Swinging into Christmas, and other jazzy CDs playing. The party quickly got so full that you could hardly hear the music! Next year I need to crank it up.
I asked my friends to wear cocktail attire, something they are always happy to do. I start the party at 5 pm to accommodate friends with kids. After all, it’s the holidays and I want to see all of my friends!
P.S. My black and gold peacock dress is from ModCloth.
The Photo Booth
This was one of my favorite parts of this year’s party! My photographer, Trish, suggested a photo booth. My friend Colleen had just had one at her Halloween party and I thought it was so much fun. The set up was simple. I chose a blank wall in my gym to be our photo booth area. (The gym just so happens to have a giant mirror in it, which was actually quite convenient.) I bought a cute winter crate and filled it with a variety of Santa hats, holiday signs, reindeer antlers, a giant jingle bell, and garland. The garland, I think, was the biggest hit so I’m going to add more garlands next year.
My guests had so much fun with this and Trish did an amazing job getting everyone to be silly and let loose. The candid shots are my favorite. What a great keepsake for guests! I highly recommend setting up a photo booth at your next party.
A few favorite snapshots from photo booth:
Last year I did red roses. I also did red roses for my masquerade party. I wanted to shake things up before I fell into a rut so I did something completely different: a mix of Christmas tree trimmings, festive bronze mums, a few white roses, and lilies.
Pro tip: Always arrange your own flowers! For $20, I arranged two huge bouquets plus a smaller one for the bathroom. That would have cost about 2.5 times that if I bought pre-arranged bouquets.
I went with a bright and jolly red tablecloth and mostly white and silver serving platters. I bought a rosemary topiary, which can be promptly planted in the yard after Christmas, for the centerpiece that made the dining room smell wonderful. I borrowed my mom’s antique silver chafing dish for the spinach dip and used margarita glasses and water goblets for tiny bites such as olives, popcorn, and candy canes.
Bacon Spinach Dip
I’ve been making this spinach dip since I was a teenager and it’s still one of my most requested recipes! I’ve finally posted the recipe for you here.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Thank you to my mom for bringing this dip! It was a hit.
Grilled Shrimp and Veggie Orzo Salad
I originally made this for my Rose Table en Blanc. Get the recipe here.
Mini Party Muffulettas
Muffulletta is probably a misleading name but there are a lot of olives in these cute little party sandwiches! Get the recipe here.
I’m not even sure it’s fair to call this a recipe, but you can get mine here.
Pine Cone Cheese Ball
There are a million holiday cheeseballs you could go with but the toasted almonds really make this one not only adorable but also delicious! Get the recipe here.
Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms
I’ve made a lot of stuffed mushrooms but my Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms are still my favorite. Get the recipe here.
Parmesan Kale Chips
I know what you’re thinking. Kale at a party? My dad had the same thought, but these little guys were a hit. There wasn’t a single kale chip left at the end of the night! Get the recipe here.
I think it’s so friendly to have fruit on a party table. ‘Tis the season for citrus so I cut up gorgeous oranges to be a palate cleanser.
Fiori di Sicilia Cranberry Cake
A Rose Table classic! I invented this cake for last year’s Christmas party and it was such a hit, I knew I had to make it again. With a subtle orange-vanilla flavor and fresh cranberries that pop with Christmas flavor, this cake is a crowd pleaser. There was only about one slice left by the end of the night! Get the recipe here.
Buche de Noel
This is one of the few recipes I follow by the book and is therefore not a Rose Table recipe. I use the White Chocolate Banana Yule Log recipe from the cookbook I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas.
I had several requests for popcorn at my Christmas party after serving chocolate-covered popcorn at my masquerade party. Since my dog stayed at my parents’ house during the party, I was able to set bowls out around the house. It takes just about five minutes to make. Get the recipe here, but add Christmas colored m&ms after drizzling the chocolate mixture over the popcorn.
Cherry Almond Bars
One of my favorite cookies that my mom makes! Thank you to her for bringing these over.
Maple Walnut Fudge
Considering it’s fudge, my maple walnut flavor really isn’t all that sweet. It keeps for weeks so you can easily make this days before your party. Get the recipe here (and while you’re at it, check out my recipes for German Chocolate Fudge and Peppermint Fudge).
Candy Cane Brownies
This was the shining star of A Mistletoe and Holly Affair 2016! If these don’t say holiday festive, I just don’t know what does. Great for a party, Christmas baking, or to leave out for Santa, these are as beautiful as they are delicious. Get the new Rose Table recipe here.
I’m in such a wine rut! I keep serving wine at parties because it’s easy: open, pour. Since this is my annual cocktail party, I decided to actually serve cocktails. I came up with a festive champagne punch and an in-your-face boozy eggnog cocktail.
This really snuck up on my guests. It’s 2/3 alcohol and half of that is vodka. I named this Mistletoe Punch because it’s sure to get the party started! Get the recipe here.
Why choose just one alcohol to spike your eggnog? This cocktail has brandy, rum, and creme de cacao. Get the recipe here.