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Hosting a holiday dinner for family or friends for the first time is a big deal. Basically, it means you’ve officially graduated into full-on adult territory, so kudos to you. It also means you have to navigate the nuances of hosting and figure out how to actually entertain your guests. Since this is your inaugural year, set the precedent of some fun traditions to take place year after year. Ahead, five of our personal favorites.

kid playing chess
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1. Board Game Tournament

Small talk, sit-down dinner, nap-inducing mashed potatoes, repeat. The holidays have a way of leaving your family in a party rut. Games change that. In an effort to get everyone’s attention to focus on something other than Instagram, try new takes on the classics, like Reverse Charades or Telestrations and watch how a little friendly competition changes the whole night. Don’t forget to pick a prize for the top (board) gamer.

Sponsored sara lee all butter pound cake
Photo: Andrew Zeiter/Styling: Kaitlin Wayne

2. Pound Cake Decorating Contest

Instead of decorating gingerbread houses, start with a base that’s even easier to prepare: Sara Lee All Butter Pound Cake. Put a whole bunch of toppings (homemade whipped cream, fruit, candy, nuts) in separate bowls and give each of your guests a slice of pound cake to decorate. You can either let everyone’s imagination run wild or come up with a few guidelines, like a time limit or possible theme. The winner may get all the bragging rights, but everyone gets to enjoy their confections.

christmas gifts under tree

3. Mystery Gift Swap

If you have a large family, you know the struggle: Between your brother’s longtime girlfriend and your newly minted sister-in-law, your gift-buying list keeps on growing…and your wallet keeps on shrinking. That’s why we’re fans of the mystery gift swap. Each family member picks a name out of a hat and is only responsible for giving a gift to that one person. It may seem like you’re getting gypped at first, but because it’s just one gift, you can make the monetary limit substantial. Meaning, everyone gets one super amazing present, instead of three pairs of socks and a tie (again).

hot chocolate in holiday mug
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4. Mug Swap

Since most people use a mug (or three) every day for their coffee or tea, opt for a mug swap instead of the traditional cookie swap. Rather than assigning each person to someone specific, keeps things interesting with a white elephant mug exchange. PSA: There are many different ways to play white elephant, so be sure to go over the rules clearly so everyone knows which version to expect.

friends standing around piano
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5. Talent Show

If you want to go all out, put on a full-blown talent show. In order for your show to be the best it can be, you’ll need to let guests know ahead of time so they can properly prepare. You don’t want Aunt Madge left up onstage whistling her favorite tune. But then again, that might be pretty unforgettable.

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