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When it comes to stringing up twinkly lights, we’re guessing you’ve got your own time-honored traditions. (Aunt Linda and Grandpa Morty drowning out the Charlie Brown Christmas album, arguing over whether or not the tree is straight. We’ve been there.) This year, may we suggest starting another? Invite a few friends over for a tree trimming party. You bring the holiday cheer, we’ll provide the detailed plan—from the decor to the seasonal bites and libations.

RELATED: The ‘Aperitivo Party’ Is the New Dinner Party (and Here’s How to Host One)

christmas tree ornaments in bowls on beige rug
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

The Inspiration

You know the tree trimming parties of yore, when folks would gather around a massive Frasier fir and carol in Victorian garb (Tiny Tim, is that you)? Good news: You can totally pull off this festively retro party theme in a small space. We threw ours in a two-bedroom New York City apartment with a small, living tree from Bloomscape. This hook provides a wonderful antidote to the standard holiday cocktail party...where you end up spending the greater part of the evening in deathly-dull convo with a random spouse.

christmas graze board with christmas tree
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Heath Goldman

The Setup

Sayonara, stuffy sit-down dinner. Lean into the ease and intimacy of this theme and sprawl out on the floor, indoor picnic-style. With a cozy blanket, pillows and a graze board (or coffee table) heaped with treats, your living room becomes a hygge-chic zone for crafting and noshing.

small potted christmas tree with white lights1
Nico Schinco/Styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

The Activity

Well, trimming, of course. String your tree in advance (we mean, only a sadist would ask that of their friends). Then set out bowls and boxes of ornaments so guests can help themselves and get in the spirit of the season. And for the extra crafty, set up a DIY station. (More about that below.)

hands crafting pine cone ornament
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

The Favors

A crafting project will give folks a convivial activity that results in fun, festive party favors to take home. Our advice? Pick something that’s beginner level and affordable. Pine cones, for example, can be foraged from the backyard (or bought for $6 at Michael’s). Coupled with just a little twine, metallic ribbon and a glue gun, everyone can whip up an ornament for their own tree.

ruby vermouth spritzer recipe
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Heath Goldman

The Cocktails

Sugary, headache-inducing holiday punch? We’ll pass. Instead, ruby vermouth spritzers will steal the show. Refreshing and warming, they’re as easy as mixing sweet red vermouth with a can of seltzer.

Get the recipe

cranberry brie pie crust bites recipe 9211
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Heath Goldman

The Cheeseboard

When it comes to snacks, give the people what they want: cheese. But instead of a standard spread, up the ante with cranberry-Brie pie crust bites. They’re an elegant, elevated take on cheese and crackers—and thanks to pre-made piecrust and cranberry sauce, they’re just as fast.

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crispy bacon wrapped brussels sprouts recipe
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Heath Goldman

The Appetizer

Between all of the crafting and trimming, everyone’s hands will be full, so skip the three-course meal in favor of small, easy-to-grab bites. These crispy bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts will tide everyone over.

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delicata squash rings garlic lemon sauce recipe 9211
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Heath Goldman

The Bottom Line On Food

Do yourself a favor and spread out an array of low-maintenance nibbles that’ll last for a couple hours on the graze board (think: nuts and small candies). The golden rule to building an impressive board? Selecting a few seasonal recipes no one’s seen before, like these delicata squash rings with garlic-lemon sauce. They’re basically an onion ring, but a million times more classy and festive.

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two women at tree trimming party near graze board
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

The Agenda

Snack. Craft. Sing along with Bing. Pour another spritzer (or three). Did we mention that this party works best on a chilly afternoon? You can be in your PJs by 9 p.m. Which, during the holidays, is truly the greatest gift of all. 

Recipes and additional reporting by Heath Goldman, assisted by Katherine Gillen.

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