Party Plan: Planning for the Holidays

Rex Bell

Everyone does not approach planning for the holidays in the same way. Some people are appalled that Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah decorations and craft supplies have been in the retail stores since August. Others are delighted to see what the newest trends for the holidays are and can’t wait to get started on new seasonal projects.

Some people have no desire to think about the upcoming holidays until the end of October or even the end of November. Others are anxious to begin planning now, so they can finish the tedious tasks early they will have plenty of time to participate in the holiday activities they enjoy the most at a leisurely pace.

So, if you are one who prefers to wait to prepare, we salute you! You obviously possess a laid-back approach to the holidays that is admirable. Those of us who prefer to prepare farther ahead will begin our planning now in order to spread out the tasks we see ahead of us, so we can reach our optimal comfort level. Either approach is great if it works for you!

Whether you are ready to dive into these tasks right now or to wait until later to begin, here are some general preparations that many people make prior to the fall and winter holidays.


  • Decide which holidays you will celebrate and to what level. Some people don’t do Halloween, and others don’t make much of Thanksgiving. Decide which holidays are important to you and how much you want to put into your celebration.
  • If you like to do new things each year, gather holiday ideas from magazines, library books or Pinterest.
  • If traveling to a common location is involved for holiday meals or visits, coordinate those plans with your extended and immediate family.
  • Make holiday travel and hotel reservations for those who need them; if you are hosting guests overnight, start thinking about what you need to do to prepare guest rooms.
  • Talk with your family about which holiday traditions are the most important to them and put these on your family’s master calendar.
  • Decide if you are going to host any holiday meals or parties and make plans for the type and size you’d like as well as a theme and menu.
  • If you are fixing any special holiday meals, even if they are just for your immediate family, think about what you’d like to serve and plan the menu.
  • Take inventory of your dishes and glasses. Make sure you have the serving platters and wine glasses you’ll need for parties or special meals, in time to borrow or buy more, if necessary.
  • Create holiday party lists in advance so you will have your music ready for quiet dinner parties and livelier gatherings.


  • Make a list of gift recipients–don’t forget all those folks like your hairdresser, children’s teachers, coaches, newspaper carrier…
  • if you want your extended family to change from sharing individual gifts to doing a gift exchange, get that underway really early before folks start buying presents.
  • Ask for gift ideas by email if you need ideas before shopping
  • Use the Internet before leaving home to see if your local stores carry what you are looking for.
  • Shop online and have the gifts delivered directly to your out-of-town recipients.
  • Set up a wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home with all your supplies so you can wrap as you go.
  • Get as many gifts as possible early and wrap them as you get them.
  • Keep a large manila envelope in a standard place, so you can collect receipts throughout the season for returning or exchanging  items
  • Send gifts to out-of-town family and friends early, so you can avoid long lines and late deliveries.
  • Find a few good-for-anyone gifts on hand for folks you may have forgotten–gourmet food items are terrific because if you find you don’t need them as gifts, you can use them at home.


  • Update your holiday card list and addresses; update email addresses if you do e-cards.
  • Take or choose your photos and template, so you can order holiday photo cards early.
  • Write your holiday letter early and get it run off to go in your cards before Thanksgiving, or if most of your friends and family are on Facebook, phase out this tradition. Write a special Facebook message or photo to send to your friends.
  • Address, sign, buy stamps, and have your cards ready to go in the mail holiday right after Thanksgiving.
  • Create paper or digital holiday party invitations and gather the addresses of your guests so you can send these early since folks’ holiday schedules fill up quickly.


  • If you or any members of your family may need new outfits for holiday parties, shop early so as not to be caught in a bind at the last minute when the stores are crowded and picked over. A plainer outfit that can be dressed up with a special jacket, jewelry, scarf, or belt might be the ideal choice.
  • If you want a Santa or Mrs. Claus or other characters at your holiday party, be sure to buy or rent a costume early for a cooperative guest to wear.


  • Gather decorations you have that will work for multiple occasions–candles and candleholders, large bowls or baskets that can be used with harvest leaves, pinecones and gourds for Thanksgiving and winter greenery and berries for Christmas.
  • Go out to select a live Christmas tree and wreaths so they can be soaked in water before being put up, or get out your pre-lighted artificial tree and wreaths to fluff greenery and bows.
  • Go through the decorations you have, repair any broken ones, and get rid of decorations you no longer use.
  • Buy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa candles
  • Set up your decorations so you will have time to enjoy them.
  • Choose party decorating supplies and tableware that go with your holiday decorating theme, and buy them locally or online when they are on sale.

Food Shopping and Cooking

  • Purchase your Halloween candy early to save money and be prepared for trick-or-treaters, unless you know you will be tempted to eat it before October 31.
  • Make and freeze holiday baked goods if this is something you enjoy doing.
  • Buy nonperishable food and drink for holiday gatherings when they are on sale.
  • Buy frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas early enough to get the size you want and with enough time for them to thaw.
  • Buy perishables and prepared dishes close to the day they will be used. If you want to buy prepared dishes at your supermarket for your Thanksgiving or Christmas meals, be sure to make reservations early, so you will be assured of getting these items.

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