So you want to throw a book-fueled ho-ho-holiday blowout? What a great idea! Nothing says holiday spirit like curling up with your favorite tome—and then inviting others to join you in the experience. (Without the others part, it’s really just another day, isn’t it?) Here are a few tips to guide you in the planning stages.
Picking a Theme
The first thing to do is to pick a strategy: Holiday Book vs. Book with an Egg-Nogged Twist. Do you want a straight-up Christmas Carol affair, or do you want a wintry wonderland to come to your Night Circus Midnight Dinner? Or you could split the difference and focus on Christmas Day at Hogwarts (start knitting those initialed sweaters!). There are no wrong answers. Your only considerations are the level you’re willing to commit and what kind of crowd you’re hoping for (i.e., your in-laws may not necessarily want to be Whos).
Inviting the Guests
To achieve a perfectly bookish bash, you have to have the right guest list. The only Grinch better be a costume. The only Scrooge better be an impersonator. You need people with buy-in, or else no one will rise to the occasion and appreciate your handmade Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reindeer display featuring the White Rabbit as a terribly late Rudolph shackled to a sleigh with Mad Hatter Claus.
Here’s a helpful tip: If your friend’s goal on Goodreads was reading five books this year, this may not be the party for them. At the same time, make it clear to guests that they’re supposed to be partying and not plowing through their latest read, alone on the couch.
Sprucing the Place Up
Whether it’s a gilded Gatsby menorah or a Christmas tree so elegant and full-bodied it could have been cut down by bandit Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the decorations are what set a holiday party apart. Remember, the smallest details make the most difference. For instance, for that Narnia-inspired hootenanny, it’s important to remember the fallen and frozen from the White Witch’s reign with tasteful woodland creature ice cubes. And you certainly want to remember to keep the train circling the Christmas tree for your Polar Express soirée (and maybe pair it with some cocoa-dusted bonbons, er, I mean lumps of coal).
Mixing the Drinks
Whatever drink selection you offer, keep the theme in mind. Why serve your Dickensian guests plain ol’ hot toddies when you could fix up some Smoking Bishops? You can find recipes for famous Dickens drinks, like that mulled wine, in his great-grandson’s guide, Drinking With Dickens. Or if you’re looking for something more of this century, there’s always a crowd-pleasing butterbeer, for which recipes abound. Here’s a super simple one.
Preparing the Food
Barring your running out and having an urchin pick up a prize turkey (or investing the painstaking effort into making Turkish delights), the treats are going to require some thought. For a gathering of obsessive book nerds, you can’t just present a veggie plate and be done with it. Combine festive with clever by novelizing classic holiday treats. Gingerbread Little Women, say, or crispy potato Lokis, if you’re having a Marvel Takes the Holidays affair (or, praise be, a winter solstice Sandman party). I don’t know how you’re going to get the latke to smile mischievously, but it wouldn’t really be your party if I just told you.
Playing the Game
Oh, what merriment is in store! There are all sorts of bookish games you can play. Like Pin the Enlarged Heart on the Grinch! Or I Spy Christmas, in which guests have to find things you’ve stashed around the house! Or heck, just charades—they’re always playing that in the drawing rooms of Victorian novels!
Giving the Gifts
As mentioned above, knitted and initialed sweaters go over well. Assuming you don’t have time for that, a bookish White Elephant exchange could be in order. For our purposes—and the purposes of those of you who throw a “Hanukkah in the Hundred Acre Wood” bash—we’ll call it a White Heffalump. Have everyone bring a ridiculous, outrageous, stupendous, bizarre book, preferably one they enjoyed or others might, and throw it into the pile. For best results, steer toward marvelous, perhaps forgotten oddities, like The Magic Pudding.