Tereasa Surratt, a veteran entertainer, has some other ideas up her sleeve:

  • Holiday Portrait Party: Guests come dressed to have their portrait taken by a professional photographer you hire for the night. You set up a corner with a backdrop. On the table, an empty frame at each place setting for guests to fill with Polaroids of each other. Provide a Polaroid 300 Instant Camera for each table.

    On the tree, Poloraids taken candidly at the party with well wishes signed by each guest become instant ornaments to adorn the tree. Combine all the best shots from digital cameras toward the end of the evening and upload to an instant slideshow.

  • Black-Tie Pooch Party: Invite your friends with dogs. Instead of a kids’ table, there’s a canine corner with gourmet goodies (and guests take home holiday doggie bags). On screens around the house, loop old movies of Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Benji.
  • God Save the Queen. And the Egg Nog. The English-themed holiday party includes pints of ale, Pims, Victoria sandwich cakes, and mince pies. Guests play pass the parcel. Invites ask guests to wear a detail referencing their favorite English pop culture character, from James Bond to Mick Jagger to Austin Powers to Twiggy.
  • Shopping Party: Start at your house with drinks, then head to either Andersonville, Armitage Avenue, or Grand Avenue for a progressive shopping trip. (You could even contact shopkeepers in advance and have wine available at a few of the stops.) Everyone comes back to the house with an item to either put into a holiday exchange pile or keep for their gift list.