Create your own hot chocolate bar

Dressing up in your festive best for elegant holiday soirees is something most of us look forward to every season. But the holidays are also about slowing down and spending time with family and friends, so don’t feel pressured to make every gathering a formal affair. Here are three holiday party ideas for those times when you just want to keep it casual. Each requires only one trip to the store and you can wear jeans — or even one of those adult-sized holiday onesies. Bonus: They make great family, kid or teen party ideas as well.

Hot Chocolate Bar

Casual Party Ideas: Hot Chocolate Bar

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? It’s fun and simple to create a hot chocolate bar.

Simple Party Ideas: Hot Chocolate Bar

Start with the hot chocolate. You can provide a variety of options, from powdered mixes to K-Cups and you can even make your own (we love the Creamy Crockpot version from One Good Thing By Jillee).

Think about the mix-ins. You can find various flavored syrups in many grocery stores. Starbucks also sells its flavored syrups by the bottle. If it’s a grown-up party, try flavored vodka, whisky, Kahlúa or Irish cream.

Next come the toppings. This is where people like to get creative. There are drizzles like chocolate, caramel and peppermint that will be delicious. Make sure you get small pieces of candy like chocolate-covered toffee, M&Ms and mini chocolate chips. Don’t forget the marshmallows either! Big, small, flavored — you can even find the dehydrated mini marshmallows that come in hot chocolate packets sold separately. Whipped cream is also a must.

For the perfect finishing touch, provide cookie straws and candy canes to be used as stir sticks.

Add some gift-giving fun to your party by making it a hot chocolate mug exchange. Participants buy a fun mug, wrap it up and pick a new one at the party. It’s also means less clean-up at the end of the night since the dirty mugs go home with your guests!

Cookie Decorating Party

Simple Holiday Party Ideas: Cookie Decorating

Let family and friends get creative at a cookie-decorating party. All you need are baked cookies, different types of icing and decorations.

Make your own cookies (try Grandma’s Sugar Cookie Dough) or use a pre-made cookie dough. Bake a few dozen and set them out for people to decorate. Once the finishing touches have been added, guests can pack them up to enjoy at home or eat right away.

Ornament Exchange

Simple Holiday Party Ideas: Ornament Exchange

Everyone loves adding new ornaments to their tree, and when one is given by someone special, it’s that much more memorable.

For added fun, make it an annual event and designate an theme each year: travel, food, animals, sports — anything goes. Set next year’s theme before your guests leave and they can look out for the perfect ornament at the after-Christmas sales.

Or host an ugly ornament exchange. All participants find the ugliest ornament they can. Everyone votes and the person with the ugliest ornament gets a prize.