friends-toasting-at-holiday-gatheringBy Barbara Pronin

Most of us like to socialize with friends and neighbors during the holiday season. But with shopping, wrapping and family gatherings heading up many to-do lists, it may not be easy to find time to socialize without throwing a big, glitzy party.

The consumer editors at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine suggest simple party ideas guaranteed to please you and your guests without much stress or fuss:

Afternoon craft party — Get together with women friends for a casual afternoon craft session. Provide candles and glitter, wreath wire and greenery, ribbon, pine cones and glue guns — or decorating supplies and a couple dozen bare naked sugar cookies — and spend a few hours crafting, decorating, socializing, and enjoying tea and cookies or wine and snacks as you prefer.

Cookie exchange — Invite a few friends and ask each one to bring six dozen cookies for trading — a dozen of my chocolate thumbprints for a dozen of your raspberry bars. Provide refreshments and holiday music and send everyone home with a great new selection of cookies.

Tree decorating — Ask friends and neighbors to drop in one evening for supper and a tree trimming party. Keep the menu simple — a pot of chili or stew, perhaps — and enjoy the social hour enjoying a chore you would need to do in any case.

Brunch open house — Set out an array of your favorite finger-food brunch treats — such as scrambled egg wraps, bacon-wrapped mushrooms, homemade or store-bought cinnamon rolls — and send out the word that guests are invited between 11 am and 1 pm. With plenty of coffee and tea on tap, sitting down to chat with friends should be both easy and rewarding.

Snow day get-together — When the kids have an unexpected snow day, call one or two if your kids’ friends and invite them —and their parents — to join you for an afternoon of games and hot chocolate. It’s a fun and easy way to host an impromptu party with little or no preparation needed.