Party Ideas -- From Hogwarts to Gingerbread -- Festive Themes Abound This Season
 By Jamie Jarvis

A holiday party is a fun way to lift spirits during the winter. Halloween, Thanksgiving and other joyful bashes are a snap thanks to excellent preparation. Here’s a few ideas to help jumpstart your party. 

Harry, Goblins and Halloween Bashes

Celebrate Halloween with a fun and spooky party. Keep the spook factor pretty low for younger children, but gear it up for older children. Scooby, Shaggy and the gang are great for ages 4 to 7, where this cool doggy is a great celebrant of harmless macabre mysteries. Though most stores carry Scooby goods, computer-savvy planners can visit www.birthdayexpress. com for great Scooby-Doo party packages.

Harry Potter is a great theme for older kids who want to recreate Harry’s magical world. Send out “Acceptance Letters to Hogwarts School” (The Scorcer’s Stone, page 31), where handmade scrolls are party invitations. For a Hogwarts’ welcome, post signs for Diagon Alley, Privet Drive and Hogsmead and include glow-in-the-dark stars.

If your budget permits, hire a Merlin/Harry Potter-type wizard to perform magic tricks. Keep guests busy with a pumpkin-carving contest and a Marauder’s Map treasure hunt of your imagination. Serve star-shaped cookies, popcorn spiced with a selection of magic herbal toppings (taco seasoning, Parmesan cheese and cinnamon sugar) and scoop punch from a plastic caldron. Pass out magic stones, groan tubes and Harry Potter stickers as party favors.

Pilgrims, Maze and Turkeys

A Thanksgiving Party is a fun way to celebrate American history. Add flair to your invitations by fashioning them in the shape of turkeys or written on small pumpkins. Take advantage of this harvest season by decorating your party junction with pumpkins, squashes, fall leaves, pinecones and Indian corn. Relive history by reading a book about the first Thanksgiving and playing Thanksgiving trivia games.

Create a thankful collage, where a poster board becomes a canvas for kids to draw or paste pictures of things they are thankful for. Serve candy corn, pumpkin cookies and apple cider (hot or cold). Convert solid color paper bags into turkey fun bags and “stuff” them with mini pumpkins, coloring/activity books, modeling clay and stickers for departing guests.

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel     

From Dec. 20 – 27, Hanukkah gatherings abound, celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights with traditional games, stories, songs and food. If you’re hosting one of the cherished eight days of celebration, get crafty and send out handmade menorah- and dreidel-shaped invitations created by you and your children. For extra color, add lots of blue, white, silver and gold balloons.

Craft a Hanukkah banner on poster board, allowing small guests to color the menorah and dreidel pictures during storytime. Once everyone has played driedel they can devour potato latkes, applesauce and everyone’s favorite – macaroni and cheese. Hanukkah favors should include small driedels and chocolate gelt (coins).

Frosty Arrives When Bells Jingle

This yuletide, turn your tree trimming duties into a party. Send guests handmade invitations that are in the shapes of a Christmas tree or gingerbread man. Encourage sharing by asking guests to bring a new toy to donate for local charity. Children can make Christmas arts and crafts, play fun games and enjoy yummy holiday treats! Luminaries can brighten your evening bash along with silver streamers and paper snowflakes scattered about.

Ring in the season by singing Christmas carols and sharing yuletide memories. When it’s tree-trimming time, separate activities by ages, allowing the younger children the opportunity to go first. Guests ages 3 and up will enjoy edible cookie crafting. Decorate freshly baked sugar cookies with colored icing, sprinkles and small candies (use red hots, M&M’s, etc.). Take the chill off the evening by serving chili, soup or stew, along with snowman face sandwiches made of crackers topped with crème cheese and olives placed as eyes. Fun favors should include candy canes, jingle bells and a candle for luminaries.  

Jamie Jarvis is creator of, a Web site offering resources for planning kids’ parties.