There’s no shortage of things to love about the holidays. Aside from gingerbread houses, matching PJ sets, and Hallmark movie marathons aside, the season’s best attribute is the festive decor you get to sprinkle around your home to bring month-long joy.
Before guests start flooding in, it’s a good idea to lay a foundation for the festivities, then pepper in different wares as each event takes place. Although twinkle lights and pine-scented flourishes are always a given, the rest of your decor all depends on the type of get-together you’re hosting.
Here’s how to make each one of your holiday gatherings feel unique.
Holiday Cocktail Party
Since drinks at home can feel pretty casual, try this easy upgrade: “Elevate the moment and make your gesture of hospitality even more special by serving a beverage to suit the season or occasion,” suggests Alexandra Gove, author of Dwell, Gather, Be: Thoughtful Interiors for a Hygge Home and a Happy Life.
Keeping the star of the event — the cocktail — in focus, Gove recommends greeting guests at the door with a welcome drink when they arrive. “[It’s] a small but meaningful gesture to convey how happy you are to be in their company,” she says.
Depending on what you’re serving, “select drinkware to complement and enhance the beverage,” she says. For instance, set up a bar cart and use vintage glassware for a festive cranberry cocktail or a cozy mugs to go with spiked (or non-spiked) eggnog.
White Elephant Party
It may seem crazy to think about taking this classic party outdoors, but Gove promises a truly magical experience if you do it right. “Set up a long table in the backyard with sheepskins, blankets on the chairs, and place fire pits or heaters around the table,” she suggests. (Is it just too cold to do that where you live? Head to the dining room.)
Opt to host the actual gift exchange among the wintry elements, or keep the festivities going by serving warming dishes outside, too, such as bowls of soup, red wine, and everybody’s fave: s’mores.
Holiday traditions are yours to decide. For Gove, the magic of Christmas morning centers on the elaborate breakfast spread her mom sets out with hot cocoa, eggs, bacon, and pancakes, which you can keep warm under a pretty cake server.
“We still enjoy a Christmas morning feast with the family, but the cocoa has been exchanged for champagne with a scoop of sorbet,” she says.
Before everyone wakes up, start simmering a pot of cocoa or cider and coffee, light a fire or a pine-scented candle, and keep the Christmas tree lights going throughout the day.
Take a break from red and green decor—which can trigger frantic feelings that often accompany the holidays — says interior designer Laurence Carr.
Instead, swap in a black and white table runner, and maintain the theme all the way through your tabletop decor with cream or eggshell plates, whimsical brushed gold flatware, and cotton napkins for a rustic, homey feel.
Add a shot of color to the table with foraged, fresh wintry greens or an orange pomander. “Organic, somewhat asymmetrical pieces are the backbone of an inviting table,” Carr says.
Holiday Movie Night
The most important must-have for a cozy movie night: comfortable rugs. Layer them with floor pillows, soft blankets, and sheepskins for the ultimate hygge vibe.
Then, load the coffee table with on-theme movie treats, Gove suggests. Think: hot cocoa, popcorn, and traditional holiday sweets.
Dim the lights enough to be able to see your screen, but let the Christmas tree lights twinkle.