The difference between a so-so party and an outstanding one could hinge on planning a theme and a few simple activities in advance. These activities are easy to plan and execute at your condo.

1. Gingerbread House Decoration Contest: The tradition of decorating a gingerbread house for Christmas may seem like a kiddy treat, but it adults get incredibly creative (and competitive) with this fun activity! Many grocery stores have small gingerbread kits right now, which eliminates baking or hunting for ingredients. The hosts are the judges for this timed event, with guest paired as a team. Each couple can take their creation home, or snack on it!

2. Holiday Movie Marathon: Have friends from the condo community come over to watch classic Christmas movies, and plan a few fun activities during the show. For example, challenging guests to be the first one to spot anyone wearing a Santa hat the fastest is a fun ice-breaker. If there is a commercial break, see who can wrap a present durig the break the best/fastest- blindfolded! For those not driving, many holiday movie titles have drinking games already figured out, like this one for Elf. You can also attach a drinking game to any Hallmark movie, each time someone in the show does something Hallmarky, like kiss under the mistletoe or get’s filled with holiday spirit. This page on Country Living has a printable graphic for the game. Hint: Make sure to have fun non-alcoholic “mocktails” on hand for those that don’t imbibe or may be driving. Not drinking alcohol is trending this year!

3. Holiday Trivia Night: Trivia parties are all the rage, and this one has a twist. As guests arrive, have them put their names in a Santa hat. Pair two unrelated guests together as a team (or groupings of four for larger gatherings), which is also a great way for neighbors to get to know one another better. The host, who is also the game master, should load up on Christmas categories and Christmas trivia which can easily be found on the internet. To be inclusive, consider including winter holiday traditions in the mix other than Christmas, like Chanukah and Kwanza. And, of course, don’t forget to prepare prizes for the winners!

4. Exchanging White Elephant Gifts with a Twist: Exchanging gifts among friends has been an ongoing tradition during the Yuletide season. So if you feel that the usual ritual is too boring, ask guest in advance to find the most ridiculous or oddly unused item in the back of a closet at home or purchase one at the dollar store, and wrap the item in holiday paper. Each guest that brings a “White Elephant” gift is given a number when they arrive. Gifts are placed in a pile. When a person’s number is called, they can pick from the pile of gifts or steal someone else’s gift! You can even go around again after everything is opened, for more guest stealing of hilarious items.

5. Ideas if Kids are Expected. While adults play and mingle, kids can have (supervised) fun too with a cookie decorating station or craft area. Assign (or hire) two kid’s hosts to help out. If you know invited guests have older teens, you could recruit them in advance.  Have pre-baked sugar cookies, colored frosting and sprinkles ready. heavy duty sandwich size zip locks with a small corner snipped off work great as frosting decorator bags. For a fun and easy craft, balsa wood ornament “blanks” can be purchased in bulk very affordably (check Ben Franklin on Maui), and pair with a large bin of colored markers. For either activity, cover the work table with craft paper, and have some refreshments nearby. There are a variety of fun flavored fizzy drinks at the grocery store that are clear, ie, non staining!

6. Don’t Forget Music. YouTube is absolutely great to call up lengthy music mixes for your gathering. From a laptop or tablet, search for terms like “commercial-free holiday jazz for party” or “kids Christmas music for party” for tracks that are hours long.  Many smart TV’s and cable services also have music channels, or call up Pandora music service. The free version does not have too many commercials.  Attach a small speaker to your device to keep the music localized to the activity area and avoid noise complaints.

Consider inviting someone new to your community this year. Gathering together with new friends and old builds warmth and good will that lasts far into the new year.