So many holiday events, so little time. Whether your last stretch includes caroling parties, cookie exchanges, an office holiday function, or yet another classroom party, we feel you. So fear not! PlanHero can streamline the process dramatically and cut-down on all of those annoying reply-all emails and group texts. Because nothing can induce holiday rage quicker than an over-stuffed inbox filled with reply-all threads.


Holiday Party Planning Made Easy with PlanHero




Christmas Caroling Party

When I was growing up, all of us neighborhood kids would gather to carol around our neighborhood. We would practice a few times, and those of us with, ahem, limited vocal ability, would rely upon the more talented in our group to hit the high notes (I’m looking at you, Leslie B). It’s funny; though I grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I don’t recall whether it was rainy out or whether the details were perfect. I remember it being cold, but more than anything, I remember the excitement and how much I enjoyed Christmas caroling. Admittedly, it was always a thrill when a neighbor would hand-out treats after a rousing finish of “…now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding,” but even at a young age, I was aware that despite our unpolished singing, we transported even the most ornery neighbor into the holiday spirit.


Our sons were raised in the country, so they didn’t have the same opportunity–but maybe you and your children do. Whether it’s off-key caroling with the neighborhood gang or an evening spent around the table playing cards, it’s a great reminder that what stays with us are the small things and traditions count. Especially now that we’re the ones in charge of all the big stuff.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Have people sign up to bring snacks or a potluck supper before heading out to sing
  • Have people sign up to have hot cocoa ready and waiting when chilly carolers return home
  • Got music? Make sure someone has a handle on the lyrics
  • Track attendance–know who is showing up to belt out those high notes



Holiday Party Planning Made Easy with PlanHero - Cookie Swap Mom and Daughter


Cookie Exchanges or Cookie Swaps

Some of our team has experience with cookie exchanges, I do not. So I did what every self-respecting mother would do. I quietly looked it up online. It turns out that one of the early adopters (and authors) on the subject was from right here in Santa Barbara! How about that. See what you learn when you’re ignorant? The idea behind a cookie exchange (also called a cookie swap) is two-fold: 1) It cuts down on the amount of baking one needs to do during the holidays; and 2) It makes a lovely homemade DIY gift to hand out to family and friends.


Robin Olson, author, of The Cookie Party Cookbook, explains the how-to’s of hosting a successful cookie exchange on her website.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for all the different types of cookies you want people to bring (she who signs up first has the greatest number of choices) 😊
  • Get signups for things like appetizers, coffee, tea, or wine (depending on what time you’re holding your exchange)
  • You may want to include a cookie box decorating party along with the exchange–you can get signups for that too
  • Track attendance–know who is coming
  • Here’s an example Cookie Exchange signup 





Family Christmas Dinner

My husband deserves a medal. Seriously. He does. We have been married since 1991, and he has spent every single Christmas at my family’s home in Oregon with the exception of two. On Christmas Eve, we go to church, then we cover the dining room table with newspaper, and we start cracking fresh crab. My mom bakes homemade bread that is to die for, and we round it out with a fresh green salad. My younger sister takes all the cousins on Christmas Eve day to purchase a bunch of white elephant gifts at The Dollar Store. Those are stuffed into paper sacks which are then nearly hurled around the table during a rousing game of Mr. and Mrs. Wright following dinner.

Christmas dinner is a more civilized event at our family home. It typically involves beef of some stripe (filet being the favorite of late), mashed potatoes, Ina Garten’s Spinach au Gratin, homemade rolls (my mom’s of course–the cousins lurk about the kitchen hoping to pilfer a few before dinner), a salad, and various gravies, jellies, jams, and sauces. Mom blesses us with a rich chocolate mousse nestled in a bed of flaky phyllo dough for dessert.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for side dishes, appetizers, and drinks (take the load off the hostess – maybe add a signup for someone to come up with a special holiday cocktail)
  • Get signups for things like extra folding tables, chairs, or tablecloths if your group is extra large
  • Add a little levity: let someone sign up to organize a game or some other form of merriment (a few years ago we created our own Jeopardy…very fun)
  • Track attendance–know who is coming so you can set the table accordingly (and know whether or not you’re going to need extra rolls if all the cousins are coming)
  • Check out our Christmas Dinner signup example





Holiday Gift Wrapping Party

Why not? Everything’s more fun when you make it a party. PlanHero wraps up all the details to make party planning quick and easy. Plus, when Santa’s elves are all sharing their wrapping paper, they might just thwart curious young minds for another year of “I believe” bliss.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for treats and refreshments (did somebody say wine and Schnapp’s?)
  • Get signups for wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, bows, scissors, gift tags
  • Track attendance–know who’s coming


Or…wrap gifts for a charitable event. In this case, you will probably want to enlist the help of lots of great volunteers who will want to select smaller time spots (we recommend 1-2 hour increments) over the span of a day. Check out our example here.





Hanukkah Celebrations

With so many evenings to celebrate, why not celebrate the Festival of Lights at your house one night? Make it easy on yourself by asking guests to bring some of the traditional Hanukkah foods–then you can actually participate in the fun too.


Use PlanHero to:

  • You supply the latkes, but have friends and family sign up to bring the sour cream and applesauce.
  • You supply the brisket, but get signups for side dishes, appetizers (think cheeses to commemorate Judith), and desserts (sufganiot, Hanukkah sugar cookies, or an olive oil cake)
  • Get signups for things like extra folding tables, chairs, or tablecloths if your group is extra large
  • Track attendance–know who is coming so you can set a beautiful table





New Year’s Eve Party

Ah. The New Year. We know some of you over-achievers will already have your tree down and in the burn pile, your precious Christmas ornaments all neatly stored and tucked back into the attic, and your holiday card list updated with all the address changes. For the rest of us, we’ll be ringing in the New Year with the smell of Douglas Fir deep in our lungs and tripping over the ornaments that the cat has batted off the lower tree branches. Either way, IT IS TIME TO CELEBRATE!


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for who is bringing what: Champagne, appetizers, playlists, sparklers, cocktails, did we say Champagne?
  • Get volunteers to orchestrate activities (maybe some charades, count-down balloons…here are some fun ideas from Heidi at Happiness is Homemade )
  • Track attendance–know who is coming so you can ensure you’ve got enough Champagne flutes




Holiday Meal or Food Drive for Families in Need

This is an easy way to get children involved with helping others at an early age. It’s a very approachable subject and a great way to plant seeds of compassion and community spirit. As a basic need, it’s not difficult for someone of any age to get her head around being hungry. Corral a couple of your friends to join you in organizing your own food drive. Coordinate with local nonprofits that can direct you to the areas of greatest need. Children can help decorate meal delivery boxes and load and unload boxes at drop-off stations. I still remember how I felt when I helped my own mom deliver holiday hams to some very humble apartments during the holidays.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for holiday meals–either whole meals–one family or group donates an entire meal–or single meal items (e.g. turkey, ham, bag of potatoes, fresh or canned produce, pies)
  • Get signups for a food drive (food that will be used during the holidays and beyond)–Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) suggests: rice (2# bags), canned juices, canned veggies, ground coffee, canned fruit, peanut butter, oatmeal, canned tuna, pinto beans (2# bags), canned tomatoes, canned soup, and spaghetti
  • Get signups for pick-up and delivery
  • Then make someone smile!





Holiday Office Party

Ah. The old office party. So. Many. Stories. There’s always someone who rolls in wearing the SERIOUSLY OUT OF CHARACTER outfit. Or the person who drinks waaaaaay too much. Or the pair who shows up together (I was always the last to know). Between my husband and myself, we’ve seen it all. We’ve been to humble, modest get-togethers, and to sumptuous dinners followed by dancing (that’s a whole other topic). Bottom line, if you’re in charge, we can help.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for food items and drinks if you’re leaning toward the humble, modest get-together
  • Get volunteers to orchestrate activities (games, raffles, contests, faux-gambling)
  • Track attendance–know who is coming so you don’t waste the dough that you’ve worked so hard all year to earn




Classroom Holiday Party

Are you planning a classroom holiday party? You don’t have to go it alone. Enlist the help of your fellow parents. We were super fortunate with one of my son’s classes. The son of one of the owner’s of famed The Solvang Bakery was in it. These are the people who deliver gingerbread masterpieces to the stars (Kelly Ripa raves about hers every year). We could always count on sweet Melissa and her mom to provide delicious short bread cookies and an assortment of frostings for the kids to decorate. Even if you don’t have a Melissa, a class party can sour quickly if someone forgets to bring the cups for hot cocoa.


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for treats
  • Get signups for activities (crafts, games, word finds, puzzles, etc)
  • Get signups for in-class helpers…no one wants to clean-up by herself




Holiday Musical Performance

I still get chills remembering my own music performances, and to this day I can still hear the nails on a chalkboard squeaking of my clarinet. Not the good kind of chills. The hair-on-your-arm-standing-on-end kind of chills. Okay, moving along. Your child might actually have some musical talent or at least love performing. The little country grade school that our boys attended had a lovely annual holiday musical performance featuring singing by each grade and performances by the various instrumental musical groups. The evening always ended with treats and refreshments provided by the PTA (which honestly should stand for Planning Things, Always).


Use PlanHero to:

  • Get signups for treats and refreshments
  • Get signups for set-up and clean-up



Have any great holiday party ideas to share? Let’s hear ’em! Good luck, everyone!