Hosting Tips

A “Home for the Holidays” Happy Hour

All I want for Christmas.

By Camille Styles

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the holidays than I am this year. Which is saying a lot, considering I’ve been known to start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween.

Let’s face it: 2020 has been a real doozy, and we could all use something to look forward to. The holidays are my favorite time to slow down and reconnect with the people I love, which feels especially meaningful this year.

We’re looking forward to lots of cozy nights at home as a family, and my brother’s family is coming in from St. Louis for a long-awaited visit. To celebrate their arrival, I’m planning a “Home for the Holidays” Happy Hour that will be a special way to gather everyone around the table. For this year’s holiday decor, I’m focusing on a few new pieces from Target’s holiday collection that spark joy and make the house magical. Just add our favorite classic Christmas movies and delicious homemade food that invites conversation around the table, and our home will be a haven for the people we love this season.

camille styles home holiday decorations christmas hot cocoa bar with decorated cookiesshop the look: Oversized Frosted Pine Wreath; Gold Lurex Stripe Stocking in Cream; Long Needle Berry Grass Garland; Brass Stocking Holder; Merry Everything Mug; Mrs. Claus Mug; Prelit Potted Iced Glittered Balsam Fir Artificial Tree  

Old, Meet New

For me, the holidays are a time to embrace tradition and lean into nostalgia, and I always relish heading up to the attic to get out my favorite ornaments and decor from past years. But I also love to keep things fresh: my annual holiday Target run to stock up new decor, ornaments and gift wrap is also one of my favorite traditions! This year I’m loving all the natural materials and earthy tones from the collections that go so well with my mostly-neutral home.

Nothing says classic holiday style quite like good greenery, and Target’s selection is always on point. I love hanging a simple wreath over my mantle to set the scene in my living room, and a good garland draped underneath is always a must. These white furry stockings are a fun addition this year, and are a great way to add in some holiday style without breaking the bank. We usually decorate the tree with some basic metallic ornaments to create a uniform look that is just subtle enough to let the whole scene shine. Plus, the more trees, the merrier! These mini pre-lit artificial trees bring the shimmer and warmth to a whole other level.

camille styles setting the table for christmas

cute decorated christmas cookies - christmas tree, stocking, candy cane, snowman, snowflake

camille's husband adam and son henry at christmasshop the look: Litchfield 72″ Rectangle Extension Dining Table in Wheat; Litchfield X-Back Dining Chair in Wheat; Merry Christmas Wine Glasses; Red Cream Table Runner; Merry Christmas App Plates; Plaid App Plates; Tree Serve Tray; Threshold Merry Christmas Dinner Plate; Birch Cone Tree 

The Grazing Table

The older I get, the more I love a hands-off menu where I can set it and forget it. A few festive appetizers and a large-batch cocktail that I can advance prep will allow me to join in the fun – no last-minute rushing around needed. I also love ditching the perfect place settings and formally set meals in favor of a casual “grazing table” so that if anyone is running late, there’s no stressing over the food. It’s a simple, more casual way to feed houseguests, and I love that it encourages everyone to gather around the table and catch up with one another.

Holiday appetizer plates and napkins feel festive (and keep dishes to a minimum.) Everyone can come on in whenever they get here, and plenty of cozy snacks will be there to welcome them. These melamine appetizer plates are a win-win at $10 for a 4-pack, and pretty much unbreakable. These days, I’ll take all the kid-proof holiday decor I can get my hands on.

squash, blue cheese and sage flatbread - easy holiday appetizers for happy hour

On the grazing board menu:

Winter Squash and Blue Cheese Flatbread

Vegetable Crudité “Wreath”

Decorated Sugar Cookies

Winter Sangria

squash, blue cheese and sage flatbread - easy holiday appetizer

For a grazing table-style feast, I like to prepare. a “main” that’s snackable, but hearty enough for a meal. Flatbread checks all the boxes: it’s easy to prepare ahead of time and always a hit. This roasted butternut squash, blue cheese and sage combo embraces all the cozy winter flavors and looks so pretty, too. And let’s just say there are never any leftovers.

vegetable crudite holiday wreath - easy holiday appetizer

vegetable crudite holiday wreath - easy holiday appetizershop the look: Wreath Serve Tray; Threshold Mini Bowls in Red StripeRed Cream Table Runner; Merry Christmas App Plates; Plaid App Plates

This vegetable crudité “wreath” is the perfect way to give a nod to our Christmas theme without going overboard cheesy. Just choose your veg (I used broccolini, asparagus,  multicolored carrots, romanesco, dark red cherry tomatoes, and green olives) and artfully arrange them around a dip of choice: hummus, tzatziki, or everything seasoned ranch are all perfect. It’s also a really sneaky way to get kids to supplement their Christmas cookie diet with some major veg.

holiday happy hour bar setup - winter sangria and hot cocoa barshop the look: Opalhouse Minsmere Caned Chest Natural Brown; Oversized Frosted Pine Wreath; Red Cream Table Runner; Merry Christmas Wine Glasses; Plaid Cork Coasters; Large Glass Hurricane; Oh Snap Mug; Merry Everything Mug; Cup of Cozy Mug

An Impromptu Bar

No need for a tricked out bar cart; a console setup in the entryway makes a festive self serve beverage station, especially when you add a few holiday touches. It’s the perfect way to welcome out-of-town family, and lightens the load for me since everyone can help themselves to seconds. For a group, I love to make a large batch cocktail in a beautiful pitcher or punch bowl – this year, I’m making a festive Winter Sangria.

Spiced Up Sangria

This winter sangria is the perfect large-batch cocktail to make in a pitcher or punch bowl, and let guests help themselves all afternoon. To make it, just combine:

  • 1 bottle sauvignon blanc
  • 1/2 cup apple brandy
  • Fruits of choice: apples, pears, blood oranges, cranberries, etc.
  • Winter spices and herbs: cinnamon sticks, star anise, rosemary, etc.

Chill for a few hours or overnight, then serve topped off with sparkling water. Cheers!

camille and daughter phoebe baking christmas cookies in kitchen

cute decorated christmas cookies - christmas tree, stocking, candy cane, snowman, snowflakeshop the look: Made By Design Non-stick Jumbo Cookie Sheet Carbon Steel; KitchenAid Ultra Power 5-Speed Hand Mixer; Made By Design Beechwood 10″ Rolling Pin; Threshold Multi Plaid Towel; Threshold Green Plaid Towel; Red Silicone Spatula; KitchenAid 3 pc Mixing Bowl Set; Threshold Mini Bowls in Green Stripe  

The Family That Bakes Together

The smell of cookies in the oven is synonymous with the holidays, and I’ve found that setting out supplies for cookie decorating is an activity that kids and adults always love to do together. Phoebe and I got a jump start by rolling out cookie dough and using cookie cutters to make festive shapes before baking. At $1 per cookie cutter, we love stocking up on kinds of festive shapes and sizes.

After everyone’s eaten their fill of appetizers, we’ll setup a corner of the kitchen counter where they can get creative and decorate their own treats with sprinkles, frosting, and sparkle.

cute decorated christmas cookies - christmas tree, stocking, candy cane, snowman, snowflakecute decorated christmas cookies - christmas tree, stocking, candy cane, snowman, snowflakeshop the look: Classic Stripe Apron – Adult; Classic Stripe Apron – Child; Threshold 3 pc mini bowls in Green Stripe; Threshold Multi Plaid Towel; Tree Cookie Cutter; Ornament Cookie Cutter; Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter; Snowflake Cookie Cutter; Wilton Mega Cookie Sheet With Cooling Racks; Wilton Cookie Decorating Set 

When it comes to cookie decorating, there are a few tips and tools that can make your life (and cleanup) a little easier.

  • Holiday cookie cutters give instant festive vibes, and it’s especially fun for littles to choose their favorite shapes.
  • An out-of-the-box cookie decorating set eases the icing process with pre-filled packets for easy application.
  • Grab a couple of mini bowls for organizing toppings and sprinkles, so anyone can grab a pinch (instead of dumping out the entire canister – I’ve learned the hard way.)
  • A cookie sheet with cooling racks not only helps your cookies cool off after they come out of the oven, but also catches any sprinkles or icing that fall underneath while decorating.
  • Holiday towels are great to have on hand for wiping up any spills – because when it comes to cookie decorating, you’ve got to embrace the mess.

These amazingly perfect cookies were provided by Pink Lemon Cookies – hop right over here for more of Chelsea’s beautiful work.

christmas cookies and tree

drinking hot cocoa by the fire at christmas shop the look: Project 62 Harper Fur Slipper Chair – Sherpa; Threshold Judith Fur Ottoman in White; Threshold Woodland Short Carved Wood Table in Brown; Threshold Woodland Tall Carved Wood Table in Brown; Threshold Haverhill Reclaimed Wood Round Coffee Table in Brown; Metallic Ornament Set 

Bring On the Cozy

When friends and family come over to celebrate, I’m all about the cozy vibes. I want them to feel welcome and comfortable from the moment they walk through my front door! I’m cozying up the house with Target’s luxe faux fur throws and pillows, draping a big fuzzy blanket over my couch, and engaging all the senses with some winter candles burning.

christmas hot cocoa bar with decorated cookies

One of my favorite parts of holiday gatherings is that lazy time post-meal, when everyone’s totally relaxed, playing games or watching Christmas movies. I want to make the space so cozy that my fam never wants to leave their spot in front of the fire – and I can talk them into one more (spiked) cup of cocoa to end the night.

decorating the christmas tree

matching family christmas pajamas