5 Excuses to Throw a Party This Winter

By+Jenna Guerin

Winter bears the infamous reputation of being a season we dread. We look forward in earnest anticipation of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the first snowfall of the season, and then we begrudgingly shut the door on Old Man Winter. However, as we in the Midwest have come to learn, just because we are done with winter, doesn’t mean that winter is done with us.

Quite the opposite, actually. It seems that the more we openly proclaim our hatred for the season, the more it declares war on us. With that said, let us make an honest effort to change our approach to winter this year. In fact, we have decided to make the frosty weather our excuse to party all-season long. These five party ideas will actually make you excited to hunker down this season.


Host a Cookie Exchange

The frigid winter temperatures deliver the perfect excuse to warm up the house by turning on the oven. Cookies equal cozy and are we not all in search of feelings of coziness in winter? Invite friends and family over in the month of December and ask each person to RSVP with the type of cookie they plan to bring. Variety is the key to a successful cookie exchange. Traditional recipes are always well-received on any cookie platter, but don’t be afraid to venture out with a twist on a classic cookie!

Encourage guests to bring a dozen cookies per guest plus an additional dozen to munch on throughout the event. Each guest should also write down the recipe on an index card to exchange with other attendees. This is a festive way to add new recipes to your arsenal and add a new tradition to your holidays!

During the cookie exchange, provide containers for guests to package cookies up to take home. Cookie tins and trays are relatively cheap at dollar and craft stores. While we are firm believers that you can make a meal out of cookies, providing appetizers turns a cookie exchange into a party! We suggest ordering appetizer platters from Oh Mamma’s on the Avenue in South Bend. Oh Mamma’s offers trays of artisan cheeses, specialty meats and other light appetizers that are sure to please party guests, in addition to the cookies!



Ah, Friendsgiving, the Thanksgiving trend brought to you by millennials. The phenomenon began as a way for friends to embrace the holiday if they were unable to make it home to be with family. Now, it’s a perfectly acceptable addition to any Thanksgiving tradition. This is usually executed potluck-style, but the host is responsible for providing the turkey. The host can assign general dishes to guests or allow guests to sign up for a dish they’d like to contribute. Do not assign a specific dish, but keep it general like “cold appetizer” or “Thanksgiving dessert.”

The entire purpose of Friendsgiving is to be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving-esque event without the stress of hosting a holiday. Keep it simple! However, if you’re leaning toward hosting a more sophisticated dinner party, consider renting table linens, china, flatware and decor from a place like Burns Rent-Alls or Aay’s Rentals, both located in Mishawaka. Another possibility is to hire an event design company like MichaelAngelo’s in South Bend. These companies can offer vision and expertise on event design plus the rentals to execute a flawless dinner party.


Mardi Gras

There is nothing like a Mardi Gras party to add a little color to the dreary winter. Host your party the weekend before or after Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras thrives on masquerades so invite guests to wear colorful costumes and masks. The food is of course the next most important element of the New Orleans-style festival. Traditional Cajun and Creole dishes usually include some variation of jambalaya, gumbo, fried shrimp, and New Orleans slow cooker red beans and rice. A must-have menu item is the colorful King Cake, a coffee cake-like dessert topped with sugar and icing. 

The decor, Mardi Gras beads and masks can easily be purchased at a dollar or party store. If you’re looking to throw a more extravagant event, there are plenty of local resources at your disposal.

Looking for costumes or themed decorations? Burns Rent-Alls, Inc. has a large selection of costume and prop rentals to make your guests feel like they’re right in the middle of Bourbon Street!

And if the Mardi Gras menu intimidates you, look no further than Chicory Cafe in the heart of downtown South Bend. The Chicory Cafe is a charming coffeehouse that specializes in New Orleans-style food. They have an extensive catering menu, complete with items like jambalaya, seafood gumbo, muffulettas, beignets and even Cajun crawfish mac and cheese! Did we mention that the delivery is free with a $100 purchase?


Chili Feed

Few things warm the heart like steaming chili on a winter day. Gather friends and family for a chili feed or a chili cook-off. Crank up the slow cookers, bake the cornbread and gather the toppings. If your chili recipe requires your full attention, plenty of bakeries sell cornbread. Try Breadsmith bakery in South Bend. Breadsmith sells a variety of cornbreads in flavors like cheddar, jalapeño and even cranberry. 

Provide name cards for guests to write down the name of their chili recipe and ask guests to also bring a few index cards with the recipe written down to exchange. If you decide to do a chili contest, have guests vote using the title of the name card! 

Although the chili makes for an excellent main attraction, plan another interactive experience for your friends. Game nights are a laid-back approach to entertaining. You can even take the events outdoors with a competitive broomball game (if there’s a nearby body of water)! 


Holiday Mail for Heroes

Holiday Mail for Heroes is an annual holiday event put on by the Red Cross. Although many local chapters of the Red Cross put on their own Holiday Mail for Heroes event, you can certainly hold your own! In essence, the event’s purpose is to gather friends and family to create and send a card of gratitude and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families. 

Coordinate with your local chapter (the Northern Indiana chapter is located in South Bend, while the Michigan chapter is in Detroit) for details--there are guidelines on etiquette and safety restrictions that require consideration. If your local chapter is not participating, they can still tell you where to send the cards directly or will allow you to drop the cards off at their office.

Although this type of party requires planning and coordination, it’s the perfect way to get into the charitable, holiday spirit! You could easily combine this with the Cookie Exchange party idea previously listed or add it a simple wine and cheese party! 

Make sure to provide art materials for guests! From card stock to markers, tape and glue, set up stations for people to get creative. You can also purchase already-made holiday cards and ask guests to write a simple message inside.