When I was little, my parents always threw a White Elephant Christmas party. I ran around in my Clara (from the Nutcracker) pajamas and watched quietly as everyone fought over the best gifts. The most memorable parties were the ones when my dad would let me pick his gift. Now that I'm all grown up I'm planning my own version of a White Elephant party with a red and green theme. Not only am I asking guests to bring a wrapped gift, I'm asking them to come dressed in red, green or a combination of both colors. To carry the theme throughout the party, I'm only making red and green food. Wanna host this party too?

Definition: For anyone who doesn't know exactly how a White Elephant works, here's a quick definition: a White Elephant is a type of gift exchange in which each guest is asked to bring an anonymous wrapped gift. During the party guests draw numbers to reveal the order in which they select the gifts. The person assigned with #1 picks, unwraps, and displays a gift. Next the person assigned with #2 has the choice to either steal #1's gift (#1 then must select and unwrap a gift from the pile) or open a wrapped gift. For each subsequent number, players can choose between any of the opened gifts or any of the unopened gifts. Read more on how to host a white elephant.

Invites: I am going to create an elephant stencil using the picture of this elephant (I will remove the elephant's tusks because I want a friendly elephant). Next I will cut out elephant shapes on white card stock to create an elephant shaped invite that will fit in a regular 5x7 card envelope. To make him festive you decorate with red and green glitter, sequins, ribbon, shiny paper, and thread. I'm going to give mine a necklace of red and green sequins with red and green thread. I'll make sure to put sequins on both sides of the card, then leave one side blank and put the party information on the other. At the bottom of the invite I'll write, Red and Green Attire Requested, to let guests know I want them to come dressed in bright reds and merry greens. I'll send the invites in red or green envelopes written in contrasting green and red ink.

Menu: Although you may think I'm crazy to create a whole menu with only red and green ingredients it's actually a lot easier than you realize. Tons of foods are red and green. Make three little appetizers for people to nibble on while unwrapping gifts. The first is bruschetta: the red ingredient: tomatoes, the green ingredient: basil. The second is an Italian quesadilla with roasted red peppers. The recipe calls for regular white tortillas but to get a green ingredient I'll substitute green spinach tortillas. The third and final appetizer will be meatballs in a red sauce served with green toothpicks. Put out bowls of red cherry tomatoes and green olives for guests to snack on. Red velvet cupcakes with green frosting (tinted with food coloring) and bowls of red and green M&M's round out the food. Note: Don't arrange all the food on one table, spread it around the room to create a flow for the party that promotes mingling.

Decorations: Red and green everywhere! Red and green candles, plates, napkins and tablecloths. See if you can get a few bouquets of fresh poinsettias-if not, use the fake and sparkly kind to add a super Christmasy feel. Designate a spot for guests to place their presents when they arrive. Write out the number of guests on green paper and place in a Santa hat. Place chairs together to form clusters for guests to sit on during the White Elephant.

Music: Create a red and green play list with a compilation of old and new CDs by Red Hot Chile Peppers, Green Day, or Al Green. Toss in a few Christmas classics like Green Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Drinks: Serve Heineken or Heineken Light for green and red wine for red. For a red cocktail make a red apple martini (recipe below), for a green cocktail shake up dead grasshoppers, and for a nonalcoholic option serve Shirley Temples (Sprite with grenadine).

Red Apple Martini
From Instyle (December 2003) magazine

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup finely crushed candy canes
5 cups vodka
5 cups sour-apple schnapps
7 cups apple juice

  1. Dip martini-glass rims into a bowl of fresh lemon juice, then into a dish of finely crushed candy canes.
  2. Mix vodka, sour-apple schnapps, and apple juice; chill several hours until start of party.
  3. When ready to serve, mix in ice-filled shaker. Pour into glasses; garnish with apple slices.
  4. Serves 20.