By Rachel Cottrell,  contributing writer

Presents

I’M NOT ASHAMED to admit that Christmas holiday centered discussions start well before November 1 in our house. One of the big reasons I’m so Christmasobsessed is because of how much I look forward to spending time with friends and family and continuing traditions with my own little family.

I have 3-year-old twin boys who are just beginning to recognize traditions and look forward to things they can remember doing last year. One of my goals for this year is to establish some family traditions they can continue looking forward to. A favorite of mine is hosting holiday parties.

Secret Santa and White Elephant parties where guests swap silly “joke” gifts are two popular traditions. I’m not a huge fan of either of these because (a) I’m admittedly picky to shop for and (b) I don’t like “junk.” The last thing I want around the holidays, when I’m already preparing for the onslaught of new additions to our household inventory, is to purchase and/or receive more silly, purposeless knick-knacks. Instead, I like to participate in a different kind of themed party: a Favorite Things party.

If you’ve never attended a Favorite Things party, let me explain the premise: Guests are given a budget and a theme to purchase and bring a certain number of “favorites” as gifts to the party.
For example, if I’m attending a summer-themed Favorite Things party, I might bring three copies of my favorite beach book. Or, if I’m hosting a girls’ night with the theme “Fall Favorites,” I’d bring three of my favorite fall candles from Bath and Body Works. Then, at the party, guests exchange gifts to leave with the same number of products they arrived with, but they get to take home a variety of new gifts.
Here are a few reasons why a Favorite Things party is the greatest type of party:

The theme is versatile. You can cater your Favorite Things party to fit any group size, budget, or theme.

You leave with multiple party favors. These favors come with a high recommendation — this is another guest’s FAVORITE. I’ve learned about several new products that I still use as a result of receiving them as a gift at a Favorite Things party. I likely wouldn’t have chosen to branch out to purchase any of them myself, so I’m glad my friends brought them

It’s easy on the host. A Favorite Things party can be thrown anywhere and you don’t even need to worry about party favors. Guests will already be leaving with as much as they brought!

Beyond that, guests will be spending about the same as they would for a White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange party, but they’ll get to take home some really nice new things to try. It’s just so much more fun to anticipate what you’ll bring home, keeping with that surprise aspect you get from other holiday parties, but knowing that you’ll get to try some new, practical things you wouldn’t ordinarily buy for yourself.

I can hardly wait to begin preparations for all the festivities I’ve been mentally planning for an embarrassing number of months. Happy party planning!

How to Throw a Favorite Things Party
STEP ONE | Plan your guest list. This will help you decide on the budget and quantity of gifts attendees should bring. I like to keep the budget around $5-$10 per gift, depending on how many gifts are brought. For small groups, I’d suggest three $10 gifts, but for a larger group, I’d recommend everyone bring five $5 gifts.

STEP TWO | Plan your theme. You can choose a holiday-themed party, like “Favorite Stocking Stuffer” or “Favorite Holiday Treat,” or simply a general Favorite ANYThing party. Decide this in advance as it might impact your budget and you’ll want to give your guests an idea of what they could purchase.

STEP THREE | Send out invites. Give your guests advance notice, not only so they can fit the party into their packed holiday schedules, but so they can plan a shopping trip or have time to order their favorite things online. I recommend at least two week’s notice when sending out your invites. Don’t forget to ask for an RSVP!

STEP FOUR | Plan the evening. Decide whether you’ll ask for contributions to a group meal, or simply provide a few snacks. Alternatively, if your party is Favorite Treat-themed, you probably don’t need to plan much more than maybe some drinks! The gift exchange will take up a large portion of your evening’s activities, but if you’d like to fit anything else in, plan a few games or activities per age group.

STEP FIVE | Party execution. As the guests arrive, have them drop off their favorite things on a table where the entire group can take a peek at the offerings. You can either host a raffle for each gift, or allow guests to take turns selecting their favorite things in turn.