If the flurry of malls and mass consumerism overwhelms you during the Christmas season, then do as I do and avoid the excess by delivering holiday cheer with handcrafted party invitations, favors, and gifts. Or go the extra distance and turn your next holiday open house into a green Christmas party. After all, there’s nothing more thoughtful than a gathering that’s both respectful of the environment and expressed with love and care.

Postcard Perfect
Postcard Perfect Photo by Greg Rannells

Are you scratching your head, wondering how to get started? If so,any scratching can stop here! I’ve assembled a handful of easy, DIY party ideas with help from recycled flea market-castaways and items found in the nooks and crannies of my basement and attic.

Edible Wreath with Handcrafted Gift Tag
Edible Wreath with Handcrafted Gift Tag Photo by Greg Rannells

The only thing these goodies needed was a little dusting off and dressing up to restore their luster of Christmases past.

1 | Vintage Postcard Invitations.

You could easily say that I don’t fall far from the tree. My vintage postcard-collecting fetish comes from my Mom who unpacks postcards by the shoebox-ful at Christmastime to tuck them willy-nilly into festive tabletop displays. I, however, prefer to scan the best of my collection each season. I then overlay my annual holiday party details – the what, where, and when – with photo editing software such as Photoshop and pass the postcards on for posterity in the form of invitations. Here (top photo), my favorite card forms the cover of a multi-page invitation bound with tiny mercury glass ornaments and wire ornament hooks.

Tie One On
Tie One On Photo by Greg Rannells

2 | Gift Tag Placecards and Coasters.

Old gift tags can also be given new life! Simply scan them – just like the postcards above – and use them to identify the treats on your table by superimposing the names of the dishes you’re serving. At my last open house, I tucked the tags close to each plate (see the rosemary and olive wreath, second photo from top) and strung them to the necks of vintage milk bottles filled with egg nog and other seasonal libations (third photo from top). You can also superimpose guests’ names and turn the tags into placecards. Or print the images onto high-gloss photo paper and mount them on corkboard to make coasters (fourth photo from top.) Note: Don’t substitute regular paper for the high-gloss stuff; it’s more absorbent, making the inevitable spills tougher to clean off.

Ho-Ho-Ho Beats Ho-Hum!
Ho-Ho-Ho Beats Ho-Hum! Photo by Greg Rannells

3 | Ornaments as Gift Wraps.

If your fingers aren’t nimble enough to tie gorgeous gift bows, have no fear. This is where repurposed ornaments, garlands, tinsel, and other shiny do-dads, such as my vintage bobeche (second photo from bottom), come in handy! Simply arrange these trinkets into “bouquets” atop gift boxes and secure with a glue gun. Since these decorations tend toward the very ornamental (no pun intended), I prefer plain gift wraps that don’t compete, like the simple brown craft paper and solids shown here.

Ornament-al Wraps
Ornament-al Wraps Photo by Karen Forsythe

4 | A Yankee Gift Swap.

Avoid the holiday shopping frenzy by hosting a Yankee gift swap where each guest brings a handmade or re-gifted present to your open house. The gifts go into a big box – or in my case, an antique shopping cart (!) – and then the guests draw numbers to determine first and successive picks. The fun is in seeing the truth play out – yes, one person’s trash is indeed another’s treasure!

Smile While You File
Smile While You File Photo by Greg Rannells

At my party last year, my gift was a collection of heirloom family recipes, handed down from one generation of Ushers to the next. I printed the recipes onto cards (with images from vintage postcards no less) and filed the cards in a 50s-era recipe box (bottom photo).