How to Host a Griswold Christmas Party: A Christmas Vacation Party Theme

Last night was our annual Griswold Christmas party. What started over a decade ago as a few friends enjoying the movie with some spiked egg nog has grown into a yearly event that friends and family start asking us about months before the Christmas season even begins. The party has evolved so much that it has become a much bigger deal than we’d ever envisioned, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If you want to host a Griswold Christmas party, keep reading. It’s easy to host a unique party that everyone will enjoy!

If you’re familiar with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie, you know it’s all focused on Clark Griswold’s efforts to host a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. His dreams are big, and soon the holiday gets a little….or a lot…out of hand. Between all the disasters, Clark powers on, doing the best he can to ensure his loved ones experience the holiday to remember, and remember, they will. In keeping with that, we want our party to be one that our guests will remember, so we may go a little overboard, but you don’t need to in order to make a successful party.

griswold christmas party

When it comes to a themed party, there are a few things that are critical: decor that tells the story of what your party is about, food that fits into the theme and makes it an immersive experience, and people who will appreciate your fervor. Add in some entertainment — in addition to watching the movie — and background music, and you’ll be all set to pull it off.

griswold christmas party

Since we hold our party at night, typically about 5pm-6pm, we serve dinner. If you know the movie, what’s the first food item you think of? That’s right, Katherine’s explosively dry turkey. So what’s on our menu? A big turkey…properly cooked, of course. And the second item that comes to mind should be Aunt Bethany’s jello mold, complete with cat food, aka Lucky Charms cereal.

griswold christmas party

One pro tip: items in jello molds tend to float to the top, so to ensure the cereal sits on the top as the cat food does in the movie, use a jello mold that you can turn upside down. The Tupperware version is perfect, as it seals tightly and allows for no leaks. Make the jello, pour it into the mold, sprinkle in the cereal pieces in a few clusters, put the seal on and turn it over. Let it harden like that, and the cereal will end up on top when you dump it out of the mold! (You can’t do a Griswold Christmas party without the Christmas Vacation jello mold! You can even find these molds at dollar stores anymore.)

griswold christmas party

One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Cousin Eddie and Clark are standing at the egg nog punch bowl. “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?” That scene is classic, so any good Griswold Christmas party requires egg nog. You don’t need to make it from scratch, and you can leave out the alcohol options so each person can spike it, or not, as they choose. (We kept the bourbon next to the bowl in our beverage corner, but by the end of the evening, rum, vodka and amaretto were found there, too!) Add in the infamous moose mugs and you’re all set!

Pro tip: moose mugs are expensive, even if you buy just the small sizes. Buy one or two per year and safely pack them away in a Griswold Christmas party bin, where you can stow all the props safely until your next party. We also add in every Griswold Christmas item we can find, such as mugs, trays, shirts, etc. If you look close, you can find them often on sale at stores like Marshall’s, Ross, TJ Maxx and Burlington.

For other National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation party supplies, look at Amazon, Party City and even the dollar stores. I found some random things when I started searching. Each year, I add new things into the mix.

If you need a recipe for the Christmas Vacation jello, you can follow the directions on the jello box but there are variations available to use juice or soda instead of water. Aunt Bethany would approve…as long as her cat likes it.

griswold christmas party

We make a couple of desserts, and our guests fill in the appetizers and sides of their choice. The table gets crowded, so we create a serving ware area, where everyone can pick up their plates, eating utensils, napkins and cups without clogging up the food line. The cups are near the beverage corner. We’ve bought all the supplies at either Party City or the Dollar Store, so you really can purchase all you need for very little money. The advantage to the Dollar Store is that the table cloths are obviously only a dollar, so if you have a square table like we do, you can criss-cross the table cloths to cover all sides evenly and if the kids happen to spill their juice box on it, no worries! It’s also so much easier to clean up when you can literally roll the table cloth in on itself and toss it in the recycling.

Speaking of juice boxes, traffic in and out of the fridge can be eliminated if you purchase a plastic bin, or a more fancy beverage tub, and fill it with ice. Place it right outside the closest back door and kids and adults can easily grab juices, waters, beers, or whatever beverage you need to keep cold.

Decor can be just whatever Christmas decorations you already have around, because it is about a family Christmas, but there are a few ways to step it up, based on the various disasters that happen to the Griswold family. There are SO many Christmas vacation party ideas you can have fun with!

griswold christmas party

For instance, Aunt Bethany hands over a couple of boxes when she and Uncle Lewis arrive. One turns out to be her jello mold — which would be a messy prop — but for $8, a AA battery, a wrapped box and an Exacto knife, you can recreate the cat in the box! This weasel can be found on Amazon, and it provides just the activity that you need to mimic the cat’s movements in the box. Place it inside the box, wrap it all up but don’t tape up one end. Use the blade/knife to create a little flap in the cardboard, just big enough to get your hand in/out of the box. Right before guests arrive, turn on the weasel ball, close the flap and then tape the wrapping paper. Put it near the tree or front door and watch the guests have a small eyes bugging out moment as they try to figure it out!

Later in the party, Aunt Bethany’s cat comes to an unhappy ending. We created this over-the-top prop in about 20 minutes for only the cost of a sheet of black poster board (though construction paper would work), a few cotton balls and some Elmer’s Glue! Simply draw the outline of the cat and cut it out. Shred the cotton balls to mimic hair, and glue them on the back side of the cat. Then just lay it on the floor near the tree and let it do its thing!

griswold christmas party

Remember the squirrel in the tree? “It’s a funny squeaky sound.” For about $14 at a pet store, we found a squeaky plush squirrel. Nestle him in between some branches, leaving just his face poking out and wait to see who notices it first! To make it easy, you can place one of the quote cards next to it.

What’s a quote card? We took 18 of the most popular quotes from the movie, printed them out on our basic home printer, trimmed them and glued them to sheets of cardstock (or construction paper) in holiday colors. Trim them after the glue dries, and tape or arrange around the house as you see appropriate. I can’t say everyone’s favorite here, but I will leave you this phrase as a hint of the one-word quote card that we taped to the front of the bathroom door.

Clark: “Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn… the clean, cool chill of the holiday air… an a**hole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer…”

Eddie: “Shi**er was full.”

And another classic Christmas vacation quote? “Why’s the carpet wet, Todd?” “I don’t KNOW, Margo.”

Here are a few others we placed all throughout the house. It’s a lot of fun when you hear someone chuckling because they just noticed one they hadn’t seen yet.

griswold christmas party

We usually watch the movie, but we also play holiday music on our Amazon Echo Dots or Bluetooth speakers around the house. We use Amazon Unlimited Music, so this year I compiled a Griswold Christmas Party playlist. I looked up the soundtrack via Google and added all those songs to the playlist. It only lasts about 41 minutes, so we had to remind Alexa to re-start it throughout the evening but the Christmas Vacation theme song and Mele Kalikimaka never get old.

Games throughout the years have changed, since we need to keep our guests on their toes and our parties fresh, but we’ve played trivia using a long list of questions about the Christmas Vacation movie, Name That Holiday Tune and other more generic party games. This year, we played Don’t Say It, where we provide a long list of words guests can’t use, and if someone hears another guest say one of the words, they get a point. Whoever has the most points at the end of the night wins a prize.

griswold christmas party game

One constant for every party is our costume contest. Though it’s hard to vary too much from the main characters, it’s hilarious seeing everyone’s rendition of the characters they choose. Cousin Eddie, Aunt Bethany, Uncle Lewis, Mary (from the department store), Margo and Todd, and of course, Clark and Ellen are popular choices. We’ve not yet had anyone actually find Christmas Vacation costumes to buy, but I’m sure they’re out there!

Next year, I think I’m going to make some Griswold Christmas vacation t-shirts with my Cricut! You can buy a lot of cute ones at Kohl’s and other stores, but I want to make some for party prizes. Aunt Bethany carrying her cat in a box, her Christmas Vacation jello mold surrounded by “Good old-fashioned family Christmas!”, Clark plugging in his strands of lights are just a few ideas.

This year, we had our first frozen Audrey! We also had a very special and funny costume duo that won first prize this year — check out these guys and I’m sure you’ll agree they deserved first prize.

griswold christmas party

Here are a few others — our guests get into it as much as we do, and we love it!

griswold christmas party

You got it, it’s a pregnant Katherine and her husband, Cousin Eddie! (Last year, she came in an Aunt Bethany Christmas Vacation costume and won first place, with her husband as Uncle Lewis.)

griswold christmas party

Why’s the carpet wet, Todd?? I don’t KNOW, Margo….

griswold christmas party

If costumes are more than you and/or your guests want, you can just suggest they wear holiday-themed clothes, ugly sweaters or even just Christmas-related headbands. There are so many options so you can shake it up.

If kids are on your guest list, pick up a few Christmas toys, games and coloring books when you’re at the dollar store. We also bought a Christmas bingo and a tic-tac-toe board that kept them happy for a long time.

A favorite adult activity at all parties anymore is a photo booth or photo station. I found a Christmas party selfie prop set at Marshall’s for $5.99 and it was $5.99 well-spent. It came with a huge photo frame (as seen in the picture below) and over 20 other props, like reindeer antlers, Santa’s beard, moustaches, holly and berries, lips, you name it. This was fun for the kids, too!

griswold christmas party

We are usually Clark and Ellen, and there are only a few ways to change it up. This year, I decided we needed more realistic items, so I started shopping early. A trip to the thrift store met my need for a white shirt with a flouncy collar, but I had to buy the emerald green skirt new at Amazon. (You can buy it here; it was less than $20 when I bought it via Prime.)

The husband already had his pants and shirt, so I found him a green tie with a Christmas tree on top of a truck that was perfect, and only $7.99! They use a station wagon in the movie, and that tie was available, but it was with a red background and Clark’s tie in the movie is green. We went as realistic as possible! I even ordered a taupe/tan cardigan for $20 on Amazon, and he already had a Santa hat. Less than $50 for the things we didn’t have, and since we’ll always be these two, we can keep them and wear them more than once. (And my green skirt? I could also wear it for other events!)

griswold christmas party

If you want to go the extra mile, rip the sleeve off of an old flannel shirt and staple it along the roof line next to some Christmas lights. We even leave a ladder up against the house — in a safe place, and away from unsupervised kids — to signify Clark’s fall from the roof as he’s hanging lights. You should see the look on people’s faces as they drive by!

Creating the perfect Griswold Christmas party will take some planning but it’s worth the time and effort. Everyone in our group of almost 30 people had a good time, the egg nog was a hit, the laughter went on all night long and we created a lot of lifelong memories with our closest of friends and family. Have you ever hosted a Griswold Christmas party? I’d love to hear about it! We’ve already got some plans for next year’s party, such as stringing popcorn on the tree for garland, renting an old motorhome, getting our round snow sled out of storage, and for an extra kick, creating a photo opp for Cousin Eddies with the help of our own RV hose. Game on, guests, be ready!

If you decide to host your own National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation party, let me know!

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