Monday, December 26, 2016

Plan a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Last year during Christmastime, we invited Carson's girlfriend to join us for a casual dinner and holiday lights scavenger hunt. After a cozy meal of tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, we divided into two groups and competed to see who could find the most seasonal decorations within an hour. Then we met at Starbucks, where we all enjoyed favorite coffee beverages -- and the winners celebrated in "Grande" style. This low-key evening turned out to be the highlight of our holidays, so this year we decided to share the fun with girlfriends and family members who live in the Birmingham area.

I kept our menu and decorations really simple, but a few special touches made the evening feel festive. Using cookie dough from a recent show-choir fundraiser, Mary Ashley baked cookie cups for me in muffin tins. Then I piped on swirls of store-bought frosting. Emma and I topped the candy cookies with strands of chocolate icing and pressed M&Ms into the frosting. Half of these cookies we covered in a neat spiral of holiday lights, and half we decorated with twisting coils. We tucked adorable Christmas Bulb Cupcake Topper Rings into chocolate cookie cups topped with chocolate icing. These were a last-minute find, and I ordered them from Amazon, knowing that they might not arrive before the party. But to my surprise, they were delivered lightning fast -- shipped from a few miles away!

A trio of gingerbread houses I decorated a few months ago for Victoria were dressed for the party with a blinking holiday lights necklace found on clearance at Hobby Lobby. Emma was quick to claim this fun accessory for herself!

Here you can catch a glimpse of our holiday centerpiece, along with some of our holiday fare. My aunt and uncle brought tamales, which were homemade by a friend. That added a thoughtful touch to our buffet of easy treats. We ate dinner, then had the scavenger hunt, and concluded our evening with cookies, hot chocolate, and prizes.

Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt Menu

Chicken Nuggets with Polynesian Sauce
Fresh Fruit with Caramel Sauce
Fresh Snap Peas,Carrots, Broccoli and Cherry Tomatoes with Ranch
Cranberry Salsa (recipe here)
with Celery and Wheat Thins
Spinach-Artichoke Dip (recipe here)
with Tortilla Chips
Chocolate and Candy Cookie Cups
Hot Chocolate (recipe here -- peppermint extract omitted)
with Marshmallows, Candy Canes, M&Ms, and Chocolate Chips

To keep the game fair, I asked a friend to find a holiday lights list online and print five copies. (Find many options here.) Although it was tempting, I did not peek! For the hunt, we divided into groups of four and allotted 1 hour for the hunt. Each list item was worth 1 point -- to be recorded by a cell-phone photo -- and for the opportunity for a 5-point bonus, each group submitted one extra photo that captures the spirit of the season. When we returned home, it was fun to compare notes and share memories. The winners received sparkly travel mugs, and we continued the merriment with dessert and conversation.

For simple favors, we gave each guest a candy cane with a glistening bulb ornament from Hobby Lobby. Whether enjoyed as a relaxed night of family fun or planned as a larger party that includes extended family, co-workers, an athletic team, or the church youth group, I hope you will consider hosting a holiday lights scavenger hunt. This festive evening is certain to be a bright spot in your Christmas season!

"Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most." ~Ruth Carter Stapleton
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