Celebrate All Year: Party Ideas for January to December

We have so many reasons to celebrate; why wait for the next major holiday to gather your friends and family?
LetsPartyMagazine.com urges readers to make the most of life year-round. And, as if you needed any more incentive to carpe diem, here is our month-by-month guide to some easy, seasonal get-togethers.

January: Football in the Park
Football in the ParkCollege and pro football seasons are starting to ‘flag’, so get some people together and stage a game of your own. Flag football is a no-contact variation on the tackle game most seen on television, but instead of tackling players, the defensive team must remove a flag from the carrier to end a down. You’ll need anywhere from eight to 18 players, ‘flags’, and some wide open space. Divide teams evenly according to age and ability, and remember to bring plenty of water or sports drinks to keep your athletes fueled and ready to rumble. Do you have children too small to play? Don’t forget the importance of cheerleaders and sideline supporters. Include little ones by assigning duties like scorekeeping and ball retrieval. Call your local parks and recreation service to locate fields and availability.

February: Red Carpet Oscars Party
Oscars PartyFor most non-celebrities, Oscars night is a sneak peek into the lives of the glitterati. Bring some of the glamour into your own home by hosting an Academy Awards viewing party. Invite guests to dress to impress, and take their photos as they arrive. Don’t forget to ask the red carpet question of the evening: Who are you wearing? Responses will be sure to amuse. Hand out ballots for guests to predict which actors and films will be taking home the gold statuette this year; a list of nominees and printable ballots are available at the Oscars website, www.oscar.com. Award prizes to attendees who predict the most wins – and don’t forget the acceptance speeches! If you have a photo printer, give guests a souvenir shot of their movie star style as they depart. It’s sure to be a night to remember.

March: Celebrate Spring Outdoors
Celebrate SpringWith temperatures generally flirting with 80 degrees, March’s warmer weather and longer days are sure to put some extra ‘spring’ in your step. Take advantage of the season’s bounty of outdoor events and get to know some of your neighboring cities and towns. Whether you’re in the mood for a day trip to Sedona or Tucson, or you just venture out your front door, March hosts enough celebrations to provide a month-long’s worth of weekend fun. Check out the AZ Renaissance Festival in Apache Junction, Carefree’s Fine Art & Wine Festival, Central Arizona’s Pioneer Days, the Chandler Ostrich Festival, the Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Sedona’s Bluegrass Festival, Scottsdale’s National Festival of the West, Southern Arizona’s Mariachi Festival, and Tucson’s Fourth Avenue Street Fair. Go to the AZ Office of Tourism’s website, ArizonaGuide.com, for event dates and details.

April: Recyclables Scavenger Hunt
Earth Day PartyApril is all about awareness, with eco-friendly Earth Day and Arbor Day all in the same month, so what better time to beautify your neck of the woods? Get some families together and scour the neighborhood, door to door, for common recyclable materials like paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum. See which team can collect the most telephone books, or how many trash bags of soda cans the bigger kids can carry. Assign extra points for specific items, like a glass Coke bottle or a Readers’ Digest from 2007. Go to http://phoenix.gov for a list of recyclable items and drop-off locations. Award each participating family a small tree or shrub to plant in their own yard as a memento of their do-good day.

May: Salsa Tasting
Salsa TastingIt’s National Salsa month; what better excuse to gather some friends for a mild to super-hot time? Have each attendee dice up a batch of their favorite salsa and make sure to provide plenty of chips to dip- don’t forget the H20! Reserve a ‘tasting table’ at the park or host it in your own backyard. Or, turn a casual get-together into a block party! Invite your neighbors to share their family’s secret sauce with the whole street by bringing copies of their recipe to share. Print out voting ballots and award prizes for best all-around, hottest, and most unique. Remember to check with your neighborhood association before taking your taste test to the street, and vive la sabor!

June: Backyard Luau
Just because it doesn’t take place in Hawaii with a roast pig, grass-skirted dancers, and ukulele music, doesn’t mean that it’s not a luau. In fact, for those lucky enough to enjoy island life amongst the gently swaying palms, a luau simply means a gathering of friends and family to enjoy good food, good times, and good company – but a little surf music and fruity Backyard Luaudrinks with umbrellas never hurt! For tropical tunes, check out some vintage Don Ho, Elvis’ Blue Hawaii, or make your own playlist on iTunes. Party stores all over the Valley carry an abundance of Luau themed décor; go as simple or elaborate as you choose. Foods commonly served at luaus include Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, sweet potatoes, and poi. Make your own version of these native dishes with easy-to-find substitutions like carnitas with pineapple salsa; smoked salmon, cucumber, and tomato salad; sweet potato fries; and banana-coconut cream pudding. Let guests make their own leis by stringing seasonal flowers on dental floss with a long sewing needle or slender crochet hook. Other activities might include a hula hoop contest, pass the coconut (island-inspired hot potato!), or musical beach towels in lieu of musical chairs.

July: Christmas in July

Christmas in JulyThe thermometer remains above 100 degrees, day and night, and many folks are beginning to crave the cooler temperatures, social activities, and festive atmosphere that come with the colder holiday season. You can’t do anything about the persistent heat, but you can spread some holiday cheer. While many take advantage of charitable giving opportunities during the Christmas season, there are occasions to help year round. Adopt a charitable cause for the month of July, and see what your family can do for others in need. Donate clothing, give blood, volunteer, deliver food, visit the elderly, or provide foster care for pets. Combine your holiday-spirited giving with fun seasonal activities, like Christmas cookie decorating and a homemade gift exchange. Play some holiday music as you prepare, and you’ll soon forget the heat outside. Visit Charity-Charities.org to locate Phoenix area charities and find out how you can make a difference. LetsPartyMagazine.com supports AZ Foster Care, The Southwest Autism Research Center, and United Cerebral Palsy.

August: Wet ‘n’ Wild Weekend
Waterpark WeekendChances are if your family is not in school or at work, they’re in the swimming pool– or at least wishing they were. Conquer the August swelter by turning your backyard into a weekend water park. You won’t even need a pool to make a splash with our fun and easy water games, just some balloons, a sponge, a large, heavy-duty trash bag, and a garden hose. Water Balloon Relay: Divide participants into teams and have each member take a turn running a preset course with a water balloon tucked between their knees or under their chin. As runners return to their team, they have to sit on the balloon to break it before the next team member takes off. If the balloon breaks before the course is completed, the runner must start over. This game almost always results in a water balloon fight, so make sure to have plenty of artillery ready! Sponge Tag: Traditional tag meets dodgeball as whoever is ‘it’ tosses a wet sponge to ‘tag’ other players. Garden Hose Limbo: Find a grassy area and turn your garden hose on full-blast, focusing the jet of water parallel to the ground. Play some festive music and have children take turns finding out just how low they can go as the limbo ‘bar’ goes lower and lower. Serve fresh fruit kebabs for a refreshing snack.

September: Family Gathering

Family GahteringsWith National Grandparents’ Day on the 13th, followed by Family Day on the 27th, September is prime time to reconnect with kin. Is your family dear, but not very near? Take some pics of those gathered, and together create a family webpage so loved ones all over the globe can join in the festivities and upload photos of their own. It’s the perfect time to plan for the upcoming holidays, or sit back, relax, and view a favorite family film like The Sound of Music or Wall-E. For dinner, serve something simple that everyone can help prepare and enjoy. A hot dog bar with all the fixings requires minimal effort; mom or dad can be in charge of the grill, while kids help to get buns and condiments ready. Try adding some unexpected toppers to your setup, like pepper chutney, fruit salsa, sauerkraut, or even guacamole. Spending quality together, even doing something as simple as preparing a meal or watching a movie, will provide lasting memories for your children as they grow older and start families of their own.

October: Chocolate Fondue Affair
Do Some FondueLeave Halloween’s candy corn and Smarties to the kids, and indulge in some sweet treats tantalizing for grown-ups and little ones alike. The best part? Fondue is easy. If you can wash fruit and melt chocolate, then this gathering is a go – you don’t even need a fondue pot. Place your fondue of choice in a double-boiler, or create a makeshift one by placing your pot of chocolate over another pot of boiling water (applying direct heat will cause the chocolate to burn). Don’t forget to add heavy cream and butter to the mix, or your chocolate may seize. Provide plenty of dipables like fresh fruit, pretzel sticks, biscotti, and pound cake. Spear smaller bites with long-handled fondue forks or kebab sticks, and watch out for double dippers! Cleanup is simple; the bowls of chocolate are generally wiped clean by the time everyone is through.

November: Chili Cook-off
Chili CookoffThe ideal chili has longtime been a subject of great debate among connoisseurs. Traditional chili is made from chili peppers, ground meat, garlic, onions, and cumin. Variations may substitute different types of protein, add tomatoes or beans, as well as many other ingredients. Whether your idea of the perfect recipe has beans or no beans, is con carne or sans meat, a bowl of chili is a low-carb, high-flavor concoction perfect for warding off an autumn chill. Invite some friends and family to bring a pot of their favorite blend over and put their recipes to the test. Provide garnishes like shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, avocado, radishes, limes, cilantro, and sour cream. With many professional sports seasons overlapping throughout the month of November, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of televised events to complement your cook-off; NASCAR races, NBA, NHL, and NFL games all make excellent accompaniments to a homemade bowl (or several) of chili.

December: Bowling
Family Bowling NightTake a breather from your holiday preparations, slip into some rented shoes, and let the good times roll. Bowling is one of those activities that is perfect for any age or ability, from barely big enough to roll the ball to full-sized lucky strikers, and kids of all ages usually find the game irresistible; after all, knocking stuff down is fun. Reserve a bumper lane for any little ones to ensure that everyone gets to score, and get ready to have a ball. Many bowling alleys offer discounted rates during off-peak hours, and some even host Xtreme Bowling or Rock n’ Bowl nights with black lights and a variety of music that ranges from oldies to top 40. Contact your local lanes for pricing and schedules; use the LetsPartyMagazine.com Ultimate Event Directory to find a location near you.