Food + Drink

Host a Holiday Gift Wrapping Cocktail Hour Party

One of my favorite holiday traditions is setting aside an evening to wrap all the Christmas presents that I’ve carefully selected for all my favorite people and listen to holiday music. I wish everyone could take the time to enjoy this ritual as much as I do. That’s how I came up with the idea that this could be the perfect holiday get-together with you and your closest friends. Being festive and crafty with friends will not only make this activity more enjoyable, but setting a date in the calendar will be a great motivator to get your shopping done earlier. To make this gift wrapping evening even more magical for you and your guests, you can serve some super easy but impressive homemade appetizers and maybe even pop open a bottle of champagne too. And just like that — you’ve created a new tradition for you and your friends — a Holiday Gift Wrapping Cocktail Hour Party!

Since your table will be occupied with an assortment of wrapping papers and ribbons and you’ll be keeping your hands mostly busy, appetizers are the perfect food for the occasion. And since it’s the holidays and you’re being so productive, you have clearly earned some champagne!

When it comes to deciding what appetizers to make — well now we’re talking my language. As author of Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook, I have no shortage of suggestions to give you! For this blog post, I’ve cherry picked out a few that I think have just the right amount of holiday cheer and will impress your friends, but can be still put together fairly quickly and easily.

Ultimate Appetizer Idea Book

Citrus-Marinated Olives is one of the recipes in Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook that I think is perfect to serve around the holidays. Maybe it’s because in my family, we always received an orange in our stocking. So Santa and citrus basically go hand-in-hand. Also, pro-tip: while you’re stocking up on fresh rosemary for this recipe, be sure to get a little extra to use as a rustic gift wrapping accessory.

Ultimate Appetizer Idea Book- Olives


In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups [380 g] rinsed, drained assorted olives (with pits), 1/3 cup [80 ml] extra-virgin olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 11/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 1/2 thinly sliced small orange, 1/2 thinly sliced lemon, 11/2 tsp honey, and 1 Tbsp rice vinegar. Warm over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and heated through, stirring occasionally to coat the olives. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or for up to 1 month. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6

Next, I would recommend making the Caramelized Red Onion Jam. I love a homemade jam or spread that you can add to a platter of fancy store-bought goods that will make the whole spread look more personalized and impressive. It’s a really versatile spread and, like the Citrus-Marinated Olives is a wonderful option for the gluten or dairy-free vegetarian in your life. Bonus! This is one of many recipes in Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook that you can make it ahead of time, affording you more time to find your second pair of scissors or the tape before your guests arrive. (Does anyone else’s family always have debates over who used the tape last and why it wasn’t correctly placed back in the drawer?)

Ultimate Appetizer Idea Book- Red Onion Jam

CARAMELIZED RED ONION JAM In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat, warm 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp unsalted butter. Add 2 thinly sliced large red onions and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and slightly translucent. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup [120 ml] dry red wine, 1/4 cup [60 ml] rice vinegar, 1/4 cup [50 g] firmly packed light brown sugar, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, or until thickened and syruplike. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.) Serve at room temperature on a cheese platter with Pyrenées Brebis, prosciutto, Marcona almonds, and a sliced baguette.
Serves 12 to 14

Finally, for one more festive and simple appetizer recipe, try making Dates Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Candied Ginger. A little sweet, a little heat — there’s nothing like incorporating candied ginger into a holiday recipe. These cute little fruit bites are almost like a dessert but can easily be snacked on in between savory fare.

Ultimate Appetizer Idea Book- Dates


Slice lengthwise and pit 24 Medjool dates. Stuff each pitted date with about 11/2 tsp softened cream cheese so that some of the filling is exposed. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup [30 g] candied ginger and place it in a shallow bowl. Dip the cheese side of each date into the candied ginger to coat. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.) Serve at room temperature.
Serves 12 to 14

There are so many more choices in Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook to chose from, (222 more, to be exact!) but these should get you started and will keep your guests happy while you gift wrap your merry little hearts out. Speaking of which, invite your friends to contribute an option or two of wrapping paper, ribbon or twine, and gift tags or labels. If everyone pools together their gift wrapping loot, you’ll have so many more options to create fun combinations. While you’re at it, don’t forget to wrap up the perfect little stocking stuffer – Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook!

Kiera Stipovich

Kiera Stipovich (along with her husband Cole) are the founders of Cole + Kiera Photography, a wedding and family photography business. Kiera also runs a blog and custom-baking service at They are based in Boston.

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1 Comment

  • Madie Rice December 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Love this post! Such good ideas, both party-based and food-based. The holidays are he perfect time to dig into my copy of the Ultimate Appetizer Idea Book. Add friends + presents: voila! Party!


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