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nutcracker      Nutcracker Holiday Party      nutcracker

Invitations
Decor
Characters
Activities: Games
                 Crafts
                 Sleigh Ride
                 Food
                 Cookies
                 Cake

The suggestions here focus on children's games and activities, however, this party can be adapted for a family party by having families work together on the crafts and games, and providing some more adult appropriate food and refreshments in addition to those suggested below.

Since some guests may not be familiar with the Nutcracker, consider hosting a video night ahead to acquaint them all with the story, or alternately, begin the party by reading the story out loud to the group (most libraries have several versions of the story, and there are several versions available free online. Be sure to choose one of the shorter ones!).

Since this is a busy time of year, send out the invitations earlier than you normally would to help avoid disappointment, and be sure to follow up with those who don't RSVP.

Invitations


These are Victorian style to match the spirit of the Nutcracker. On ballet pink stationery paper in calligraphy or in diploma font, copy out the details of the party, something along the lines of: You are cordially invited to share a festive birthday celebration at our home on Saturday, December 3rd, two thousand and seven at four o'clock in the afternoon. RSVP.
If you wish, leave an extra inch or so at the top, and use that space to emboss a Nutcracker shape (or snowflake etc.) at the centre top of the page.
Glue this sheet onto a rectangular paper doily and seal in an unbleached envelope, or roll into a cylinder and tie with a length of lacy ribbon.

Decor


As the guests arrive, play music from The Nutcracker. Outside, if the temperature is below freezing, there will be ice lanterns lining the drive. To make these, see the sidebar for instructions.

If the weather is too warm for this, make some paper bag lanterns. These are made by adding a scoop of sand to a paper bag, then place a votive candle inside and light. These are simple, very effective, but best if used when it isn't very windy out.

Regular Christmas lights and outdoor decorations are also effective. Outside the door, a large Nutcracker doll greets the guests. You can use your own if you happen to own one, borrow one, or make one out of cardboard and poster paint. Stores that sell appliances will often give you appliance boxes for free if you arrange ahead and pick them up promptly. Or maybe you can find an adult who wouldn't mind dressing up to play the part.

Inside, if you do not have a fireplace, you can make a cardboard imitation (see sidebar for details).
From this, simple dollar store stockings hang ("empty"), for each guest.
Fill the room with your usual holiday decor, especially focusing on any more traditional ornaments.

Characters

Uncle Drosselmeyer


Once the guests have arrived, Uncle Drosselmeyer appears. For Drosselmeyer, you will need a man who is a bit of a ham, and can do a few simple magic tricks (try searching online for a few). He does a few magic tricks for the kids, including producing tiny Nutcracker dolls for each guest. These are beads strung onto gold elastic cord. Make these by drilling a hole through the side of the heads of the smallest Nutcracker dolls you can find (try your local dollar store). These are put on the craft table for later.

Sugar Plum Fairy


At the end of the party, we have a visit from the Sugarplum Fairy. Have a teenager dress in costume and hand out sugarplums and the kids will pose for pictures with her. Or, have costumes available for the kids to try on and become the Sugarplum Fairy themselves.
To make the sugarplums, see the sidebar.

While the kids are posing, the other adults fill their stockings with their scavenger hunt loot. When they leave, they have the stockings and the decorated mini-trees to take with them.

Activities


When the kids arrive, have your family greet them wearing old fashioned party wear. Play music from the Nutcracker music, and give each guest one of the dollar store stockings to write their name on in fabric paint and hang until all the guests arrive.

Mouse Games

Pull out a parachute (or a king-sized bed sheet if you don't have a parachute). The kids play "Nutcracker and mouse" and "Mother Ginger" (see sidebar for game rules) with the parachute.

Candy Scavenger Hunt

Choose candy and candy-themed small items (barrettes, erasers, etc. that look like candy). Since this party is heavy on "sweet", you may wish to make most of this non-edible, but still in keeping with the theme. Make up cards for the kids that specify the type and amount of each item they are to collect. Hide the items in a specified area (e.g. anywhere in the family room), and have them hunt.
It may be necessary to impose a rule of no eating any candy until the hunt is over.

Tree Wrapping


You will need two willing adults (dads or uncles are fun) for this one.
Divide the kids into two teams. Arm each team with a roll of green crepe paper and a box full of unbreakable Christmas tree ornaments, garland etc., being sure to give each box a roughly equal amount of trimmings, and a variety in each box. The teams have to decorate dad like a Christmas tree. The most creative tree wins. This one makes for great video/picture opportunities.

Candy Drop


This is a lot like the more traditional clothespin drop game, but with a thematic twist. Using wrapped hard candies, the kids hold out their arms straight in front of them and drop the candy into a jug. The kid who gets the most in wins the jar; the misses are divided evenly (you may have to cheat in a few extra candies) among the others.

Crafts

Decorated Mini-Christmas Trees Crafts

Centerpiece:
The guests will need their nutcracker and cord for this. Distribute potted seedling trees (we like the symbol of the growing tree, and the fact that these can be planted in the spring), or $ store artificial mini trees. The cord will become a polymer clay candy garland with a nutcracker in the middle.

You may have the guests make their own beads at the party, or make them ahead depending on the ages and timing of your party. For directions on making candy beads from polymer clay, see the sidebar.

Once the beads are threaded onto the garland, the kids can use this to decorate their trees.

Candy Tree
Needed:
a sugar cone for each guest
butter cream icing, white or tinted green
assorted small candies and sprinkles
placemats and cloths for clean-up

Either ice the cones ahead, or have the kids ice them, then decorate by pressing the candies and sprinkles on the cone.

Ice Lanterns (see the right sidebar)

Sleigh Ride


Just as Clara goes on a magical sleigh ride to other lands, so can your guests. Consider arranging for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. If you plan on this, check to see if the rental place also has a buggy in case there isn't snow for a sleigh ride.

If this isn't in your budget, consider having a "people drawn wagon ride" or making a large cardboard sleigh the kids sit in instead. You just need to make a side panel (refrigerator box or similar) put a small bench or some stools inside and cover with a blanket. The far side of the sleigh isn't necessary if it is placed against a wall. Add sound effects and/or a fan etc. if you wish.

If you opt for this, you can have the kids make "stops" at each of the lands to sample each of the delicacies.

Food


Once the sleigh ride is finished, the kids return for Chinese tea and Spanish hot chocolate (if this did not already happen on the sleigh ride). Adults may wish to have some Arabian coffee as they watch. See the food recipes page for some hot chocolate recipes. Serve finger sandwiches cut into spirals, veggies and dip, and candy cane biscuits (recipe on sidebar). Any other fancy hors d'oeuvres would also work well here, as long as they are also kid-friendly.

Lollipop Cookies


lollipop cookies These refrigerator cookies can be made with or without the sticks. You can freeze the dough for up to a month ahead for quick fresh cookies anytime.
The basic recipe is a sugar-cookie base.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (or cherry)
2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat ok)
red (or other colour) paste food colouring

Soften butter (do not melt). Cream in sugar, baking powder and salt until well mixed. Beat in egg, vanilla and extract. Add flour and mix well.
Divide dough in half. Colour one half (just a little goes far). Knead into dough and mix well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each colour until about 12" x 8" (1/4 to 1/8 inch thick). Use a large spatula to help place one rectangle on top of the other. It may be moved in pieces and reassembled on the other rectangle if necessary. Press down gently to seal together. Roll up tightly from one of the long sides. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill 2-4 hours or until firm, or freeze for up to a month.
Slice into 1/4 inch slices.
Optional: insert wooden sticks into the bottom to make lollipop cookies.
Place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute, then transfer to wire rack to cool.

nutcracker lollipop cookies    nutcracker cookies    spiral sugar cookies


Cake


The Nutcracker has lots of different symbols that could be made into a cake, including the large Christmas tree, the sleigh ride, all of the international treats, snow, and of course, the Nutcracker.

For a nutcracker cake, use two roll cakes. Make the first one in the regular way; this will be the head and body. With the second, you will need to roll out thinner logs as follows. While your cake is still flat, cut the sheet into four sections, two slightly longer than the other two. Fill and roll those cakes. The shorter two will be arms, and the longer two will be legs.

Assemble the pieces to form your nutcracker shape. Be sure to put the arms low down on the sides of the body as the top 1/4 of the main log will be the hat and the second ? will be the face. Ice the cake using either fondant or spreadable icing tinted for the hat, jacket, skin tones, boots and pants. Embellish with candy clay tinted gold for braid on the hat and jacket, and tinted blush pink for cheeks and lips. Add button candy for eyes.


Ice Lanterns

      Fill a large (2 litre) plastic ice cream tub or bucket to about 1/2 way with cold water. Freeze. Use a small can (slightly bigger than a votive candle) and place it in the centre of the container, and fill the rest of the larger container with water. You may need to weigh the can down with a few pebbles or marbles.
      Return the container to the freezer and freeze completely.
       Loosen the can by filling it with warm water and remove. Remove the ice from the plastic container by rinsing the outside with warm water. Line the indent with plastic wrap, then place your votive candle inside and light.


Cardboard Fireplace

This three-sided cardboard fireplace is made like a science fair display board (3 panels, centre panel double width). If your cardboard starts out flat, measure 1/4 inwards from the outer edge and mark, then lightly score a vertical line so that you can fold the flap back.

In the centre, cut out a square or arch for the "fire". Use rectangular sponges to stamp tempera paint "brick" pattern on your cardboard.
For a mantle, trace the top of the boxes and add 1 cm, then extend out flaps for the edges and cut out. Fold down the edges and duct tape them in place from the inside so the tape won't show. Put a couple of real logs down, then use warm white or yellow LED lights (LED so there is no heat from the lights, and therefore reduced real fire hazard), and yellow, orange and red tissue paper, to create a lit fire effect.


Mouse Games

Nutcracker and Mouse

This is similar to "cat and mouse". The guests, one or two at a time, crawl around under the parachute while the nutcracker tries to catch them within a given time (one minute works well). Kids take turns playing the parts.

Mother Ginger

This is similar to "king's cape".
Players try and escape from "Mother Ginger" and she tries to capture the "bonbons" (players) under her parachute skirt.



Candy Cane Biscuits

The candy cane biscuits are made from whole grain crescent roll dough (the pre-made stuff with the dough boy). Unroll the dough and cut into strips, pushing together any pre-cut seams that don't belong. On half of the strips, spread extra-fruit strawberry spread. Twist one strawberry and one regular strip together to form a candy cane. Do this with all of the dough and bake about ? the time as indicated on the package.



Polymer Clay Candy Beads


*Be sure any tools you use are dedicated polymer clay tools, and will not be used for food.

Candy canes:
Roll one ?" ball of white clay and one 1/8" ball each of red and green clay; form each into equal length long snakes-check for scale based on the size of the mini trees) the white will be thicker. Twist the strands together. Cut into appropriate lengths and form into candy cane shapes. Slide a darning needle through the top of each to create a hole for beading.

Star mints:
Form balls as above. Cut the white ball in half and roll each half again. Roll one white and one red ball into separate snakes; make the red one about 8 times as long as the white. Cut the red into 8 equal lengths and arrange on the outside of the white lengthwise so they are evenly spaced. Gently roll together a couple of times and then slice into beads. Slide a darning needle through one side out the other to form a hole for beading.

Gum drops:
Blend a small bit of coloured clay into translucent clay until well blended, then form into tiny gumdrop shapes. Brush with white embossing powder and slide a darning needle through the top to form a hole for beading.

Lollipops:
Blend a small bit of coloured clay into transluscent clay until well blended, then form into tiny balls and press them flat so they all make similar sizes and shapes. Roll a very thin white snake and cut into lollipop stick lengths. Place a stick ? the way up on alternating tinted circles, then top each with a tinted circle. Press gently together and tidy the edges. Slide a darning needle through the top to create a hole for beading.

Bake all according to manufacturer's instructions, but be sure to check often as these are quite tiny and can easily over bake.

Sugarplum Recipe

Either use pre-made fruit cake or the recipe below. Cut the cake into 2" cubes and covered each with a thin layer of marzipan. Use the reserved glace fruit and nuts to make pretty Christmas designs. Wrap each sugarplum separately in clear plastic wrap.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 jar (750 mL) suet-free mincemeat
1 can low fat sweetened condensed milk
*1 1/2 cups chopped mixed glace fruit
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
marzipan, whole glace cherries and pineapple, walnut and pecan halves and/or slivered almonds to decorate

Combine flour and baking soda, set aside. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, mincemeat, condensed milk, chopped fruit and nuts. Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Grease two large (9" x 5") loaf pans, and divide batter evenly between them.

Bake in a preheated oven for 80-85 minutes at 300 degrees F. Cool 15 minutes, then turn out of pans and cool completely. This recipe freezes well for up to a month.

Cut into cubes as described above, and decorate as desired.

*Since this is very sweet, especially with the marzipan, you may wish to substitute more of the dry fruit for the glace fruit when making sugarplums. The recipe works as long as the glace and dried fruit make up 2 cups in total.

An alternative to this would be to colour and form fruit shapes from marzipan, and sprinkle with sugar.


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