How to Throw a Great Literary-Themed New Year’s Eve Party

Throne-chasing warriors; futuristic Victorians, and Gatsby-inspired flappers—find the perfect backdrop to ring in the New Year!

By Jessica Dukes

This New Year’s Eve, throw a party everyone will be talking about for years to come! Invite friends to a Game of Thrones feast, a Steampunk journey to 19th-century England, or a Roaring 20s revelry. Costumes are required, of course—it’s more fun when everyone’s in character. From invites and food to decorations and party games, here’s everything you need to bring your theme alive.

Game of Thrones Decadence
You’ve read the books (and watched the show), mourned the dead, and celebrated Jon Snow’s resurrection. Now, it’s time to pour that passion into a New Year’s Eve party that even Tyrion Lannister will admire. Customize an invitation like this one and start planning.

Attire
On the invite, ask your guests to come dressed in their GOT best as the Royals, Warriors, Night Watchmen, Wildlings, or White Walkers we all adore.

The Menu
Let George R. R. Martin’s lavish feasts be your guide. Start with a large charcuterie platter packed with a variety meats, toasts, pickles, and cheeses. Include grapes, stone fruits, and dates. And no appetizer spread would be complete without a few dozen beautifully marbled Dragon’s Eggs.

You don’t have to serve Dothraki horse meat to prove your fandom when you have The Boar that Killed King Robert on your table (a.k.a. pork tenderloin). A Mutton Stew with Black Bread will satisfy any member of the Night’s Watch, and no hungry traveler could turn down a grilled chicken kabob and hearty wine. Add a platter of roasted root vegetables to complete the banquet.

For dessert, Sansa’s Lemon Cakes are a must-have, as are GOT cupcake toppers. With some creative cookie cutters, you can pay sweet homage to the other great houses of Westeros.

Drinks should be plentiful—red wine is poured in practically every chapter, so make sure you have a lot. (We love these printable Westeros wine labels.)

Signature cocktails:

  • The Khaleesi: Use a melon baller to add 2-3 scoops of dragon fruit to a champagne glass and top with prosecco, champagne, or ginger ale. It’s a midnight toast fit for a queen.
  • The Song of Ice and Fire: Simply serve Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey in a rocks glass over ice.
  • The Frostbite Martini: Honor the North with an icy blue, frozen drink.
  • For a non-alcoholic option: Mint tea with honey, hot or iced.

Décor
Greet guests outside with a “Winter Is Coming” theme—hang paper snowflakes and icicle lights around your front door, and add fake snow. Inside, dot your ceilings and walls with dragons. Keep the lights low and use candle lanterns. If you have a fireplace, light it up. Over the bar, an “I Drink and I Know Things” banner is a no-brainer.  

Of course, no Game of Thrones party would be complete without the throne everyone is fighting over! For an easy DIY decoration, make a dozen swords out of cardboard and paint them silver and black. Throw a black sheet or blanket over a high-backed chair, attach the swords to the back of it, and let the royal portraits begin.

Music
Add the soundtrack from the HBO series to your playlist, along with “Dragon Attack” by Queen, “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire, and “Hazy Shade of Winter” by the Bangles.

Fun & Games
Trivia battle: Pull two easy trivia questions from each of the five books in the GOT series. You’ll ask the questions, and the first person to shout the answer gets a point. (Have tie-breaker questions, as well.) The person with the most points at the end wins a copy of Fire and Blood, the long-awaited next book in the series.


Historically Futuristic Steampunk Soiree
If steam-powered machines and time-traveling to Victorian England are your thing, send this clock-themed invite and welcome the New Year with a blast to the past.

Attire
“Wear your Steampunk best” ought to cover it, but for the non-initiated on your guest list, a bit of guidance on how to authentically dress like a balloonist, kraken hunter, or Victorian cyborg may be necessary, so include a few links for inspiration.

The Menu
Throw a Victorian dinner party for adventurous tinkerers. Start with a spread of tea sandwiches. Use soft slices of bread, without crusts, and cut in to fourths before serving. Appropriate fillings: Butter, lettuce, and apple; prosciutto and parmesan; anchovy and lemon butter; curried egg salad; warm cheese, watercress, and fig; and smoked fish, pickle, and onion.

Working-class time travelers will appreciate Fish & Chips, a popular street food in late-1800s London. Likewise, Cottage Pie was an affordable dinner staple. More affluent steampunks might prefer a tray of Cornish Hens served with a mix of in-season vegetables.

For dessert, every good Victorian knows that Sponge Cake—the Queen’s favorite—is the only proper sweet to serve at an important gathering. Finish with some machine-themed homemade cookies.

By the late 19th century, tea had replaced ale as England’s most popular drink, so stay modern and offer a pot of black or herbal tea at all times. Not that this should stop you from also setting out several growlers of your favorite beer.

Signature cocktails:

  • Hot Toddies: Still tea, but boozy.
  • Gin & Tonic: Use a classic dry gin and tonic with quinine—wise steampunk travelers drink it to ward off malaria.
  • Pimm’s Royale: Toast the New Year with this revered mix of Pimm’s and prosecco.

Décor
Think of brass, iron, glass, and steam … with a splash of color. Everything from light switches to drink stirrers can be reimagined as a new apparatus, decorated with leather straps, metal gears, or antique lace. Remove lamp shades and replace the bulbs with vintage-style light bulbs for the night, and display any antiques you have, especially clocks, hat boxes, and goggles.

To soften the motorized elements add luxe Victorian touches like cloth napkins, lace tablecloths, and velvet or faux fur throw pillows in the parlor.

Music
Add bands writing original steampunk music to your playlist, like Abney Park and Professor Elemental, along with “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, “London Calling” by the Clash, and “Victoria” by the Kinks.

Fun & Games
Charades: It’s one of the most popular Victorian parlor games still played today. Some suggestions for charades to put in the hat: Around the World in 80 Days, The Golden CompassThe Time Machine, a pocket watch, a hot air balloon, and of course, a mad scientist. Give each winner a copy of Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter (1979), considered the first steampunk novel—Jeter coined the term himself.


Jazz Age Revelry
Prohibition is in full swing, so you’ll have to open a speakeasy for this party. Send an art-deco invite—complete with secret password—and let the rebellion against “The Noble Experiment” begin.

Attire
Tell your guests to channel their 20s spirit animals and come dressed as hotsy-totsy flappers, dapper jazz musicians, gangsters, moonshiners, and cigarette girls.

The Menu
The 20s saw the rise of bar food—a real-life moveable feast—that took a backseat to the cocktails at any party.

Start with the finger foods: shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, an assortment of mixed nuts, olives and pickles, stuffed mushrooms, and cheese and crackers. Add some egg rolls, too! Chinese food was very trendy in big cities. Invented in the 20s, Caesar salad became an overnight sensation in chic restaurants. Spiced baked ham adds a Jay Gatsby extravagance to the spread, and your expat guests will love you for including Parisienne potatoes.

For sweets, have an assortment of fun-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Baby Ruth, Charleston Chew, Mounds Bar, Milky Way, Bit-O-Honey, or Mr. Goodbar, which were all introduced in the 20s. Serve Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, the go-to dessert of the decade.

Drinks, of course, are the star of the show, so stock your bar to rival any party in West Egg. Offer lemonade and fresh orange juice, and endless bottles of champagne or prosecco.

Signature cocktails:

Décor
Post a copy of the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol on your front door. If you can, provide guests with an alternative entrance (a red lightbulb over the door is also a nice touch). On the bar, place a “Blind Pig” jar. Speakeasy owners often “charged admission” to see a wild pig, a sideshow that came with a free drink, to get around prohibition laws.

Gold, black, and sparkling is your color palate for the bar and food table. Hang strands of lights around every room and dangle long strings of pearls or beads on light fixtures, lamps, or fans. Drape beads and shiny fringe over every doorway. Serve smaller bites–olives, nuts, and chocolates–in martini glasses placed around the rooms. Stream silent movies like Joan Crawford’s Our Dancing Daughters on mute and make sure you’ve saved space for a dance floor!

Music

Load your playlist with jazz from artists of the day like Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Joe “King” Oliver. Add songs from Postmodern Jukebox for a jazzy take on recent hits like “Crazy” or “Life on Mars.”

At midnight play “Auld Lang Syne”—a tradition Guy Lombardo started in 1929.

Fun & Games
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Dance: Prepare a list of short, easy quotes from The Great Gatsby (“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”) and The Sun Also Rises (“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”) and do a round robin-style trivia contest. Correct answers get a point, but there’s a penalty for wrong answers: doing The Charleston for 30 seconds. Have the music ready!

Winners get a bottle of bootlegged New Year’s champagne and a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve party. We hope it’s the cat’s meow!

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