Sometimes a plane ticket isn't what you need in order to have a great time for the holidays. You can have a perfect festive season right in your own backyard. And the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has given the green light to maskless gatherings with fully vaccinated people, so what's stopping you?

If your answer was "nothing" then get those invitations sent. But if you aren't quite sure what you need, let us help you with all the folderol.

Whether it's a casual gathering or something more extravagant you should start with a theme. If you're celebrating Christmas at home, think about transforming your background into a winter wonderland, a Scandinavian ski lodge, or cool Yuletide setting.

For casual affairs that theme could simply be "backyard barbeque," just add tinselts and a string of lights. Sounds simple and obvious but that a least gives guests something to work with as far as dress code and side dishes.

A trip to the Dollar Store is a great resource for theming at a fraction of the budget too.

In order to have an outdoor barbeque, you'll need a grill of course. It can be big or small depending on your space. Just as long as you have fire and a safe place to cook, the heating device is just a means to an end. Just make sure you have the proper accessories such as tongs, long forks, and a fire-safe spatula. Grill marks should be on the meat, not on your palm.

Next are the drinks. What's the first thing you say after "hello" when a guest arrives at the party? Unless they already have one, it's probably, "can I get you a beverage?" In order to avoid awkwardness always have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on hand. It's also fun to have the same specialty cocktails in both forms so the non-swilling guest feels included.

To set the Christmas mood, consider offering hot cider, spiced wine or punch.

It goes without saying your ice cube inventory should be stockpiled in overabundance. Keep extra bags in the bathtub if you run out of space in the freezer or cooler. Or invest in a deep Laxan container; it can be used for future gatherings. But also think about chafing dishes and even a large thermos. Add some form of outdoor heating for everybody such as a brazier, portable fire pit or bonfire and you're in business.

Unless you want to be that person, have guests bring a dish or snacks. After all, you can probably do it all yourself but hush that little voice in your mind and settle your control issues. Assign duties. It's a party, your job is done! Besides, you'll have plenty of work to do afterward restoring all that minor property damage errant guests have done to your walls, baseboards, carpets, and (ew) toilets.

About those guests. Thrillist has an excellent primer on five people you should include while making out the guest list: The Grill Captain, The Audiophile, The Errand Boy (person), The Ref, and The Steadfast Sidekick. While most of these monikers are self-explanatory, it's the Steadfast Sidekick who should get first billing.

"At the end of the party, you’re still going to need to peruse the yard for scattered paper plates, so that’s a job for either your ride-or-die or your friend’s new S/O (significant other) who is really trying to make a good impression. We like her/him!"

Honestly who else but your ride-or-die is going to endorse your gossip after the party and advise against posting defamatory Tik Toks? You might even get out of latrine duty if your gaslighting skills are uncommonly good.

With winter coming up the rear and another coronavirus variant on the loose, the perfect holiday celebration might be in your own backyard. If you had a COVID-year textpal then you're all caught up with them.

However, if you haven't seen or heard from others outside your inner circle but deem them no less important, a backyard gathering is the perfect opportunity for a 2020 recap.

Just keep in mind all CDC and personal safety guidelines when it comes to having a happy gathering. Then if you're comfortable, fire up that grill!

Photo courtesy of Erkin Athletics

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