The country star passed up bar-hopping for a Christmas-themed birthday bash with "Team Taylor" at her family's home in Hendersonville, Tenn. – but without beau Jake Gyllenhaal, who was in L.A.
"Turning 21 has never been a big deal for her so it was basically the same type of party she always has: family and friends and her band and crew," a friend tells PEOPLE.
Swift – who spent her birthday morning visiting a Nashville radio show and meeting up with pal Julianne Hough – played chef with her mother, Andrea, preparing an array of hearty hors d'oeuvres for the 70 or so guests, who also nibbled on catered sushi selections as Christmas tunes played in the background.
"Taylor was in high spirits and was sporting a cute tiara," says the friend. "Everyone was saying how good the food was and wondering how in the world they had time to do it."
And though it was her big day, Swift handed out special thank you gifts to bandmates and members of her management and label team.
The night's highlight? Swift presided over a "spirited" dirty Santa gift exchange, providing all the holiday-inspired gifts for the guests, "It was fun watching everyone open their gifts," the friend says. "Taylor loves that game."