How to Survive Hosting this Christmas
It's all in the details
Prep in Advance
No one wants to be hot and bothered in the kitchen when their home is full of guests. As much as you can, all cooking preparation should be done before the big day itself to save you stressing. Get all your veggies chopped, stuffing sorted and meat marinating so you can stay as cool as a cucumber when your guests roll in.
Set the Table
Not only will this save you juggling plates, knives, glasses and who knows what else on the day, but it’s also a great way to make sure you have exactly what you need. If it’s a busy family Christmas (like mine) there’s nothing worse than realising as people are sitting down that there has been a serious miscount and someone needs to eat their dinner out of a cereal bowl. A seating plan can help manage the chaos too, and stop disaster in its tracks by splitting up unruly family members.
Ditch the Drinks Service
Unless you’re exclusively hosting children (shudder) your guests are more than capable of serving themselves drinks. This will help to free you up to enjoy a tipple yourself rather than scanning the room for empty glasses. Everything you need can be set out in advance (like glasses and garnishes) and during dinner, have another drinks station near the table for wine, water and something for the kids. If you do want to go that extra mile and have a welcome cocktail on hand for guests, you can look for inspiration here.
Only you can be the judge of whether your guests would enjoy a party game, but it is definitely a good way to keep everyone entertained. Don’t feel like you need to splash out on something new because the old classics work just as well. A packet of sticky notes and a pen are all that’s needed for a game of Who Am I?, or why not try a round of charades
Make it Feel Like Home
Quiet background Christmas music, a well-placed scented candle and some twinkling fairy lights will go far in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in your home. As much as possible, avoid harsh, overhead lights and stick to lamps and low lighting to add to that Christmas glow, especially as the daylight starts to fade. Candles on the dinner table can be wonderful for creating atmosphere too, just make sure they’re not at risk of being knocked by a stray hand.
Friendly Finger Foods
Serving hors d’oeuvres to your guests doesn’t have to be intimidating, this isn’t Masterchef. If you do want to give it a go, pick two or three simple finger foods, prepare them in advance and take the same approach as with the drink stations. Have the nibbles in a few well chosen spots with napkins handy and let guests help themselves. This gives you one less thing to think about and lets you enjoy your own hard work. If you’re looking for inspiration, you'll find it here.
Have you attended those dinner parties where the host is frantically trying to recall exactly what people do and don’t like on their plate? Skip the fuss and allow people to serve themselves. If you have space on the table for everything, great, if not you can set up a designated area or simply have the dishes on the kitchen counters. This also helps with clutter on the table and saves room for the all-important drinks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either, whether someone wants to help prep the food in advance or bring their own side dish. Just say yes!
This can seem like a mammoth task at the end of a great day. Take some of the pressure off by getting everyone involved. Many hands make light work and your guests will be more than happy to chip in after the wonderful meal you made for them. Cleaning things away then and there also means that you have the rest of the night to enjoy yourself, without the dreaded dishes hanging over your head.
Keep Calm and Carry On
No Christmas gathering is without its hiccups so the best thing you can do for the day (and your own sanity) is to just go with the flow. No one is going to remember or care if the wine gets spilled or you forgot the carrots, so just relax and remember it’s only one day a year!