Whether it's just you and a loved one, a gathering of friends who are staying put for the season or taking over for your mom, here's how to have a relaxed time hosting Christmas this year.
Now that the date is creeping up and you suddenly feel the extra pressure that comes with the Christmas Day dinner, you’re starting to panic. How does your mother do it, what do you even need to buy, what’s a good wine, how do you make stuffing, do you need to decorate on top of everything else? No matter how many people circle around the table, there’s undoubtedly a pressure that comes with Christmas dinner.
First of all, don’t panic, there are people doing it all over the world – you probably have an aunt with a full-time job who has fed 20+ people every year without so much as a hair out of place or whisper of complaint. Actually, that’s probably a good place to start – ask her for a few tips.
In lieu of that, here’s our round-up of things to remember when hosting Christmas for the first time
Like, all good events, the food is crucial. Don’t kid yourself that once you’ve gotten all the ingredients you’ll be able to wing it on the day – to quote Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, “big mistake, huge”. Carefully plan everything you want to cook; how long it’ll take and when the oven will be occupied. Then do like the Bake Off-ers do and create a tick list of timings that you can easily follow on the day. It’ll make you feel under control, will be easier to delegate to eager guests, and you get the satisfaction of crossing things off as they’re done.
If there’s anything you can do in advance, do it. Stuffing, roast potatoes and desserts can all be made in the days leading up. You won’t feel like it at the time, but you’ll thank yourself when everything is ready to go and your roasties are still rock solid.
Keep it simple. A beautifully lit Christmas tree and a few tasteful decorations will go a long way. The room may look sparse to you but remember it’s going to be bustling with friends and family soon enough. The general rule is, if in doubt, add a candle. Candlelight is the perfect atmosphere-setter, no need to jazz it up – just keep them out of reach of small hands.
I mention this not because you ought to pour your heart and soul into festooning the table, but because you shouldn’t.
A white tablecloth, some strands of ivy from the garden and a scattering of candles will more than suffice. By the time your guests sit down, they’ll be too preoccupied with the well-cooked feast you’re serving up. Just ensure there are enough seats (crucial) and the glassware is clean to give lovely reflections of candle flames.
The drinks table
When asking around for advice on hosting Christmas, ensuring there’s enough alcohol came up a lot. Christmas with family over can be a toughie, but a dry Christmas with family? Yikes. Stock up. And maybe subtly let invitees know that it’s BYOB so you won’t run out. Better to be looking at it than for it.
If you want to fend off the annual family argument or have guests who don’t know each other very well, it’s no harm leaving out something to occupy themselves pre-dinner as you wait for the aforementioned alcohol to metabolise and materialise. A board game is a great way to get people talking, especially if it’s a group who don’t know each other very well.
For little ones, why not set up a little craft area for them to play, no doubt they and their parents will thank you for it.
The blind spots
In the whirlwind of Christmas build-up, you can often get bogged down over what’s happening in the kitchen and under the tree. While these are important, don’t neglect other areas, namely the bathroom. You won’t have time to be checking it during the day so make sure there are plenty of clean towels, hand soap and toilet roll on hand. Not the most glamorous, but certainly necessary!
And finally, Frankie says…
Relax. If you burn the turkey to a crisp and end up serving stuffing with a side of overcooked carrots, it won’t really matter. Sure, you’ll be teased about it until the end of time but you’ve got to give them something, right? Make sure that you, as well as all your guests, have a wonderful time, take help when it’s offered, accept that at least one thing is going to go wrong, and remember it’s just a day like any other.
This article was originally published in 2020.