The Orgasm Gap: ‘We have this frustrating myth that sex is easy and innate’

Aoife Drury

Single parenting in a pandemic: ‘I cry alone in the car so the kids don’t...

Lia Hynes

Author Ruth Gilligan: ‘I have slowly colonised our flat’s small second bedroom into my writing...

Sophie Grenham

About 400,000 women in Ireland have this condition and don’t know


The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 currently has no women sitting on it. Why?

Lynn Enright

Clever (and totally reversible) home updates to transform your space

Megan Burns

There was meant to be a sixth and final episode of ‘It’s A Sin’ set...

Lauren Heskin

Grown-up gingham: how to wear it without looking like Bo Peep

Erin Lindsay

3 simple midweek meals the whole family will love


Image / Living / Food & Drink

A beginner’s guide to hosting Christmas for the first time

by Lauren Heskin
16th Dec 2020

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.

Maybe you can’t get home and you’ve cobbled together some friends to spend the festivities with. Or perhaps you don’t want to risk popping home to your parents so it’s just you and your partner this year. There’s no doubt that Christmas is going to look a lot different for many of us this year.

Either way, 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

The Dinner

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-er’s 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 once 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.


The Decorations

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.


The Table

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 scattering of candles will more than suffice. By the time your guests sit down, they’ll be too preoccupied at 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.

Keep it simple with sprigs of ivy or eucalyptus and candles. Photo by Jordan Arnold on Unsplash


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 drop to invitees that it’s BYOB so you won’t run out. Better to be looking at it than for it.


The Conversation

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 aforementioned alcohol to metabolise and materialise. These Game of Life cards are 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’s 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.

Happy Christmas!

Featured image by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Read more: These Donal Skehan Christmas sausage rolls are my most-requested Christmas recipe

Read more: Irish abroad: ‘I hope Christmas just disappears’

Read more: ‘Nobody is forcing us to replace all our dinner plates with firtree and silver versions with matching tea-towels’

Also Read

12 brilliant, classic films to take your mind off the pandemic

In case, you’re in need of a break from the...

By Jennifer McShane

house for sale Rathmines
This charming terraced house in Rathmines is for sale for €1.25 million

Built in distinctive Dolphin's Barn yellow brick, this house for sale in Rathmines has been under the same ownership for almost 45 years and it has been lovingly maintained.

By Lauren Heskin

Tenerife dentist
Tenerife dentist wants to give Gardaí names of no-show Dublin couples

It looks like those in Tenerife for “urgent dental care” might be a little anxious about returning home, as the dentist surgery want to send names of Irish no-shows to the authorities.

By Lauren Heskin

It's A Sin
There was meant to be a sixth and final episode of ‘It’s A Sin’ set in the 2000s

By Lauren Heskin

Ranelagh home for sale
This stylish Ranelagh home is on the market for €1.095 million

The three-bedroom house is close to Beechwood Luas, as well as the many shops and restaurants of Ranelagh

By Megan Burns

Books you should read by the time you’re twenty-five

As children, most of us are voracious bookworms. I couldn’t...

By Erin Lindsay

Watch the trailer for the live action origin story of Cruella

Watch the trailer for the live action origin story of Cruella de Vil.

By Holly O'Neill

‘Stereotypes run deep in people’: Netflix’s extraordinary CRIP CAMP is a must-see

Who knew that down the road from Woodstock, a revolution...

By Jennifer McShane