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Image / Living / Food & Drink

A simple and pocket-friendly guide to hosting Christmas last minute


By Megan Burns
21st Dec 2021

Tim Douglas / Pexels

A simple and pocket-friendly guide to hosting Christmas last minute

Christmas plans are in flux thanks to this new Covid strain, but if your plans have changed, it doesn't have to be the end of the world

Maybe you’re not going home because you’re worried about your family, or maybe you’re isolating with housemates through the holidays. Maybe you’re on your tod for the first time ever or maybe you lost a parent and it’s your first time hosting. As this dratted Omicron strain with truly terrible timing sinks its teeth into the country during Christmas week, many of us are scrambling to reorganise our holiday plans while also buying out every pharmacy of antigen tests.

But if this is your first Christmas out of the ordinary, it’s important not to put yourself under too much pressure. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it probably won’t be so embrace the weirdness and save your pennies from panic-buying that bag of fresh cranberries with our guide to making this bizarre Christmas enjoyable on a shoestring.

In her cookbook, Nothing FancyUS cook Alison Roman makes the argument that having people over doesn’t mean you have to suddenly turn your home into a Michelin-starred restaurant. And while she’s focusing on creating laid-back dishes, we’re firm believers that this philosophy should extend to your whole evening.

Just as your guests/housemates/siblings aren’t expecting you to serve up your Mum’s level of Christmas dinner, including carrot reductions and flavoured foam, neither will they feel at ease with an overly formal table setting. Keep the vibe relaxed and it’ll make for a celebration that everyone will enjoy – including you. Here are some tips to make everything look great, without spending a fortune.

Nothing has to match…

…and it will probably look better if it doesn’t. Our ultimate dinner party table has an eclectic mix of glasses, cutlery and dinnerware, because a) it looks so much more layered and interesting, and b) who has ten plates that look the same, anyway?

If you’re really short on something such as bowls or glasses, check out your local charity shop for a cheap place to pick up some really good-quality items that will add to the mix-and-match vibe. Also if you hadn’t heard, chintz is back, so there’s no need to shy away from delicate floral patterns.

Nature is the ultimate free decoration

There’s no need to go out and buy flowers to decorate your table. No matter what the season, there’s something outside you can adorn your table with. While spring and summer will provide plentiful wild blooms, in autumn and winter you can go for berry-adorned twigs, evergreen foliage and dried seed heads.

Either placed in vases or simply laid on the table, whatever you pick will instantly make your table feel seasonal and welcoming.

Get guests to bring what you’re missing 

dinner party on a budget
Lamorran Serving Bowl, from €15, Neptune

If you don’t have a certain item like a salad bowl or a coffee pot big enough to serve everyone, there’s no need to rush out to the shops. Simply ask someone who does to bring theirs. If they forget to bring it home then, it’s just a great excuse for them to call around again to pick it up.

Keep it simple 

dinner party on a budget
Vardagen Carafe with lid, €3.50, Ikea

Drinks can be an expensive aspect of having people over, but you don’t have to spend a fortune trying to please everyone. Ask guests to bring their favourite tipple, so there’s no guesswork involved.

For non-alcoholic options, a clear jug and some fruit slices or mint sprigs are all it takes to jazz up water, whether it’s straight from the tap or own-brand sparkling.

Candles make all the difference

dinner party on a budget
Handmade stoneware tealight holder, around €14, Rowen & Wren

It doesn’t matter if your chairs are a bit scuffed or you forgot the napkins – as long as you have candles on the table, your gathering will have a relaxed, cosy atmosphere.

They don’t need to be fancy, either. Plain white dinner candles or tealights are perfect. Simply stick them in an empty bottle or set them on a saucer and let their flickering glow take centre stage.