With less then 4 weeks to go until Christmas, now is the perfect time to start planning your Christmas gathering. Whether it’s an informal drinks party with friends in December, or a proper lunch with the whole family on Christmas day, it pays to have a plan now to ensure smooth sailing on the day. The more time you spend planning now, the less time you spend panicking on the day.
Follow these simple steps to planning and implementing a fabulous Christmas soiree. I’ve also included some of my favourite Christmas entertaining recipes to get you started.
Give people plenty of notice
Let people know about your intentions on hosting a party at least 3 weeks in advance. At this time of year, people’s schedules are quickly filling up so it’s best to get in early to avoid disappointment. It also gives you plenty of time to think about how much food and drink you will need to purchase when you have confirmation of numbers a few weeks before the event.
Plan your menu as soon as possible
Sit down with your cookbooks, favourite blogs and websites and plan all the food out now. Write a master list of all the ingredients and bits and pieces (napkins, paper plates, etc) that you will need to purchase. Divide the list into two parts - things you can buy ahead of time and things you can buy a day or two in advance. You can almost guarantee that you will not be able to find cranberries, pecans, savoiardi biscuits and mascarpone cheese on Christmas eve (trust me, I’ve been there, it’s not pretty.) Pick up the bits and pieces you need a little at a time to spread the cost out over a few weeks. For example, if you see a great frozen turkey for a good price, pick it up now to prevent disappointment later. Keep your list somewhere visible and convenient and mark items off as you buy them.
Ask people to bring a plate
This is a great way to alleviate some stress on the day. Most people are happy to bring something along to a gathering and many will offer anyway. Salads and desserts are easy items to delegate to others. Have an open mind and be flexible to people’s ideas. Don’t try and micromanage people’s choices too much, however a little guidance is often helpful such as, “Aunty Jan is bringing a green salad, so perhaps you could bring something rice or potato based?”
Plan to include things on your menu that can be made ahead of time
There are lots of foods that can be made weeks in advance, frozen and reheated on the day. Lasagne is always a crowd pleaser and is easily defrosted and baked on the day. Many cakes and cookie doughs can also be frozen and defrosted successfully.
Don’t overcommit to cooking
Your guests are not going to fully appreciate the effort you put into cooking every individual item yourself. Keep it simple by having some bought items on your menu that simply require assembly on the day. A great antipasto platter is always a winner, as are platters of cooked prawns and fresh oysters.
Are there any items you need to get on Christmas day?
Scope out your local shops to see if there will be anywhere open selling fresh bread and ice on Christmas day. There are quite a few shops that open in the morning but shut by lunch time so do find out where you’ll be able to source these things on the day to avoid warm drinks and stale bread.
Do your prep work the day before
There are so many things that can actually be prepared and kept in the fridge overnight. Things like washing and chopping vegetables, preparing robust salads (like rice, bean or potato salads), making up antipasto and fruit platters, baking cakes and biscuits. I personally feel less stressed when I can minimise the time I spend in the kitchen on the day of the party. It means I can spend more time getting the house ready, getting the children looking presentable and finally having a little me time so that I can look fabulous too.
Finally, make sure that you don’t take it all too seriously. Kick back and have some fun. Hosting parties at any time of the year can be stressful, but big important days like Christmas can seem to have added pressure and gravitas attached to them. The reality is, it’s just another day. It’s meant to be a day to celebrate family and togetherness. Focus on having the best time with your guests rather than putting too much pressure on yourself to have the perfect food or the best decorations. Your guests will most appreciate a happy and relaxed atmosphere, one where they can have a laugh, eat a little too much and have a drink or three with family and friends.
Stress Free Christmas Menu
Drinks on arrival: Ask your guests to bring their own beverages and have a bucket of ice on hand ready to go.
Antipasto Platter: Visit your local deli or supermarket for a selection of your party favourites and simply assemble on the day for an easy snack.
Union Square Spicy Nuts: These nuts have it all - salty, sweet, spicy, aromatic and crunchy, they are the perfect nibble with drinks at your Christmas gathering.
BBQ Turkey with Herby Stuffing and Pan Gravy: If you've got a coal burning or gas hooded barbecue, this is the recipe for your Christmas turkey. Completely avoid switching your oven on in hot weather and benefit with smoky, succulent roast turkey.
Roast Chicken with Cous Cous Stuffing: This delicious lemony and sweet cous cous stuffing takes ordinary roast chicken up several notches with just a teensy bit more effort.
Baked Green Beans with Cranberries and Walnuts: Green beans are the perfect accompaniment to any roast or bbq meats. The craisins and walnuts are so festive and apart from tasting great, will really brighten up your Christmas table.
Best Roast Potatoes: Easy, tasty, crispy and fluffy roast potatoes. When making these for a crowd, I always prepare a tray of these the day before then simply pop into the oven when my guests arrive. They bake whilst we eat nibbles and have drinks.