These tips and tricks will help you pull together a fabulous celebration without losing your holiday spirit – or your mind!
Step 1: Check logistics Figure out if you have enough chairs, seating space, and tableware. Borrow from friends and neighbors to fill any holes. Or check out a thrift store; if you don't need or want it afterward, donate it back.
TIP: Throw some cushions on the floor around your coffee table and let little guests eat there.
Step 2: Call your guests Call your guests so you have a handle on how many people are coming – and an excuse to fish for contributions. People often want to contribute, especially if it ensures that their holiday favorite will be on the table.
Step 3: Ask for help Don't be shy about asking for assistance before, during, and after. You'll need all the help you can preparing the food, getting your home ready, serving, and cleaning up afterward.
TIP: If your budget allows it, hire a cleaning service a day or two before.
Step 4: Have all the family favorites Honor family traditions, even if you personally think that egg nog is nauseating and fruitcake isn't really dessert. If it's important to someone, serve it – and let them take the leftovers home.
Step 5: Finalize your menu Finalize your menu and go shopping. Figure out what you can make a day or two ahead so that the big day is not such a rush. And remember: Now is not the time to attempt a dish you've never tried.
Step 6: Don't pull any surprises When it comes to dinner, don't surprise your guests with tofurkey if they've always had a Christmas ham. If you want to serve something different, make it in addition to, not instead of, the family favorite.
TIP: Plan on these per-person servings: One pound of meat, a half-cup of potatoes, half-cup of each vegetable side dish, two dinner rolls, an eighth of a pie or cake, and three of each kind of cookie.
Step 7: Make a simple centerpiece Make a simple table centerpiece out of a bowl of ornaments in two colors, like gold and red, or a bowl filled with bunches of red and green grapes, perhaps surrounding a pillar candle. Line the table with votive candles. You're all set!
FACT: Candy canes evolved from candy crooks, a sweet invented in 17th-century Germany to keep children quiet during Christmas church services.
You Will Need
Adequate seating and tableware
All the family's favorite foods
Christmas ornaments or bunches of red and green grapes