Hosting Christmas dinner this year and still not really sure how you’re going to pull it off? We’ve got you—and you’ve got this.
Gemma Bray remembers the first time she hosted Christmas. “I went way over the top and made far too much food and spent far too much money,” says Bray. “From then on I have always made sure to keep things in check.” Now, the creator of the lifestyle blog The Organised Mum has a few words of advice for those planning to host the holiday for the first time: Keep things simple. You don’t need to make edible wreaths or Christmas tree cheese balls for your fête to be merry and memorable.
Becky O’Haire, founder of the lifestyle blog Cuddle Fairy, agrees that simplicity is key. So if it’s your turn to host Christmas this year, and if—like many—you’ve spent too much time Christmas gift shopping and decorating the tree to actually plan out your hosting duties, here are some last minute tips to make it through the day without becoming one of the large percentage of Americans who’d like to skip Christmas altogether (reported as 45 percent in 2012, though a 2017 survey put the number at 33 percent).
Make a List & Check It Twice
It’s safe to say our brains love lists—we thrive off of grocery lists, errand to-do lists, and of course the beloved gift wish list, so why not do the same for Christmas dinner? Lists are just easier to digest, unlike that delicious mountain of ham.
“Make sure you write down when everything needs to start cooking and that way it will all be ready at the right time,” says Bray.
Smart Planner Magnetic Refrigerator Dry Erase Board, $9.95 on Amazon
A customizable weekly planner can be a big help, and this one sticks to your fridge.
It may seem like overkill, but jotting down all the other things you’ll need to do besides cooking—like setting the table and mixing up the Christmas sangria—will help you keep an accurate picture of what’s still on your plate (and be so satisfying to check off).
Work as Far Ahead as Possible
“Prep as much in advance as you can—that way you don’t have to spend all your time in the kitchen,” Bray says.
O’Haire’s on the same page: “I peel the vegetables and make desserts and anything that can be made the day ahead on Christmas Eve,” she says. “Then on Christmas day it’s just turning pots on. It’s much easier that way because it’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to prep.”
Having the correct tools will help you with the prep work, too. We like this mandoline slicer for perfect scalloped potatoes, among other things—and it’s way faster than using a knife.
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For the thinnest, most even slices, a mandoline is essential.
You may even want to consider cooking your main course under pressure—see these Instant Pot Christmas recipes for ideas.
“Use disposable baking trays,” says Bray. “Nobody wants to be scrubbing dirty pots and pans on Christmas Day. Buy a couple of disposable baking trays that you can throw in the bin.”
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of formality, also consider purchasing plates, bowls and cutlery that look like China sets, but are actually disposable plastic. Or go with a more eco-friendly option, like compostable palm leaf plates.
No time to go to the store? Order your groceries online.
“It’s your Christmas, too, so be sure to accept help,” says O’Haire.
There’s nothing wrong with letting family and friends help out on the big day—a potluck is a good way to ensure there’s enough food and variety and is a fun way to get everyone involved and excited.
If you’re set on doing all the cooking yourself, have guests bring games, movies, or handle the music instead—even bring flowers or extra serving dishes if that’s what you really want help with. And if you don’t want those leftovers for days, tell them to bring their own Tupperware, too!
Spread the Cheer—and Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself
Energy is just as important as your food and decor—and it’s what people will arguably remember most about the occasion. If you’re appearing to have a good time, so will your guests; and as Bray puts it, “Your guests are there to not only have fun but to see you too.”
“Don’t feel like because you are hosting that you can’t enjoy your day too,” adds O’Haire.
Lastly, try not to compare yourself to other people or put too much focus on preconceived notions of Christmas dinner: “When people put pressure on themselves to ‘have fun’ it very often works the other way and the expectations of the day don’t match up to the romantic ideal that they had in mind,” says Bray. “Far better to relax and do things your way. You will have a much better time this way!”
Oh, and don’t forget the wine.
Related Video: How to Open a Champagne Bottle
Header image courtesy of Oksana Luksina / EyeEm / Getty Images