Here’s to the most wonderful time of the year; the time where you get to sit back, relax and enjoy stuffing your face with food and drinks, lovingly prepared by that one sucker in your family who somehow always ends up hosting Christmas.
That is, unless that lovely sucker is you.
Last year that lovely sucker was me and, let me tell you, hosting a holiday dinner is fun but also A WHOLE LOT of work. So, if this year you stepped up and volunteered to host (or you were volun-told to), I’m here to share some of my newly found wisdom so you can wow the pants off your friends and/or family with an evening full of food, drinks and fun!
Now I know what you’re thinking – Lydia, no one else in their right mind loves planning as much as you do…and while that may be true, a little planning never hurt anybody! To host a successful event, you will need to be able to answer three basic questions:
- What date and time?
- Who is coming?
- What am I serving?
Once these questions are answered, you can keep yourself on track with this handy checklist:
Note: You do not need to use the exact same checklist as I’ve created above. Feel free to create a variation of this list so you can ensure the date doesn’t creep up on you (because it always does!).
If you can take away anything from this post, let it be this – delegation is key! Remember, there is no “I” in team. If it is your first time hosting Christmas (and your guests are your family), you will more than likely be asked “what can I bring/do?” Trust me – don’t be a hero and take their help.
For my own dinner, I delegated the baking to my mom and bringing extra serving platters and the roasting pan to my mother-in-law (a good roasting pan will set you back about $50 so if you can borrow it, why not?).
Balancing Traditions – Yours, Mine and Ours
Every family has their own set of family traditions and the holidays are no exception. So, if you’re lucky enough to host more than one family for Christmas, don’t forget to be mindful of them.
For some, it is important to attend church (midnight mass anyone?), while for others, they may watch the same holiday movie every single year. If you have a partner, talk to them about what traditions are important to their family so you don’t inadvertently hurt anyone’s feelings. At the same time, if you and your partner have just begun living together, you are going to want to start your own traditions too (it’s all about compromising).
In my case, I was hosting both my family (my mom, her fiancé and my brother) and my in-laws (my mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law). Now, if you have ever hosted two women who are normally the ones who host, you will understand the saying “there are too many cooks in the kitchen”.
In order to avoid hurt feelings, you never (I repeat NEVER) want to show favoritism to one mother over the other – this will only end in tears. Instead, compromise on certain things – in my case, I used my mother-in-law’s turkey recipe and my mother did all the baking for the evening (my mother in law also loves to bake so this was a fair trade). Everyone helped and everyone was happy.
Get Everyone to Mingle
One of the most effective ways to get everyone together is to play games. One of my all-time favourites is the game, White Elephant. For those who haven’t played, everyone brings a wrapped present (you decide on the maximum dollar amount cap beforehand) and place them in the middle of a circle. Each person takes turns taking a gift (normally going youngest to oldest) and opening it. Here’s where it gets interesting: the next person who chooses a gift has the option to take a new gift from the pile or steal a gift from another person. You can set the amount of times a gift can be stolen so that once it reaches that amount; no one else can steal it.
Don’t like that idea? There are literally hundreds of holiday present games which are a great way to reduce the amount of gifts you have to buy everyone and serve as a way to get everyone spending time together.
This should go without saying, but sometimes hosts tend to get lost in their duties and forget that they are supposed to also partake in the festivities. Not to mention, as the host, your mood will set the tone for the party. No one wants a frazzled host!
For me, I’m bad for trying to clean up throughout the night so I don’t have so much to clean up later. Now, while this is helpful for you the next morning, it is not ideal for a couple of reasons:
1. It seems like you’re trying to clean up to get everyone out of your house (and while this may be true, you don’t want them to feel it!) and
2. You don’t get to enjoy the moments with everyone else if you’re running around trying to clean up after everyone.
So what’s the ultimate secret to surviving your first holiday dinner?
It’s all about remembering to K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple stupid! This is your first time doing something others have been able to perfect with many years of practice. No one expects you to be an expert on your first go; and while we would love to be hosting prodigies, your friends and family should love you enough to be okay with the learning curve (and maybe make fun of you a little less at next year’s celebration).