Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukkah, the holidays can become a little stressful. I am here to share with you my best tips for keeping your holiday entertaining season as easy and stress free as possible!
I absolutely LOVE the holidays! I can skip right over Halloween and get right into Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t think it’s ever too early for Christmas music or setting up our tree. For me, Christmas is a season of joy, of love and of generosity. I like to fill my soul with all that goodness for as long as possible!
Nash loves Christmas too!
I think one of the best things about the holidays is spending time with people you love and care about (especially when there is delicious food involved)! If you’ve never hosted a holiday gathering before or if you’re looking for some tips to make your annual holiday soiree easier, I am here to help!
First things first, prep ahead! It doesn’t matter what type of meal you are serving or how many people you are cooking for, advanced preparation is key! Prep as much as you can as early as you can! Wash and chop your veggies, then store them together according to their dish. For example, keep all of your stuffing vegetables in one container together – ready to cook. Prep your herbs, carrots and onions for filling your turkey and keep those in a zip top bag.
You can also make whole dishes in advance! One of my personal favorite things to make in advance is my easy cranberry sauce which you can find here!. It keeps great in the fridge for a day or two before you need it. Same goes with mashed potatoes! I will make those the night before and then just heat them in the oven before serving.
Prepping allows you to not only save time but it also reduces the amount of mess you create on the day of. You don’t wan’t dirty, messy counters and a sink full of dishes when your guests arrive!
That leads me to tip #2: Wash your dishes as you go. I would rather do a few small rounds of dishes by hand than a large one! For the things that can’t go in the dishwasher, get them washed before you completely run out of things to use! Keep up with your own mess and it will help keep you feeling in control.
Now my all-time favorite tip is next. You ready? This is something my aunt taught me at a very young age. A few days before your meal, take out all of your casserole dishes and serving utensils and label each one with it’s corresponding dish. See photo below.
This is helpful for a few different reasons. First of all, it allows you to be sure that you have everything accessible and you aren’t digging through cupboards at the last minute. It also guarantees that you have enough dishes for everything that you plan to make and serve. You would hate to realize at the last minute that you don’t have enough dishes or that you didn’t have one big enough for what you are serving!
Tip #4 is GET HELP wherever you can! If you are making your entire main course from scratch, it’s ok to get your pie crust with a little help from the Pillsbury Dough Boy! There’s no shame in getting a pre-made meat and cheese or vegetable tray from your local deli or grocery store and transferring it to your own platter. And I don’t know about you, but I rarely have the patience for making my own dough so grabbing rolls from your freezer section or local bakery is not the worst thing that you could do. Spend your time on the main focal points of your meal and don’t stress over the little things. If you get yourself a little help, you’ll be less stressed for your guests and they will appreciate that!
Next up, use an apron! I absolutely love my apron! I usually don’t put on my “meal outfit” until right before guests arrive but once I do have my outfit on, my apron is a life saver! The last thing you want is to be in the final stages of cooking and splatter gravy all over your blouse/dress and have to run off to change and treat the stain before it sets! Get yourself a cute apron and avoid any mess.
If you have guests staying for longer than just the meal (overnight or a couple days), I like to keep seasonal paper plates and napkins on hand for leftovers. Having these sitting on the counter invites your guests to help themselves later in the evening or the next day to leftovers. It also keeps you from having to do a second (or third) round of dishes! After cooking all day I would much rather sit with my guests than do dishes over and over! I don’t want my dishwasher running constantly either.
Now I have a few tidbits of decor advice. First of all, keep your centerpiece low so that it does not interrupt the conversation of your guests. You don’t want a big, tall arrangement blocking the faces of the guests sitting across from each other. Also, I like to keep my centerpiece simple. To me, the food is the centerpiece of the table so I don’t want that being overshadowed by dramatic decor or over-fragrant florals.
In terms of linens, I am team cloth napkins, at least for more formal meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. I think they add a sophistication to your table and they bring a pop of color! They will also give your guests a warm, inviting welcome and help to set the tone of the meal. They’re not very expensive either!
And last but not least, take some time to enjoy yourself. Make yourself a drink, sit and visit with your guests. Let the dishes sit on the table a few extra minutes. The holidays should be a wonderful and joyous time!
I hope that you will be able to implement some, or all, of these tips during this holiday entertaining season. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of friends and family and enjoy the food.
Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season.