Hosting a large group for the holidays can be a bit stressful, but you can alleviate some of that stress by getting organized and planning ahead. Being prepared will help ensure you have everything you need and eliminate that last minute scramble on Christmas Eve.
Here are some tips for getting ready for the big day with ease so you can focus on spending time with you family and friends.
Get all your gift shopping done early
Don't procrastinate on your shopping this year. You don't need to worry about finding time to shop for gifts and battling the crowds just days before the big meal. Get all of your shopping done and presents wrapped at least a week prior to Christmas so your only focus that last week is on your home and the meal.
To be efficient with your shopping and ensure you don't overspend. create a spreadsheet. Keep track of each gift you've purchased, who it's for, and how much it cost. That way you can see how much you've spent and make sure you spending equally between your siblings or each of your kids. Be sure to store all of your receipts in an envelope or Ziplock bag in case somebody need to make a return.
Take stock of Christmas decorations
Is it time to freshen up some of your ornaments? Are all of your bulbs still twinkling or do they need to be replaced? Do you need a table centerpiece? Make a list of items you need to replace and new items you'd like to purchase. Then itemize them into two groups; a list of items you need to buy before Christmas and a list of items you can get after Christmas during the after-Christmas sales. Be sure to take your "before Christmas" list with you and pick up items while you are out gift shopping.
Get all of the decorations up as early as you can, but at least a week before Christmas. With decorating done, it's one less thing you need to worry about as you are preparing for guests.
Plan games and entertainment
With a large group there will be a lot of talking and catching up while snacking on before dinner cookies and cheese and crackers, but you may also want to plan a few fun entertainment activities.
Create a spot for guests to watch the football games, if you have some football fans in your mix.
If your family likes to spend some time outside on Christmas, start a new family tradition and have a fun football game with the whole family in the backyard. If it's projected to snow on Christmas, tell guests to bring their hats and gloves and plan a snowball fight.
If you want to stay indoors, google some fun family games that will get everybody laughing. We love Woman's Day list of 17 Fun Christmas Party Games Your Guests Will Love. The prize ball in the #12 spot is one of our favorites. Or you could just pull out some board games or card games. Ask guest to bring some games they love and get everybody involved.
Plan Christmas meal
Seven to ten days before Christmas, get a final list of Christmas dinner attendees so you know how many people you need to serve. Decide how many tables and chairs you will need and how you can arrange them in your home. If you need additional tables or chairs, reach out to your friends and neighbors to see what you can borrow. Or you could call a party supply rental store to see if they have any tables and chairs left.
Next, decide what table settings you want to use. Do you want to use formal china, cute holiday settings, your regular every day dishes, or paper plates and disposable glasses? Unless you plan to use disposable place settings, take stock of your plates, glasses, and silverware. Do you have enough table settings for each guest? If not, determine how many you need and add them to your shopping list. If you plan to use paper products, add those to your list as well. Don't forget about napkins. Make sure they are also added to your shopping list. If you're using cloth napkins, make sure you have enough for every guest plus a few extra.
Once you have the table settings planned out, start working on the menu. Make a list of all of the food you'd like to serve for Christmas dinner. Sort your list into items you need to make and items guests are bringing.
Check your pots, pans, bowls, and serving spoon supply to ensure you have enough to serve everything. Make sure you have enough serving spoons for the foods you're making and the foods guests are bringing. Many guests will bring their own service spoons, but some will forget so make sure you're prepared. Add whatever you need to your shopping list.
Next, make a list of all the ingredients you will need for each dish. Don't leave an ingredient off because you think you already have it in the cupboard. Write down every single ingredient so you don't have any surprises on December 25th. Missing ingredients are not the surprises you want on Christmas Day. Then go through your cupboards and fridge to see what items you have and what you still need to buy. Cross off each item on your list, if you already have it. Circle items that need to be added to your grocery list. Create your grocery list and add each of the circled items from your ingredient list.
Make a list of prep and cooking time and the cooking temps for each item on your menu and then determine how and in what order you will cook each item. What items can you cook in the oven at the same time? What can be prepared ahead of time and popped into the oven on Christmas Day? What foods can sit out while other items cook and which items need to be served hot? An easy way to organize your meal prep and cooking is to use post-it notes. For each menu item, use one post-it note and write down the name of the dish, the prep time, the cook time, the cook temperature, and what dish you will use to cook it. Then arrange your post-it notes based on the order you need to cook them in, how many items you can fit into the oven at once, the cook times, and the idle times. This list will be very helpful on Christmas Day as you are preparing the meal.
Several days before Christmas grab your shopping list of needed place settings, napkins, bowls, serving spoons, and ingredients and get all of your shopping done in one full swoop.
With these tips, hosting Christmas dinner will be a breeze. You'll be prepared and the only surprised you'll get will be wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Enjoy the day with your family, playing fun games, eating yummy food, and exchanging gifts.
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