Guest Post from my friend over at SpiritFinder.org
Preparation and creativity: Planning a stress-free holiday dinner
So this time it’s your turn to plan the big holiday dinner. Either you volunteered, were asked to do it, or you just happen to have the biggest house in your family. Whatever the reason, you’ve got the job. Now, the pressure’s officially on. Stress and anxiety will soon follow and, before you know it, you’re obsessing over every little detail. Dinner menu and munchies aside, the worst part is worrying that you’ll disappoint everyone’s expectations, which are always a little higher during the holidays.
Well, take a deep breath. Whether it’s for friends, family or both, remember these are people who will appreciate your efforts and support you no matter what you choose to do. If you can keep that in mind, throwing a great holiday party really just comes down to organization with a little personal creativity thrown in. And there are lots of ways to do it.
Live by the list
There’s no need to get scientific about it, but you’ll need to get organized. The first step is to make a list of everything you’ll need and tasks that you can check off as you work your way along. A list may seem a little old-fashioned but it’s still the best way to make sure you don’t overlook something major, like making sure you have enough place settings, an especially good idea if this is your very first holiday dinner. Plus, you’ll feel good about yourself and grow some confidence as your list becomes smaller and smaller.
Get a head start
If you’ve ever hosted a dinner, you know that things can get pretty hectic the closer you get to the big day. Running around trying to find the dinner rolls or the gravy boat at the last minute isn’t the best way to eliminate stress, so consider preparing as many menu and appetizer items as you can ahead of time. There are plenty of dishes that can be cooked or baked in advance and frozen or refrigerated without losing their taste or visual appeal.
Elegant but easy
Every host wants to serve a meal that gets oohs and ahhs from the guests, with dishes that look as good as they taste. But unless a fancy French restaurant is catering your soiree, that can be hard to pull off if you’re not an experienced cook. Fortunately, you can still impress with dishes that are delicious, but easy to make. Impress with an appetizer like pear with blue cheese and prosciutto, followed by lamb rubbed in tarragon, and side dishes like brussels sprouts with pecans and glazed carrots. You can always ask your guests to bring along their favorite holiday goodies to augment your menu. And don’t forget to provide for guests who have special dietetic needs.
Decorate ‘til it hurts
The best holidays are sensory experiences, good times that everyone remembers for great food, beautiful music, and sparkling decorations. This is where the creativity comes in. Lights are central to most holiday decorations, from twinkling Christmas lights to little glowing ghosts and goblins at Halloween. During the Christmas holiday season, blend in as much greenery as possible, everything from holly to spruce. If you’re into crafts, why not try making an aromatic and beautiful evergreen wreath with lavender accents. Bear in mind that if you can put your guests in the holiday spirit as soon as they walk in the door, you’ll have gone a long way toward throwing a successful dinner party.
Happy without headaches
Alcohol is a part of most holiday parties. Before you roll out the barrel, think through your guest list. Does anyone on it have a drinking problem, or is anyone a recovering alcoholic? Remember that keeping the liquor flowing can quickly ratchet up the stress level for you and your guests. Consider playing some popular games, such as charades or Trivial Pursuit. It gets everyone involved and can defuse any potential awkward situations caused by the presence of booze.