While Christmas should be a time of festivities and joy, filled with good food and even better company – when it comes to entertaining, the pressure is on. With big expectations and bigger appetites – keeping your guests merry on the big day can often require a lot of work behind the scenes.
So, whether you’re planning a party of two or twenty-two, Cookaway is here to help relieve some stress in the lead-up to the big day. From dealing with fussy eaters to staying on budget, here are a few helpful tips for entertaining at Christmas – from our pro chefs themselves.
Setting the scene is all-important
First things first, make your home look the part by putting up your Christmas decorations. Get the Christmas music going, light up the tree, hang the mistletoe and deck the halls – quite literally! Doing this all in advance can really help to save time on the big day.
When decorating, it can be easy to neglect your dining table – but this will be the centre of your spread, so dressing it up can really elevate your Christmas party. Our chefs suggest starting with a centrepiece, and going from there – a runner, for example, can be a great background to your decorations whilst providing a symmetrical finish.
While you obviously still need room for food, holly, bells and acorns all make great little accessories to decorate your table. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas party meal without the obligatory Christmas cracker.
Don’t be afraid to do it differently
While everyone has their Christmas traditions, don’t be afraid to shake things up and try something new for a change. Whether it’s the food, the theme, the decorations – or whatever you feel is getting stale.
If you’re tired of having the same old dry turkey, for example, find a more exciting recipe, or better yet try a Cookaway box! Our festive recipe kits are sure to impress the most demanding of guests.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not try embracing a new cuisine as part of your dinner party spread. At Cookaway, we believe that food is all about bringing people together, and so we have recipes created by top chefs all over the world. Why not make your own traditions? Instead of dry old turkey, try something like our British Beef Wellington.
Consider dietary requirements
Knowing all the dietary requirements of your guests before you buy your party food can help avoid any last-minute drama. Luckily, there are so many more options now for vegetarians, vegans or those with food intolerances, so nobody needs to feel like they’re missing out.
From nut roasts to vegan desserts, having options and swaps will make sure all your guests feel catered for. When it comes to beverages, consider having water, fruit juices and non-alcoholic drinks for those who may not want to drink.
Get the kids involved
When it comes to hosting the perfect Christmas, it helps to have as many hands as possible – so recruit any idle kids (or anyone for that matter) to share the load. While you may not want too many people in the kitchen, having someone to help top up drinks or attend to guests while you’re cooking, will certainly help keep things a bit more manageable.
And if anyone offers to do the washing up, let them – you’ll likely have enough on your plate to start on the dirty dishes. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.
Preparation is everything
It’s true what they say: fail to prepare, prepare to fail! We all know how manic Christmas day can get – with wrapping paper everywhere and guests arriving left and right – so it’s essential to be as prepared as possible.
Nobody wants to be running around like a headless chicken on Christmas day, so getting as many jobs done as possible before your guests arrive will help to create a more relaxed atmosphere for everybody.
This means making sure your house is tidy, your table laid, and your crockery and glassware at the ready. If you have guests staying over, prepare the bedrooms the night before – putting on fresh sheets is much harder when you have a full stomach, and it’ll take away precious time that could be spent with your guests.
Another handy tip for nailing your Christmas party entertainment, is tidying as you go. While it may sound like a boring task (and the last thing you want to be doing on Christmas day), maintaining a tidy space throughout the day will really help you keep on top of things. After all, nobody wants to be losing their guests in a sea of wrapping paper, packaging and sweet wrappers, or creating tripping hazards for any older members of the family.
Having bags ready for waste and assigning a section of the kitchen for dirty dishes, will help to create order amongst all the chaos.
Set a budget
We know all too well how easy it is to get carried away during the festive season – with many of us bringing out the good old “it’s Christmas” excuse midway through November. And while Christmas is a time to indulge, it’s still wise to set a budget – and more importantly, to stick to it!
From the presents and decorations, to the food and drink, Christmas can be a costly time for people – especially those hosting. So, it’s important to set a reasonable budget and keep track of your spending as you go.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch far enough, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to contribute a bottle of wine or some tasty nibbles. Going recklessly over budget will result in having a very long January before your next payday.
It’s about the people, not showing off
While everyone wants to be the host with the most, don’t forget what Christmas is all about – spending time with the people that we care most about. Our Xmas entertainment can be one of the few times that we see distant relatives or old friends, so make sure you take the time to appreciate their company.
It’s all too easy to get swept up in the whirlwind that is preparing the Christmas party meal, so when you can step out of the kitchen, do so. Our Cookaway kits can be a great way to take the stress out of hosting, and give you more time to spend with your nearest and dearest. That said, some canapes to kick things off always impress.
Write down a plan
With so much to remember, we always find it helpful to have a list. When oven space is tight, it’s extra important to be on it with your timings. There’s no worse feeling than having lots of hungry guests asking how much longer food will be…
Factoring in times for initial prep, and even your guests arriving and leaving can help you run a tight ship. Don’t worry you can always add in downtime too!
Having a plan for your cooking can really help to relieve the stress of entertaining at Christmas – so you know how long dishes take to prepare and cook. All our Cookaway kits come with a helpful cooking guide to take all the hard work and guesstimates out of it.
Whilst the thought of hosting the Christmas party entertainment can be enough to strike fear in many, remember that it’s Christmas, the most magical time of the year – so make sure you enjoy it.
People are normally full of festive goodwill on the day, so nobody minds if a dish doesn’t come out perfect. After all, it’s not these little things that they will remember, but the feeling of all being together. Despite the month-long preparation, Christmas Day only lasts 24 hours – so remember to enjoy it while it lasts!
Say thank you
When all the food has been eaten, the presents opened and your guests have gone home – make sure to show them some appreciation for attending your party. A hand-written thank you note is a thoughtful touch, and always goes down well.
Writing them as soon as guests leave means that you are less likely to forget, and can include personal details from your time together.
Make it personal
If you really want to impress your guests, go the extra mile and get them individual gifts. These don’t have to cost a lot or could even be handmade – but adding a personal touch to these will ensure they mean more to your guests.
Party favours like a tin of shortbread or a small bottle of Baileys always go down a treat at Christmas time.
Get prepared, and you’ll have the best Christmas ever
Now that you’re armed with all our super helpful tips, your Christmas party entertainment is sure to be a hit. Remember to give yourself a head start, by setting the scene and preparing as much as you can before your guests arrive. Once you’ve got your organised to-do list, stay calm and most importantly, enjoy it – you’ll do great!
And if you still feel overwhelmed, take all the stress out of hosting this festive season with a Cookaway meal kit. Whether you try our Greek Meze, or another of our dozens of menus, you’ll have a Christmas that’s less stressful, and more delicious. With recipes created by pro chefs, and premium ingredients delivered to your door – make your Christmas gathering one to remember, with Cookaway.
Merry Christmas, from all of us at Cookaway.