Hosting Christmas dinner for the first time ever. Need help!

posted 4 months ago in Holidays
Post # 2
823 posts
Busy bee

Clean your kitchen and prepare anything you can a day or two before. Accept all offers to help.

Post # 3
399 posts
Helper bee

Ask people to bring food too.  A pot luck dinner is always best.  🙂 

Post # 4
1688 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

In no particular order. Prepare any food that you can ahead. Have a plan written out and time things like baking etc as well as you can. Set the table out the night before. Make sure there is enough to drink both hot and cold, have ice! Have music ready to play. Ensure your kitchen is clean at all times.

Post # 5
10722 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2015

OrangeHighlighter :  you’ll have a great time:-) I love hosting. 

Cooking: for cooking large meals, I make a plan noting the food cook times and method for each item, what can be cooked a day in advance, etc. then I plan out the rotations for the oven. Say you have turkey cooking all day at 350 after a short 425 stint. You have 6 sides that can cook at 350ish, a few that can cook in the stovetop  and a few you can make the day before. You can often use the slow cooker and insta pot for some items too. Plan how you’ll keep things warm or reheat.

Gluten free: Whole Foods has gluten free pie crusts that are easier than trying to make it work from scratch. 

Table/buffet: set everything up the day before, so you have clean linens, polished silver, chafing dishes, silver wear, serving dishes etc all clean and ready to go. Note if you need extra serving utensils. Set up decorations/candles, so all you have to do day of is light the candles, put fresh flowers in a vase, etc.


Post # 7
10722 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2015

OrangeHighlighter :  I’m sure it will work out really well!

Oh, if you go to Whole Foods, they often have little rosemary trees that make great decor around a buffet:-) 

Post # 9
672 posts
Busy bee

you might also need to check your Fiance how sensitive he is to gluten. My friends will have her allergy triggered with just a whiff of leftover flour from using the same spoon from flour to other canisters. She brought her own food because normally people can’t sanitize the kitchen enough and open new bag of food to keep all food gluten free.

My current favorite Christmas recipe: . Not sickeningly sweet and full of flavor. You can also make it in advance and put it in the wine bottle it came from.

Post # 11
826 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

I host a lot (parties of 10+ several times a year) and did Thanksgiving this year. I decided to take it easy on myself and “outsourced” (haha) some of the stuff…instead of making pies or gravy or stuffing, I ordered from a gourmet store. More $$ than making it myself and more than than buying from an everyday grocery store, but sooo much easier.

my parties always go over well, and my rule of thumb is:

-have way more food than you think you’ll need (eat leftovers for lunches next week)

-same for wine….it’s not going to go bad, have plenty on hand

-music in the background to save from weird silences 

-games like cards against humanity out 


Really, don’t kill yourself outdoing yourself. Good food, music, drinks, and people will be all happy. Promise! 

Post # 12
2439 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 29th, 2016

OrangeHighlighter :  My husband and his sister are sensitive to gluten and he, his mother, and myself are lactose intolerant, and the list of allergies goes on from there! I usually make a meat + a Girlfriend starch + veggies. I make a mean pot roast (I use chuck roast, but there are other cuts of meat you can use) and I pair it with asparagus and potatoes or rice. A pot roast is easy to make ahead of time (I do mine in the crockpot overnight) and easy to reheat the day of the event in the oven. You can also make the rice /or potatoes ahead of time and save the vegetable for the day of. Aside from that, outsource anything you don’t want to/don’t feel comfortable making yourself. I usually buy desserts because I don’t bake much. I think everyone else has provided some great ideas as well in terms of how much to prepare and other entertainment. Best of luck!

Post # 13
164 posts
Blushing bee

You need some stuff for the kids to do. You could check out toys from your public library. You could buy something cool like a Hoberman Sphere that is fun for all ages. Or fill stockings for them with all kinds of fun litle toys and such. Think about where these 3 kids are going to play/have fun.

Use crockpots to make cooking easier. 

Don’t try to make every dish super-fancy. Have a good main entree, and then just solid side dishes with enough food, and people will be happy. 

Figure out which serving dishes, and put little notes into them, of which foods go in which dish. 

Post # 14
5945 posts
Bee Keeper

I enjoy hosting- this might sound crazy-nerdy of me, but the prep for it is half the fun 🙂

First thing I would do is make lists, it may seem like one more thing to do, but it’s actually calming to see what you have to do on paper rather than trying to keep 12 ‘to do’ things in your head and feel like you’re forgetting something.

First list is the menu- even if you’re still thinking up ideas and the list is incomplete.

Second, start making a grocery list from your menu- and add to it as you finalize your menu. Divide it into things that can be bought in advance (like dried spices and packaged food) and things that need to be bought fresh closer to the dinner (like produce, fresh spices).

Make a list of household chores to do- I’ve been hosting for years and years and I’ve learned as much from past mistakes as past successes. Don’t over-burden yourself doing cleaning or organizing the morning of that could’ve been done a week before, you don’t want to be up before dawn washing floors and bringing up extra chairs from the basement or garage that need a layer of dust cleaned off. Do as much as you can in advance so you’ll have very little of this to do the day of or even the day before- ie a bathroom you cleaned from top to bottom 5 days before will only need a basic sink-&-toilet super fast clean closer to the date. 

If the budget allows for it, a few extra touches will make things more festive and make you feel more in your hostess-ing zone-  Dollar stores are great for this. A few holiday themed hand towels for the bathroom (if you don’t already have them), a sprig of something fresh smelling like a pine bough. A little surprise bag for each child with holiday themed things to do (again, think Dollar stores, you can do this for under $10 per child- Christmas colouring books or activities etc) 

And finally- this is something it took me years to realize! Make sure you take time for you. Early years of hosting I’d be a whirlwind of trying to be superwoman, only to be exhausted and feeling like I looked frumpy and harried by the time the actual event came about. Be sure to share these lists with your Darling Husband, teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. Don’t try to make absolutely everything from scratch. I know you have to be extra careful with your FIL’s allergies, but don’t be afraid to cut corners in some areas. Choose a signature dish or two to make from scratch and a few of the sides, but for other stuff buy ready made, checking the labels re gluten-free. For example, I’d make the main meat entree plus a vegetarian special of mine, Spanakopita Streusel from scratch. But I suck at pie crusts so unless a local fam member was doing desserts, I’d buy a couple of Farmer’s Market pies. I also buy fresh ready made veggie and fruit trays from our grocery deli.

And even though this might sound like something you don’t have time for- take time out of your busy morning to have a shower or bubblebath, do your make-up (if you normally do make-up) hair etc. Obviously you won’t have time to fuss over your appearance for ages- but taking even a half hour/45 minute chunk of time for yourself will make you feel pretty and festive. Your Darling Husband and in-laws can hold down the fort while you take time to get ready. After all, if your Darling Husband was in the kitchen and dining room for ages getting things ready, you wouldn’t begrudge him half an hour to shower and shave and put on fresh clothes to feel good greeting guests/ enjoying hosting, would you? So don’t begrudge yourself either! This also helps you to relax before the guests arrive so you’re less frazzled and more festive. Plan in advance what you’re going to wear- whether it’s a new dress or an old favourite, accessories etc., so that all you have to do is slip into what you’ve already laid out in advance. Again, if the budget allows for it, pampering yourself with something new is a nice little indulgence- anything from a new haircut or a gel manicure or new perfume or (more reasonably budgeted) cute holiday earrings (the kind that are only a few dollars with little red and green balls or Santa-hat wearing penguins 🙂 or a new hair accessory (clip, scrunchy etc). It’s nice when there’s $$ to splurge, but it can also be done for only a few dollars. 

Post # 15
261 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

You got some good advice already but here are a few tips: 

1. Make something you already know how to make and that you know will be good. If you want to try something new or will be making something for the first time, I would do a trial run. That way you will be confident in it and not stressed about how it will come out on the day of your event. I also think about what will not need a lot of fuss or finishing touches day-of. So my boeuf bourgignon for example takes a lot of steps, but once it is done (day before), it can hang out in a casserole or crock pot with a stir once in a while and be easy-peasy to serve.

2. The list tip is great. I make a list for the day before, the morning of and last minute items (i.e. slicing baguettes, putting the butter out, filling a pitcher of water to put on the table). It feels good to check things off and know that I’m not going to forget anything.

3. I can’t agree enough with the advice to make things ahead. Even if you can just make part of a dish ahead, it helps. For example if I am making a salad, I will make my salad dressing in advance and have it in a tupperware tucked away in the firdge ready to go.

4. I got this tip from Rachael Ray but it is a great one: need it twice, chop it once. So when I do  my prep (I like to do the bulk the day before), I think ahead to what I will need last minute, day-of. An easy example: say I am hosting a BBQ and I want some onions chopped up for hot dog toppings. I will chope them and tuck them away for the next day. Sure, it only takes a minute, but that’s becuase I already have the cutting board and knife out and am planning to wash them. I try to avoid as much actual cooking on the day of as possible.

5. clean out your fridge and clear space on your countertops. We don’t have a ton of room so any non-essentials like my big fruit bowl find a new home during the party so I can make a buffet in the kitchen. 

6. Run your dishwasher and empty it before guests arrive, eve if it is only partially full.

Even though it seems like a lot of planning, it ensures you can enjoy your company!

Leave a comment

Find Amazing Vendors