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There’s something about all the pre-emptive jolliness of the season and city lights that fills us with the desire to invite heaps of people over, crank up some Jingle Bell Rock and have a merry old festive bash. What only occurs to us much later (once all the invites have gone out) is that, holy smokes, we’re going to have to make stuffing and cook some sort of winged creature. Lucky for you, we saw this coming and have prepared the beginner’s guide to hosting an epic Christmas feast.

Here we go.

1. Plan your menu

Food makes memories. Ask someone about their Christmas and food nearly always tops the list. So let’s plan the meal.

Starters

Whether you even want to do starters will depend on the time between arrival and sitting down to eat and on how many people are coming (do you want them to be starving before mains, or semi-satisfied?) Either way, you don’t want to be confined to stove land all day so be clever with your choice.

Mains

Do you want to go classic and make The Turkey or are you the Christmas hipster who wants to make something different? 

Side dishes

Really, this section should be called ‘Potatoes’ because, let’s be honest, without something starchy to soak up the gravy, it might not be Christmas at all. Embrace your inner Irish, pick a type of tater and then some vegetable sides.

Desserts

You can make most of these in advance and they will not only get you in the spirit of things but will have the house wafting like Mrs Clause’s kitchen.

2. Entertainment

Trust us on this one; conversation comes about best when people can do something with their hands or engage over common ground. Our double whammy solution? Create a drinks station. It will free up heaps of time for you, not having to play hostess and gives your guests a great topic of engagement. Here’s what you need:

  • A table or counter to function as the bar area (if you don’t have a bar)
  • Coolers, ice buckets, bottle openers, paring knives, chopping boards, straws in jars and an array of glasses
  • Extra tidbits like the fruity odds and ends
  • Print out some drinks recipes

Sorted. Now they can chat and make merry while you mix and mingle and keep an eye on what’s cooking.

3. Let’s chat decor

You don’t have to transform your home into the Polar Express. Keep it light and rustic and let the general table fare speak for itself. Adding a few sprigs of greenery into any glass jars make all the difference. And use what you’ve got, be it pomegranates or artichokes.

4. Tips on prep and clean up

When it comes to prep, planning is key. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow to make sure that everything from organisation to d-day runs as smooth as velvet liquor:

The ingredients

  • Do as much shopping as you can in advance (if it can be frozen, buy it now, and get the fresh stuff the day before you cook). The last thing you want is a rushed dash to get the cranberries.

The alcohol

  • Buy all your booze online and have it delivered free to your door. No heavy trips, no tearing plastic.

Clean up

  • This can become a bit of a nightmare but here are some things you may want to keep in mind:
    • You can happily rinse off the dish of those guests that were kind enough to bring a contribution. If there’s leftover, cover it in foil and give it back.
    • You could also hire a cleaning service for after the event.
    • Make sure your dishwasher (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is empty. Do all the plates, glasses and cutlery and leave the big stuff out.

5. Think about timing

Timing as they say, is everything. It’s the difference between you enjoying your Christmas planning, and having time to paint your toenails while the turkey is basting versus answering the door with a curler in your hair. Fit these guidelines into your agenda and you’ll be smooth sailing.

Turkey time
Your turkey will need 2–3 hours plus resting time. So make sure you plan to have that done at least an hour before you serve. So start the turkey about 5 hours before you want to eat, 4 hours before guests arrive. You might need some wiggle room to finish the cooking, and it will stay warm for ages.

Some roast, some ready
Don’t plan to roast everything. Your oven won’t be big enough, If it can be served cold, do that. It takes the pressure off, and it’s refreshing. If you are going to roast, get your meat done and out to rest, par-cook anything you plan to roast on the stove. Roast potatoes can take ages if you have to cook them from raw, but parcooked they should only take about 30 minutes

6. Don’t forget the music

There are the Boney M and Michael Bublé die-hard fans, and then there are those who believe that it’s not really Christmas until you’ve pulled out all the old tapes from Dad’s tape deck. We’d be lying if we said our taste in Christmas music is cool Music can make the world go round.

Do you feel ready? You should. It’s going to be sensational.

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