Hosting Christmas parties > doesn’t have to be stressful

Christmas parties should be fun. After all, they bring together friends and family, they are filled with delicious food and drink, and everyone is in a great mood.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway. If you’re the host, a party can be filled with stress and anxiety. It shouldn’t be that way, say party experts. Many authors have written books to guide readers through the steps of hosting perfect holiday parties. The key, they say, is lots of planning. With their books as guides, we put together plans for three different types of parties: a cocktail party, a dinner party and an open house party.

Christmas Holiday Cocktail Party >
Since this is a party for adults, you can be creative with your food and beverage choices.

What you serve and the quantities will depend on the time of day for the party. If it is a pre-dinner cocktail party, you will need less food than you would for a party that might stretch into the evening.

At a formal party with people mingling through much of the evening, guests tend to eat less than at a gathering where people are sitting around the fireplace or playing games.

Think in terms of finger foods. For a cocktail party, most of the appetizers should be savory selections such as cheese, skewered meat, shrimp or stuffed mushrooms. A few of the appetizers should be hot, if you can manage it.

Toward the end of the party, you might want to add a few sweet selections: cookies, candies, dried fruit or bite-size pieces of cake.

A few suggestions for the menu include crostini with assorted toppings, miniature cream puffs filled with savory fillings such as cream cheese and crab, filled cherry tomatoes, meatballs, shrimp with dip, miniature quiche, dates wrapped in bacon and sugared or spiced nuts.

Christmas Holiday Open House >
An open house, a drop-in affair where people generally stay and visit for a short time, is a perfect solution to holiday entertaining. Guests will arrive and leave at staggered times, so you will be able to host more people without crowding the house.

But as the host, constantly welcoming and bidding goodbye to friends, you will have less time to attend to the food and beverages, so plan those carefully.

Choose foods that can be left at room temperature for the length of the party. Set up the food and drinks on a table or counter where people can serve themselves. All you will need to do throughout the party is occasionally cruise through the house to pick up empty plates and cups and replenish the serving trays that are running low.

Depending on the time of day, food can be all desserts or a combination of savory and sweet items. This is the time to show off your best fudge, divinity and rum ball recipes or to bring out that chocolate fountain you got for Christmas last year.

Christmas Holiday Dinner Party >
During the holiday season, dinner parties tend to be more formal than the rest of the year. It’s time to bring out the silver, the best goblets and the linen napkins. It’s also an occasion that can be stressful. Here’s a secret that will make you feel better > Martha Stewart has a large staff to help her pull off those perfect dinner parties. You don’t need a staff; what you need is a plan.

Start with the guest list. If you are unsure whether guests have allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s OK to add a note to your invitation asking them to let you know about it ahead of time.

Plan your menu well in advance. Look for recipes that will allow a lot of advance prep. Test any recipes you are considering.

Keep the menu simple. A ham, turkey or roast look impressive and are good choices because you put them in the oven well ahead of the party and they take little last-minute attention. Plus, all need some standing time after they come out of the oven, giving you time to pop the side dishes into the oven to heat up before serving.