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Tips for Throwing a Great Stress-Free Christmas or New Year's Party

Updated on July 21, 2013

Holiday Ideas and Party Tips

I love having friends over and throwing parties, so I use a lot of holiday ideas and party tips. My friends often wonder how I do it. They enjoy hosting parties, but they get all stressed out about it. I don’t, which makes me thoroughly enjoy my own parties. I’ve learned a thing or two during my half century on this spinning ball, and I’ll share some party hosting tips with you:

Make a list and check it twice…or thrice! I’m a great list maker. I make lists for everything. For a big Christmas party, for example, I’ll begin my lists in October. I’ll begin a list of dishes or party food I want to serve, along with a list of ingredients and supplies I’ll need. If I think of new dishes, I’ll add them to the list. I’ll also begin my guest list – more about that next.

Guest list. Don’t stress over your guest list and wonder about whether Mr. Brown will get along with Mr. Smith after the argument they had at the Labor Day party. Invite them both and let them sort it out. The Christmas season would be the perfect time for them to mend fences. Don’t worry about how your friend the grocery checker will “fit in” with your professional friends. Invite everyone you enjoy being around. At any one of my parties, you might find doctors, lawyers, teachers, college professors, farmers, police officers, football coaches, secretaries, manual laborers, and nurses. This makes for an interesting group that will find tons of topics to discuss. I also like to invite any foreign friends I have. You’ll see the doctor talking to the lawn service guy about how to get rid of crabgrass, and the lawyer talking to the farmer about what kind of tomatoes he should plant next spring. Don’t let age, social class, race, religion, or ethnic group dictate your guest list!

Shop ahead. Remember, you already have your list of needed supplies. Every time you go shopping, pick up something for the party – a bag of shredded cheese, a tablecloth, drink mixers, frozen meatballs – whatever. By buying a little along, you won’t be overwhelmed just before the party. Also, you can take advantage of sales. For example, when shrimp go on sale, I buy several pounds and put them in the freezer for my Christmas party. You’ll be surprised how much money you can save like this.

Cook ahead. There are some dishes you can’t prepare until the day of the party, of course, but there’s still a lot you can get accomplished in advance. If you’re serving boiled shrimp, for example, you can go ahead and boil them. Peel them, devein them, and freeze them. You can make cheese balls several days in advance, too. Many cookie recipes can be made ahead and placed in the fridge or freezer, still raw. Sausage balls can be made ahead and frozen. Wash and slice fresh veggies the day before the party and refrigerate in Ziploc bags. Make all your dips the day before.

Order ahead. Another way to save time and effort is to order party trays from a deli or restaurant. For example, we often serve wings from Zaxby’s. Order pre-made foods several weeks in advance, and make a reminder call the morning of the party. Arrange for someone to pick them up 30 minutes before the party starts.

Arrange your space. Let your party flow into several rooms and areas. Here in South Georgia, we can use outdoor areas even in December, so I use our deck and our carport for parties. Hubby builds a fire in the fire pit outside and places chairs around it. We provide music on the deck and have tables and chairs there. Inside, I reserve the study for people who wish to engage in quiet conversations. The living and dining rooms are the most crowded and the noisiest. The den and breakfast room are a great place for small groups.

Strategically place the food. One reason people love parties is because of the great foods. I place most of my dishes on the dining room table, but I’ve learned that if I “spread it out,” it will keep people moving from room to room. For example, I might place a yummy dessert in the study, salty snacks on the deck, mixers in the kitchen, and perhaps a meat dish in the den. This definitely encourages guests to flow and mingle.

If you’re going to have a large party this year, start planning early. Doing a little work gradually is far better than having to do it all in the span of just a couple of days. That way, you’ll actually be able to enjoy your guests and your party when the time comes!


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