10 Tips for a seamless holiday party
Between an invasion of younger cousins, nieces and nephews, bad weather, stores closing early and mothers-in-law, there are no guarantees that your holiday party will go smoothly. Still, despite the odds, it is possible -- even likely -- to have a seamless holiday bash, if you’re willing to plan ahead and follow these tips.
Honor family holiday traditions
Most families have one or two traditions handed down throughout the generations -- things like singing carols after dinner or serving a specific soup at Christmas. As much as you may despise Christmas soup and can’t carry a tune to save your life, follow your family traditions. There’s something reassuring about following traditions, and it will keep the peace with those members who like the tradition.
Consider a little liquid lubrication -- in moderation
If substance problems exist in your family, this may be a tip to avoid or to modify. Otherwise, though, consider a bottle or two of wine or a weak punch. You definitely want to avoid tipsy family members at all costs, but if everyone (of drinking age, of course) can have a drink, that can sometimes smooth over family tensions.
There’s a reason catering departments are busy around the holidays
Don’t be afraid to cater a little, a lot or your entire holiday party menu. Holidays can be busy times for you and for your family, so place a holiday order at your favorite restaurant or at your grocery store and enjoy a little breather for your holiday. Beware, however, when this tip conflicts with #1. If your family’s tradition is to always serve a special item that is homemade, go ahead and make it.
Keep it simple
No matter how much you’ve bragged about your culinary skills, holiday parties don’t need to be gourmet affairs. You don’t need to buy expensive ingredients or use fancy techniques; in fact, there’s a reason ham and turkey are so popular during the holidays: they’re simple and cheap, and everyone likes them. The easier you make cooking the main course, the better time you will have at your party.
Your Uncle Al is always late … and will be to your party
You know your family. If your Uncle Al, Aunt Betty or Cousin Jim is always running late the rest of the year, he or she will be running late to your party. Therefore, avoid food that requires precision timing (soufflés, for example) and have a finger-food course to offer guests who arrive on time. Besides, having a few foods to snack on will get everyone mingling and in a festive mood.
You only have so much stove and oven space
When you're planning your menu, keep in mind that unless you're buying everything already cooked, you're going to need stove and/or oven space to cook or reheat everything. This can be especially problematic at Thanksgiving, when a turkey can consume most of an oven, leaving little room for rolls, dressing, sweet potatoes and other baked dishes. You can get around this with planning -- just be aware that you will need to cook food in stages.
You will run out of ice. The consumption of ice at a party will always exceed how much you bought, but you can minimize the impact of going without by buying as much at the store as you can.
You may not have a second chance to shop
If you're planning a party, you should always plan your menu. If you are planning a holiday party, plan your menu well in advance -- for two reasons. First, you’re not the only one throwing a party and there’s a good chance you will all be serving the same thing. Second, in many cases, stores close early or are not open at all during the holidays, so if you forget to buy an ingredient, you won't have it.
Don’t forget the kids
As you're planning your menu, don’t forget how picky the little ones can be, especially around the holidays. Holidays are great for getting kids excited (presents and playmates) and off-schedule. This can lead to finicky eating even in the most normally open-minded children. Therefore, it’s best to have two or three kid-friendly items on your menu, including childhood staples like mac and cheese, hamburgers, cheese pizza, fruit and pudding. Remember, a hungry child is a cranky child, and a cranky child leads to cranky parents -- and so on and so forth.
Know your limits
Too many holiday parties have been ruined because the host or hostess took on too much. It’s easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to serve a huge meal, but if you're stressed out and irritable, it doesn’t help anyone. Know what you can make and be proud of it. It’s your party and the holidays are about family, not food!