Christmas dinner should be, every year, an enjoyable and memorable event, not a source of stress and exhaustion. Holidays are a great excuse to be with people you love, so don’t lose this moment by spending the entire day in the kitchen!
I remember that every year on Christmas my mother used to spend the whole day in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, cooking again, cleaning, setting the table, and doing the dishes, among other things. Instead of being joyful, Christmas day was an exhausting experience for her. Except for Christmas dinner, which was the one moment she sat at the table with the entire family, almost relaxed. So, I made a promise to myself: that, when I’ll be a grown-up woman, and I’ll move to my own house, I won’t do that! I want Christmas to be an enjoyable experience, culminating with Christmas dinner.
So, after you make your guest lists for the holidays, take a deep breath and pre-plan everything! If you truly want to, you can avoid the chaos: when the doorbell starts ringing and you are still peeling potatoes, slicing some bread, setting the plates, putting your dress on, and trying to finish your makeup. Everything at the same time.
Simple tips for a relaxed Christmas dinner
1. Take it easy
Is this the first year you have guests for Christmas dinner? Then don’t make things too complicated! A few simple snacks, a roasted bird, and a side dish, plus one dessert re more than enough! Fewer dishes cooked with care will always win over lots of dishes cooked badly. Keep in mind that you want a nice and relaxing dinner!
2. Get organized
If you want a chill Christmas day, do the messy jobs the day before Christmas! Make sure you have your menu planned fully, that all the ingredients are bought, read all the recipes you are using, and start doing the things you can do in advance.
For example, you can make some sauces, homemade gravy, stuffing, pastries, or puddings, and, of course, the Christmas cake! You can also parboil potatoes, carrot wedges, parsnips, and Brussel sprouts the day before Christmas. Then, let them drain, cool, and freeze until the next day, when you can roast them without too much effort. You can also rinse and pat dry the turkey.
3. The right size of turkey
As a main dish, you probably want the traditional roasted turkey. Be careful and choose the right size! Pick a small one, if you’re expecting just a few friends! You should calculate the turkey weight with the following formula: one pound per person. This is a helpful rule for the holidays, that will ensure you have some leftovers for the next days.
6. Christmas morning
Every good Christmas day starts with a joyful Christmas morning. So, wake up as early as you want, have a healthy breakfast, drink your coffee, and take it step by step from there.
5. Snacks, snacks, snacks!
Some of the best things at a Christmas dinner are the snacks. So, add as many as you can on your list. Think about roasted chestnuts, different types of cheese, two or three dipping sauces, some crackers, raw fruit, and vegetables. If you want to keep things simple, prepare snacks that can be eaten with your fingers.
6. Make a plan for using the oven
When you start cooking, consider the needed time for each dish. For example, after you roast the turkey, you should let it rest at room temperature for an hour, loosely covered in tin foil. That means you can use that hour to put your vegetables in the oven. Meanwhile, start setting the table.
7. Choose nice plates
A nice dinner means more than good food and good conversation, like a visually exciting table setting. A holiday table deserves a special touch, so you should choose some good-looking plates, beautiful glasses, and cloth napkins, plus different kinds of candles, a glass vase with some flowers, and Christmas decorations.
8. Wine and other drinks
When it comes to wine, Christmas is not the time for experiments. Choose something you already know you like. If you have children at the table, make sure you have something for them too. It could be a non-alcoholic punch and some hot chocolate or warm spiced milk.
9. Relaxing music, low volume
Maybe it sounds crazy, but I suggest you skip ‘Silent Night’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ this evening. I am sure you and your guests have heard them enough this season. During Christmas dinner, classical and instrumental music is more appropriate for creating a relaxing atmosphere. Play the music at low volume, because you still want to hear what the person next to you is saying.
10. Leave the dishes for later
I usually don’t encourage people to procrastinate on doing their dishes. But what if Christmas dinner would be an exception? After your guests have left, just scrape off the excess food from the plates. Then, put the dishes in your machine or sink. The next day, allow the dishes a few minutes of soaking time before washing them. You’ll be more relaxed at dinner if you’re not thinking every moment that you still have some work to do after midnight.