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How to Throw A Christmas Open House Party

The urge to entertain can strike during the holiday season. In the Northern Hemisphere the nights are long in the weeks around the winter solstice before Christmas and it is natural for people to come together and have some fun over good food. But people’s schedules can get crowded at Christmas time and it is hard to work in time to prepare a party, and it can be hard for your guests to commit to attending. An elegant solution for busy people is the open house format for a Christmas party.

With a Christmas open house party, you designate a few hours in which your event will take place. Guests can come by any time during the designated hours. Food and drinks will be presented as a buffet and people can eat and drink as they please instead of being tied to a formal dinner party setting.

The open house has distinct advantages for guests during the holiday season. It frees them from the need to appear at your door at a specific start time, which provides people with flexibility as they no doubt rush around working, shopping, and even attending other social functions. No one is late for an open house as long as they get there within the hours designated by the host or hostess.

You might also find an open house ideal if you have a large list of guests you wish to invite and/or limited space if your home or apartment is small. With an open house, your guests come and go instead of everyone arriving at roughly the same. As some people leave, other people will come, which helps you comfortably accommodate your many friends, family, and associates. You will also find that you get to give your guests more individual attention because not everyone is at your house at the same time. This is an enjoyable situation, especially for catching up with people you don’t often get to see.

Although an open house is a casual affair, you will need to plan it carefully ahead of time so your party proceeds splendidly. Make sure that you have your home trimmed with your decorations before the party. This can be done days or weeks in advance. Next, you will need to invite guests. Let people know at least one week in advance, but two weeks would be better. Of course, you can always casually invite people only days or hours before the party, but the bulk of the guests should be invited with plenty of notice because people have many events to juggle at Christmas time.

With the decorations up and the guest list established, you will need to do some serious menu planning. Food is the central feature of most Christmas parties, and you will have to decide how much time you can give to food preparation. Be honest with yourself. Do not overburden yourself with cooking because it will create stress and possibly cause food disasters. With an awareness of your abilities, inclinations, and budget, decide how much you will cook or if you will even cook at all. If your budget allows, you could even get a caterer, but this decision would have to be made well in advance because caterers will be booked up during the holidays.

Another option instead of cooking or outright catering is to buy ready made food for parties. Many delis, grocery stores, gourmet shops, and restaurants offer food for parties. Almost anything is available this way from simple fruit and cheese platters to multiple course meals with desserts.

Of course, you can always prepare the food for the party yourself. If you enjoy cooking, your Christmas open house provides an excellent opportunity to delve into your favorite recipes.

Because you will need to make a lot of food, you will need to spend two or even three days making it. Goodies like cookies and candies can be made a couple days in advance. Cakes and pies can be made the day before the party. There are also many side dishes and main dishes that can be made a day ahead and warmed up for the party. Your fruit or vegetable salad dishes should be made the day of the party to avoid browning and to make sure everything is fresh and crisp. Although you can plan a menu as elaborate as you want, try to make sure that you will not be tied to kitchen during the open house. Except for taking things in and out of the oven or refrigerator, you should be mingling with and enjoying your guests.

When you plan your Christmas party menu, try to include items from these broad categories.

  1. Finger foods. An open house needs hours d’oervres. They can be fancy like shrimp cocktail and stuffed mushrooms or simple like cheese and crackers and cashews.
  2. Offer a healthy vegetable or fruit choice such as a raw vegetable platter with dip or fruit salad. This will balance your menu nutritionally and offer people choices that aren’t totally fattening.
  3. A meaty main dish, like prime rib, meatballs, roast pork, fried chicken wings, and so forth. Some people will come to the open house and truly want to fill a plate with a proper dinner.
  4. A choice of 2 to 4 side dishes. These can be casseroles, mashed potatoes, fried raviolis, or really anything that is on the heartier and starchier side. This category could also include salads that have more caloric ingredients like mayonnaise or sour cream.
  5. Desserts. This can be provided as a nice selection of Christmas cookies, a cheesecake, pies, mousses, or cake.
  6. Beverages. Punches and eggnog are party favorites, but be sure to provide nonalcoholic selections as well as alcoholic choices. Hot apple cider and hot cocoa are popular choices.

As you finish planning your menu and putting your party together, be sure to remain attentive to food safety. Poisoning your guests and causing them intestinal misery are horrible outcomes. Wash your hands at all stages of preparation, cook food properly, and do not allow spoilage-sensitive dishes to sit out.

Depending on the size of your guest list, you may also want to consider using regular dishes and glasses and fabric napkins instead of paper plates, paper napkins, and plastic ware. Disposable items will only add to your party budget and the use of such items is a highly inefficient use of our Earth’s resources. A good compromise would be to put out dishes and fabric napkins and supplement with paper supplies if you need extra. This way you will reduce the amount of trash you produce.

Your Christmas open house can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be. The joy in this party format is the fun and ease with which the party will proceed. No one will feel rushed. No one is ever late. People can eat as little or as much as they please. And best of all, you get to focus on your friends and family at your holiday party. Enjoy.

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