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Seasoned Christmas hosts please come talk to me

(77 Posts)
lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 18:28:14

We are hosting Christmas Day for the first time and I'm excited and scared in equal measures. There will be ten adults eating and four toddlers and babies.

I'm ordering a huge turkey crown, gravey, salmon and perhaps some mince pies. Will make all the veg, salads, and nibbles. PILs doing ham, pigs in blankets and pate. SIL doing Christmas pudding. I'll also make some Christmassy cakes.

This will sound really stupid but I really don't know where to start! When do I get up on the day and how on earth do I know how many potatoes (not to mention other veg) I prepare?
Also, do I have to do a seating arrangement, or ask everyone to sit where they like?
Do I ask everyone to arrive in the morning when they like, or set a time?
And finally, I have loads of Christmas tree decorations, but as this is our first year in our home, I'd love to go crazy and create a little Christmas grotto - inside and out. Where do I shop for lovely big warm bulb lights, paper snowflakes stc, without breaking the budget?

I really should have paid more attention in the past! We never did a traditional Christmas when growing up, but I've been to plenty with friends and at FILs to know better!

Any tips would be hugely appreciated smile .

CarcerDun Mon 23-Nov-15 18:35:13

Marking place as I'm in a similar situation...

VeryPunny Mon 23-Nov-15 18:43:06

Turkeys need to rest and will keep warm for ages - take out of oven, wrao whole shooting match in foil and cover with tea towels to keep heat in. Then crank your oven up high for spuds- your Turkey can easily sit for 40 mins.

Decide on a time to eat and work backwards; if you have a small kitchen banish non essential people and barricade yourself in with at least two corkscrews! Let people know in advance what you expect them to do/bring so no one rocks up empty handed and expecting to be waited on hand and foot!

WiryElevator Mon 23-Nov-15 18:54:53

Is the salmon for serving at the same time as the turkey? Do you want it hot or cold? If it's OK cold, I would cook the salmon the day before, is it a whole salmon?

For the rest - work out what time you want to eat. So say 2pm. It takes 20 minutes to carve and faff around, and it needs 40 mins to rest before you carve it, so it needs to be out the oven by 1pm. At 1pm, you should have parboiled your potatoes and parsnips so you can roast them in the now hot oven (turn the temp right up when you take the turkey out) with the pigs in blankets and stuffing. They won't need more than 40 mins or so. Depending on how many sides you have, reduce the amounts accordingly. If people might usually have 2-3 potatoes, with 5 other sides they will only have 1-2.

I would definitely tell people what time to come - crunch time in the scenario above is 1pm so you do not want people arriving then. Best have them there at least an hour before so they can offer to help at 1pm.

I'd let people sit where they like, you have enough to worry about.

The most important thing bar none is to make sure there is enough alcohol. Ask people to bring a bottle and make sure you have a very good bottle of fizz to yourself in the kitchen grin

No idea re decs!

BackforGood Mon 23-Nov-15 19:08:15

DEFINITELY invite people for a time.

I peel all the veg the day before.
Ditto laying the table.

Agree with ^ about thinking about what time you want to sit and eat and then working back from there. Personally I'd have it all written out so I don't miss things on the day.

When is the salmon and the salad for?

Are you having a starter? - worth doing something you can prepare in advance if so.
Are you having an alternative to Christmas Pud? - it's a strong taste so quite a lot of people don't like it.

Remember things like checking you've got some nice coffee, and maybe some after dinner mints.

Optimist1 Mon 23-Nov-15 19:20:08

Don't forget all the Christmassy accompaniments - crackers (of the pulling variety), cranberry sauce, bread sauce, brandy butter, clotted cream and the like. If you want the Christmas pud alight make sure someone brings some brandy for the purpose, and of course you'll need matches for that. NONE of these are essential, however, and your guests won't be maligning you on Trip Advisor if a few things get forgotten! It sounds as though you're going to be a great hostess. flowers

weaselwords Mon 23-Nov-15 19:27:13

Between now and Christmas cook a full dinner every Sunday with some of what you are going to cook on the day. This will give you an idea of how things fit in the oven and the timings and amounts.

Don't bother with starters. We just have crisps and nibbles out until dinner is served.

Get everything you possibly can ready made. Sod the expense. You cannot go wrong with an aunty Bessie roast spud if you've never done roast spuds before.

Don't get drunk whilst cooking. My schoolgirl error.

It will be easier than you think

zeetea Mon 23-Nov-15 19:28:27

I agree with working back from the time you want to eat. Write down for yourself exactly what you need to do at what time during the day (boil veg: set table/ put wine in fridge etc)
Specify a time for arrival that gives you enough 'morning alone time' but they won't interfere with making lunch. Cook any meats the day before, cook the veg/stuffing on the day so that's all hot, that's what we usually do. Don't worry about starters just have some picky bits.
Let people sit where they like smile

Buttercup27 Mon 23-Nov-15 19:29:24

I make a very detailed list and tick things off as we go. I aim to have everyone sat down at 1pm- here is my rough to do list (will tweet when I get turkey and k ow it's weight) it usually looks something like this-
Christmas Eve- all veg peeled and shopped
Christmas day
8am oven on turkey prepped
8.20 turkey in oven
12. turkey out Roast potatoes in
12.15 roast veg in oven
12.30 all other veg on to cook.
12.45 plates/serving warmed and table set
1pm I dish up while dh carves turkey.
This is year will be for 7 adults and 4 dc but has been fine for 12 adults and 4 dc.

allisbrightandshiney Mon 23-Nov-15 19:45:54

Just a thought re seating, do you need to ask parents to bring bumper seats/highchairs for the toddlers & babies.
Will the kids eat the same as the adults and will you need extra kids cutlery.

I'm looking for nice lights too, so I'll post again if I find them at a good price.

LadyPeterWimsey Mon 23-Nov-15 20:14:08

Aldi were doing fairy lights pretty cheaply this week I may have bought five sets.

lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 20:24:22

You lot are the nicest, most helpful people! Thank you so much! I am saving all of these brilliant tips. Had no idea that the turkey takes so long to rest after cooking and it would never occur to me to peel veg the night before. I'd worry they'd go all dry and brown blush

I'm my excitement of posting my first ever Christmas thread I forgot to add that one adorable toddler belongs to me and that there is no danger of drunk cooking this year as I'll be wistfully eyeing up all the gorgeous prosecco over my ever growing bump. We have one extra high chair so will need another for the third toddler. Baby too little to sit up, so that's not a worry.

Salmon is part if the starter, but am now thinking of perhaps just having it all carved up on a platter, with lots of little nibbles and crackers and blinis. Am a big fan of buying in as many things as possible so all table sauces, meat etc will be preordered. Also, I'm one of those who eats Christmas pudding under duress only, so will make a walnut and cream torte and a boozy trifle too. SIL will do the flaming pus.

Please keep these great tips coming. I make John Snow look like a Mastermind genius!

lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 20:26:21

Good grief! SIL will do a flaming pud! Pud, I say. Am not aware of her pus situation. Would hate to come across as presumptuous on here grin

Bugaboom Mon 23-Nov-15 20:35:49

We had out first time hosting Christmas last year but for less people. I was also heavily pregnant and have a toddler. I prepared all the veg a couple of weeks before and froze them. So the potatoes were parboiled then cooled and frozen. Then they could go straight in the oven. Same with carrots and parsnips. I also did a red cabbage side dish which was frozen too. Saved all the hassle of preparing veg on the day/day before. Left DH in charge of turkey, except I made a stick first thing with the giblets which went in the gravy. We did mess up with the pigs in blankets being ready after the dinner was finished!
Good luck and enjoy

Bugaboom Mon 23-Nov-15 20:36:35

Stock not stick!

lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 20:44:02

Thank god that was a typo buga! About to go and furiously google giblet sticks!

gladisgood Mon 23-Nov-15 20:46:32

Don't forget to have some extra stock of bin bags, paper napkins, loo roll, baby wipes, too. It's amazing how much loo roll you get through if hosting 10 people!

Optimist1 Mon 23-Nov-15 21:00:14

WRT preparing veg the night before, the root vegetables need to be put in cold water (discard this and use fresh waster prior to cooking) to prevent them dryingout/discolouring.

Christmas pud, torte, trifle and mince pies?! What time would you like me to pitch up? wink

lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 21:35:32

Oh yes, good tip about stocking up on all essentials.
Optimist, I'll expect you at 8. You can help me crack on with buttercup's amazing timetable.

So glad to hear that the seating plans are not necessary.

WiryElevator Mon 23-Nov-15 21:58:19

fgrin fgrin fgrin @ flaming pus

HolgerDanske Mon 23-Nov-15 22:14:53

Delia's Christmas book has a very handy 36-hour countdown to the main event. It's selling for £5 at the moment on Amazon fsmile

But also many of the supermarket Magazines will have their own countdowns in their Nov/Dec issues, that are useful for hints and tips.

Or you could get the Marks and Sparks pre-ordered Christmas dinner and skip all the hard work altogether!

Now to read the rest of the thread and feel cosy!

bigbadbarry Mon 23-Nov-15 22:19:11

Even better, get somebody round to prep the veg for you the day before (traditionally my mum, but she'll be busy at mine, sorry!). Agree with whoever said to put them in cold water so they don't dry out. But even better is to buy a big bag of Maris pipers in the first week of December, peel them, parboil them, then freeze them. (Put a big tray in the freezer and freeze them all separately then bung into a freezer bag). You can put them straight into the hot fat on Christmas Day, no need to defrost, and they are actually better than ones that haven't been frozen first.

bigbadbarry Mon 23-Nov-15 22:20:26

Oh sad I see that bugaboom got there first with my amazing and revolutionary top tip.

HolgerDanske Mon 23-Nov-15 22:28:37

It's obviously completely up to you how you want to do it on the day, but I much prefer Christmas dinner at four or five - or whenever it's ready really - it just means I can relax during the day and there's no mad rush to get everything sorted in the morning. I like to get up at a leisurely pace so I'd be saying for everyone to arrive as and when they want around about midday or after, then at some point in the afternoon I'd put out some cheeses, paté, cold meats (maybe a ham that you've done the day before?), chutneys and so on, plus crackers and other little nibbles. I'd get the turkey in the oven at some point, a crown won't need as much time as a whole bird, plus stuffing and pigs in blankets and so on according to timings, then once turkey is done and resting I would crank oven up and get the roasties done.

I personally don't like starters at Christmas dinner, just because I reckon it takes away from what's actually a really lovely meal in its own right, and also I don't believe in working very hard on the day, but if I were going to do it I would plan a cold one that could be prepared the day before, or one that only requires gentle heating.

Veg can be prepared the day before and heated up on the day, potatoes can also be parboiled the day before, ready for roasting. I would estimate four or five medium roasties per person depending on how many sides you're doing, less for smaller children, and maybe an extra ten or so thrown in on top in case a few people are ravenous. If you like red cabbage that can be made well in advance and frozen. We've tried loads of different stuffings over the years but we've finally decided we actually just like the plain and simple sage and onion so that's what we do every year now. We just buy a more fancy version for Christmas.

So much fun to host a load of people. I'd say keep it as simple as possible, don't be overly ambitious and just make sure there's plenty of drink for all tastes.

lozengeoflove Mon 23-Nov-15 22:47:18

These are such generous tips. Thank you holger and everyone else who has taken the time to help me. Feeling much more informed. Really like the idea if Delia's countdown. Will check that out too.

I must remember to get loads of lovely cheeses too (and salivate while others gorge on Stilton).

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