Almost every homemaker has a holiday meal nightmare story. Some of mine include not thawing the turkey, remembering to thaw the turkey but not putting it in the oven soon enough, cooking it until it was leathery, breaking the edge of the trifle bowl pulling it out of the refrigerator, and having to throw the entire thing away.
It seems like in my early years of hosting holiday gatherings that something was always going wrong. It’s one thing to cook for one or two, but cooking for a crowd requires a new skill set. Instead of shying away from entertaining this holiday season, I’ve put together a few tips that will help increase your confidence and hopefully start you on the path to Biblical hospitality for a lifetime.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to hosting a holiday meal:
1) Set the date now. You don’t have to host your event on the actual holiday. Consider another date when your guests can relax.
2) Create the guest list and send out invitations. These don’t have be fancy. Consider e-vites or make your own using stamps.
3) Create your menu now. Here are some ideas:
- Check out cookbooks from the library.
- Spend time on food websites like www.foodnetwork.com.
- Pick a theme. Once I did a Colonial America themed Thanksgiving.
- Get together with other guests and brainstorm the menu – then assign food items.
- Consider a variety of food items in case you host a vegetarian or someone with food allergies.
- Keep most of your items simple, with only one or two challenging dishes.
- Everyone loves a potluck! So if creating a menu overwhelms you, host it this way.
4) Consider decorations and serving utensils now.
- Plan now if you want to keep it casual or more formal. I’ve never met anyone who cared if they ate on plastic. It’s the fellowship they care more about.
- Borrow plates, glasses, tablecloths or other items if necessary.
- Borrow or purchase serving equipment, like warmers or chafing dishes.
- Ask to borrow tables and chairs if necessary.
- Visit a thrift store for items you might need.
5) From your menu, create a shopping list. Do this now so you can watch for items on sale, and use coupons. Purchase what you can early.
6) As you are shopping, pick up extra food items to donate. This is a great time to get more for your money and share with others in need.
7) Make a countdown calendar/schedule. This might be weeks, days or even hours. But the more time you spend thinking through your tasks and deadlines, the smoother the actual event will be. Have most of the work done beforehand so you can enjoy your guests.
8) Tips for the event
- If you serve a buffet, consider putting small signs in front of each item with the name of the dish.
- Create a drink station with similar signs.
- Use place cards to change up seating arrangements. If you are crafty, consider making these yourself. One year I made cookies and wrote people’s names on them.
- Place discussion prompts on the table.
- If you want to give thanks before the meal, let people know so they don’t embarrass themselves by starting.
- Play background music.
- Ask the Lord for a Scripture verse for each of your guests. Incorporate this into your place setting.
- Consider asking a teenager for help in the kitchen so you can be with your guests. Write out exactly what you expect her to do.
9) Remember the reason for your event. Keep your purpose in the front of your plans and you’ll never lose sight of God’s design for hospitality. It’s not entertaining, but a chance for God’s people to celebrate the gifts of God together, with a heart of thanksgiving.
10) Rejoice! Psalm 145:7 says, “They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
What are your favorite holiday tips for keeping holiday hospitality affordable, meaningful, and fun for everyone?