Our favourite tips for festive hosting from the Good Housekeeping experts

With the festive season fast-approaching, it’s time to get into the spirit of all things Christmas.

If you’re hosting this year, be it for friends or family, the thought of Christmas can quickly become stressful. Before you know it, all the fun Christmas activities, like buying presents, decorating the tree and enjoying a festive cocktail, have to take the backseat while you plan what to cook and how to ensure your guests have a fabulous time.

The good news is that hosting for Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful. With just a little preparation, and some genius tips from our Good Housekeeping experts, this year you can enjoy the merriment, all while hosting your best Christmas yet…

Get your home feeling festive

Before you can even think about what food to serve and what cocktails you’ll be making, you’ll want to make sure that your house feels festive. Whether it’s adding some Christmas candles to the living room, draping some tinsel around the mantelpiece or hanging fairy lights around doorways, there are so many ways to give your home some festive cheer – and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either.

Sarah Keady, Style & Interiors Director at Good Housekeeping explains how little touches can make your home look wonderfully-festive, while getting you excited for Christmas at the same time. “My favourite part of Christmas is decorating my home, so I always allow lots of time to get it guest ready so I am ready (and hopefully stress free!) to entertain when everyone arrives,” she explains. “It doesn’t have to be perfectly styled either; my 7 year old son loves helping with the table so I give him some tasks like writing place-cards, folding napkins and making favours to add a personal touch.”

Carolyn Bailey, Good Housekeeping’s Homes and Gardens Director, also agrees that decorating is all about the finishing touches. “Presentation is key, so always think carefully about this when entertaining as this can make all the difference to the dining experience, however large or small your gathering,” she says. “Whether its sprinkling icing sugar over mince pies just before you serve them, adding a generous amount of holly round the Christmas pudding or tying a pretty ribbon round a napkin, it will all make for a first-class experience.”

Change up your canapés

Canapés are a must-have part of any Christmas celebration or cocktail soirée. However, getting them ready them can be time-consuming, tricky and fiddly.

Needless to say, preparation is the key when it comes to canapés. Whether you make them yourself or buy them, getting the timings right is key.

If just the thought of serving canapés is causing you stress, Meike Beck, Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Director, has an ingenious hack to help your hosting run more smoothly. “Canapés can take a very long time to assemble, and if made too far ahead run the risk of going soggy,” she says. “So, I love serving DIY assembly canapés when I’m hosting a gaggle of friends. Not only is it fun to load them yourself, but they will be taste fresh and at their best. Easier for the host, fun for the guests!”

Looking for inspiration? Grace Evans, Good Housekeeping’s Digital Cookery Writer, has you covered.”For an easy option, buy some pre-made crostini and supply a combination of simple toppings, such as goat’s cheese and roasted grapes or hummus and sliced jarred roasted peppers. This will allow your guests to assemble their own canapés depending on what they fancy.”

food, our favourite tips for festive hosting from the good housekeeping experts

christmas hosting

Plan your cocktails in advance

Cocktails are one of the easiest wins with hosting, as you can simply make them in advance to allow for a stress-free experience when the event comes around. “This year I’ll be pre-batch making cocktails I want to serve on the day,” says Melanie Giandzi, Senior Food and Drink Writer at Good Housekeeping. “I’ll look at what spirits are less than half full in their bottles, use this as my base and then use that spirit bottle to store my cocktail of choice, placing in the fridge for a super chilled and refreshing drink for the big day.”

Mel’s best tip for cocktails? Never skip on the ice! “It really does transform a good cocktail,” she says.

Get the family involved

Just because you’ve agreed to be the host of your Christmas get-together doesn’t mean you’re on your own! Christmas is a time to get together with friends and family, after all, so lean on them for a helping hand throughout the event. “Delegate a task to everyone you’re hosting and work out ahead of time what each person’s task will be,” advises Gaby Huddart, Good Housekeeping’s Editor in Chief. “This is not only so you have help with everything but also so you don’t keep having people getting under your feet on the day and asking what they can do to help, which can be a big distraction when you’re trying to keep things on track!”

Gaby recommends looking at who you’ll have to help you and splitting tasks according to age, ability and availability. “For instance, get children and teens to lay the table or create some games for everyone to do; ask someone else to keep everyone’s drinks topped up; get another person to hand round nibbles; another to carve; another to peel sprouts and so on,” she suggests. “Most friends and family want to feel useful and giving them all a job to makes them feel part of the celebration all the more.”

Good Housekeeping’s Assistant Digital Editor, Bethan Jenkins, also asks friends to get involved when she hosts. “Christmas is a day for the host to enjoy too, but it can be easy miss out on the fun if you’re stuck in the kitchen too long,” she says. “That’s why I do as much in advance as possible, and rope in helpers for the laborious tasks. As I usually have around 12-14 people for Christmas dinner, there are plenty of volunteers to start peeling and chopping while I get the chicken prepped. As long as there’s wine and festive music playing, they’re generally very happy helpers!”

food, our favourite tips for festive hosting from the good housekeeping experts

christmas hosting

Enjoy it!

While hosting can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be stressful. By the time you’ve made sure everyone has enough to eat, has their drinks filled up and is enjoying themselves, you’ll quite often forget to do these thing for yourself.

James Cunningham, Style And Interiors Editor at Good Housekeeping, has one word to sum up the secret to successful hosting: “Relax!”. While it might sound easier said than done, James explains that just a little forward-planning can lead to the day running much more smoothly. “A party is never fun for guests if the host is running around frazzled,” he says. “The best thing to do is prepare as much as you can in advance – pre-make the negronis, batch-cook the canapés and line up the tunes on a playlist.”

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