Design Holidays & Celebrations

10 Last-Minute Tricks for a Stress-Free Christmas

It's only one day of the year, but Christmas can take days or weeks of planning, especially if you are the host. This gathering of family and friends is supposed to be joyful, but it can become extremely stressful if you put too much pressure on yourself or get bogged down in the details. Both preparedness and a go-with-the-flow attitude are crucial for maintaining your sanity. Here are some tips, tricks, and hacks to help you relax and enjoy the party—no matter what comes your way.

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Cheat on the Food

It may be easy to tell the difference between store-bought and homemade cookies, but what about the potatoes or the ham? Pick and choose which parts of the meal to labor over, then go ahead and cut corners elsewhere by buying from a local restaurant or grocery counter.

Related: 9 Time-Savers You Need for a Hassle-Free Holiday Season

Randomize the Gifts

If you have a large group of family and friends, the prospect of buying individual gifts for everyone can be overwhelming. Opting for a “white elephant” gift exchange can relieve the gift-buying pressure and provide lighthearted entertainment for your guests, entirely free from expectations. And because this game involves both random present selection and trading, it usually works out that all the guests come away with something they enjoy.

Related: 11 Do’s and Don’ts of Regifting

Banned Topic "Swear Jar"

No one wants to spend a party bickering or talking about something that makes them uncomfortable. Agree on some ground rules for conversation topics that are off limits (politics, inquiries about relationship status, and similarly sensitive subjects), and impose a one-dollar donation to the “swear jar” every time someone crosses the line. Alternatively, you can set creative and fun “penalties,” such as making the offender wear a Santa hat for 10 minutes or sing a Christmas carol.

Related: 11 Easy Ways to Be the Best Holiday Host

Drink Tags and Assigned Seating

A DIY name tag makes your life easier in two ways, by serving as a drink marker as well as a dinner seating assignment. Simply jot down each guest’s name on a piece of paper, use string to attach one name to each wineglass, and put one glass at each place setting. You can make a kid-friendly version with stickers on plastic cups.

Related: 12 Other Ways to Decorate with Xmas Ornaments

Make Decorating a Party Game

If you’re hosting and running short on prep time, turn some of the home decorating chores into party entertainment. Many hands make light work, and everyone will enjoy putting a few ornaments on the tree. As a bonus, the whirl of activity creates laughs and encourages interaction and bonding. 

Related: 15 Insanely Easy Ways to Decorate for the Holidays

Assign Helping Hands

Every good leader knows that delegating is important, so it’s crucial that you don’t try and do everything yourself. Have some job assignments in mind for helpful guests, then set them to work clearing tables or making sure everyone has a fresh drink.

Related: 8 Ways to Make Your House Smell Like the Holidays

Childproof Ahead of Time

If you are hosting a gathering with young children, do yourself a favor by removing any potentially risky items before the party starts. Beyond objects that could be safety hazards, think about items that could be easily broken or that are so attractive or popular that they could lead to squabbling among the children.

Related: 9 Hidden Dangers to Dodge This Holiday Season

Skip the Wrapping Frills

Wrapping presents is time consuming enough without adding elaborate bows and ribbons that are just going to be destroyed anyway. And if your gathering is small, you could even forgo the “To” and “From” name tags, opting instead to use color-coded wrapping paper for each person.

Related: 13 Better-Than-Gift-Wrap Ideas for Packaging Presents

Cleanup Basketball

All those presents look tidy and neat under the tree at the beginning of the party, but once people start tearing into them, your house can quickly be overrun with swaths of wrapping paper. Make cleanup fun by setting up a basketball net over a bin and having guests ball up their own paper and shoot it into the trash. You can even keep score and award a special prize to the person with the most points at the end of the party.

Related: 9 Tips and Tricks to Cut the Christmas Clutter

Manage Leftovers

Leftovers are one of the best parts of Christmas feasting, but as a host you don’t want to be stuck with too much food. Put together some easy to-go containers with paper plates, cling wrap, and plastic bags. After dinner, enlist a few helpers to portion out leftovers equally and hand them to people as they leave. Everyone will end up with some food to-go, and you’ll have less to clean up at the end of the night.

Related: 11 Cheap Cures for a Cluttered Kitchen

Holiday Help

The holiday season is supposed to be a fun and joyful time to spend with friends and family. Don’t get bogged down by focusing too much on the decorations and gifts.