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.
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- 10 Last-Minute Tricks for a Stress-Free Christmas
10 Last-Minute Tricks for a Stress-Free Christmas
Cheat on the Food
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.