Golden Rules for Hosting Christmas
If you're the Christmas host, then you will find you have a big juggling act on your hands. You may well be dealing with several different generations, as well as bringing together representatives of two entirely separate families (united by marriage). All that, and presents and food too!
Follow our tips below to make your life a little easier:
- Difficulties frequently arise when two different families unite for Christmas celebrations. The tendency to fetishise your own family's version of Christmas ("We always go to midnight mass, have a cooked breakfast, open our presents before lunch etc. etc.") can sit very uncomfortably with new arrivals, who feel forcibly dragooned into your own family mythology.
- If you are hosting in-laws (or other families) at Christmas, be aware of this tendency. Make tentative suggestions ("we normally open our presents before lunch - is that ok with you?") rather than confident pronouncements. Make your guests feel involved in planning the structure of the day.
- If you are hosting a multi-generational family gathering it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone's tastes are catered for.
- Grandparents, however doting, will soon wilt if they are forced to spend hours in an overcrowded sitting room watching increasingly raucous children play havoc with their Christmas booty. Never presume that other people will find the spectacle of your over-excited children as captivating as you do. Ensure that there is always a quiet zone where the older, less hyper-active, guests can retreat for drinks and civilised conversation.
- Do your best to accommodate the excitement of the children. Inevitably, adults find the hyped-up excitement of small children at Christmas a little wearing. But grumpiness is not an option. Christmas is, after all, most children's favourite time of year.
- If you've room, try and head the children off into a different part of the house. Try and get them out of the house at some point in the day - they could play in the garden, or be frogmarched off on a brisk pre-lunch walk (all of these options are more popular if their presents include bikes, roller skates, skateboards etc.)
- Don't inflict agonisingly long meals on small children. The adults may like nothing better than lingering over their port and stilton into the small hours, but most children will want to bolt their turkey and get back to their presents. Let them. It's much better to enjoy adult company and conversation than to find yourself sitting at a table feeling frazzled by unhappy kids.
- Christmas television is a mixed blessing. There is a surfeit of choice, and much potential for conflict of interest. Head off any disputes by planning ahead, recording as many programmes as possible, and ensuring that family viewing is not steam-rollered by one interest group (usually the kids). Never assume that your guests will want to see certain programmes; always ask beforehand, and provide alternative (non-televisual) entertainment.
- Ask for help when you need it. If you are in the panic-stricken last stages of preparation for the Christmas lunch, and desperate for someone to do some pre-emptive washing up, don't hesitate to ask. Guests will leap to their feet when help is solicited, because they feel guilty when they're lounging around not doing anything.
- Finally, don't expect perfection. Certainly you should make every effort to ensure the day goes with a swing. Plan ahead meticulously, decorate your home beautifully, cook delicious food, buy well-chosen presents, stock up on excellent drink.
- But don't demand too much of yourself, your family or your guests. Building up your expectations of the day to dizzy heights will mean that mishaps and misunderstandings (however minor) are blown up out of all proportion - and that's not what Christmas is about.