Holiday Entertaining: Hosting A Holiday Open House

How to throw a stress free holiday party: Easy tips and ideas on how to prepare a menu, make invitations yourself, and organize the bar and drinks, decorations, and music.

If the holiday season has you feeling a bit frazzled, you may want to consider condensing all of your holiday entertaining into one big party this year. A holiday open house is a great way to entertain all of your family and friends in one day. Best of all, you can simplify things by serving food and drinks buffet style-- using recipes that can be made ahead of time. Here are some tips for hosting a fantastic holiday open house this season:


Start by sending a simple invitation that you make yourself. Purchase some festive pre-printed paper or use clip art and your home computer. List the details of your open house, with the times that your house will be "open" for visitors. As an example, you can say "Join us for our Holiday Open House on December 15th. Drop in any time from 3:00 PM until 9:00 PM." If you have a huge guest list, you can even send your invitations via e-mail. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun, casual event-- there is no reason that you need to be formal. Be sure to ask guests to RSVP so you know how many people to expect. "RSVP Regrets Only" is a good way to word it if you have invited a lot of people-- this way only the people who cannot attend will need to call you.

Plan Your Menu

Plan your entire menu, including drinks and appetizers, at least 2 weeks before your party. Plan to serve simple appetizers like cocktail franks, bruschetta, a fruit and cheese tray and a veggie platter with dip. Try to avoid complicated appetizers that will have you tied up in the kitchen when your guests arrive. Ask your kids to pass the trays of appetizers around, or sit them on the kitchen counter and coffee tables for guests to nibble on as they mingle.

For the main course, the key is to make ahead! Serve meatballs that you prepare the day before and reheat in your crock pot. You can also serve hot roast beef, a deli platter or sandwiches, or carved ham or turkey. Make a pasta or potato salad the day before. A tossed green salad is another good item that can be made early on the morning of your party.

Self serve bar"" Don't spend the whole day playing bartender. Show your guests where the beverages are located and tell them it's self-serve. Be sure to have a well stocked supply of wine, beer, spirits, mixers, soda and ice. A batch of hot mulled cider is a good addition if it's a cold day. Make sure you have adequate beverage selections for your guests who do not drink alcohol.

Dessert Tray- Have a delicious array of desserts cut into bite size portions available for your guests to try. Serve cheesecake, brownies, cake and holiday cookies. These items can all be made the day before. If baking is not your forte, give yourself a break and order your deserts from a bakery. Keep in mind that many of your guests will probably arrive with a hostess gift or a baked good of some kind. If so, be prepared to serve up some of those items as well.

Decorate- Now is your chance to show off all of those holiday decorations that have had hidden in your basement for years. Pull out all of your lights and ornaments. If you really want to make things festive, consider putting small Christmas trees in every room.

Music- Have a steady supply of holiday music queued up and ready to go. If you don't own a good selection of holiday music, ask guests to bring their favorite CDs.

Have a small gift for your guests- Offer each visitor a small token as they exit your party. A homemade ornament or a small bag of candy or cookies is sufficient. Include a candy cane or a book or small toy from the dollar store for any children that are in attendance.

Things to Check on Throughout the Day"" Because your party will be going on throughout the day or evening, don't put all of the food out at once-- it will end up sitting out too long. Put food out in smaller batches and replenish the supply as the party progresses. Refill the ice bucket and paper product supply as needed.

Finally, relax and enjoy yourself. No one wants to be around a frazzled host. The purpose of the open house is for you to visit with your friends and loved ones. And once you host your first holiday open house, you may find that it will become a tradition that you will want to repeat year after year.

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