If you are someone who usually attends and enjoys Christmas at the homes of others. Your senses are delighted with the colored balls, and gold and silver streamers. The twinkle of thousands of little lights, the smells of cookies baking in the air, and the sounds of Silent Night looming in the background. Your hosts have thought of every little detail to make your experience magical and reminiscent of Christmas past.
This is not by accident and the holiday magic does not just happen. It takes planning and playing around with creative ideas to hit just the right notes. From something as simple as an entryway to the final dish served at the table, the devil is in the details.
If it is your turn to host your family’s Christmas celebrations this year, not to worry, we will guide you through some of what it takes to create a magical experience for all.
Selecting a Theme
First and foremost you need to think through who is attending and what kind of atmosphere you want to create for what you are trying to convey. If you will have children your theme will look very different than a celebration for just adults. If you will have a mix of both, do not try mixing Disney stuffies with an adult flower arrangement as it will not work. Instead, think about your home’s entertainment capability, and designate a place for each age group. There is a fine line between nostalgia and tackiness so remember to create spaces that are appropriately themed for the ages of your guests.
For example, a children’s tree in the living room with a mix of kid-approved themed decor. Perhaps with the television set up to loop Children’s classic holiday movies. If they are teens you may want to make the tree more video gamed themed and select movies that are appropriate for their age.
For the adults in another room, you can set up a madmen bar, decorate a nostalgic tree with ornaments of days gone by, and play classic Christmas music by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
If it is just for the ladies, perhaps a glam tree with pink ribbons and gifts with big bows underneath, fluffy pillows, and a song list on your Spotify to include Santa Baby and All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Cary.
Don’t forget the bathrooms. Make sure they too have a bit of holiday cheer. Stay in a theme as much as possible. Find sprays that smell like the holidays and if you do not have a Christmas tissue holder, look for the themed boxes of Kleenex.
Hang a wreath in the room or find pictures of angels, cherubs, and/or funny moose to hang up. Avoid putting up any pictures of Santa looking at someone in the loo, that would just be creepy. Santa’s of course are welcome around the home at Christmas time. I found this beautiful gold and silver frame at a yard sale and simply cut out Santa’s face from a gift bag to put in the frame. The other Santa lives upstairs during the holidays. He is a Dollar Store find and adds some cheer to the home office.
Once you have set your mood in the home for Christmas, you can focus on the décor for your Christmas feast starting with the table setting. This year the celebrations are a bit more intimate due to Covid restrictions. However, that does not mean you should settle for paper plates in front of the television. Instead, celebrate with the ones closest to you and make the most of treating the special people in your lives.
Christmas Table Settings
Table settings should be fun and functional so avoid too much décor when you know you have limited space. We set up our table for four diners (we did end up with five for the meal) but could have easily fit six place settings if we needed to. We chose a color for our table based on the classic look of our tree in the dining room. We also opted for some nostalgia pieces on the table to complement the theme of the tree. I made a centerpiece from fairy lights and ornaments. I used these mini stockings to hold the silverware. Had I hosted a larger crowd I would have done place settings with ornaments. (They sell the ornaments with little clips on them at Hobby Lobby for just that purpose). I opted to not buy a new tablecloth this year and rather I found some ribbon to just dress up the plain classic white and gray linens that I already had.
My placemats were silver but my chargers were gold. I like a more eclectic look for my table. I mix silver and gold all the time, I have a friend who says it makes her nervous. By all means, your dining table and home decor should reflect your personality and your style. This article is written as just a guide to hopefully help to inspire you.
Before Dinner Cocktails
A signature Christmas cocktail is a must for a holiday feast. Whether you imbibe alcohol or not you can make a festive drink of some sort for everyone to share before the meal. It can be as simple as a glass of cider for a fun mocktail or a full-on cocktail. We had a guest mixologist in our presence so we enjoyed this Apple Cider Bourbon Sour with a beautiful apple sliced, sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice, and rolled into a rose. They were delish! Special thanks to Stephen for bringing us such a special treat.
We also tested out another cocktail for New Year’s Eve that we found on Pinterest. I am happy to announce that this really works and looks good! It is the ever so popular Baby Yoda cocktail. Basically, an Appletini all dressed up to look like Baby Yoda. Isn’t this too cute?
The Christmas Feast
Antipasto is a holiday tradition in our home and Christmas is no exception. This salad is best described as a crowd pleaser since it will contain some things each and every person loves and something they despise. For me it is a chance to eat anchovies and beets which my husband hates. He loves pickled okra and baby corn which I could care if I ever tasted again in my lifetime.
What Christmas dinner would be complete without beef as the centerpiece? I know that everyone enjoys having a prime rib roast for Christmas, however, I was looking for some nostalgia this year. For me, that meant my mother’s popovers served alongside a traditional roast with gravy. ( I forgot to take pics of the gravy, oops) I can tell you I tried something very different in making the gravy. I did use the pan drippings however I added pork stock that I have frozen. It added a depth of flavor and richness to the gravy that was unexpected.
Popovers are basically the same thing as Yorkshire pudding where the only difference is the fat in which they are cooked. Yorkshire Pudding is cooked in beef fat and Popovers in butter. We made them both ways for our Christmas feast and the beef fat turned out a bit tastier and did not darken as easily on the bottoms as the butter did. But If you do not have beef fat on hand I would still make them, just turn the heat down a smidge from a recipe designed for Yorkshire pudding.
I know that many people choose a prime rib roast for Christmas dinner I did not instead I opted for another roast. Simply because you just do not get a good gravy from a greasy prime rib and I want my popovers to be filled with rich, yummy brown gravy. This roast is a top round or as many would call it, a London Broil. Cooked properly and sliced against the grain it is one of my favorite cuts for a roast. I seared the roast at 450 F for twenty minutes, removed it, slathered it with salt, pepper, butter, and herbs. Cooked it at 350F until it reached its optimal temperature. We went to an internal temperature of 130- 135F and then let it rest for 20 minutes covered.
I am on a Duchess Potatoes kick these days. I love the rich texture and flavor of this potato casserole. To make it a bit more festive I piped the potatoes on the top of the casserole and added some paprika and herbs. Traditionally these are piped into little individual pods and baked on a cookie sheet, but who has time for that really?
I hosted some meat and potato lovers at this year’s Christmas table. You see they were away from their family for the holiday so I strived to create a warm sense of home in my meal. In my world, that translates to a rich and hearty dish. What says comfort as well as potatoes? Well, a big scoop of homemade gooey mac and cheese does of course!
Our Christmas feast ended with my husband’s famous Ricotta Cookies. (along with my peanut butter fudge and a friend’s banana pudding which did not make it to the photoshoot). These soft but dense Ricotta Cookies need no milk for dunking. They are not overly sweet and melt in your mouth! Our friends and neighbors ask for these every year.
Our Christmas feast was a success, we all had full bellies, lots of laughs, and an evening of twinkling lights surrounding us. We hope that you too will have a Christmas full of cheer this year. Merry Christmas 2020!