Sharing Christmas dinner with the family is a pretty big deal in most households. It is one of the two times a year that families are pretty much guaranteed to get together for a meal.
But Christmas dinner is as much about the fellowship as it is about the meal.
This year, why not plan ahead so you will be able to spend more time with your family and less time slaving over a hot stove. Use these tips to share the cooking and spend more time reminiscing with family and friends.
Here are a few tips to help that dinner turn out to be a delight instead of a disaster.
- Find out who is coming. We are talking about family so most people will probably attend. But, there will usually be the person who has to work or is out of town or can’t make it because of the weather (it does snow in a few places around Christmas!). Or the unexpected extra person that comes along with a family member or friend. But knowing approximately how many are coming will allow you to plan your serving sizes and dish and silverware requirements ahead of time.
- Ask everyone to bring something. Obviously if they are traveling by plane that will be difficult, but for family members who are driving in or live nearby, it is okay to ask them to bring a vegetable dish or a dessert to the Christmas dinner.
- Ask the others to pitch in on the preparations when they arrive. It may make for a crowded kitchen, but it is also a shared activity that can bring everyone closer.
- Make your side dishes in advance of the Christmas dinner. We all like to sit and smell the delightful flavors wafting from the kitchen, but that may be impractical when serving dinner to a sizable group. Before you know it, the entire house would be overheated and there would be dishes piled up in the sink for someone to wash. Fix and freeze or refridgerate as many of your side dishes as you can ahead of time. A few hours before the meal, take them out and warm them up.
- Start with an empty sink and dishwasher. Speaking of dishes, be sure to have all dishes done and put away the night before, including those in the dishwasher. Dishes will pill up as your finish preparing the dinner, and this will keep the sink and dishwasher from getting too over-loaded. Rinsing and putting dishes directly into the dishwasher will help cut down on clean up time, too.
- Cook the turkey early. Turkey is the main course at most traditional Christmas dinners. It takes several hours for a turkey to cool completely, so by dinnertime, it will still be warm enough to serve without reheating the entire bird.
- Use a separate roaster to cook the turkey. Roasting the turkey this way leaves plenty of room in the oven to cook the smaller dishes together. A roaster can be purchased for as little as $25, and can be used year-after-year.
- Serve dinner buffet style. Let everyone serve themselves. Have a communal blessing over the food and then whoever is hungry can eat. It may not be quite the sit-down-at-the-table dinner we all envision from our youth, but it is more practical. Some people like to eat early and some will be watching sports on television. At my house, some will sit at the table, some in front of the television, and some will go downstairs to where the video games are.
Planning saves not only time but money when it comes to having a family gathering. At Christmas, most families are filled with good cheer and a longing to reconnect. Let the family Christmas dinner be the culmination of that celebration.
Great advice, especially the buffet style tip. One other thing I’d like to mention is making the menu available ahead of time – especially considering different cultures that may be breaking bread with you. Quick example – I’m from the South and we always ask invited guests what they’d like for the meal. My boyfriend is from the North, of Italian descent, and guests are expected to eat whatever is put on the table. THIS has resulted in some very stressful meals. 🙂
Good point, Jennifer. Also food allergies are a big consideration. And I have an aunt who is vegan. Sigh…. family meals have gotten so complicated. Jan, great article. And frozen sides are a big time saver. My mom did it for years. And now there is a business in town and that’s all they do – homemade sides that are refrigerated daily for pick up.
An empty sink and dishwasher! Easier said than done! But the last couple of holiday seasons we eat off off paper plates and bowls two days before the holiday to make sure all our dishes and china are clean. 🙂
Always make enough for at least 2 more than expected. It’s always better to have too much than not enough. I had to learn this the hard way…. embarrassing