The Christmas season begins in all its rituals: classic sweets, special dinners, aperitifs and parties. Every holiday party you’re invited to is a test that will separate the hostesses who truly know how to throw a party from those who are just guessing.

When I’m invited to someone’s home as a guest, what usually keeps my attention are the details of the table set, even if it’s just a casual dinner between friends. But I’m even more interested in what the hostess has prepared for her guests, as well as the warmth and smile she brings, without showing the fatigue after preparing all the food. Most important are the topics of conversation chosen and the quality of the food.

Many people don’t know where to begin when throwing a party. Although there is an art to entertaining all year round, during the holiday season when you have the opportunity to host friends and family whom it’s not always possible to see, it’s even more necessary to be careful and thoughtful with every detail. Here are some suggestions of etiquette, elegance, behavior and attention to show to your guests during a party at your home, whether it’s a dinner with relatives, or an evening with friends and acquaintances.

  • First of all, choose the right people to invite, ones who will create a pleasant evening of conversation and are never boring. At the table, avoid any tasteless discussion (how much you earn, for example), and try to talk about things that are of interest to everyone. Make sure you do not bring up any sensitive or off-limits topics if you have a guest going through a hard time, for example.
  • Make sure that anybody that has food allergies or diet restrictions can be accommodated. See that no one is excluded or embarrassed if they have a specific diet. Certainly do not try to convince vegans or vegetarians to eat things that they don’t want to. Keep in mind as well any religious restrictions, especially if you invite people from different nationalities.
  • Prepare a small gift for your guests, a handmade Christmas card or cute keychain, accompanied by a nice message or picture of you two together. This small but thoughtful gesture will be remembered and appreciated.
  • Arrange your dining room with a holiday touch, but avoid kitsch, like a big Santa Claus cut-out or an explosion of red and gold. A beautiful tree, even if it’s fake, or a nativity scene, always make a good impression. The reindeer are more than ever a symbol of Christmas, and you can find them in many different designs, for example one made of subtle white lights.
  • Set the table with visually pleasing colors, perhaps an emerald for the tablecloth and a lighter green for the napkins. Make sure to have a clean tablecloth and cutlery in the same way as a restaurant does. Arrange nearby all the different glasses your guests might use. Be sure to have enough water, wine and enough for everyone. Prepare simple plates and small appetizers such as vegetables with dip or pasta with tomato sauce, a relatively simply main course and vegetable side dishes. Panettone is a traditional Christmas cake, but if you like to bake try something different for your guests. Avoid pre-packaged foods and get different kind of bread from a good baker.
  • If your party is a buffet, set up the table with trays of sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fruit salads and homemade sweets, all displayed in a pleasing way. Avoiding store-bought chips or soda, or things in plastic packaging that make everything look cheap. Place instead pitchers or bottles of fruit juices, smoothies, beer, wine and water, providing a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • If you live in a place that allows you to put music, do it quietly, and be courteous of your neighbors. Or, consider the idea of putting on a movie during dinner, such as a holiday classic.

Start with this foundation when throwing your holiday party, but don’t be afraid to show your guests your own style.

 

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