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Christmas entertaining

Food is an important part of any celebration and Christmas is not an exception.

That is why we have put together some ideas for that Christmas entertaining.

Christmas theme dinners

Who says that Christmas dinner has to be the same each year? Sure the family gets together and great time but it can always be better. This year, think about ideas for a holiday them dinner.

What is a theme dinner? You've heard of murder mystery cruises before. This is a variation on that theme. Instead of everyone just coming and sitting at the table, they have to think a bit about how they will appear at your door.

Theme dinners can begin an entirely new tradition in your home. The dinners can revolve around a theme based on:

  • Holiday movies
  • Holiday recipes
  • Family history of holiday meals
  • Regional foods
  • Spiritual themes

Let's start with holiday movies. Take your favorite movie and use that as a starting point. Use the time period and any mention of food in the movie to set up your menu and what the attire will be for the evening.

Holiday recipes come from all sorts of cookbooks. You may decide on a down home Christmas meal or eat dinner as the Pilgrims may have enjoyed it with pheasant instead of turkey as the main dish. Try a recipe book based on holiday songs or poems. You'll find a lot of references to meal ideas with those.

Think back in your own family history. Maybe your family is of European, Asian or African descent. Fill the table this year with foods that reflect what would have been eaten by your family members hundreds of years ago. Research the traditional dress of the time so that everyone can look the part.

Regional themes can reflect the variety of traditions in different corners of your own country. How about a traditional New England feast or a Southwest meal? Go down south to Texas and you will find some other favorites you may not have thought to add to your Christmas meal before.

Christmas is not just about spending time together but the spiritual significance. Everyone could dress as the people did in biblical times and enjoy foods prepared as they would have been enjoyed in the New Testament around the time that Jesus was born.

The field is wide open. If the family is looking for something else to do this year to make their holiday special, suggest that everyone try a Christmas theme dinner. Be sure to decide early so family members have time to get their garb and their food together for the celebration.

The Christmas buffet

When the family gets together over the holidays, everyone wants to eat. It's a fact of life that most gatherings occur over food. This year, hold a Christmas buffet to avoid leftovers filling up the fridge.

The sit down dinner seems to be a tradition at Christmas time. Everyone gathers around a large table (or two) and shares good times. But, who says that every dish known to man has to be on that table? This year, enjoy your Christmas dinner buffet style.

There are benefits to buffet style dining at Christmas and other holidays:

  • Few if any leftovers
  • Easier cleanup
  • Everyone can reach everything - no passing involved
  • It's fun

Even if you have a small space, you can set up a buffet. The main course tables can be positioned in the dining area. Desserts can stay in the kitchen displayed on the counters. Keeping drinks on the table avoids everyone clamoring for them at once and spilling them.

As the host or hostess, you and your family can serve the buffet meal or allow everyone to fill their plates as they please. If you are on a budget and have counted out servings per person, it might be better if you served portions to everyone. So that you get your food also, create your dinner plates in the kitchen and bring them out to eat with everyone after the meal has been served.

The items needed to host a Christmas buffet style dinner can be purchased inexpensively at your local party store. You will need:

  • Liquid fuel (Sterno)
  • Buffet racks
  • Buffet serving pans
  • Serving utensils
  • Paper products (napkins, dinner and dessert plates

To avoid burning the food, place a serving pan with about an inch of water underneath the pan that holds the food. Since the food is already room temperature, light the liquid fuel about 30 minutes before the meal is to begin.

Now, let's get to the table. Lay out silverware (or plasticware) on the table along with your beverage glasses. Each table will have their own assortment of drinks (no wine on the kid's table, please). You can use place cards so that everyone knows where they are sitting for big gatherings.

With a buffet, after the initial plate of food is served, your job is done. Family members can return at will to the buffet. When the meal is over, provide "to go" boxes so that they can take what is left home with them.

Afterwards, simply stack the racks for future use and get rid of everything else. You can stack the glasses in the dishwasher and settle down to watch It's a Wonderful Life.

The Christmas buffet is a wonderful idea to take the work and clean up out of a holiday meal. Your family won't mind and everyone is happy.

Host a Christmas brunch

You have spent a good portion of Christmas Eve getting food ready for Christmas dinner the next day. Treat all of the diligent cooks (and the rest of the family) to a brunch on Christmas midmorning. Everyone can get the nourishment they need to finish preparation for dinner that night.

The good thing about a brunch is that it combines the best of breakfast and lunch. If you have those who love breakfast foods anytime of the day, it works. For others who want to eat light, they have the lunch half of the fare.

If you are going to host the Christmas brunch, include the cooking items you need in your master list for Christmas dinner shopping. You don’t want to run out of eggs or milk or bread. While one half of the group is working on Christmas dinner, the other half can be preparing for brunch.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Decide on the menu ahead of time – keep it simple but with enough variety for your family’s tastes.
  • Decide how you will present the brunch. Buffet style is good for early risers and those who want to sleep for an extra 20 minutes.
  • Don’t forget the drinks: plenty of fruit juices, milk and teas
  • Perform the prep work the night before when the other half of the cooks are preparing for Christmas dinner – casseroles can be put together and refrigerated.
  • Don’t forget the setup for a buffet style brunch. You don’t want to run out of pans for the food.

The secret to a holiday brunch is the preparation and a bit of cheating. It is okay because the food will still be good. For example, if you decide to serve blueberry muffins, buy them from the store. Take them out to come to room temperature in the morning. Use frozen, cooked sausage for the casseroles so you don’t have to perform that step on Christmas morning.

A perfect way to save cleanup is to have a buffet brunch and a buffet holiday dinner. The tables will only have to be set up once. All you will do is wipe up the table clothes and switch out the food pans when it is time for dinner. The brunch food stays warm from the first family member to the last.

Want some brunch ideas? Here they are:

  • Sausage, egg and cheese breakfast casserole
  • Assorted muffins
  • Fruit Juices
  • Fruit salad
  • Ham and turkey slices with white and wheat bread

The first rule is to keep it simple. Dinner is coming in a few short hours and you want everyone to have room for all that you’ve prepared.