Thursday, Nov. 8: Christmas is 47 days from today.

Host a holiday party this year



Holiday revelers tend to be busy with social engagements - from corporate parties to cocktails with close friends - between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Chances are, many people will be attending a party and/or hosting their own this holiday season.

Playing host or hostess and inviting crowds of people to visit is part of what makes the season so special and memorable. While attending a party requires little of celebrants other than a willingness to have a good time, hosting a holiday get-together can be hard work. But hosts can heed a few time-tested strategies to ensure they and their guests make the most of their time together this holiday season.

Forget perfection

Television, movies and advertisements paint an unrealistic picture of what the holidays should be. Don't get down if a holiday party that would make Norman Rockwell proud is beyond your capabilities. Rather than trying to plan a picture-perfect holiday party, channel your energy into what you do best. Cook up a holiday feast if you love being in the kitchen, or decorate till you drop if you love to deck the halls. The point of the party is to gather with family and friends, so no need to worry about throwing a perfect party.

What type of event

One of the first steps is deciding what type of gathering you want to host – formal dinner party, family-style dinner, cocktail party, open house (afternoon or evening), potluck, brunch or dessert party.

Start making lists

Make lists regarding which foods you plan to cook, what you need to buy, who you plan to invite, and any other details that are floating around in your head. Getting things on paper and checking off the list can help keep things moving.

Enlist helpers

Ask others to contribute to the party so all of the work is not on your shoulders. A potluck party is a great way to encourage participation. When everyone brings something along and helps, it frees up time to spend together rather than worrying about what needs cooking in the kitchen or whether a last-minute trip to the store is in order.

Downsize

Festive feelings may inspire you to expand your guest list. Social people understandably want to invite all of their circles of friends, but an overwhelming guest list can make hosting more difficult. If you have trouble paring down the guest list, consider hosting separate parties, designating one for family and another for friends.

You can even downsize your offerings to lessen some your load. Rather than spending days in the kitchen making unique apps, stock up on chips, snacks and premade appetizers so you have enough food. If you want to make one or two appetizers from scratch, stick to a handful of tried-and-true recipes and convenience items so you're not worrying about kitchen-testing new things.

Borrow needed items

If you're hosting for the first time or if your party ware has seen better days, try borrowing serving dishes, wine glasses and extra seating. The cost of such items can quickly add up, but borrowing is free and your guests will no doubt be happy to contribute something to the festivities.

Hire professionals

If you're simply too busy to handle hosting but still want to invite loved ones, hire some professional help. Hire wait staff to tend to guests during the party, and book a cleaning service to clean your home in the days before the party. Don't hesitate to have the party catered if you prefer your gathering not be potluck.

Don’t forget:

• Cue the playlist. Put together a playlist of favorite holiday music that will provide the ideal ambiance should guests ring your doorbell. Thanks to services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora, holiday music that fills a home with the sweet sounds of the season is now always accessible.

• Consider creating a signature or seasonal cocktail for guests, such as a special martini, spiced punch or a holiday eggnog.

• Create an aromatic atmosphere. Scented candles that evoke the aromas of the season can refresh stale indoor air. Butter cookie-, apple pie- and cinnamon-scented candles can make it seem like you just finished some holiday baking.

• Decking the halls is a holiday tradition, and hosts should make an effort to string some holiday decorations before welcoming guests into their homes. A Christmas tree might be the most ubiquitous decorative item come the holidays, so hosts can make their tree the centerpiece of their decor. Hang some mistletoe around the house, which also can be adorned with season-specific plants like holly and poinsettias.

• Spread out foods and beverages. Guests tend to bottleneck around the goodies. Ensure mingling and avoid traffic jams by having drinks and snacks in different locations.