At this time of year most new moms will already be imagining their baby’s first Christmas. You might be dreaming of the perfect scene surrounded by all of your family. There will be hundreds of presents and dozens of Instagram updates to get through. The tree will be tall and twinkling, and everyone will be enjoying a cuddle with your little one. No wonder you’ve agreed to host the festivities at your place this year!
The reality of it will quickly sink in as you change your seventh diaper of the day, change your top for the third time, and lose the pacifier once again. As a new mom you really do have enough on your plate, without taking care of even more family members and the catering as well. Still, you’ve got yourself into this, and you’re determined to see it through. After all, there will be plenty of relatives to hold the baby while you get on with the cooking. And the cleaning. And the laundry. And the decorating. The list goes on.
You can do this! You might not want to do it again for a while, but you’ve got this. And it’s going to be great. Baby’s first Christmas is going to be fabulous, because you’re running the show. Don’t know where to start? Don’t panic. This guide will help you navigate the challenges of the festive event of the year. It’s time to get started.
You’ll be the one doing all the cooking so it’s time to start putting together your menus. Traditional Christmas meals are pretty similar to Thanksgiving. There are a lot of meats, a lot of desserts, and a lot of vegetables to roast. When you’re catering for a lot of people, it’s important not to make too many variations of the same thing. If you have special diets to cater for, you need to find out now. Allergies and sensitivities to food can be very serious. If you have a guest with one of these it’s essential you keep that ingredient out of everything you make. Check the labels on everything you use.
Vegetarians and vegans are generally happy to sit at the table with meat on it. However, it’s important they can enjoy a complete meal too. Nut roasts are quite popular. If you have people who don’t eat meat, you can choose to cater an entirely vegetarian feast for everyone. It saves anyone feeling awkward at the table. And there are no rules about what you can and can’t eat during the festive period.
Are there any kids coming? Why not prepare a couple of desserts that might be festive and appealing to the little ones? Make it even easier on the day. Prepare gingerbread biscuits in festive shapes ahead of their arrival. Then give them the icing pipe and decorations to finish them off themselves. It gives them something fun to do, and saves you from having to do some of the catering.
Desserts are a huge part of any festive meal. But when you’re on a diet, it can be too much to bear. Look for desserts from popular eating plans and diets. For example, you can find great paleo desserts online that could suit other eating plans too. Again, they don’t have to be part of the traditional seasonal treats like yule logs or Christmas cake. And you don’t need to provide lots of variety. Stick with two things that will suit most tastes. An additional savory option like a cheese board will also be popular.
When you’re choosing recipes, it might be a good idea to stick with things that can be cooked at the same time in the same way. For example, roast all your vegetables alongside the meat. Alternative, throw them all in the steamer and leave them while you get on with other things. If you’re making pastry for sweet or savory pies, prepare the pastry the night before. It will keep in the fridge without too many problems. You can even form it over the dish then bag wrap it until your filling is ready.
People tend to overeat during the festive period. When you’re calculating how much food to prepare, this can be really tricky. Try to prepare things in portions. For example, you might think to put in one carrot and one parsnip for each person. But nobody really eats an entire carrot or parsnip. One between two is usually adequate. As for the meat, your butcher will tell you how big a bird or meat joint you need to serve a set number of people.
Meat is difficult to cook well on time. Make your calculations a couple of days before, and triple check them. Be wary of your choice of container. Some will cause the meat to need a long time or hotter temperature. If you can have a practice run, this would be ideal. But what are you going to do with all that extra meat? Aim to have the meat fully cooked an hour before you sit down. You can keep it hot for this amount of time without it drying out. And if it isn’t fully cooked, you’ve got a good contingency to avert disaster.
On the day, aim to have cold dishes and desserts prepared already. The night before is a good time to get most of your cooking done. This leaves you with much less to do when guests are vying for your attention, and your baby is fractious. Writing everything down in an organized list will really help with your scheduling too.
Preparing your house for lots of extra guests isn’t easy either. Your baby is likely to be sleeping in your room still. Perhaps you can put up a camp bed in the nursery? It’s a good idea to move all those baby essentials into your room so you don’t need to disturb any sleepers in the night. The living room is often big enough for an inflatable bed. Do you have one, or can you allocate that task to another family member? If your guest room is doubling as a junk room, try to give yourself a day well ahead of December to get it cleared out.
Is there enough parking for everyone? Can you check with the neighbors that extra cars on the street won’t be a problem? When you distribute the invites, be sure to detail where guests can leave their cars. If there aren’t enough beds or spaces for camp beds in the house, pop a couple of hotel options on the invite. Some of your guests may live close by and drive home after. Be sure to order alcohol-free beers and wines.
Cleaning when you have a baby can be pretty challenging. Deep cleaning an entire house is even harder! Ask friends or family to help you. They might babysit for a couple of hours, or even help you with the work. Alternatively, a professional cleaner could make light work of it. You’ll also need to wash and iron all that spare bed linen and towels. Get them ready now and store them for the big day. One of the most important things to check is the oven. If it’s not clean, do it now to avoid that smokey smell when you have it roasting all day.
Decorating can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. As a minimum, most homeowners put a wreath on the door and a decorated tree in the living room. You might be keen to add some exterior lights and festive centerpieces for the table. There is no need to do more than you are comfortable with. After all, some of it may become hazardous for your baby. Avoid tinsel and light cables in areas they can reach. Glass baubles should be swapped for wooden ones.
You might choose to decorate earlier in the month to avoid a last minute rush. If you’re putting gifts under the tree, keep an eye on your inquisitive baby! Chances are the paper may be torn or licked. Put them higher up, or put them away until your guests arrive. Be sure to secure gift tags to them as you may forget which one is which.
The Perfect Hostess
As your guests arrive, you may be feeling a little frantic and busy. Invite people to arrive at a particular time. That way you’ll have the time before that for your last minute preparations. Try to have some glasses ready to fill on your countertop. This makes it quicker and easier to get your guests sat down and refreshed when they come in. And it means you’re free to dash back to the kitchen if you need to. With so much going on, it might be best to use a gate on the kitchen doorway so your little one doesn’t get in.
A huge family festive dinner can be a wonderful event but it can be tiring. Try not to start too early in the morning, because it’s likely to be a late one! And don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is the season of giving after all.