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Hosting a last-minute holiday gathering

Holiday Party
Hosting a last-minute holiday gathering doesn't have to be stressful. Follow some simple tips to entertain and enjoy the get-together. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Whether it's last-minute drinks or a communication error where one partner forgot to tell the other they had invited guests to dinner, rushed holiday gatherings seem to be a part of each Christmas season. With a few simple tricks, you can still host an impressive event – it just takes a little effort and imagination.

News Canada said the first step to offering the ultimate spread is knowing your guests and their dietary restrictions. It's impossible to plan for every restriction, but if you include the ones you know of and provide a variety of snacks that cater to all common allergens, there should be something for everyone to eat.

Lisa Bolton from Food Bloggers of Canada suggests pulling out a large board or platter to keep all the food in one place, and draw guests together. She adds, "you can pull a lot of different foods together and turn them into something cohesive and attractive."

Avoid sit-down meals that require lots of prep. Instead, keep it simple with one-bite items that require few ingredients, such as crostini, mini tarts or a delicious cheese board.

Utilize what you already have on hand before blowing your holiday budget on food and decor. Bolton recommends stocking up on pantry staples such as citrus fruits, pickles, olives, salted nuts, dried fruits, jams/jellies and crackers/chips prior to the seasonal rush.

"If you have the budget," she wrote, "a nice cheese...will keep in the fridge for a few weeks."

Dig through closets, cabinets and storage space, suggests, to find those fancy dishes you received but never think to use or that sparkly decor item you forgot you had.

Before heading to the store, create a budget and give yourself a time limit in the shop to avoid overspending and impulse purchases.

Choosing the right place to shop will also reduce stress. Select a store that carries most of your required purchases to prevent the headache of driving to and trying to find parking at multiple locations.

Brit+Co recommends setting up a self-serve bar and asking guests to help themselves. Set out wines, spirits and punch or other mixers and ensure you have beer in the fridge.

"Whatever you do, don’t play bartender," Dana Sandonato writes, "or you’ll spend the entire night shaking and stirring and missing out on all the action."

Finally, accept help when offered or ask for it if needed. Most friends and family members know hosting is an effort and will be happy to provide dessert, drinks or an appetizer. They are, after all, there to enjoy time with you and don't want to see you stressed out by their presence.

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