There's no better time to show off your hosting skills than at Christmas. With back-to-back dinners and parties from now until the new year, you'll need to bring out the big guns to make an impression during the festive season. Luckily, we've got some simple tips for you to follow to help you top the social advent calendar. If you follow our expert advice, your nearest and dearest will be talking about your gathering until next December.
Run your kitchen like a professional and put together a schedule of what needs to be done and when. Think: at 12pm, put potatoes in oven and peel carrots, then wrap table presents. Work out what can be done in advance and prep it the day before – this will give you more time to mingle during the party.
Light up the fire
Baby, it's dark outside. If you're not lucky enough to have a log fire, don't worry – there are plenty of high definition fireplace videos on YouTube. Simply use an HDMI cable to connect your laptop to your TV, switch on the video and no one will know the difference. Our other tips on lighting up dark nights – such as stringing up fairy lights outside your front door – will add some festive cheer, too.
Greet your guests with cocktails
Whip up some drinks to hand to your friends as soon as they arrive. Keep it simple with mulled wine and bucks fizz, or get a little bit more creative with festive alternatives – white Christmas mojito, anyone? For children and non-drinkers, offer hot chocolate or kinderpunsch (a warm German drink made from fruit juice, mulling spices and herbal tea).
Play with your food
Equally, it's easy to give your canapés a festive spin. Dig out those themed cookie cutters and make puff pastry nibbles topped with camembert and cranberry sauce in star shapes. Alternatively, have some fun with your cheeseboard by positioning cubes of cheddar, dried fruits and cherry tomatoes into the shape of a tree. You can either turn these themed food arrangements into festive centrepieces or pick a few wintery springs from the garden. Holly branches, poinsettia leaves and ivy tendrils are all colourful additions to your dining table – just gather your chosen foliage in glass bowls with a few pine cones.
Most importantly, remember to relax and enjoy yourself. Festive get-togethers are about spending quality time in great company, so indulge in a few belly laughs and take any little kitchen mishaps in your stride.