The nights are drawing in and the party season is almost upon us! Here are a few tips for organising a festive gathering for friends to save you unnecessary fuss, so that you can focus on having a good time.
Appeal to all the senses. To set the mood, compile a playlist of your favourite Yuletide tunes for the soundtrack to your evening; carols, pop songs and pieces of classical music. Light a seasonal scented candle or two, with notes of pine, citrus and spices, or create your own room scent using clove-studded orange rind, left to warm near a radiator.
If you’re filling the room with a crowd of people, focus your decorating efforts from eye level upwards as anything lower won’t be seen. Concentrating on walls and ceilings; lay pieces of tinsel or sprays of evergreen along picture frames and mirrors, or suspend them from the ceiling using fishing nylon, to create the feel of a forest canopy overhead. Hang baubles and other Christmas decorations from these, or at varying heights from light fittings. Battery-powered lights come in very handy – drape these around doorways and bathroom mirrors, and include them in flower and evergreen arrangements.
Have a buffet table covered with a bright cloth for glasses, drinks, ice and platters of snacks. If there is no space for a tree, make this the focal point of the room. Fill a vase with glitter-sprayed branches and evergreens, add fairy lights to brighten, and suspend decorations from the arrangement. Fill bowls and pile cakestands with a mixture of baubles and favourite Christmas tree decorations to place on side tables.
Mix up a cocktail using festive flavours. You could add cranberry juice and orange bitters to sparkling wine, for example. Serve this from a bowl or jug and float clove-studded citrus rind on top. If you are adding ice, freeze cranberries or pomegranate seeds into the cubes to add colour to clear drinks. Frosting the rims of glasses is another easy way to sprinkle a bit of winter magic on things. Plastic glasses and paper cups are great when there’s a big crowd, though extra glasses are easily available to hire from wine merchants.
With so much Christmas cheer going round, this is an occasion where party food is a necessity. Save yourself added hassle by planning ahead and shopping for party food online, avoiding supermarket chaos. Snacks that can be cooked from frozen are brilliant space- and time-savers in the kitchen; who doesn’t love something warm and savoury alongside their Christmas cocktail? Make food easy to eat with one hand, or in one bite, with cocktail napkins for messier eats. For variety as well as practicality, serve things on spoons, skewers or cocktail sticks, and shots of soup in small glasses or espresso cups. Christmas platters can be re-used time and again.
For a sweet end to the proceedings, offer bitesized treats such as tiny warm mince pies or brownie squares. For something a bit lighter, individual mulled wine or Cointreau-laced orange jellies in cups will prove a great palate cleanser. Alternatively, wrap a few treats in cellophane or paper bags for guests as favours. These could be Christmas sweet gifts – cookies, chutney or chocolates – or something to take a bit of Christmas cheer home with them; for example, a spice bag to scent a room or drawer with or to infuse a batch of home-brewed mulled wine.