Christmas is a time for family. It’s an opportunity to hang out with relatives you haven’t seen all year, to reconnect with distant cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Many families organize a big reunion over the festive holidays, but the sheer logistics of organizing a large family meal can be overwhelming unless you are incredibly organized. Here are some tips to help ensure your family gathering takes place without causing you and other relatives too much stress.
Before you do anything, find out well in advance exactly who is coming to your family party, including partners and children. It only takes one or two extra unexpected guests to show up for the best laid plans to begin to unravel. Ask everyone to confirm they are coming (or not) at least a month before the big day. If illness strikes at the last minute, this can’t be helped. In any event, it is easier to cope with fewer people show up – worst case scenario is that you end up freezing the extra food.
Make Sleeping Arrangements
Find out which relatives are going to need a bed for the night. This is likely to be the case for anyone who has to travel a long distance to make the party. Where possible, try to find space to let people stay over, even if it’s only a sleeping bag on the spare room floor. However, if you don’t feel up to providing hospitality for more than a few hours, you can say “no” and point them in the direction of a nearby B&B.
Buy Extra Food
You will need plenty of food if you are catering for large numbers of people. Since this is a festive occasion, look at buying a turkey, goose, duck, or some other festive joint. The more people you are expecting, the more food you will need. A sit-down meal will probably be impractical if you are catering for 20 or more guests, so consider preparing food and letting guests help themselves.
Cold meats, salads, and other simple dishes will be perfectly OK for a large gathering, but you can also prepare hot dishes, too. Large pots of chili con carne or stew would be perfect for a cold winter’s day, especially when accompanied with crusty bread rolls.
Don’t forget to check whether anyone has a food allergy or unusual diet. In any large group of people there is likely to be at least one person who is vegetarian or gluten intolerant. So, to avoid any last minute panics, ask everyone to let you know if they need anything special ordering in.
Organize a Table and Chairs
Most families only have enough room to seat around 6-8 people at the table, plus a couple of extra chairs. To cater for more than 20 people, you will need to source extra seats and tables. There are plenty of ways to do this, including asking friends to help out. One alternative worth considering if this is a particularly large gathering is to look at commercial seating. You can buy restaurant furniture at great prices, often for far less money than chairs and tables made for the domestic market. You will need to make an initial investment, but once you have used the furniture, resell it online and get your money back. You won’t have lost much.
Always have a fallback plan in place, just in case the oven breaks down or Great Uncle John picks a fight with his nephew. Family gatherings can be like a pressure cooker at times, so if you get through the day with no cross words, consider it a huge success.