Complete checklist for entertaining at Christmas

Using a checklist can keep you on track to a happy holiday season, no matter how harried you feel at the thought of entertaining a large group of family and friends. It takes a family to host Christmas, so be sure to enlist their help. Family members can help you plan the details and can assist with some of the tasks. Use some of these ideas to make your holiday checklist complete. After all, a hostess should be allowed some time to enjoy the holiday, too.

Have "the talk" with a significant other or spouse - Decide ahead of time where you'll spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's. Discussing where to spend the holidays can ruin your holiday spirit when you need to split the holidays between sets of in-laws or navigate times with ex-spouses.

Menu making - Plan your menu as soon as you're finished eating that leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Make a list of the main course, side dishes, and desserts you want to serve. Make a secondary list of ingredients and check off the ones you have in the pantry. Sometimes I will set aside cans of gravy or other pantry items I have earmarked for the Christmas meal.

Plan an inclusive menu - "If relevant, include a vegetarian entrée in your spread," advises Kristine Kennedy, Wayfair's Style Director. Katie Jordan of Flourish Events in Greenville, South Carolina, tells Yahoo! Shine, "You should always offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes."

* Consider serving some low-fat side dishes, low-sodium, or heart-healthy side dishes.

* If you are aware of a seafood, gluten, peanut, or other allergy in your extended family, reach out to the guest and ask how you can accommodate their food needs.

Spend three weeks grocery shopping the sales - Use your list to find the items you need on sale in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Many ingredients you need will be on sale ahead of time. Match the sales with e-coupons and printed coupons to maximize your holiday grocery dollar.

* Order a fresh turkey or ham from the local butcher or grocery store.

* Wait until a few days before Christmas to buy the fresh vegetables, fruit, and dairy products.

Trim the halls, paint the trim - There is no better excuse to repaint trim, window-level shelves, stairs, door frames, and doors than the holidays. It's a small project that can be done for an hour or two at a time when the kids are in school.

Keep your "me-gifting" in check - There's a funny little trend this year, "me-gifting." It's when you find a gift for someone and buy the exact same one for yourself. If you indulge in some me-gifting this season, be prepared to give up that extra gift just in case you receive an unexpected gift and want to reciprocate.

Check your list once, twice, and stop adding names - Make a list of family and friends you intend on treating with gifts. Stick to that list when you shop and purchase a couple of gifts for any Yankee gift or Secret Santa swaps. As the season progresses, refrain from adding to your list by thinking you absolutely need to buy a gift for the bus driver, the postal carrier, or your child's teacher.

* A handwritten thank you in a holiday card or a small gift card to the local coffee shop should be enough.

* Purchase a few extras. Buy or decorate your own mini gift bags and purchase some small items on sale, like seasonal candles or kitchen gadgets, to give to any extra guests that attend your party.

Check inventory before you shop - The pretty wrapping paper and ribbons are enticing, but if you're like me, you may remember that you shopped the 75 percent off sale after Christmas last year. Find your Christmas tags, ribbons, paper, tissue paper, Christmas cards, and any holiday tableware from previous years. If you know what you have, you will be less tempted to overspend on paper goods.

Put an end to the guest towel mystery - How many times have you been at someone's home and wondered if those towels were guest towels or show towels? "Do have paper guest napkins in the bathroom. While cotton ones are nice, no one really wants to use the hand towel that someone else just used," says Coco of Vidacoco.com.

Make a plan for your pets -

"When entertaining in your home, do not allow pets to wander freely and always have allergy medicine on hand for anyone who may have a cat or dog allergy," says Jordan.

Delegate a checklist for everyone - Make a checklist for family members. The list could include things that need to happen in the weeks leading up to Christmas, including room cleaning or holiday decorating. You can also have a list ready to go, assigning family members different jobs during the party. Young children love to hand out appetizers. Older children could be in charge of can or bottle recycling. Any little job you give to someone else will make your day less stressful.

Eat, drink, but only drink a little - Make a list of a variety of beverages for all ages. "'Tis the season to be moderate. Accommodate all ages with an ample variety of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages, both hot and cold. Stick to the basics but offer up festive sips like cider (guests can spike if they like) and hot cocoa. Beer, wine, and one signature cocktail will do the trick," says Jordan.

Plan for the unexpected - "If your holiday party guests have indulged in a bit too much eggnog, be sure you have clean bedding, towels, and pillows at the ready should they need to stay overnight," advises Aleah and Nick Valley of Valley & Co. Weddings in Seattle, Washington.

* Have extra linens and pillows ready to go near an extra couch or an inflated air mattress tucked away in another room.

Mix up the music - Liven up your Christmas party with a music mix everyone will love. Christmas music alone may be tedious, especially since it's been on the radio since the week before Thanksgiving. Mix up a playlist with some surprises for your guests. "Play a mix of music that reflects guests' average age. A good rule of thumb: play music they listened to in high school/college; it will make them happy and nostalgic," says award-winning Maitre D' Felix Albano of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse in New York City.

Deep clean - You were hoping it wasn't here, but it is. Deep clean the bathroom, kitchen, dining area, and living room where you'll be entertaining guests. Move furniture, clean under rugs, wash curtains, and make everything sparkle.

* Clean out the refrigerator and freezer to make room for holiday foods and leftovers.

* Find the stray tops to storage containers and have some disposable containers available for guests to take home some goodies.

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