Your Holiday Handbook for Christmas

Follow our holiday handbook for hosting tips, recipes and cooking advice. You'll be jingling and mingling all Christmas season long.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Whether you kickstart your holiday planning the second December 1st rolls around or wait until the very last minute to plan (don’t worry; these baking tips will save the day!), this guide has all the recipes, how-tos and advice you need to make this season joyful and triumphant.

Do you have a tip that changed the way you cook for the holidays? Share it with us below.

Planning for the Holidays

Before you put up the tree, hang a stocking or frost a single Christmas cookie, you’ll want to create a game plan for your Christmas season. Grab your family and a calendar and mark out all of the month’s events. This will give you some perspective on your timeline. While you’re at it, we recommend blocking off a few free evenings for yourself. The Christmas season can be draining—plan a few nights to stay in with a movie.

With your days accounted for, start planning when you’ll clean, shop and pack for all your big events. We’ve got plenty of resources on how to prepare, including a super-helpful timeline.

Helpful Tips & Ideas

Christmas Dinner Ideas

Because Christmas is so steeped in tradition, folks tend to like to stick with the classics like ham and turkey. We’ve got plenty of recipes for making these traditional dishes as well as plenty of other special-occasion favorites.

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Christmas Appetizers

Not every Christmas celebration is about the main course. Christmastime is full of casual celebrations like holiday open houses, relaxed Christmas Eves and cocktail parties. For these get-togethers, we recommend prepping an assortment of appetizers to keep everyone mingling and full. Be sure to have these genius tips handy for last-minute company,

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Christmas Desserts

Remember there’s more to Christmas sweets than just cookies (though we love them). Bring out one of these showstopping desserts after dinner and watch everyone’s eyes light up.

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Christmas Hosting FAQs

Q: How can I be a good Christmas party host?

A: It’s all about welcoming. Your primary goal as a host is to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable.

Making loved ones feel at home is as simple as making sure they have a drink in hand (and know where to get more), have a full plate of goodies and have someone to chat with. If you’re introducing folks for the first time, be sure to go beyond the name. If you know your neighbor and your BFF both enjoy figure skating or bird watching or college football, make mention of it—it’ll tee them up for conversation.

Q: How do I host my first Christmas dinner?

A: First and foremost, good on you for volunteering such a large undertaking. Before you rush to the grocery store and start laying out the linens, ask yourself what your vision of the holiday is and how much work you’d like to put in. Some folks love the challenge of creating a formal dinner, but don’t feel pressured to go over-the-top your first year hosting. You can create a lovely and satisfying Christmas dinner with the help of your slow cooker with these delicious recipes or even just opt for easier versions of holiday classics.

As long as your guests have a place to sit and something to sip and nibble on while they wait for dinner, everyone should be happy.

Q: How do I host a holiday open house?

A: Holiday open houses are a great option for entertaining during a busy season. To host an open house, send out invitations (or just call) loved ones to let them know that you’ll be ready for guests for an afternoon or evening—or all day if you like. Be clear that guests don’t need to arrive at any specific time. The point of an open house is for people to pop in and out all day long.

Be sure to have cool drinks at the ready and plenty of small bites for people to nosh on while you catch up. We like these cold appetizers that can be stashed in the fridge during any lulls as well as these slow cooker dips that can sit on “warm” all afternoon. To make your home extra inviting, be sure to have that Christmas tree on, holiday music queued up and maybe even a warm fire going.

Share Your Best Tips


Next: Check out our top 100 holiday tips to make your season merry and bright.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.