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Thanksgiving has come and gone, so you know what that means? Time to gear up for Christmas and New Years. Like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years both have a focus on food, but instead of keeping it cozy with your loved ones around the dinner table, these upcoming holidays have a few more traditions to offer–holiday parties!

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If you’re like us and want to make sure your home is prepped and ready to have people over to celebrate with holiday cheer, then you’re going to need some pointers on how to get it all together! We teamed up with Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author, speaker and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says the best rule to keep in mind is the five Ps: prior planning prevents poor performance.

Check out her 10 tips for being a hospitable host during the holidays:

1. Do your homework:

Find out ahead of time if any of your guests have food allergies or other dietary restrictions and plan your menu accordingly or prepare a buffet with a variety of items. Keep it simple and serve what you know. Don’t try to serve an unfamiliar, complicated, or labor-intensive dish your first time out.

2. Keep a list:

Write down all of the items you need to make your meal complete. It’s especially frustrating when you think you have all of your ingredients and then discover in the midst of cooking that you don’t have enough salt, sugar or butter.

3. Have a variety of beverages on hand:

The mark of a good host is to have a few bottles of red and white wine along with plenty of nonalcoholic beverages for the non-drinkers of the group.

4. Stock up on snacks:

This includes nuts, chips, salsa or dip, one or two different cheeses, crackers, and one or two kinds of frozen appetizers. Choose hors d’oeuvres that are easy to eat and require only one bite. This will ensure that no one gets crumbs on his or her nice outfit or on your floor.

5. Do as much as possible the day before:

Don’t wait until the last minute. Set your table the night before. Clean and polish your serving pieces and fill your salt and pepper shakers a few days before Thanksgiving dinner to avoid last-minute flurries.

6. Iron your linens:

When you are serving cocktails, provide linen cocktail napkins or, at the very least, decorative paper cocktail napkins. For dinner, use linen napkins because they’re more elegant than paper ones.

7. Set the mood:

Candles are an easy, inexpensive, quick way to make any home more inviting. Buy as many candles as you can and place them throughout your house. Remember to reserve a few unscented ones for the dinner table. Light your candles approximately 15 or 20 minutes prior to your guests’ arrival, and then light the candles on your dinner table just before everyone sits down to dine.

8. Choose your tunes:

Music is a vital element in the staging of a good holiday get together, as it sets the tone for the evening. Create a dinner party playlist on your iPod or iPhone or preset your CD player so there’s music in the air when your guests arrive and keep it playing throughout the evening.

9. Preset your coffee and tea service:

About an hour before your party, set up your coffeemaker and put cream, milk, sugar, and sweetener in decorative containers. Put condiments in attractive bowls or containers rather than placing bottles directly on the table. Put your coffee cups, saucers, teaspoons, and assorted teas on a tray on a side table.

10. Make time for yourself:

Allow plenty of time to shower, get dressed, and look your best for your party. You’ll want to greet your guests at the door with a relaxed smile on your face. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel, and the better time you’ll have at your own party.


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