Are you anxious because it’s YOUR turn to host Christmas dinner this year? Are you worried your beautiful, basted turkey will get dragged off the kitchen table and devoured by hungry neighborhood dogs like in the movie “A Christmas Story?” You don’t want to be frantically running around looking for serving spoons when the door bell rings either. Right?
The Less Stress Christmas Dinner Planner gives you a week-by-week and day-to-day “to do” list and menu suggestions to lessen hostess stress and get you ORGANIZED! Also, you’ll find leftover ham recipes and a great turkey brine recipe. Let’s get you celebrating with your guests instead of doing last minute things you could have done weeks ago.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means, if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a very small commission which helps with blog expenses so you can continue to receive FREE recipes but, the price you pay is the same.
When you think of hosting Christmas dinner, do you think of a beautiful table scape that looks like something on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens? I can help you get make festive centerpieces, tasty cocktails to go along with ham, turkey or beef and delicious side dishes. You just might be the envy of your family and friends.
Well, I’ve got the perfect festive centerpiece for your table scape! It’s a 3-D Fruit Christmas Tree!
Or how about a Snowy Antipasto Christmas Wreath for a festive appetizer that also makes a beautiful centerpiece?
I do too for a few seconds before I come back to reality and realize I don’t have a chef and 3 servers in my kitchen doing all of the work! There’s a lot to do and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, here’s some things to think about while planning your Christmas dinner.
Planning dinner parties early minimizes stress on the holiday. Procrastinating puts you in a bad place. What if you find out on Christmas Eve one of the tables you’re planning to use for Christmas dinner has a broken leg? Oh, no! You could have known that weeks before and had time to time to borrow, buy or rent a table.
Christmas is a time to spend time together, doing traditions you hold dear. It’s harder to do that when you’re stressed out and worried about running out of food or worse…eggnog.
It’s always smart to do tasks early! Allowing plenty of time to complete tasks helps you keep control of hosting and lessen stress. It’s great if you can get all of your work done and just wait for the guests to arrive right before Christmas dinner. Ahh.. that sounds nice!
Prep the Vegetables the Day Before!
- Wash and cut celery and onions the day before for stuffing/dressing.
- Wash and cut vegetables and fruit for veggie and fruit trays the day before.
- Prep your green beans, leafy greens, corn on the cob, etc. the day before or even two days before.
- Peel and cube potatoes and store them in water up to 24 hours before you cook them.
Don’t Have Enough Oven Space?
If you don’t have enough oven space, this affordable 22 qt. Stainless Steel Oster Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid is perfect for small kitchens with one oven! It could be a lifesaver!
Use Slow Cookers. Make side dishes, ham, pork, beef or turkey breast in a big oval slow cooker. Slow cookers are convenient and save space because you can cook and serve from them if you’re doing buffet style. Plus, you can set up a slow cooker to cooker in a separate room while you use your counters to prep the rest of the meal and bring the slow cooker back to your kitchen when needed.
Use an Instant Pot
A multi-function cooker such as, an Instant Pot, save you oven space and counter space by making side dishes and extra meat. Some Instant pots have as many as 10 functions! Use it as a slow cooker for beef, ham or turkey breast or make side dishes like rice, using the rice cooker function.
Make butternut squash or green beans quickly in it. It comes in handy when you forgot to make something. Plus, there’s a saute function for onions, celery and carrots which is great when you run out of stove burners. Plus, you’ll surely use it for fast week night dinners so, don’t think it’s something that will lie around collecting dust after Christmas!
However, be familiar with how it works and have your recipes ready ahead of time. Read the instructions carefully to operate it safely.
Ideas for Easy-to-Make Side Dishes
- Make baked or roasted potatoes instead of mashed potatoes. Serve baked potatoes with sour cream and chives or bacon and cheese.
- Make baked sweet potatoes instead of sweet potato casserole. Serve them with cinnamon sugar and a dollop of butter.
- For Glazed Carrots, use baby carrots instead of regular carrots to eliminate peeling and cutting them.
Making a Ham?
Ham is probably the most popular main dish served for Christmas dinner, especially in Virginia. I say probably because where beef is readily available (Texas,) I’d assume a nice prime rib roast or filet is most popular. It all sounds yummy!
- Hams are usually sold fresh, not frozen and will keep in your refrigerator before Christmas day. They come boneless, bone in, semi, whole and pre-sliced, even the bone in hams can be bough pre-sliced.
- Hams are pretty easy to prepare because they don’t need much. Add a brown sugar glaze and/or pineapple slices and you’re going to have a good tasting main dish.
- To make a juicy ham, cover it with foil while baking until the last 15 minutes. Remove foil, add brown sugar glaze and put oven on 400F and allow it to bubble a little and crisp up a bit. Delicious!
Honey Pineapple Ham Glaze
It’s super easy to make, gluten-free and without refined sugar. Get the printable recipe and hostess tips here.
Making a Turkey?
- Thaw a frozen turkey 3-4 four days before Christmas day in the refrigerator. Read package directions for more precise directions.
- If you forget to thaw the turkey, put it (in its plastic packaging) in a large container submerged in luke-warm water (not hot water.) If you’ve only got 24 hours, you’ll want to change the water hourly when possible.
- Here’s a good citrus apple cider brine recipe that will give your turkey good flavor. Read directions days before to get ingredients and prep. Likely, you’ll brine your turkey for several hours so make sure you read the instructions days before.
- Keep in mind, the more you baste the turkey, the longer it’ll take to cook. The oven loses a heat each time you open the oven door. Put a lid on the turkey roasting pan and it’ll steam, self basting itself or use a turkey roasting bag.
- Make a turkey breast in an oval slow cooker if you want extra white meat or if no one cares for the dark meat.
How Do I Make a Prime Rib Roast?
Prime rib roasts tend to be on sale the week of Christmas and you can get a great deal on one. Check your local grocery store ads.
- Bring your fresh prime rib roast to room temperature before roasting. Meanwhile, make a garlic butter rub for it.
- Pat it dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle it with salt and pepper liberally. Then, apply the the “Easy Garlic Butter Rub Recipe” below to the top and sides of the rib roast.
- Preheat oven to 500°F ONLY for the first 15 minutes to make an exterior crust, then drop the temperature to 325°F.
- Oil spray the bottom of a high-side roasting pan and place the prime rib roast with the bone-side down on a roasting rack, if you have one. Insert a meat thermometer while cooking so you can see when it’s done to your liking.
- Cook until rib roast reaches an internal temperature of 120°F for medium rare which is the suggested way to serve it. Remove from oven and let sit for 15-20 minutes before cutting it. The roast will continue to cook as it sits. Serve when the internal temperature reaches 130°F.
- 120°F for medium rare before resting
- 130°F for medium before resting
- 135°F for well done before resting
How Long Do I Cook a Prime Rib Roast?
After the prime rib roast has been seasoned, cooked it in the oven for 15 minutes on 500°F to get exterior crust, it will take about 15 minutes per pound at 325°F. Therefore, a 5 lb roast will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes but, you’ll know when it’s almost ready when your meat thermometer reaches 120°F. Then, allow it to sit out of the oven for another 15 minutes to allow the juices to run. Remember, as the roast sits, it will continue to cook so, if you want it to be pink in the center when you cut it, don’t let it sit longer than 15 minutes away from heat.
Easy Garlic Butter Rub Recipe
In a small mixing bowl, add 8 tbsp (one stick) of softened butter, 1 1/2 tbsp fresh minced garlic, 1 tsp each of minced fresh rosemary and thyme. Stir until well combined and creamy.
The LESS STRESS Christmas Dinner Planner
3-4 WEEKS BEFORE
- If your carpets need cleaning, now is the time to make the appointment.
- If you need furniture (extra tables and chairs) start shopping, rental or borrowing process.
- Think about how many people you’ll be hosting, if you will have a sit down dinner or buffet, what food your guests like and make a budget.
- Invite guests, keep track of RSVPs and what guests are bringing with Evite, Facebook Event, or Sign Up Genius which, is especially helpful if you are hosting a large crowd.
- Find out how many kids are coming so you can be prepared with juice, toys, activities, and a kids’ table.
- Plan your menu around what your guests have offered to bring, if you know. Keep in mind how much oven space you have.
- Ponder an all encompassing menu- one or two meats, three or four sides (two starches and two non-starch vegetables) gravy, cranberry sauce, appetizers, dinner rolls, dessert variety, beverages, condiments, etc.
- Decide what beverages you’ll serve- alcoholic , non-alcoholic- soda, coffee, tea, creamer and kids’ drinks.
- If you’ll host out-of-town guests, make a list of breakfast and lunch items to serve on Christmas Day and add them to your grocery list.
- Write out a first draft menu including beverages.
- Order the main dish- turkey, ham, beef, duck, etc. if you’re not buying it from the grocery store.
- Decide what tableware you’ll use- table cloths, napkins, charger plates, centerpieces.
- Make a grocery list categorized by grocery section i.e. dairy, produce, meat, bakery, etc.
- Make a list of supplies for other retail stores i.e. Target, Costco Inc., Party City
2-3 WEEKS BEFORE
- Confirm RSVPs and contact people who have not.
- Decide how you’ll prepare the main dish (brine or fry the turkey, make beef or ham in oven or slow cooker. If so, find a brine recipe or turkey frying method, note the brining time and add the ingredients you need to your shopping lists.
- Peruse your chosen recipes, check your pantry and add the ingredients you need to your grocery list.
- Finalize menu and store lists.
- Wash tablecloths, your good dishes, serving platters and utensils, wine glasses, coolers, if needed.
- If you are having a buffet-style dinner, think about where and how you’ll set up the food.
1 Week Before Christmas
- Any planning items that have not been done prior to now, do it!
- Buy non-perishable recipe ingredients, groceries, items and beverages.
3-5 Days before Christmas
- In the morning, place the frozen turkey in refrigerator to begin thawing according to package directions.
- Buy all ingredients (perishable and remaining non-perishable) for your menu, including all beverages.
- Make fresh cranberry relish if you choose not to use canned.
- Clean your house and set up bedrooms (clean sheets, make room in closets, activities for kids) for out-of-town guests.
2 Days before Christmas
- Think about any ingredients you forgot and buy what you still need.
- Make the desserts.
- Clean your powder room, vacuum and dust any rooms where most of your guests will be congregating.
- If you forgot to thaw the meat, put it in a water bath and change water hourly, put in refrigerator overnight in water bath.
- Do any tasks that will alleviate work for you on Wednesday or Thursday. Don’t procrastinate.
- Hang the mistletoe.
- Prep main dish- If you’re brining a turkey, make the turkey brine in the morning and begin process. Make or prepare appetizers, cover, and store them in a second refrigerator, if you have one.
- Wash and cut up vegetables you’ll be using for appetizers and side dishes; prepare make ahead side dishes.
- Remove extraneous small appliances and kitchen items from your counter tops to make extra space.
- Set up tables and chairs.
- Ask a family member to decorate and help set up.
- Have someone bring ice if you need it.
- Chill wine and/or beer. Prepare bar for cocktails.
- Set the table(s) with table cloths, silverware, napkins, centerpieces, and light the candles.
- Make the stuffing and stuff the turkey, if applicable.
- Make the potatoes. You can peel them, put them in salted water and cook them hours later.
- Set up the buffet, if applicable.
- Place main dish in oven according to package or recipe directions.
- Make the gravy from pan drippings if you are making your own gravy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help setting up, cooking, cleaning up afterward. Your family or friends won’t mind helping a gracious host. Smile and have a wonderful Christmas!
Here’s the FREE printable Christmas Dinner Planner.
SAMPLE Christmas Dinner Menu
Snowy Antipasto Christmas Wreath, Puff Pasty Pesto Chicken Bites, Shrimp cocktail
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy, Cranberry Orange Baked Ham or Prime Rib Roast
Roasted Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes or Air Fryer Baked Potatoes
From Scratch Green Bean Casserole, Slow Cooker Creamed Corn, Honey Ginger Glazed Carrots, or Broccoli Casserole
dinner rolls & butter
Lemon Ginger Cranberry Relish featured on Good Housekeeping 2017-2021!
Wine and/or beer, Tiramisu Eggnog Cocktail, Cranberry Orange Mimosas
Vanilla Cranberry Coke Mocktail, Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Soft Drinks, Water
Cranberry Lemon Cheesecake or White Chocolate Cranberry Cannolis
BOURBON Chocolate Pecan Pie or Caramel Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
Check out ALL of our Christmas recipes!
With so much to do for Christmas- decorating the tree, de-tangling Christmas lights, standing in long lines to buy just the right gifts, you want Christmas dinner to go smoothly so you can enjoy time with your family and not be a stressed out mess. Plan early and use The Less Stress Christmas Planner to get organized. Watch out for those hungry neighborhood dogs!
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
…and Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating Hanukkah!
This post was last updated on December, 21, 2021.
Joanne Schweitzer says
Thank you Janie. I’m glad you love my recipes and I’m happy to share them with the world. Your menu sounds amazing! Happy Holidays!
Janie Martini-Bowers says
I am 98& Italian (got my DNA tested). I love your recipes. I am making Italian Trifle for Xmas dessert using Panettone soaked in Marsala, I am making standing rib roast for New Years day, so thank you for that recipe