Hosting Christmas

Anyone who knows me, knows I love hosting a party. I love entertaining as much as I love my child. It’s basically my M.O. Even when there is no party to be had I will plan one for the fun of it, or offer to help with someone else’s. (Because I am that weird party-lady who will even take over your party planning if you so much as give her an inch). Put that together with Christmas, my favourite time of the year, and you’ll find an exploding, gushing, so-excited-I-can’t-sleep Mel on your hands. This should give you an indication of how I reacted when I was asked to host Christmas last year.

Right away I knew it wouldn’t be just another ‘Christmas’ for me. No simple family gathering with paper plates and a plastic table”cloth”. Those words don’t exist in my vocabulary.

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Christmas Day belongs to the husband’s family. (Mine celebrates on Christmas Eve as the Finns do – a story for another time). Usually we would swing by the hosting house, have lunch, open some presents and then be gone after a few hours. With the planning in my hands I decided to mix it up with a big family dinner.

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The day began with family trickling in all morning as I pottered in the kitchen and served up an antipasto lunch. We had a spread of cheeses, quince, grissini and other fancy-shmancy crackers that I never normally buy. Dukkah and fresh bread was a hit, not to mention my paste/dip concoction of blitzed fetta and semi-dried tomato – so good! So good, in fact, that in the past my brother-in-law has taken to sandwiching the stuff between slices of bread. These were all balanced nicely with olives, stuffed bell peppers and meats, and a range of fruit and nuts. With a big meal ahead of us, grazing was the smartest idea. And of course I had to have a giant bowl of assorted chocolates for everyone to pilfer throughout the day.

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My daughter’s skills, with gingerbread as her medium, were also on display!

When it came to the beverages I had set up my drink dispensers on a large, wooden crate and filled them with options of water, apple & guava juice and a fizzy, peach iced tea – the orange slices, raspberries and mint I added made it all look so pretty and summery!

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For the dinner I really wanted us all to sit together. Most Christmas’s we end up plonking ourselves wherever we can find a seat or we spread out in the backyard. So, in order to make a table large enough to fit 20 people I added two trestles to my dining table. The size of it, however, meant I would have a hard time finding tablecloths to fit not only the length, but the width of my very wide dining table. To remedy this I bought two lengths of some deep blue fabric to run down it, overlapping in the middle. After adding some runners I already had, I adorned the the table with gold and glittery ornaments, bulbed votives, and I borrowed my mum’s gold-lined plates. I finished off the look with windings of some creeping potato vine.

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For dinner everyone pitched in by bringing in sides, salads, and a delicious chunk of ham. I even had turkey roasting away in the oven, along with a traditional Finnish dish called Peruna Laatikko – a kind of baked mash potato. With everything under control in the kitchen it allowed the family to relax, and boy did they! I had people lounging and napping on the sofas, lending a peaceful, homey mood to the day! At dinner the meats stayed hot in a chafing dish – greatest investment ever – and everyone filled themselves with what had to be the tastiest Christmas dinner. The real cherry on top for me was seeing how happy everyone was to be seated at the same table. Mission accomplished!

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The night rounded off with a giant pavlova, Christmas pudding and more than a few tipsy guests lingering till 11pm. With many compliments such as, “This was the best Christmas ever”, they all culminated to one last comment, “So…next year?” I was left feeling pretty chuffed, and it’s safe to say I tucked myself into bed that night with a smile on my face.

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