Here at StoneGable, we are in full Christmas mode. This year I’m planning for lots of family Christmas day! Lots of young adults and kids and little ones. I recently got an email from a reader about feeding a crowd on Christmas day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I thought many of you might be wondering about the logistics of doing that too! Today is Practically Speaking and we are talking how to feed a crowd at Christmas and not lose your Christmas Spirit!
Here’s the original email:
Just wondering how you seat your family during the holidays at casual meals such as breakfast and lunch when guests are coming and going. Do you have them go to the dining room at all meals or just save that room for evening meals? I hate messing up my dining room table but we can’t all get around our island with little kids and high chairs. Thanks for any advice. CJ
Well CJ I am so glad you asked! We will have 18-20 here for Christmas dinner and 10 for breakfast. There will also be other’s coming and going throughout the day.
Here’s my plan for feeding my Christmas crowd and maybe it will help you.
Because our numbers have gotten so much larger on Christmas day, breakfast around the breakfast nook table is not an option any longer. If you have a smaller group for breakfast I’d say use your kitchen table (if you have one) for breakfast and your dining room table for dinner. That would be the perfect scenario, but if that is not practical in your home, then the dining room table is your best option for both meals. Unless you want your family to be eating in their laps. This is not the best solution!
I know what you mean CJ, about not wanting to mess up your table. And I think I can help you a bit with that.
Here’s my “plan of attack” this Christmas.
We have a Christmas brunch every year. Christmas morning starts early here at StoneGable with coffee and cookies (and opening one or two gifts) until about 10:30 and then we have brunch. I will be using my dining room to seat everyone. And my kitchen island will be used as a buffet. If you don’t have an island you can use a countertop of a kitchen table. Really, you can use any flat surface to set up food buffet style. I have a buffet in my dining room that works well and a buffet/cabinet in my foyer that I’ve used for food in the past.
I usually don’t serve a sit-down lunch on Christmas day but put out lots of hors d’oeuvres from my local grocers and let everyone nibble until dinner. Great things to serve are…
- peeled shrimp cocktail
- charcuterie board
- soft cheese and crackers
- nuts and dried fruit
- assorted olives
- anything from the deli section of your local grocery store
The idea is to make a pretty spread without any cooking involved! I’m busy enough and I want to enjoy my company. I often ask family who join us on Christmas day to make one dish for Christmas dinner and bring one thing for the afternoon nibbles.
Afternoon food is self-serve and I let my family and guests enjoy a little nosh whenever they want. Pretty paper plates and napkins are a must! No washing dishes or napkins either!
Now, let’s talk about a smart way to set the table so it can be used for breakfast and dinner and still look beautiful and clean. This does take a bit of planning and thinking through.
So here’s my plan this year…
I will not be using a tablecloth and already this solves the problem of what to do if your tablecloth gets soiled at breakfast. I have a pretty impervious concrete table so a runner will work just fine and we will be eating both meals on the bare table. Just a swipe for any spills and a wipe for crumbs and it’s ready again.
If you have a table that needs table pads and therefore a tablecloth, I would go one of two ways. My first suggestion would be to use a white tablecloth and put pretty placemats at each place setting for breakfast. They should catch any crumbs and spills. Then I would set the table for dinner using just the white tablecloth.
If you are uber worried about spills here’s another suggestion. You can always double up on the white tablecloth with a plastic tablecloth as a spill barrier in between. Very smart and oh, so easy to remove the first tablecloth with all the crumbs and spills and have a clean tablecloth on your table and ready to go!
As far as dishes and flatware and drinkware. I use the same ones! After brunch, they get popped in the dishwasher and put back on the table. I might add a salad and dessert dish and some pretty forks to the buffet for the dessert course but I’m not putting them on the table this year.
Dessert is usually served late into the evening when the babies have been put to bed and is a casual, candlelit affair. Served from the island or dining room buffet it is usually something simple yet elegant. This year my daughter Jacqueline is making a couple flourless chocolate cakes that will be served with homemade whipped cream from a chilled whip cream canister (a very handy gadget). A simple plate of assorted homemade Christmas cookies will be served alongside the cake.
Drinks are served all day from the bar in the breakfast nook and from the bar cart in the dining room. I’ve seemed to have collected a good deal of stemware so I show it off on Christmas day. I collect the used glasses in plastic dishpans and stash them in my laundry room to be washed by hand later.
Now let’s talk about the centerpiece. I love an opulent Christmas centerpiece. But when there are too many “moving parts” it is hard to take off for cleaning the table before the next meal and to put it back on. Because I am not using a tablecloth I can leave my centerpiece in place. So I can create something pretty and really not give it a second thought.
If you need to change tablecloths KEEP YOUR CENTERPIECE SIMPLE! It’s easy to whisk off a pretty floral or evergreen arrangement and a couple of candlesticks and replace them. See my idea of using a beautiful large wreath and a chunky candle for the center of your Christmas table HERE.
Finally, let’s talk about seating. It can be a nightmare! If you are having more people for Christmas than your table can hold you need another option, right? I know families that live in a warm climate who seat everyone out in their garage. Their garage is spotless! And I know many families with a “kid’s table”. This year I’ll use only the dining room table for brunch and put up a second utility table turned Christmas table in the foyer next to our dining room for our evening meal.
The second table won’t be put up until about a half hour before dinner and I’ll have lots of helping hands to do it. But I’ll have everything ready! Chairs, tablecloth (yes I’ll need one for this table), dishes, flatware, napkins, glasses, a centerpiece, and candles. I love plastic dishpans to stash and carry things so I’ll have everything that I need in them.
I’m not very keen on a kid’s table. I like the mix of adult and children together (not to mention that the kid’s table can become a hot seat for chaos!) So, Bobby will probably eat in the dining room and I’ll eat in the foyer and let the rest of the family mix in.
When children are excused (we let them watch a Christmas movie) any adult in the foyer can move to the dining room table to linger over coffee, libations, and conversation. I have a few fun table games for the adults this Christmas.
Like all best laid plans, they often go awry! So, go with the flow! Things just seem to work themselves out, right?
Most importantly, it’s not so much the table and the food as it is the love around the table and the family eating the food. Nothing is as important as making your home a welcoming sanctuary to create memories and build the bonds of family and friends.
Plan early, ask for help, and enjoy your family at Christmas! Oh, I almost forgot. If you are hosting a crowd and have not read THIS, read it NOW! It applies to Christmas too! And it IS the best Christmas tip you will ever get!
There you go CJ! I hope this post has helped. If you have a great way to feed your family on Christmas day we would love to hear about it. Please comment and share!
I love to get your email and they inspire many of the posts for StoneGable! xo