With the holidays around the corner, you may have found yourself perusing the aisles of every store, wondering how you’re going pull off the holiday celebrations in your own home this year. With family and friends coming over to celebrate, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure on the host for their home to be perfectly prepped and festive before the first person walks in the door. Give yourself a break from holiday prep shopping and figure out some ideas first– once you know what you’re doing, preparations will move so much smoother. It’s important that your guests have fun, but you need to have fun too, for both the holiday itself and all the planning that comes before. Knowing this, we here at LOOP-LOC want to help you get into the holiday season cheer free of the stress that comes with hosting by giving you the ultimate holiday entertaining guide. Let us think of the little details so you can just sit back, relax, and read.

Making your atmosphere festive is key to a good holiday, and we’re not talking about just the inside. As a company focused on pools, we pay attention to our outdoor space too. Bringing the festivity outside gives your guests a greater sense of holiday spirit that’s sure to keep everyone happy. Hanging some twinkling lights outside and adorning trees with lit-up snowflakes can make all the difference, plus, they give your guests something to admire walking in and something to gaze at in their post-dinner coma. We know many people can’t involve their pool in the festivities, but making your outside space a mini winter wonderland will give you the opportunity to use your backyard again, well before the first summer barbecue.

  • A special atmosphere tip: Top off your holiday vibes with a playlist set to the mood. Having some festive tunes playing throughout the party will bring everyone into the holiday spirit as they hum along to songs they've heard for years.

While place settings may not be at the forefront of your mind, we’ll assure you that they make all the difference when guests arrive. Setting the table with simple dishware will take the stress out of using fine china, and you can easily dress it up with festive napkin holders, placemats, and centerpieces. Forget about using any white fabrics here; It will inevitably end up with a stain after dinner.

Hors-d'oeuvres are a pre-meal necessity while that big holiday meal is finishing up in the kitchen. Prepping a few appetizers for your party guests shouldn’t be a headache–the next few ideas can be done in minutes while maintaining the classy vibe of a holiday party.

  • Crackers and cheese, but better: Upgrade your crackers and cheese platter with some charcuterie and a bowl of figs, along with new, unique cheeses like smooth brie and herb infused goat cheese. Preparing everything together on a cute platter? Done in a matter of minutes.
  • Spinach and artichoke dip: Warm and toasty, this thick dip paired with crunchy tortilla chips may not seem like a holiday classic, but the deep green of the spinach and creamy white sauce pair for a beautiful holiday color palette. You can buy it or make it, and the latter is done in only 25 minutes from this recipe.
  • Italian Bruschetta: chop up some tomato, mozzarella, and basil, drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Those are all the steps involved in this simple but addictive appetizer, usually paired with bread crackers for that satisfying crunch.

Most families have their staple holiday meals already figured out, born from traditions years before you ever thought about hosting a holiday. If you’re not sure what to make for the big feast, reach out to your parents or grandparents to find out what they prepared for their big holidays. If you still turn up feast-less, turn to the internet for some innovative new meals to try, or embrace the idea of a potluck– invite all guests to bring their favorite holiday dish, and keep track of what people are bringing to reduce repeats (you don’t need 4 trays of mac-and-cheese or sweet potatoes!). People want to feel comforted during the holidays, and the best comfort is usually found in favorite childhood foods, so look back to your past for inspiration.

Of course, you can’t forget about beverages, especially those that bring some holiday warmth. Here are some ideas for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic palettes.

Alcoholic Beverages:

Classic red and white wine pairings with dinner are classic– seek out a unique pinot noir for the meal and a Chardonnay for white-wine lovers. Keep some bubbly nearby for some post-dinner festivity as well. If you want to take it up a notch, put together a holiday punch bowl with some spiced rum, like this recipe.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages:

Warm up some eggnog on the stovetop, put it in a few mugs and sprinkle some cinnamon on top for a festive touch. Not an eggnog fan? Hot chocolate and warm apple cider are sure to fill your heart with warmth just the same.

Dessert is king, and it’s important to end your party with a table of sweets that will make even the most-full stomach growl again. Including some classic holiday pies and small pastries will be more than enough to have guests crawling off the couch and back into the dining room for more. Arranging a few small holiday chocolates on the table will please those trying to cut back on the sweets but still trying to enjoy their holiday.

Hosting the holidays can seem like a daunting task, but when everyone is gathered in one place for holiday cheer, the room is warm and the food is delicious, no matter what has happened before or what is coming after the big feast. Happy holiday season to everyone!