The celebration of Christmas is deeply woven into the fabric of home and family life. Much of the activity is centred on the kitchen which, as the culinary preparations get under way in the run-up to Christmas, more than ever becomes the heart of the home. The smooth running of the Christmas catering program calls for a fair amount of advance planning and, as the day draws nears, meticulous timing, particularly if you have guests staying with you.
Entertaining over the Christmas period is a special pleasure, but there is no denying that it involves extra work and responsibility, as you will want to ensure that guests not only enjoy the highlights of their stay, but the quiet moments too.
For your own busy schedule and peace of mind, prepare guest bedrooms well in advance. Check that there are plenty of basic requirements such as fluffy towels, tissues, cotton wool (absorbent cotton) and guests soaps.
If you have the facilities, it is a good idea to take a leaf from the hoteliers’ book and provide coffee and tea making equipment, something that is especially welcomed by those who wake up at unsociably early hours of the morning. Arrange a tray with an electric kettle, a small caletiêre and a jar of ground coffee (or just supply instant coffee, if it is easier), a teapot and a choice of two tea blends. Add wrapped sugar and a decorative tin of biscuits (cookies), with milk and fresh fruit to be replenished daily.
A bright wreath of evergreens, holly and berries gives a traditional sign of welcome.
Make a small selection of books and magazines for friends who like to travel light. Check that there are bulbs in the reading lamps, and provide an electric torch (flashlight) or plug in extra night lights to help with night-time navigation to the bathroom.
Flowers help to make a room more welcoming. If there are plenty of Christmas decorations in the other rooms, flowers can bring a breath of spring or summer to the guest rooms. Dried-flower arrangements are a pretty option that also have the advantage of being long-lasting, thus preventing the need for last-minute preparation.
When your guests arrive, be sure to show them such essentials as, where the light switches and sockets (receptacles) are to be found, and which cupboards (closets) are available to them. Such extra thoughtfulness has an advantage for you too, as it will give you a chance to get on with household tasks while guests enjoy the warmth of your hospitality.
Sugared Flowers and Fruits
Sparkling under a light dusting of sugar as though tinged with frost or snow, sugared sweet meats are a Christmas delicacy that add a lovely touch when displayed in bowls in guest bedrooms or in a living or dining room. You can prepare them several days ahead of the festivities and, once they are dry, store them in an airtight tin.
Edible flowers can also be served as a beautiful Christmas treat! Not all flowers are edible, although many are. Consult a reliable source if you are in any doubt. Marigolds, nasturtiums and pansies were all favorites in Victorian times and offer an attractive variety of color and shapes. Sugared fruits also look beautiful. Use small fruits, such as cherries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries, whole.
Fruit will help you add lovely accents to any decorative welcome bowl. Peel and segment larger fruits such as oranges and tangerines, halve or quarter figs according to their size, and halve and stone (pit) plums and apricots. You can also use sugared leaves with fruit and flowers, if you wish, to add contrast.