Safe holiday sparkle

Sharing the holidays with family and friends fills our home with decorations, laughter, traditional foods, cocktails and festive attire. Our family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. Packages are wrapped for sharing after dinner on Christmas Eve or with breakfast in the morning. As our family expands, we are fortunate enough to share the holidays with new family and relatives. 

This year will be different because of Covid. We may have to divide our usually large, boisterous group into smaller groups and spread out the holidays over two or three days. Having hosted both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for many years, I have some tips for spreading out the holidays so that everyone can stay safe and still enjoy them.

Set your cocktail bar up early and in one place. Leave it set up with your favorite libations, garnishes and cocktail napkins. We love to create a signature holiday cocktail for our guests. Once those cocktail glasses come out of the dishwasher at the end of the evening, set them up at your cocktail station for the next day’s party.

Spread out your choices of appetizers. Maybe the first day the theme can be traditional to your cultural background. We do both hot and cold antipasti. On the subsequent day, maybe switch to cheeses, fig jams and English biscuits and nuts. Making individual holiday appetizer plates for your guests may be a great way to avoid spreading germs by cutting down on shared utensils. The same would go for your main meal. 

Decorate your home and have your flower arrangements brought in at the last minute so they can be used on your table for a couple of days. Just change out your table linens. Having a minimum of two sets of linens ensures your won’t be up washing your tablecloths at midnight for the next day and resetting the table. I always have a minimum of three sets because there could be an inadvertent spill.

Every year I use the same set of holiday dishes, crystal and flatware. Once it goes through the dishwasher, my table is reset for the next day’s festivities. This year may be a good year to use paper napkins instead of the cloth ones I would normally use. This cuts down on spreading any germs, too.

Since celebrating and hosting back-to-back dinners for years, I learned to take the pressure off of my husband and myself. We prepare some of the foods from scratch and fill in with some catered items. Gone are the days of overdoing it and ending up sick and run-down. And in today’s climate it’s important to keep our immune systems healthy and not stressed. The added bonus is that this gives you extra time to share with your guests. 

Our family loves to cook and we share the cooking. Everyone loves making his or her own specialties. This gives all of us a chance to taste different foods and, as the chef of a couple of dishes, you are free to select a complicated recipe because you are only creating one or two dishes. It helps to have someone organize the menu so you don’t end of up with several side dishes or too many desserts — although we have never had any complaints about too many desserts in my family. 

Zoom holidays have also caught on and work really well when loved ones are far away, making travel hazardous for them. If you can’t see your loved ones in person at least you have the chance to see them on your computer. The elders in your family may require some help learning how to Zoom, but a little patience can ensure that they will have the chance to see your faces. After all, holidays are about seeing loved ones and sharing time together — however you can. Try to make this holiday season fun and joyful even with all the restrictions that we have to deal with this year. Remember the goal is to ensure many, many more shared holidays with loved ones once we get past the pandemic. 

Wishing everyone a safe and healthy holiday season with many sparkles and a very Happy New Year. 

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