Tips and Tricks for Easy Holiday Entertaining

Prof. Catherine Anderson preps a sample place setting.

Catherine Anderson, JJC hospitality management professor, has years of experience in the hospitality industry. She’s been a catering/event manager at a country club in California, a manager at the Ritz Carlton, Chicago, and a corporate trainer for Lettuce Entertain You restaurants.  

In addition to years of industry experience, Anderson has also been teaching in the hospitality management program at JJC for 18 years.

“My favorite part of teaching is showing students that they are more capable then they give themselves credit for and they are only limited by their own imagination,” she said. “The best thing about this industry is that one degree can open up so many diverse career avenues, from hotels, restaurants, events, catering, casinos, etc.”

Here, Anderson shares her 10 favorite tips and tricks for easy holiday entertaining at home, gleaned from years of doing and teaching what she loves. “My favorite part of hosting is creating an environment that allows everyone to feel comfortable in my home, from décor, to food and drink,” she said.

1.) Ditch the old tablecloths: If you’re like me, every holiday season you pull out your tablecloths only to find them stained, or find yourself bored with them because they are same ones you’ve used for years.  This season, think outside the box: use a sheet, a plaid blanket or go to the fabric store and get fabric to place down your table.  For the kids table, go to the painting section of your home improvement store and buy rolls of brown paper.  Let the kids color and draw on their tablecloth!

2.) Simplify your buffet prep: Stick Post-it notes on empty platters and bowls, indicating which finished dish goes where.

3.) Add some fresh décor: Style a centerpiece with branches – bring the wintery outdoors indoors!

4.)  Think about the music: Create a playlist of holiday music ahead of time.

5.) Get work done ahead of time: Have your table set before guests arrive.  It will make them feel welcome and spare you last-minute stress.

6.) Keep it casual:  A low key vibe is more comfortable for both you and your guests.  Remember, your guests are likely to enjoy themselves if you do.

7.) Use candles: Few décor elements have the visual impact of candles, and they’re cheap! 

8.) Mix and match: Don’t be afraid to mix up your look.  Not everything has to match-y match-y.  Have fun with different patterns and textures; mix up old and new.  Try to keep a theme going so it doesn’t look too messy (all clear glassware etc.)

9.) Don’t make everything from scratch:  Take store-bought items and jazz them up by adding some fresh herbs or simply place them in a pretty container and everyone will think you made it!

10.)  Plan ahead: There are some great free holiday planner printables on the internet.  By staying organized you make it much less stressful on you and your family and friends.  Remember – this is a time of celebration!


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