1. Prepare in advance
If you’re cooking, make something you can prepare a day or two beforehand so you don’t spend the evening itself stressing over a stove. Nigella’s Christmas book contains lots of hearty winter recipes – not just turkey and Yule log – and is one of the few cookbooks that tells you exactly what can be done in advance.
2. Get your decorations in the sales
Buy table decorations in the sales, many of which have already started. The White Company already has 50% off a range of decorations and accessories, including luxury crackers (who says they’re just for Christmas?)
3. Ask your guests to bring something
Don’t be shy about asking guests to bring something. People like to help and, because the evening won’t be costing them much, will be more inclined to bring good quality stuff. Put someone on dessert duty, then there’s always cheese, wine, chocolate, pannetone…
4. Decorate cheaply
Bulk-buy chapel candles from Tesco or Ikea. It creates an atmosphere and will hide any culinary cock-ups.
5. Get boozy
Provide a fun aperitif. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – in fact it’s better if it isn’t, as the novelty of playing barman wears off quickly – but something like a kir royale or bellini gets everybody in the party mood.
6. Dress up
It’s tempting, because you’re at home, to slob about in sweatpants, but people will appreciate the effort. Plus you’ll look better in the photos. But if you’ve wooden floors, it’s the perfect excuse to dispense with the high heels.
7. Get pitch perfect
Have different music for each part of the evening. Mellow background tracks for when people arrive, then full-on dance tunes for later, when everybody’s drunk.
8. Buy more booze than you think you’ll need
If it runs out everybody will leave, and if you’re still drinking the wine in April, so be it.
If in doubt, always over-invite. Better to have too many guests than too few.
10. Rent some good movies
Stock up on the films to see you through the New Year’s Day hangover, and plan a good walk.
What are you doing this New Year?