Christmas can be a stressful time of year… particularly if you’re the host! Handling hot roasting trays, refilling bottomless champagne flutes and picking crushed candy canes out of the carpet can test the patience of even the savviest entertainer. It pays to be organised, keep the menu simple… and take the festivities outdoors! Celebrating Christmas on the deck or in the garden will not only minimise the mess, it also offers the most relaxing open-air setting backdropped by nature and balmy summer breezes. We’ve got tips on hosting Christmas outdoors for a fuss-free festive celebration with family and friends.
Location is key when it comes to entertaining outdoors as the elements need to be taken into consideration. Setting up the table beneath a pergola, a large umbrella or gazebo is wise as you don’t want the weather to rain on your parade. Similarly, if you are in an uncovered area, make sure there’s an option for shade (and sunscreen on hand).
Ensure you have space for every guest at the Christmas table, which may require setting up two tables together or popping open a trestle table. Enlist all your outdoor chairs so everyone has somewhere to sit, or stock up on stacker chairs, which can be stored in the garage later. Mixing indoor and outdoor chairs, benches and stools is also an option. The scene doesn’t have to be perfect, just comfortable for all your guests. If there’s lots of littlies at your Christmas party, set up a kiddy table too!
Add a little luxury to your alfresco dining zone with linen napery or a tablecloth (don’t forget the tablecloth weights in case of wind) and some cushions. Hang decorations, fairy lights and lanterns from the pergola beams or from the trees to create a Christmas wonderland that you can enjoy into the evening. Pick out a summer playlist or two to play through a Bluetooth speaker. Start the day with a Christmas carol playlist then transition into some cool summer jams (unless you want to drive your guests insane with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ on loop).
Have your plates, glasses and cutlery set out ahead of time to make your table pretty. Whether you’re a traditionalist or prefer a more contemporary Christmas palette, you can make the scene celebratory with a few festive accoutrements, such as a centrepiece Christmas tree ornament, faux or real flowers, bon-bons or even a bauble or tree decoration on each plate for a little bling.
While a hot roast lunch is certainly scrumptious, the warm Aussie climate is perfect for cold meat platters, fresh salads, fruits and bread. And as these can be prepped ahead of time, you can relax on the day and not have to slave over a hot oven. Alternatively, fire up the barbecue and get the marinated chicken and prawns sizzling. If you are having a big gathering, don’t be afraid to ask for help, such as offers from guests to bring salads, desserts or platters.
Have a drink station set up in a shady locale with tubs or an esky filled with ice so guests can help themselves to cool drinks throughout the day. Stock your drink station with bottles of bubbles, wine, beer, fruit punch, soft drinks and plenty of cold water. Plastic cups are a good idea for parties with lots of kids so you don’t end up with broken glass on the lawn. You could even use a marker pen to label each cup. Have champagne flutes and wine glasses, or piccolos and stubbies, for the adults.
After Christmas lunch, nothing beats basking in a big comfy outdoor chair, hanging basket or sofa to relax, unwind and digest. Have plenty of options ready for guests and a few picnic rugs and cushions set out in shady spots on the lawn. This could be the perfect time to exchange gifts or play Secret Santa. And no Aussie Christmas is complete without a swim in the pool or a few rounds of backyard cricket well into twilight as you fire up the barbecue for round two.