I’m having 20 people over to my house for Christmas Eve dinner.
My dining room table only seats eight, my house is one-third decorated and there’s boxes, wrapping paper and decorations spread across tables and chairs. The whole house still has to be cleaned from top to bottom– including the stain in the family room carpet.

 But I’m remaining calm and following these tips I’ve gathered from past experience and HGTV:

• Set the table the day before. You’ll be glad you did when it’s an hour before guests arrive and you still have a dozen other things to do.

Dig out serving bowls, platters, trays and utensils ahead of time and set aside. It’s not a pretty sight when a host is down on their hands and knees searching for a bowl in the far back of a cabinet.

• Place beverages, ice and glasses in an easy-to-help yourself spot.  Don’t force your guests to have to scour your refrigerator for something to drink.

Delegate food. I usually cook the main course —  turkey or ham – and one side dish. Family members are more than willing to bring the rest.

Have enough seating. If you need to set up a card table in the living room like I do – call a sibling to bring more chairs.

Ten-minute table centerpiece. Go through your ornaments (since they’re probably still out) and gather some with similar themes, colors or styles. Arrange them on a tiered cookie plate, platter or in a bowl. Dress it up with fresh or faux greens.(photo from HGTV).

Serve the meal buffet style for a large group. It’s efficient, less work and there’s more room at the tables where you’ve squeezed people on the ends.

Please germophobes. Place a box of paper hand towels next to the guest bathroom sink. Make sure there’s a waste basket to toss them. I buy the Kleenex brand hand towels at Target. 

You don’t have time (or energy) to clean the upstairs? Close the doors and turn off the lights. But in case guests don’t get the hint - at least clean the upstairs bathroom.

Set the scene. Before people start ringing the bell, dim the lights, light candles (if you’re concerned about child safety, use the battery-powered fake flame styles) and  play soft holiday music.Then you’ll be relaxed and ready to greet guests at the door.

What are some ways you get ready for guests over the holidays?  What are your tips for a successful party?