Warm up to Winter Entertaining
Host a Memorable Gathering
Published on December 4th, 2023
As snow blankets the rooftops and stars twinkle in the early night sky, we crave the cozy indoors and time with friends and family. Winter gatherings are an occasion to slow down, mingle and indulge in the comfort of home. This season, why not entertain in style? You don’t need to be a professional chef or interior decorator to host an exceptional gathering; simply unleash your creativity.
Begin with personalized touches:
Boughs of fragrant evergreen are perfect for creating wreathes and adorning a fireplace mantle or bar cart. Add in sprigs of eucalyptus, red berries, pinecones, or ribbon then illuminate the arrangement with candles.
For the cost of a piece of paper, you can bring back memories of childhood. Download free snowflake patterns from the internet then cut out the shapes from plain, white paper. Arrange your snowflakes on a table runner or string them together and hang them along a mantle, or beside a window. If you prefer, try this edible version: add meringue to a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped tip, pipe stars in a snowflake shape, then bake (Country Living, 2020).
Place cards can be helpful when you want to have assigned seating for a large dinner. Print each name by hand or use a computer, then cut the cards into tree shapes, diamonds, or rectangles. Tuck the cards into pinecones (painted or plain) or anchor each card to a wrapped chocolate by attaching the card to a toothpick.
Plates of fresh baked cookies and bars are delicious crowd-pleasers. Try rich, homemade shortbread dipped in chocolate, or gingerbread men decorated with icing and dragées. If you have extra gingerbread men, they make charming decorations.
Country Chic on the Cheap
Gold-rimmed dishes are not the only way to impress your guests. In fact, sometimes, it’s more fun to embrace a rustic style. A flannel bedsheet in a traditional tartan or reindeer pattern becomes a country chic tablecloth. Top it with a coordinated runner and centerpiece arrangements featuring snowflakes (paper or meringue), pinecones, evergreen boughs, and candles. And the dishes? They don’t even need to match.
There’s a reason why fast-food restaurants have hard seats. Encourage your guests to linger over good food and conversation on comfortable, cushioned seating. In the living areas, arrange couches and chairs for intimate conversations and leave open spaces for mingling.
Food and Drink
Self-serve stations encourage guests to move around and mingle. Set out trays of fruit, cheese, nuts, appetizers, desserts, and anything else your guests might enjoy. Mulled cider is a traditional winter drink that you can keep warm in a coffee urn. Make your own by combining apple cider, a touch of brown sugar, a few cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, orange slices and optional rum. Hot chocolate is another cold weather favourite especially with the addition candy cane or Pirouline cookie stir sticks.
Setting up platters and preparing main course dishes along with appetizers is a lengthy process, which means prepared food may sit on a warmer for long periods of time—and time is not a friend of food safety. Bacteria and mold begin to grow once food cools to warm and room temperatures. Try to reduce the time between heating and serving. When the party is over, put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
Considering that 58% of Canadian households are home to at least one dog or cat, you will likely have a pet at your winter gathering (Canadian Animal Health Institute, 2021). Pets love food too, but many common party items are toxic to them including chocolate, macadamia nuts, citrus fruits, raisins, avocado and alcohol. Keep food covered or out of their reach.
Be cautious with décor. Poinsettias are toxic to dogs and cats. Lilies are fragrant flowers known for shedding large amounts of pollen; if a cat gets pollen on its fur, then grooms itself, it can ingest a fatal amount of pollen. Also, many toys and animated decorations contain small batteries, which, if swallowed, can be deadly to pets (CBC News, 2019).
The warm glow of candles, strings of lights and lanterns create a sophisticated ambiance at the dinner table, seating areas and snack/drink stations.
Your guests will appreciate your hospitality, even if every dish and decoration is not picture perfect; what matters is that you’ve made your gathering a personalized gift to friends and family.
“Make Pretty and Tasty Meringue Snowflake Decorations.” Country Living. Last updated December 7, 2020. https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/g29779271/winter-dinner-party-ideas/?slide=18.
“2020 Canadian Pet Population Figures Released.” Canadian Animal Health Institute. Posted February 15, 2021. https://cahi-icsa.ca/news/2020-canadian-pet-population-figures-released.
“Veterinarian reminds pet owners about toxic substances.” CBC News. Last Updated: April 21, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/toxic-substances-dogs-eat-anything-1.5100329.
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