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How to host a holiday open house

The holiday season is upon us, so it’s time to start planning your holiday party. But this year, why not make it easier on yourself and your friends by holding an open house instead?

Women toasting at a Christmas open house |

An open house is a great option for holiday entertaining. Guests can come and go as their schedules permit, and you get to see many of your friends, family and neighbours, all in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. It’s really a win-win. Here are some tips to make it smashing success.


  • Host your party during the afternoon and early evening on the weekend for the best attendance.
  • Give your guests ample notice by sending out your invitations early.
  • Be specific with your invitation to let your guests know what to expect. Is it a wine and cheese, a dessert party or perhaps cocktails and appetizers? Are kids welcome? Include any relevant information in the invitation, and be sure to include clear start and end times and to request an RSVP.

Food and drinksEggnog |

  • Keep the menu simple and stress-free. Serve finger foods and party snacks that allow you to do most of work ahead of time so you’re free to chat with your guests. Plan ahead, and keep replenishing the food during the entire time of the party so even your last guests have a chance to sample all your great food.
  • Limit your bar selections; otherwise you could end up playing bartender all evening. Red and white wine and beer should suffice, but you could also serve a holiday punch or a specialty cocktail that could be made in advance and served from a pitcher, such as a batch of crantinis.
  • Offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages, such as coffee, sparkling water and soft drinks.

Whip up these bite-size party food recipes >>

Setting the scene

  • Clear out your hall closet to make room for coats.
  • Clear off any clutter from counters and tables to make room for your guests to set down plates and glasses.
  • Serve most of the food buffet style, but set up smaller bowls of snack foods around the room to encourage your guests to mingle while munching.
  • Load up your iPod with holiday favourites, and play music throughout the party. Keep the volume low so as to not distract from the conversation.
  • Your holiday decorations are already the perfect decor for the party, but if you’d like to order extra greenery or flowers, be sure to order them at least a week ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Other tipsPoinsettia |

  • Make sure every guest is personally greeted at the door. If it can’t always be you or your partner, ask a close friend to handle the door duty, but be sure to personally welcome your guests shortly after.
  • If several young children are attending, consider hiring a neighbourhood teenager to watch them in a separate room. Keep older children entertained with movies and crafts, and provide them with snacks.
  • Consider renting plates, glassware and serving pieces. Sure, paper or plastic pieces will work, but the cost of a rental is usually pretty reasonable, and not only does it hold up better, but it also makes cleanup a snap, since the rental agency washes the dishes for you.
  • Personally say good night to each guest as they leave, and send everyone home with a party favour. It doesn’t have to be much, just a token to let them know you’re glad they came.
  • After the party, send out individual notes or emails to thank your guests for attending and for the host gift they brought.

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