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Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

#10 Make a List |||| 
Perhaps the ultimate way to create a stress-free holiday is to live by a list. Plan ahead, and don't be afraid to delegate. "Know what you're capable and comfortable doing and give other people things to do," says Kathy Gunst, culinary expert and author of Relax, Company's Coming! and co-author of Stonewall Kitchen Harvest. Asking guests to help with a party-related task makes them feel more involved, so never be afraid to ask. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#10 Make a List |||| Perhaps the ultimate way to create a stress-free holiday is to live by a...

#9 Cook Ahead
Do as much ahead of time as possible. "Soups and stews are the ultimate winter and holiday food — they'll feed a crowd. Quiches and tarts also freeze well," and you don't have to make them from scratch, Gunst says. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#9 Cook Ahead Do as much ahead of time as possible. "Soups and stews are the ultimate...

#8 Stock Up |||| 
You'll never run out of nibbles if you shop with an aim to entertain. Stock your pantry with a selection of cookies and crackers. Consider purchasing nuts in bulk — which can be mixed together, tossed with maple syrup and cooked in a pan until they caramelize, Kathy says. Serve them with drinks or chop and scatter around a cheese platter. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#8 Stock Up |||| You'll never run out of nibbles if you shop with an aim to entertain. Stock...

#5 Create Comfort |||| 
For a casual holiday party, don't feel compelled to seat guests around a dinner table. If you've got a lot of company, a buffet may be a better way. "Buffets are the most efficient way to serve a lot of people, but be sure to pull the table away from the wall so that there are four sides available to people, otherwise lines form and people can't get to the food easily," Kathy says. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#5 Create Comfort |||| For a casual holiday party, don't feel compelled to seat guests around a...

#7 Deck the Halls |||| 
Monica Gullon, former caterer, food editor and frequent entertainer, suggests going with the unexpected. "Bowls of vintage ornaments (from your family's collection or a flea market) grouped by color or glass bowls filled with white twinkle lights can both look striking. Or place a bare branch in a vase and hang small ornaments from it."  - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#7 Deck the Halls |||| Monica Gullon, former caterer, food editor and frequent entertainer,...

#3 Open Your House |||| 
Too many friends and family to host at one time? Have an open house and let them know they can drop by any time between certain hours on one special day. Your guests will appreciate the flexibility and you'll gain quality time with the ones you love.  - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#3 Open Your House |||| Too many friends and family to host at one time? Have an open house and...

#4 Add Joyful Sounds |||| 
Set the mood with a homemade CD or computer playlist of holiday songs. It's easy to make and you'll get to hear your favorite mix of seasonal tunes. Remember to keep the music low — conversation is what counts at any celebration, writes caterer extraordinaire Sheila Lukins in her party-themed cookbook Celebrate.  - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#4 Add Joyful Sounds |||| Set the mood with a homemade CD or computer playlist of holiday...

#6 Keep It Tidy |||| 
The best holiday host isn't necessarily the one who lives in the world's cleanest house. Got one messy room? Just close the door and turn off the lights and guests won't go in. A touch of clutter? Consider keeping one bin or drawer empty to sweep papers into when unexpected guests arrive. You can save your filing for when the party is over. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#6 Keep It Tidy |||| The best holiday host isn't necessarily the one who lives in the world's...

#2 Be a Graceful Giver |||| 
Store a few extra gifts in a closet and you'll never be caught off-guard when a friend springs an unexpected gift-exchange; try to collect items for all ages and a few gift bags in holiday colors. If you make a practice of picking up items as you stumble upon them throughout the year, it'll be easier when the season comes around.  - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#2 Be a Graceful Giver |||| Store a few extra gifts in a closet and you'll never be caught...

#1 Your Holiday, Your Way |||| 
We all know the value of family traditions and the sense of comfort they impart. However, sometimes breaking from old traditions can save your sanity; living up to Grandma's years of holiday handiwork is hard work. Keep the best, ditch the rest. "Every holiday season offers a new chance to start your own traditions," Gullon says, so be creative. - Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

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#1 Your Holiday, Your Way |||| We all know the value of family traditions and the sense of...