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How to throw a stress-free holiday shindig
by Liz |  Nov 18, 2013

If you've decided to play hostess for a holiday party this year, you're no doubt as uneasy as you are excited. While hosting your own soirée can be fun, it's also a lot of work. Still, with a little strategic planning, you can keep your cool and enjoy your bash without any burdens.

Here are some tips to simplify your shindig:

Benefits of a buffet
Forget the sit-down meal unless you're having an intimate affair. When you're expecting a lot of people, a buffet-style lineup of finger foods is the most efficient way to serve. Place a long table away from any walls so that people can gather around all sides and get to the different appetizers. Look for recipes that don't have more than three ingredients, like tomato, basil and mozzarella skewers - which don't even require any cooking. You could also spread low-fat cream cheese and lox onto rice crackers, or toast slices of a crusty baguette and top them off with olives and feta.

Punch, please
There's no reason to make things complicated by serving up custom cocktails, or else you'll be holding a shaker all night long. Consider a festive winter sangria, which can be made once and left out for guests to sip on and refill the entire night. All you need are three bottles of a light and fruit-forward red wine like Pinot Noir, 2 liters of black cherry seltzer, 1 1/2 cups of 100 percent cranberry juice, 3/4 cup of brandy, 4 diced pears and 2 sliced oranges. Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl and let the fruit soak overnight. Put the punch bowl on a serving table with ice, plastic cups and a marker so people can keep track of their drinks.

Keep out clutter
The last thing you want is everyone's belongings being tossed on furniture, taking up valuable seating space and cluttering the room. Real Simple magazine recommended keeping things in order by renting a coat​ rack. Place it near the entryway or along a hall if you have enough room. Put more hangers on than your headcount so if guests want to put their bags here, too, they can.

Set the mood
Ambience is key for eliminating stress. In fact, a University of Groningen study found that listening to cheerful music has the power to lift your mood and also makes you perceive others as happier - so feel free to crank up your favorite seasonal tunes. While you're at it, switch out some of your harsh lamps for a few candles. Pretend you have a burning fireplace with the illume woodfire metallic knob tin, which sets an ultra cozy seasonal vibe with aromas of warm cedar wood, patchouli and vanilla. 

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