Tips for Planning Your Christmas Dinner

Dec 11, 2022

Tips for planning Christmas dinner

While Christmas dinner may not be quite the extravaganza that Thanksgiving is, it’s still one of the biggest meals of the year and a great way to celebrate the day with family and friends.

And, unlike Thanksgiving, the menu is less clear cut—which can sometimes make it feel more overwhelming to plan. You may be asking yourself what kind of meat to serve, how many side dishes are really necessary for the holiday, or what kind of cocktails can be made in batches.

Whether you’re hosting your first Christmas dinner or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s always something new to learn when it comes to making your holiday meal special.

From deciding on the perfect menu to finding the best Christmas recipes and setting the table, planning your Christmas dinner takes careful thought and preparation. Here are some tips to help ensure it’s a meal—and event—to remember.


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Tip #1: Decide on your Christmas dinner menu

While turkey is the quintessential Thanksgiving centerpiece, Christmas doesn’t have a set-in-stone staple for the day.

Many families simply choose a roast, ham or any large cut of meat since they’re delicious, special-occasion dishes to feed a crowd. Plus, they make for a beautiful presentation on your holiday tablescape. Here are four main dishes to consider for your Christmas meal:

Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Prime Rib

Prime rib is a super tender and juicy cut of meat and is beautiful when plated.

If you’re looking for a delicious Christmas dinner recipe for Prime Rib, this Mustard Seed Crusted Prime Rib With Shallot-Cabernet Sauce dish is a great option. It’s decadent, super flavorful and guaranteed to impress your guests this holiday.

Just be sure you have a meat thermometer on hand to ensure you cook this large cut to medium or medium-rare for best results.


A holiday ham is a classic for a good reason.

The savory, salty meat goes well with a variety of sauces and rubs, from a sweet honey glaze to a tangy and spicy horseradish sauce. Most hams already come pre-cooked, so the hard work is done for you. You just need to bake it in the oven to bring it up to at least 145°F.

We love our hams with a sweet and savory sauce, like this Apricot-Bourbon Mustard.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner


Many families bring out the roasting pan and serve turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

A Classic Herb Roasted Turkey is an elegant, crowd-pleasing Christmas dinner idea that pairs well with traditional sides like stuffing and cranberry sauce, and it always feels festive and holiday-worthy.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Pork Roast

A pork roast is a homey, soul-soothing dish that’s a great Christmas dinner idea if you’re looking to do something a little less traditional but still want to “wow” your guests with a beautiful holiday table centerpiece.

We love this savory Roast Pork Loin With Caramelized Onions And Sherry Wine Sauce, which only requires six ingredients to make and pairs well with a variety of Christmas side dishes.

Speaking of sides—you’ll want to pick recipes that complement your main course. When choosing the number of sides, plan for about 1–2 appetizers and about 2­–3 side dishes.

For 8 people or more, choose 2–3 appetizers and 3 or more sides.

Sample Christmas Dinner Menu

Christmas Appetizers

Appetizers are a great way to tide guests over before the main meal, and they’re perfect when set out on a serving platter or charcuterie board. Depending on the appetizer, expect guests to eat about 2–3 small bites and approximately 2 ounces (plus crackers) of cheese or dip per person.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Need more ideas? Check out our 10 favorite appetizers and small bites that will be perfect for all of your holiday parties!

Christmas Dinner Main Course

The main course—typically a meat protein, but there are plenty of vegetarian options as well—is the star of the meal, and you want to ensure there’s plenty for guests to enjoy. For meat (not including the bone), plan for about 1 pound of uncooked meat per person.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Christmas Dinner Sides

For veggies, you can roughly expect guests to eat ⅓–½ cup per serving. For potatoes and starches, plan for about ½–1 cup per person.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Christmas Dessert

Something sweet at the end of the dinner is a must in our books. Consider serving some Christmas cookies alongside a delicious pie with ice cream for your dessert! Plan for about 1 piece of pie per person and 2—3 cookies per person.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Tip #2: Dazzle with Christmas décor and drinks

You don’t need to go all-out on décor to make you Christmas table feel festive.

Use festive tablecloths and placemats and add wintry touches like pine cones and mini Christmas trees. You can also light some candles to set the mood, add some Christmas music or even set up a homemade photo booth for your guests to take pictures. Place cards are also a nice way to make your guests feel welcome.

For drinks, consider setting up a self-serve drink station to keep your guests refreshed throughout the meal. Cocktail batching—making drinks by the pitcher or bottle—is a great way to save time and keep things simple.

Serve out of a punch bowl, pitcher or dispenser to ensure guests can help themselves (and free you up from being the bartender all night long!).

Check out these winter-themed cocktails that would be great options to batch for your Christmas dinner.

Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner
Tips for planning Christmas dinner

Check out our list of 9 holiday cocktails for tips on batching or our appetizer and cocktail pairing guide to ensure every bite—and—sip is full of holiday cheer!

Tip #3: Plan ahead and prep where you can

Two Weeks Before

Shop for ingredients.

Once you’ve decided on a menu for your Christmas dinner, it’s time to shop for ingredients.

Make a list of everything you’ll need for each dish, and check it twice to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Once you have your list, start shopping as early as possible. Take advantage of sales and stock up on any non-perishable ingredients you need. This way, you won’t be scrambling for last-minute items day of.

Take stock of your tableware.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have all your Christmas entertaining tableware, with enough plates, cutlery and glasses for everyone on your guest list. Lay out the table in advance and decorate it with festive touches such as evergreen branches and a centerpiece.

Clean and calibrate your oven.

It’s important to clean your oven to promote even, efficient cooking. If you didn’t calibrate your oven for Thanksgiving, this is a great opportunity to do so. Calibrating your oven ensures that the temperature it says is actually correct. To do this, you’ll need to test your oven temperature with a portable thermometer. This step-by-step guide helps walk you through it based on the type of oven you have.

One Week Before

Prepare some side dishes or sauces.

If you know you’ll be short on time on Christmas, consider making some dishes ahead of time, like sauces and casseroles, and storing them in the freezer until you’re ready to cook.

Finish shopping for fresh ingredients.

Veggies and dairy items, in particular, are best fresh—so be sure to wait until the week of to gather these key ingredients.

Create a timeline for Christmas Day.

Figure out everything you’re cooking and when you want to eat your main course, then create a timeline working backwards. Determine what needs to be cooked when based on cooking time and cooking space (like oven versus stovetop), noting when guests will arrive. This will help you create a guide for the day and ensure everything goes off without a hitch.

Two to Three Days in Advance

Set the table and get decorations up.

This simple but important step is often an afterthought but can be done ahead of time to save you stress on the actual holiday. Plus, it’ll get you in the Christmas spirit and excited for your big dinner.

Start prepping dishes.

Does one of your dishes need chopped vegetables? Can you create your appetizers and dips a few days before the main day? Think about everything you’re cooking, and prep ahead where you can.

The Day Of

Follow your timeline to stay on track

You’ve got your timeline, now you just have to stick to it!

When it’s time to serve, make sure to have all the dishes laid out in an organized manner. Place the main course in the center of the table and arrange the side dishes around it. Then, let each guest serve themselves.

So, now that you’re armed with these tips and tricks, it’s time to start planning! Even if you’re hosting a small and intimate affair, your loved ones will surely enjoy the time spent together sharing a homecooked meal.


Christmas is only a few short weeks away. Spark joy this holiday season with deals on cookware, ornaments, home décor and more!

Explore Our Christmas Shop

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