It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Whether you kickstart your holiday planning the second December 1st rolls around or wait until the very last minute to plan (don’t worry; these baking tips will save the day!), this guide has all the recipes, how-tos and advice you need to make this season joyful and triumphant.
Do you have a tip that changed the way you cook for the holidays? Share it with us below.
Planning for the Holidays
Before you put up the tree, hang a stocking or frost a single Christmas cookie, you’ll want to create a game plan for your Christmas season. Grab your family and a calendar and mark out all of the month’s events. This will give you some perspective on your timeline. While you’re at it, we recommend blocking off a few free evenings for yourself. The Christmas season can be draining—plan a few nights to stay in with a movie.
With your days accounted for, start planning when you’ll clean, shop and pack for all your big events. We’ve got plenty of resources on how to prepare, including a super-helpful timeline.
Helpful Tips & Ideas
Clever Holiday Decoration IdeasTaste of HomeChristmas Party ThemesShutterstock / Click and PhotoHosting Tips for Pet OwnersTaste of HomeHow to Travel With FoodAndrey_Popov/ShutterstockYour Holiday Cleaning Checklist
Christmas Dinner Ideas
Because Christmas is so steeped in tradition, folks tend to like to stick with the classics like ham and turkey. We’ve got plenty of recipes for making these traditional dishes as well as plenty of other special-occasion favorites.
Get the Recipes
How to Cook a Holiday HamImpressive Dinner IdeasTaste of HomeBest Christmas SidesTaste of HomeEasy Christmas Dinner IdeasTaste of HomeHealthier Holiday Options
Not every Christmas celebration is about the main course. Christmastime is full of casual celebrations like holiday open houses, relaxed Christmas Eves and cocktail parties. For these get-togethers, we recommend prepping an assortment of appetizers to keep everyone mingling and full. Be sure to have these genius tips handy for last-minute company,
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Tasty One-Bite AppetizersLast-Minute Christmas AppsTaste of HomeOur Best Cheese Ball RecipesTaste of HomeParty Appetizers to Serve Hot
Remember there’s more to Christmas sweets than just cookies (though we love them). Bring out one of these showstopping desserts after dinner and watch everyone’s eyes light up.
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Taste of HomeOur Prettiest Christmas CakesTaste of HomeYule Log Cakes and Cake RollsTaste of HomeHoliday Potluck DessertsTaste of HomeHomemade Christmas CandyTaste of HomeLast-Minute Holiday Desserts
Christmas Hosting FAQs
Q: How can I be a good Christmas party host?
A: It’s all about welcoming. Your primary goal as a host is to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable.
Making loved ones feel at home is as simple as making sure they have a drink in hand (and know where to get more), have a full plate of goodies and have someone to chat with. If you’re introducing folks for the first time, be sure to go beyond the name. If you know your neighbor and your BFF both enjoy figure skating or bird watching or college football, make mention of it—it’ll tee them up for conversation.
Q: How do I host my first Christmas dinner?
A: First and foremost, good on you for volunteering such a large undertaking. Before you rush to the grocery store and start laying out the linens, ask yourself what your vision of the holiday is and how much work you’d like to put in. Some folks love the challenge of creating a formal dinner, but don’t feel pressured to go over-the-top your first year hosting. You can create a lovely and satisfying Christmas dinner with the help of your slow cooker with these delicious recipes or even just opt for easier versions of holiday classics.
As long as your guests have a place to sit and something to sip and nibble on while they wait for dinner, everyone should be happy.
Q: How do I host a holiday open house?
A: Holiday open houses are a great option for entertaining during a busy season. To host an open house, send out invitations (or just call) loved ones to let them know that you’ll be ready for guests for an afternoon or evening—or all day if you like. Be clear that guests don’t need to arrive at any specific time. The point of an open house is for people to pop in and out all day long.
Be sure to have cool drinks at the ready and plenty of small bites for people to nosh on while you catch up. We like these cold appetizers that can be stashed in the fridge during any lulls as well as these slow cooker dips that can sit on “warm” all afternoon. To make your home extra inviting, be sure to have that Christmas tree on, holiday music queued up and maybe even a warm fire going.
Share Your Best Tips
Next: Check out our top 100 holiday tips to make your season merry and bright.
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Mustard-Crusted Prime Rib with Madeira Glaze
This juicy prime rib is spectacular on its own, but the rich Madeira glaze takes it up a notch to wow at special dinners. What’s even better is that it roasts with a bed of tender veggies, so you have the whole holiday meal covered in one pan. —Kathryn Conrad, Milwaukee, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Nanny’s Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
My grandsons rave over these creamy potatoes loaded with Parmesan. That’s all the endorsement I need. Sometimes I use golden or red potatoes, with skins on. —Kallee Krong-McCreery, Escondido, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Pomegranate Pistachio Crostini
Pomegranate seeds intrigue me, so I sliced French bread, smeared it with cream cheese, and added seeds, pistachios and chocolate. —Elisabeth Larsen, Pleasant Grove, UtahGo to Recipe
I added pecans and candied fruits to an apple cake recipe for my Texan take on traditional English fruitcake. —Daisy Corene McHorse, San Saba, TexasGo to Recipe
Once, I asked my mother how to make eggnog, and she showed me this recipe. After just one taste, folks will know this homemade holiday treat came from the kitchen, not from the store. —Pat Waymire, Yellow Springs, OhioGo to Recipe
Honey and corn syrup blend with savory herbs and seasonings to give my turkey a slightly sweet flavor. My tried-and-true recipe never fails to win compliments. —Charlene Melenka, Vegreville, AlbertaGo to Recipe
Maple-Glazed Green Beans
After I picked my first green beans one year, I wanted to make a savory dish that was unique, quick and packed with flavor. I loved this so much I couldn’t stop eating it, so the next day I picked more beans and made this delicious side dish again. —Merry Graham, Newhall, CaliforniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Pickled Pepperoncini Deviled Eggs
It’s hard to resist these adorable deviled trees on our buffet table. The avocado filling has pepperoncini and cilantro for extra zip. —Carmell Childs, Clawson, UtahGo to Recipe
Gingerbread Men Cookies
No holiday treat platter would be complete without gingerbread man cookies! This is a tried-and-true recipe I’m happy to share with you. —Mitzi Sentiff, Annapolis, MarylandGo to RecipeTaste of Home
This mulled wine is soothing and satisfying with a delightful blend of spices warmed to perfection. Refrigerating the wine mixture overnight allows the flavors to blend, so don’t omit this essential step. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Orange Pomegranate Salmon
A colorful, festive salmon dish makes an impressive addition to your holiday table—and it is as delicious as it is beautiful. What will no one guess? How easy it is to cook. I serve this with roasted baby potatoes and asparagus for a showstopping meal that is wonderful for special occasions. —Thomas Faglon, Somerset, New JerseyGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Wild Rice Stuffing
Since trying this stuffing recipe from my sister, I haven’t made any other kind. It’s so moist and tasty. When a big bowlful starts circulating around the table, happy holiday smiles get even bigger! —Connie Olson, Green River, WyomingGo to Recipe
Best Ever Crescent Rolls
My daughter and I have cranked out dozens of these homemade crescent rolls. It’s a real team effort. I cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges; she rolls them up. —Irene Yeh, Mequon, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Black Forest Panettone Pudding
My chocolate-cherry bread pudding uses Panettone, the holiday bread people often receive but aren’t sure how to use. I make a glorious sauce for it using ice cream. —Devon Delaney, Westport, ConnecticutGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Honey-Bourbon Hot Chocolate
My husband and I like to enjoy this grown-up version of hot chocolate on a cold winter evening. It’s even better made with honey-flavored bourbon if you can find that in your local store. —Andrea Harvath, Duncannon, PennsylvaniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Citrus-Spice Glazed Ham
My dad gave me this recipe. With its Chinese-inspired glaze, it’s a fun twist on traditional ham. —Amanda Lambert, Bethel, OhioGo to Recipe
Parmesan Creamed Spinach
This rich and creamy spinach dish takes minutes to make. If I’m expecting guests, I’ll double or triple the recipe. —Leann Ross, San Tan Valley, ArizonaGo to Recipe
Marinated Olive & Cheese Ring
We love to make meals into celebrations, and antipasto always kicks off the party for Italian dinners. This one is almost too pretty to eat, especially when sprinkled with pimientos, fresh basil and parsley. —Patricia Harmon, Baden, PennsylvaniaGo to Recipe
I’ve been making this during the holiday season for nearly 50 years. When we flew to Alaska one year to spend Christmas with our daughter’s family, I carried my stollen on the plane!—Rachel Seel, Abbotsford, British ColumbiaGo to Recipe
Spiced White Sangria
I’ve been making this recipe for more than 20 years. My husband and I are in the wine and spirit business and we served it at one of our first dinner parties after we were married. It’s a refreshing change from traditional red sangria. —Ellen Folkman, Crystal Beach, FloridaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
California Roast Lamb
This recipe is very easy to make and requires little attention. It goes well with any rice dish, and it’s perfect for just about any occasion. —Ann Eastman, Santa Monica, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Shredded Gingered Brussels Sprouts
Even people who normally don’t care for Brussels sprouts will ask for a second helping of these. —James Schend, Taste of Home Deputy EditorGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Candied Bacon-Wrapped Figs
I stuffed figs with cream cheese and wrapped them in bacon and spices for an addictive flavor combo that’s sweet, salty and delicious. You can use dates, too. —Shelly Bevington, Hermiston, OregonGo to Recipe
Pistachio Cardamom Cheesecake
Cardamom has a sweet and warm taste that makes you think of clove, allspice and pepper all wrapped in one spice. Mix it with pistachios and add to cheesecake for a dessert that suggests the exotic flavors of India. —Carolyn Harkonnen, Loomis, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Holiday Peppermint Mocha
Make spirits bright with a minty mocha to share under the mistletoe or around the piano. I’ve also stirred in coffee liqueur instead of peppermint. —Lauren Brien-Wooster, South Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Wild Rice-Stuffed Pork Loin
This recipe features wild rice and apricot stuffing tucked inside a tender pork roast. —Kim Rubner, Worthington, IowaGo to Recipe
Citrus Sweet Potatoes
A mild orange glaze lets the taste of sweet potatoes shine through in this nut-topped side dish. When I was dating my husband, my mother would make this whenever he’d come over for Sunday dinner. We’ve been married more than 40 years, and he thinks I can make it almost as well as Mom did. —Pauline Kelley, St. Peters, MissouriGo to Recipe
Bacon, Cheddar and Swiss Cheese Ball
When it’s time for a party, everyone always requests this ultimate cheese ball—it’s such an impressive appetizer. And if you’re a party guest, it makes a fabulous gift for your hosts.—Sue Franklin, Lake St. Louis, MissouriGo to Recipe
Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
The aroma of baking gingerbread stirs up such warm memories. This cake looks festive and is even on the lighter side. —Nancy Beckman, Helena, MontanaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Warm & Cozy Spiced Cider
We take winter seriously in Minnesota. This comforting cider flavored with cinnamon, cloves and fruit juices helps warm and brace our spirits. —Chris Runyan, Montevideo, MinnesotaGo to Recipe
Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Love a moist and tender chicken but not the mess of actually roasting one? Use an oven cooking bag to keep a chicken and veggies easily under control. —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
Slow-Cooker Creamed Corn with Bacon
Every time I take this super rich corn to a holiday potluck or work party, I leave with an empty slow cooker. It’s decadent, homey and so worth the splurge. —Melissa Pelkey Hass, Waleska, GeorgiaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Puff Pastry Christmas Palmiers
Palmiers (pronounced palm-YAY) come from France. They’re usually sweet, but to make them savory, I swirl in pesto, feta and sundried tomatoes. —Darlene Brenden, Salem, OregonGo to Recipe
Tiny Tim’s Plum Pudding
In A Christmas Carol, everyone claps for plum pudding. Our family has made this pudding our own tradition, and it really is something to clap for. —Ruthanne Karel, Hudsonville, MichiganGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Each sip of this spiced-just-right beverage from our very own baristas tastes like a piece of pumpkin pie! —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
Maple-Sage Brined Turkey
When the leaves start turning, it’s turkey time at our house. We use maple-sage brine to help brown the bird and make the meat incredibly juicy. —Kim Forni, Laconia, New HampshireGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Badger State Stuffing
Your family will love the contrasting sweet, savory and slightly tart flavors in this spin on a Thanksgiving classic. Feel free to use your favorite beer or dried fruit to make the dish your own. —Andrea Fetting, Franklin, WisconsinGo to Recipe
When we offer this cream-cheesy salsa of fresh cranberries, cilantro and a little jalapeno kick, everyone hovers around the serving dish until it’s scraped clean. —Shelly Pattison, Lubbock, TexasGo to Recipe
Mocha Yule Log
This eye-catching dessert is guaranteed to delight holiday dinner guests. Chocolate lovers will lick their lips over the yummy cocoa cake, mocha filling and frosting. For a festive touch, I garnish the log with marzipan holly leaves and berries. —Jenny Hughson, Mitchell, NebraskaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Finnish Mulled Wine
I found this recipe stuck in the pages of my Finnish grandmother’s Bible. It takes 24 hours to make. Store tightly bottled in the fridge for up to two weeks. —Judy Batson, Tampa, FloridaGo to Recipe
Country French Pork with Prunes and Apples
The classic flavors of herbes de Provence, apples and dried plums make this easy slow-cooked pork taste like a hearty meal at a French country cafe. For a traditional pairing, serve the pork with braised lentils. —Suzanne Banfield, Basking Ridge, New JerseyGo to Recipe
Cauliflower Dill Kugel
I enjoy cauliflower and kugel, so it made sense to combine the two into one special dish. The ricotta cheese adds a distinctive creaminess and lightness. —Arlene Erlbach, Morton Grove, IllinoisGo to Recipe
Ring of Piggies
This charming plate of piggies looks like a holiday wreath when I drape fresh rosemary in the center. It’s a cute display for merry get-togethers. —Julie Peterson, Crofton, MarylandGo to Recipe
Taste of Home
Apple Amaretto Sours
An amaretto sour had always been one of my favorite cocktails. This version has a special touch that makes it perfect for enjoying throughout the holiday season. —Amber Forbes, Roper, North CarolinaGo to Recipe