When the family gets together over the holidays, everyone wants to eat. It’s a fact of life that most gatherings occur over food.  When my family gets together for a holiday dinner, we usually serve it buffet style. We have a big family, and a holiday buffet just seems to work best for us.

I usually have a sit down dinner for Thanksgiving, mainly because it’s usually only my immediate family but for Christmas, it’s my two sisters and their kids and grandkids, my brother and his family, so we would need to rent a hall to have room for everyone to sit down. You can have everyone bring something, or just make everything yourself. My family has done it both ways. Just depends whose house the gathering is at and if they feel like they can handle all the cooking alone.

There are benefits to buffet style dining at Christmas and other holidays:

  • Few if any leftovers
  • Easier cleanup
  • Everyone can reach everything – no passing involved
  • It’s fun

Even if you have a small space, you can set up a buffet. The main course tables can be positioned in the dining area. Desserts can stay in the kitchen displayed on the counters. Keeping drinks on the table avoids everyone clamoring for them at once and spilling them.

As the host or hostess, you and your family can serve the buffet meal or allow everyone to fill their plates as they please. If you are on a budget and have counted out servings per person, it might be better if you served portions to everyone. So that you get your food also, create your dinner plates in the kitchen and bring them out to eat with everyone after the meal has been served.

The items needed to host a Christmas buffet style dinner can be purchased inexpensively at your local party store. You will need:

  • Liquid fuel (Sterno)
  • Buffet racks
  • Buffet serving pans
  • Serving utensils
  • Paper products (napkins, dinner and dessert plates)

To avoid burning the food, place a serving pan with about an inch of water underneath the pan that holds the food. Since the food is already room temperature, light the liquid fuel about 30 minutes before the meal is to begin.

Now, let’s get to the table. Lay out silverware (or plasticware) on the table along with your beverage glasses. Each table will have their own assortment of drinks (no wine on the kid’s table, please 😉 )  You can use place cards so that everyone knows where they are sitting for big gatherings.

With a buffet, after the initial plate of food is served, your job is done. Family members can return at will to the buffet. When the meal is over, provide “to go” boxes so that they can take what is left home with them. Afterwards, simply stack the racks for future use and get rid of everything else. You can stack the glasses in the dishwasher and settle down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

The Christmas buffet is a wonderful idea to take the work and cleanup out of a holiday meal. Your family won’t mind, you get to spend more time socializing and everyone is happy.