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The Best Christmas Dinner Menu for Beginners

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Hosting the biggest holiday of the year can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time. What is a typical Christmas dinner menu that doesn’t require too much effort or expertise? Baked ham with make-ahead sides and Christmas cookies for dessert will please any crowd. Use this Christmas dinner menu for beginners to plan an easy, but elegant, holiday meal.

How to Be Holiday-Ready: A Christmas Dinner Menu for Beginners

When hosting a full-scale holiday, the menu is only half the battle. If you want an easy holiday dinner, a little forethought is a gift that keeps on giving. Our Christmas dinner menu for beginners includes key tips to simplify big tasks and starts with some essential planning.

Creating a Christmas Dinner Plan

There’s a time and a place for spontaneity and Christmas dinner just isn’t it. Whether you’re hosting a few relatives or 20 of your closest friends, a little planning is key to a stress-free meal.

This timeline can help keep Christmas dinner planning on track:

  • 3-4 weeks before: Invite your guests and delegate a few simple side dishes or desserts. Plan your menu and order your ham, turkey or main dish.
  • 2 weeks before: Decorate your home so it’s holiday-ready before it’s time to shop and cook. Make sure you have adequate dinner and servingware.
  • 1 week before: Shop for non-perishable items and beverages. Make and freeze any side dishes or dessert components that can be made in advance. If your main dish is frozen, decide on a thawing plan.
  • 2-3 days before: Shop for all remaining grocery items and defrost any frozen sides and desserts. Clean table linens and tidy the house or your main entertaining area.
  • 1 day before: Set the table so it’s done well before guests arrive and won’t interfere with cooking. Prepare as many dishes in advance as possible and prep day-of ingredients.
  • Christmas morning: Put your main dish in the oven and set up a ready-to-pour bar or beverage station. Within an hour of your guests’ arrival, put out appetizers, heat up sides in the oven and crank up the holiday tunes. Enlist help from your guests in getting all your dishes on the table and toast to a job well done!

Easy Christmas Dinner Recipes

A Christmas dinner menu for beginners can be festive and delicious, with no expert culinary skills required. 

Try these Christmas dinner menu ideas for an easy and elegant meal:

Pear and Greens Salad

This sophisticated salad tastes restaurant-worthy with the simple additions of blue cheese and toasted walnuts to some bitter greens. Since pears turn brown quickly, be sure to add them just before serving. However, the easy lemon vinaigrette can be easily prepared in advance.

what is a typical Christmas dinner menu
Image Source: The Spruce Eats

Baked Ham with Fruit Glaze

Make sure that you purchase a fully-cooked smoked ham that is “ready to eat/serve” after heating through for a few hours. To give the ham another layer of complementary flavor, mix a simple glaze of orange or apricot jam and dijon mustard. Brush the glaze over the top of the ham before baking. 

Christmas dinner menu ideas
Image Source: The Spruce Eats

Brandy Glazed Carrots

Baby carrots steam cook in a skillet with just a little water. Once done, set them aside and prepare a simple glaze of brandy, honey, and butter in the same skillet. Add the carrots back in the pan and toss to coat in the glaze.

how to thaw a turkey
Image Source: Jo Cooks

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Your favorite mashed potato recipe can be made well in advance of the big day. Once prepared, store them in the fridge in an oven-safe baking dish and simply reheat them in the oven when guests arrive.

Image Source: The Spruce Eats

Christmas Sugar Cookies

These holiday classics are a universal favorite, with simple ingredients that bake in minutes. Decorate with holiday sprinkles or, even better, set out the decorating supplies for your guests to customize their own cookie!

easy holiday dinner
Image Source: The Spruce Eats

Our Top Christmas Dinner Tips

Even a seasoned holiday host can benefit from some essential tips to simplify this large-scale feast.

The following Christmas dinner tips will keep your planning on track:

  • Allow time to thaw your main dish: Frozen turkey, ham and pork roasts require advance planning to defrost before cooking. Make sure you know how to thaw a turkey or ham safely in the time you have available.
  • Make as much as possible in advance: Many menu items, from side dishes to desserts, can be made in advance and refrigerated or even frozen.
  • Delegate side dishes and small tasks: Whether you’re a culinary master or holiday novice, taking something off your to-do list is always helpful. Ask your guests to bring a side dish or dessert or pick up ice or bottles of wine to streamline your hosting duties.

We hope this Christmas dinner menu for beginners makes for memorable first-time hosting with your family and friends. Happy Holidays from all of us at Service Care!


Toxey McDavid

Owner, Service Care

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