How To Have Yourself A Merry Stress-Free Christmas

It's officially the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most stressful — especially if you're planning on hosting Christmas dinner. There's the main dish to prepare plus all the trimmings, "helpful" family and friends offering their suggestions for the menu, children running around wanting help to get their presents opened, and it completely slipped your mind until now that Cousin Sarah is a vegan. There's just far too much to do and nowhere near enough hours in the day to fit it all in...

Do not panic — we've enlisted the help of Donatella Arpaia, to provide us with top tips to ensure everything runs smoothly and to keep you from completely losing it by 9 a.m. Christmas morning.

Described by Zagat as the "Hostest with the Mostest," Arpaia is a successful restaurateur, author, and television personality. She is also a regular contributor to the TODAY show, where she delivers simple yet elegant entertaining tips and culinary creations.

"Although my life can be very last-minute, Christmas should not be," Arpaia says. "The best advice I can give is to plan ahead and be organized. These tips may not be sexy, but they make a huge difference! You don't want to feel cheated — that you worked hard to create an amazing holiday that you didn't get to enjoy with friends and family."

Whether it's your first time entertaining or even if you are a seasoned pro, we're sure with Arpaia's hassle-free tips for preparing, cooking, and hosting, you'll be the most calm, cool, and collected host ever this Christmas.

1.      Approach dinner like a business plan, otherwise you won't survive. Plan out the meal, decide which days to execute dishes, and write it all down. I like to order prime rib at least one week ahead. Christmas is on is a Wednesday this year, so go shopping over the weekend and bring a list. Spend Monday and Tuesday preparing your ingredients and doing the majority of the cooking. On Wednesday, focus on the main attraction and making final touches.

2.      Create an atmosphere ahead of time. If you can set the table and lay out your outfit early in the week, do so. Create a playlist and ask that guests request songs. You don't want to be scrambling and disheveled when the party is about to start! In addition, create place settings even if you serve your dinner buffet style — place settings create a sense of formality that I love.

3.      Always think about presenting dishes in unique and interesting ways. If you don't have too many guests, I suggest using individual ramekins to serve desserts or side dishes. It adds a touch of glamour to the meal and looks incredibly elegant.

4.      Remember to clean and organize your kitchen and fridge ahead of time. You need to know where everything is. Take out the trash before guests arrive — you don't want to be lugging it out of the house in your heels and party dress! Clean out your fridge, organize, and put Post-its on items. This way, family or friends who are helping can grab what you want!

5.      Tell your guests how they can help you. Your guests want to contribute, so let them! Don't try to do everything all by yourself. Assign them specific items to bring or ways they can help. Perhaps your aunt makes an amazing cheesecake like mine does — have her bring that so dessert is already covered!

6.      Always create a signature cocktail for the event that is festive, seasonal, and fun. Keeping in line with my last tip, I always assign this to my husband because he's good at it and he loves it. A pitcher of sangria is always well received and can be made ahead of time. One of my favorite Christmass cocktails to prepare is the "MARTINI Apple Pie Cocktail."

Click here for the MARTINI Apple Pie Cocktail Recipe.