10 common Christmas meals mistakes and how to fix them


All the Christmas stress and activity are classics like the Christmas tree or Santa Claus. But you need to believe that another kind of Christmas meal—a quiet one—is possible. We cannot help you with all those awkward dinner conversations, with classics like “Why are you still single?”, but we can definitely help you out with what to cook for a Christmas meal. Because a TV-movie Christmas with a non-burnt turkey in the oven is possible, we share with you the most common Christmas meals mistakes and how to fix them. Plus, the bonus track with these drama-free Christmas recipes. Deal with these real gifts, Santa (mic drop).

1. Make it simple

Problem: we all want beautiful Christmas meals, just like in a TV commercial. With a fully decorated table where you can find 15 different dishes, the perfect turkey, candles, your in-laws saying how amazingly good everything tastes… But reality strikes back. How can you enjoy your Christmas meal without turning into a Grinch?

Christmas tree and table set up

Solution: stop self-boycotting. Don’t spoil your enjoyment of any meal by trying to make something spectacular. Certain things just happen. Do not try to make a totally new recipe on the morning of Christmas Eve dinner. Many times, the special thing about a Christmas menu is that you eat the same dish just once per year. If you feel like doing something different, try to make a new starter. It won’t take long and, if it tastes or looks funny, it won’t be a Greek tragedy. Or just add a dish you have been practising during the year, so everything is under control.


2. Know and organise your cooking space

Problem: you need to prepare the turkey but can’t find the special oven. Everybody will come within an hour, and the good wine glasses are somewhere in the basement full of dust. You haven’t even five dishes from the same crockery. Your knives are not sharp. How could hell be any worse?

Cooking in the oven for Christmas holidays

Solution: make a plan to avoid making these minor errors. Try to organise what you need for cooking and for laying the table. Make sure every kitchen tool, every piece of crockery, and glassware you need is clean. If you are not cooking in your kitchen, forget about complex recipes. Using an oven you are not familiar with could mean a little disaster on such a special day. Try to minimise the risks in these cases.

3. The unnecessary banquet

Problem: you don’t know how, but you have spent two days cooking recipes and organising dishes. You have enough food to feed the Earth’s population and perhaps the rest of the galaxy. You are running out of oven trays for everything you need to bake. You are exhausted and your guests are so full of food that they can’t even try the main dish you’ve been cooking for three hours.

Oven tray with chicken on a Christmas decorated table

Solution: make your holiday meals easier to prepare. Your guests will feel better and enjoy the dishes more if there are just a few good ones. And so will the hosts. Choose to cook some cold starters, no more than four, and a hot one, plus a main dish. Or serve a whole menu with a starter, first and main dish and a dessert, small portions. Nobody expects (the Spanish Inquisition) ten different dishes on the table and they probably would not have enjoyed them. Some people may feel overwhelmed even.

4. Forgetting to serve all the food

Problem: a consequence of the previous point and Christmas meals classic mistake. You are cleaning up everything after dinner, and then you realise you have forgotten trays with food ready to serve inside the refrigerator. Including that super new dessert, you have been doing for hours or that foie that is only available for purchase for two months per year in one small village of indomitable Gauls.

Christmas mousse recipe on a Christmas decorated table

Solution: when we are trying to organise so many things at once, as in this case, for a Christmas meal, it is very easy to overlook a thing or two. And it is hard to pay attention to every single detail. To avoid or minimise this, plan what you are going to cook beforehand and serve and reduce the number of dishes. Set out the dishes you want to serve on the countertop to be sure everything will go straight to the Christmas table.


5. Don’t do everything on Christmas Eve or Day

Problem: this is one of the most common Christmas meals mistakes. You choose to do everything a few hours before the meal. Christmas Eve is almost here, and now the seafood and turkey prices are the same as for 10 kilos of Russian caviar, and you cannot find champagne anywhere. Or the opposite: on November the 15th, you already panic thinking about meals, presents, guests, or what are you’re going to wear on New Year’s Eve.

Planning the perfect Christmas and the shopping list to avoid Christmas meals mistakes

Solution: grab a pen and paper. Again, plan everything you can. That means making a shopping list. Set alarms to defrost the food you need on time. Check how many guests you have, quantities, and menu choices. If you can precook any dish the day before, just do it. Organize when to go shopping to avoid crowds and try not to go to the supermarket on December the 24th; people who work during these holidays deserve a Christmas, not a Christmess, too.


6. S.O.S

Problem: you‘re feeling overwhelmed and running out of time to complete most of your tasks. You don’t know what to cook, don’t even know if you have enough chairs for everybody, and you are too late to get the drinks. You have tried a dozen herbal teas and infusions to control your anxiety, but nothing seems to work.

Toast for Christmas with friends and relatives

Solution: ask for help. Your friends and relatives will probably love to do something, and they will feel better. Nobody really likes to go to somebody’s place without bringing something or doing this or that. And it is better to do so if they feel you are anxious or mad due to all the work you have been doing. Let them bring some starters, cheese, their latest vegan recipe, or just ask them to buy the drinks. Organize the Christmas meal just like any other meal together.

7. The messy kitchen

Problem: everything was great, your guests nominated you for an Oscar in the “best Christmas meal of the decade” category. But when everybody is gone, you realise that your kitchen looks like an earthquake and one of the seven plagues was there. Piles of dirty saucepans and plates are everywhere. You begin to sob.

Cooking Christmas lamb recipe on a hob

Solution: this is very common for Christmas meals and any meal. Now and always, try to clean up what you use right after using it, washing everything up as you go along. And, of course, ask for help. It doesn’t matter if you have a dishwasher or not—but especially if you don’t—ask somebody to be your cooking assistant to help you tidy up the kitchen.


8. What to drink

Problem: you were so worried about so many things that you completely forgot about drinks. Or maybe you bought drinks as if it was a college party instead of a Christmas meal. The only non-alcoholic beverage you have is water from the tap.

A glass of sparkling white wine

Solution: ask your guests what they prefer to drink. Think about your menu—vegetables, meat, seafood—to choose the right drinks. And do not forget about the people who don’t drink alcohol, and offer some other choices. Perhaps you can ask your guests for a drink, and they can contribute to the Christmas meal cause too. And last, if somebody has to come home by car, please do not drink alcohol.


9. Setting the table at the very last minute

Problem: you dream of a Christmas table like you’ve seen on The Crown, but you realise all your forks are different, or even worse, you don’t even have enough plates for everybody. The tablecloth you use for special occasions has so many spots that it looks like a flamenco dress.

Set up the table for Christmas holidays with Christmas ornaments

Solution: don’t forget the stage where your recipes will take place. The table, we mean. You can make some special Christmas ornaments or a homemade centrepiece. If you choose to buy something disposable, try not to buy plastic but organic materials that can be recycled. And if you haven’t got much time to decorate the table or you don’t feel like doing it, just don’t do it. It is not a big issue.


10. Unexpected things happening

Problem: guests are late. You do not have enough food or drink. You forgot that somebody at the table is allergic to nuts and there are three vegans when your main dish is turkey with walnuts.

Solution: You can try to pay attention to every detail, but you will never be able to control everything. It is very easy to forget about something, whether you are a host or a guest. If somebody is late, just keep the dishes warm in the oven. And if it’s cold, well, next time they will probably arrive sooner. Also, if somebody doesn’t like the menu, you can always choose something vegan or some fried eggs with fries.

Starters for a Christmas menu on a table

We hope we have been a bit of light at the end of the tunnel that sometimes Christmas is about. Especially this year, when we can be a bit together again with family and friends, giving and receiving love. Something we all need and cannot take for granted. And part of that love, many times, comes from the oven with your best recipes. Or even with your bad ones, but made with love anyway.


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