Entertaining at Christmas: Keeping it Simple

There are entire books devoted to the subject of how to pull off big elaborate entertaining events. I’ve done big parties, fancy dinners, crowds of people and hooboy is that a lot of work! In this season of my life, I’m looking for quieter, simpler gatherings most of the time. Tonight was one of those gatherings at our house. I hosted 9 or 10 women from my church for a Sanity Night. In spite of enduring a whole LOT of teasing about sanity or the lack thereof, I actually do feel calmer and more sane at the end of the party than I did when I started. I’ve learned that it’s important to take time to collect myself and regroup during the insane busyness of this Christmas season.

Sanity Night Cookies

I’ve been doing Sanity Nights for my friends for several years now and I highly recommend them.

The Recipe for Sanity Night

The key is simplicity. Not every party needs a gazillion different appetizers or a dozen different types of cookies. Choose one cookie to serve. Tonight, I actually served two kinds because I wasn’t sure if the first ones were going to turn out. Usually, though, I stick to our favorite Molasses Cookies. (The other cookie selection I opted for tonight was Cookie Brittle, mostly because it’s the FASTEST cookie recipe I have!)

Sanity Night Cookie table

Serve something hot to drink. Tonight I skipped the coffee, although a good aromatic decaf would have gone nicely with the cookies. I set out a variety of teas and I made a huge crockpot full of Hot Spiced Cider. Between the molasses cookies, the peppermint teas, and the hot cider, my house was filled with amazing smells!

The atmosphere is almost as important as the fragrances. It really helps if you’ve already decorated for the holidays. I like to use lots of candles and lots of little lights. Central to our evening tonight was the crackling fire in the fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, a coffee table with a large tray of candles can create the same ambiance. Make sure you have some Christmas music playing softly in the background too.

Fireplace on Sanity NIght

The very most important ingredient in a Sanity Night is the bunch of good friends that you invite. I’ve learned that most of us are so busy during this holiday season that it’s really tough to get out for one more night. I can barely stand the thought of adding one more thing to my busy calendar. So Sanity Night is a night with no agenda. We sit around and drink our cider and eat our cookies and just talk. Because Sanity Night at my house is a come-and-go thing, friends can drop in for 15 minutes or stay for two hours. It’s comfortable and no-pressure.

For me, Sanity Night has become an important mile marker in each Christmas season. It’s an evening when I stop to breathe, spend time with friends, and think through what the rest of my holidays are going to look like.

Now, before I wrap this up for the night, I want to get back to those Molasses Cookies….I made a discovery today when I ran out of time. I simply didn’t have time to roll the dough into balls and then roll them in sugar. I was OUT of minutes.

So I lined a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil, sprayed some non-stick spray on it and spread a layer of molasses cookie down. I had to wet my hands down a little to be able to pat the dough down flat. I sprinkled sugar over the top of the molasses cookie bars and popped them into a 325° oven. I baked the bars for about 30 minutes.  A test toothpick came out clean when I inserted it. After the the bars had cooled just a little, I lifted the foil out of the pan. I used a pizza wheel to cut the bars into little spicy molasses squares. VERY yummy and every bit as good as molasses cookies! So next time you need a little hurry-up, try this shortcut!

Sanity Night Peace and quiet



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4 thoughts on “Entertaining at Christmas: Keeping it Simple

  1. What a great idea! I guess the only suggestion I might make (without trying to make this too complex) would be to offer either some fruit (slices of apple spritzed with a little lemon juice, bunches of grapes and/or little clementines arranged on a tray would be a beautiful color addition) or savory (hummus and bell pepper, carrot, and cauliflower for dipping) as alternatives to the sweets that many can’t or shouldn’t eat. Again, nothing really fancy, but just a non-sweet choice.

    • This is such a good point, Helen. If I could have a do-over on last night, I’d either put out a bowl of carrots and celery sticks or a bowl of hummus and some pita chips. For most of us, the sweet cider alone was enough sugar! The real point of the evening, of course, was the company, so it all worked out.

      • It sounds like a wonderful evening, with the focus on the fellowship.

        Oh, and an important “nutrition fact” I failed to include in my first post: Every bite of those healthy fruits or vegetables provides a lot of “negative calories.” By being such virtuous foods, they cancel out all the calories consumed in the cookies and other goodies!


  2. What a wonderful idea, Barb! Thanks! Most of my friends are full up right now, but I leave my tree up into January. So I think I’ll invite my friends for an “After-The-Holidays -Find Your Sanity” night in the first part of January when all of the parties and gatherings are done for. Maybe it would be fun to make it a pajama lounger night as well. Slippers optional. Merry Christmas to you both!

    Unadilla Barb

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