At Pottery Barn, we’ve been searching for ways to slow the holidays down and make them feel personal again. This year we recommend changing the usual party-hopping routine by hosting your own leisurely, extended celebration at home over the twelve days before Christmas. For the host, it’s fun, easy to manage and very affordable. The theme, borrowed from the famous Christmas carol, creates a relaxed framework for guests to drop-in during designated social hours each day. We provide you with everything you need to celebrate at your own pace, including videos of recipes from the acclaimed Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and holiday decorating tips with style expert Nathan Turner. The concept is simple: Decorate traditionally. Have lots of homemade treats on hand for sharing. Use special serving dishes that elevate simple snacks to a memorable presentation. Then eat, drink and be merry – every day.
A big fancy bash isn’t the only kind of holiday party. What’s important is the ritual of celebration, and for that you can set your own rules. In this scenario, the party starts on December 14 and ends on December 25. There’s room to play and be inventive with such a long span of time.
You may invite friends and colleagues for the first part and finish with special family-only dinners on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Or have fun with the theme and serve treats shaped like turtle doves and golden rings on our illustrated Twelve Days of Christmas plates. However you arrange it, an extended gathering like this invites a new way of thinking and planning.
Decide first what format will be easiest to handle and most pleasurable for you. Time of day and location should stay the same every night to create an effortless routine. Define your designated social hours, for instance, pre-dinner from 6–8 pm or after dinner from 8–10 pm. Guests can RSVP for any night convenient for them. Be explicit that you’ll be baking, not cooking, so that they can plan for dinner elsewhere. Invite no more than six per night so that you can spend time with everyone.
Assign a comfortable gathering area for guests, like a dining room with a table, chairs, armchairs, fireplace and room to circulate. Have it and any adjacent rooms cleaned right before the first party and weekly thereafter, so all you need to do is tidy up after each gathering. If possible, leave it permanently decorated and ready to receive people for the next twelve nights.
Food, drinks, dishes and utensils should be placed on the table before guests arrive. As the host, try to stay in the room for the duration of the party – and, by all means, avoid the kitchen! Parties tend to follow the host, especially if she gravitates into that work space. The goal is not to work, but to give full attention to friends and family.
On the table or a nearby buffet, you’ll need fabric or paper linens, small serving plates, silverware, wine glasses or champagne glasses, and mugs for hot chocolate and mulled wine. These, like your serving platters and trays, can be easily cleaned and re-set on the table for the next party. Bundle silverware with ribbon for a festive gesture. Instead of stainable tablecloths, use our Magnolia Table Runner to bring holiday color and anchor dishes.
Reserve weekend mornings for baking in quantity new batches of confections and treats. Tartine Bakery Chef Elisabeth M. Prueitt recommends recipes that preserve well like her brilliantly easy Almond Rochers and Maple-Glazed Pecans, which she demonstrates in our video recipes.
In setting the table, go for timeless, seasonal materials like our Antique Silver platters and trays that can be appreciated day after day and all year round. Plates illustrated with traditional holiday images bring a sense of history. Select centerpieces made of fresh greenery that will last for weeks, instead of flowers that quickly fade. We chose branches of green pomegranates and pine, decorated with shiny ornaments. Real or faux botanicals of holly, pine or mistletoe sprigs tied to chair backs with ribbon give a bright dash of holiday color.
Place cards are great for informal occasions as a way of making guests feel expected and welcome. We made creative place card holders out of edible confections or treat-filled gift boxes with oversized nametags.
With foundations and parameters set, the only changing variable is the guests. In this unique celebration, the quality time you’ll spend with friends and family truly can be the greatest gift of all.
Along with the Christmas carol playing in the background, a party centered around the Twelve Days of Christmas just isn’t complete without a visual component. Each of our set of 12 plates depicts on of the dozen famed gifts of the holidays through vintage illustrations found in children’s books. Made of lustrous white porcelain, the plates are sized for first courses or desserts, and designed to layer with our Great White Dinnerware.
We love silver that shows its age for its informal style, and created our exclusive Antique Tarnished Silverplate to replicate that timeless complexity. With no polishing required, it’s also easy to care for.
We added holiday inscriptions for a special Pottery Barn touch. Our grand Serving Bowl is ringed with the phrase “faithful friends that are dear to us gather near to us.” The rim of our Serving Tray says “service.” Our three-tiered stand has two plates with rising sides and is topped with a small bowl to serve treats and dips.
Chef Elisabeth M. Prueitt’s video recipes for Pottery Barn are just the beginning. Her cookbook Tartine, with a foreword by Alice Waters, provides a treasure trove of easy-to-follow recipes of sweets and savories for the home kitchen. The delicious offerings reflect her philosophy that dessert is an everyday necessity.