I like to prepare my Christmas Eve meal ahead of time so that I can enjoy the time with my family. I make a double batch of a pasta dish---like lasagna, stuffed shells, baked ziti or even homemade macaroni and cheese a day ahead or even earlier and freeze it. Since it is already prepared, there is not a lot of pots and pans to wash on Christmas Eve and the leftovers can be used as a great side dish for the Christmas meal.
We do the same thing at our house--Christmas Eve is the night the company comes, and Christmas Day for us is for our immediate clan only. I started cooking everything ( years ago, when the kids were little!) the day before Christmas Eve so, like OP, I could enjoy the Eve and the big day along with everyone else.
Over the years, it extended into our adult kids and their spouses doing the same thing. They bring potluck to Mom & Dad's for the big Christmas Eve bash and that helps me relax even more!
It's a good idea to be prepared for Christmas Eve meal; But my three adult daughters, and their family arrive early in the day and we find most enjoyable the closeness of cooking and talking. We spend the entire day catching up on news and singing carols. No one is ever late.
I also cook as much as possible the 2 days before xmas eve. Xmas eve is our xmas where we get together with aunts, uncles, cousins and our kids, their spouses and grandkids. We have a gag gift exchange with everybody and after they leave, we open our xmas gifts with our kids, spouses and grandkids. So it's a busy night.
I usually have a smoked turkey - just heating involved. I make mashed potatos the day before as well as green bean casserole and other casseroles
and anything else that can be reheated. Desserts are made 2 days before.
I spend the day tidying up the house and setting the table. I go all out with china, candles, place settings, wine glasses, etc. And then I try to relax and enjoy the day.
It works great for us.
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