How to host an elegant Christmas party

The events guru Johnny Roxburgh on how to make your festivities extra-special

Images courtesy of Johnny Roxburgh

The party-planner Johnny Roxburgh has masterminded more than 9,000 events over his 40-year career, including Christmas festivities for none other than her Majesty the Queen. Here, he shares 10 recommendations for how to host a stylish Christmas party, from decorating the tree to setting the table.

1. No Christmas is complete without pink and white sugar mice and my absolute favourites come from Fortnum and Mason. They look fabulous and taste divine – the only challenge is keeping them on the tables! When it comes to Christmas-tree biscuits, the very best can be ordered online from Demel in Vienna, a master confectioner since 1876. Add marrons glacés (candied chestnuts) to the mix and you’re in heaven.

2. If you’re hosting family or friends on Christmas Eve, consider serving one of this country’s most iconic dishes – the pie. Calum Franklin’s game pastries are the best and are available to take away from The Pie Room in the Holborn Dining Room at the Rosewood Hotel. Serve each one individually surrounded by a wreath of winter herbs studded with glossy red cranberries.   

3. I love keeping the Christmas-cracker tradition alive and Fortnum and Mason’s glittering collection are an absolute must. From the miniatures to the tartan and gold-leaf versions, there’s a design to fit every theme and, most importantly, each explodes with unique treats.   

4. A tongue-numbing aperitif is a pre-dinner essential. I serve dry martinis made using Gin Eva, a handcrafted London Dry Gin distilled on the island of Mallorca with local ingredients. I also replace the Vermouth with Tio Pepe Sherry for a festive tipple that’s a twist on the classic.

5. If you have a long table, think about dressing the top with Christmas wallpaper. Buy a roll online from Pierre Frey.  

6. Keep the lighting low on Christmas Day and replace bright lights with lots of candles (and scented ones at that). The best ones come from the oldest candle-maker in the world, Cire Trudon. Visit its store on Chiltern Street in London or, if you can, make a worthwhile pre-Christmas trip to its wonderful shop in Paris. 

7. Never be too grand to go to Matalan. I wrap my presents so they look amazing and luxurious using battery fairy lights, teddy bears, candy canes and more, all glue-gunned onto the box. Buy all the basics in Matalan and then add a final flourish with a glorious ornament from Liberty. It’ll look divine under the tree.

8. Fill your house with the sound of Christmas. I love everything from the Tabernacle Choir and Katherine Battle to Dolly Parton and The Carpenters’ Christmas classics. This is the one time you can be cheesy when choosing the soundtrack of the day.

9. Down the centre of the Christmas table, create a gingerbread-house village. Set it up on different levels and fill it with battery fairy lights – this looks truly enchanting.

10. Finally, remember that it’s a busy time of year with impossible and often unachievable expectations. Give yourself time to enjoy it and if it’s not all perfect, no one will really care. Do get the turkey right, however; it’s always best to trust Delia.

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