You may have just hosted a marvelous holiday meal—the table was breathtaking, and the food, divine; the guests felt pampered and happy—but it's only after the bird has been relegated to Tupperware and the torn gift wrap tossed into recycling that the really good times kick into high gear. "The day after, the pressure's off and entertaining isn't about performance cooking," says O at Home's entertaining maven, Susan Spungen. "That's when you can just hang out with people, get into smaller conversations, or play parlor games." Picture it: The refrigerator-door hinges get a workout as people nosh their way through the day. You can actually be with them all, while mulled cider and soup simmer at the ready.
Informal doesn't have to mean haphazard, and your groaning board will be all the more inviting if it's beautifully laid out. Planning ahead is key, Susan says. You'll save time if you combine shopping for the big meal with shopping for the aftermath. And several recipes can be made ahead, which frees you up for the universally beloved post-holiday activity: gossiping about who misbehaved the night before!