Christmas dinner is the culmination of detailed planning, thoughtful considerations, and a lot of work, but there’s nothing like gathering loved ones and connecting over a special meal. Creating the perfect Christmas menu is easy with some think-ahead planning and curious tastebuds. Here are a few suggestions to make this year’s Christmas dinner a memorable one. \n\nThe Staples\nUpending a traditional Christmas dinner could cause a riot. Certain foods and dishes served on Christmas are as traditional as the day itself, so we recommend planning some of the tried-and-true staples into your menu to keep your guests happy. Usually this means a roasted turkey crisped to perfection, and tender and juicy on the inside. Creamy mashed potatoes are a must as well as a side of something green: green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts or a festive salad. Many love a marshmallow-topped sweet potato dish as well as a thick, flavorful gravy. Stuffing is a must whether it’s made from scratch or straight from the box. Don’t forget to add soft, fluffy rolls to the Christmas menu.\n\nThe Offerings\nIf guests are involved with the dinner plan, a great way to relieve some of the stress that comes with all the preparation is to ask guests to bring something. Most people are happy to contribute a side dish, and introducing new flavors and new traditions to the Christmas menu can be a fun way to broaden food horizons. A new way of cooking a staple might spark a new tradition. It could be a traditional international dish, but even different regions of the United States prepare the same food differently. A welcoming stance to people, and their favorite foods, paves the way for interesting conversation, and appreciation for a new culture, both international and domestic. If there is just no way to veer from the traditional set-in-stone menu, ask guests to bring an appetizer or charcuterie board, wine, beer or other drink to share. It creates an easy way to add in new flavor without changing anything in the Christmas dinner menu. \n\nThe Unexpected\nInstead of only including the “same old” to Christmas dinner each year, a new tradition for the meal could be to add something new or unexpected each year. A guest from a different culture or country might have an authentic dish to share. Welcoming a new dish is a beautiful way to welcome in a new culture and to make a new friend. Though most Christmas diners enjoy the traditional dishes, try changing up one of the tried-and-true flavors with something new and memorable. Instead of turkey, why not try a bright slab or salmon or halibut? Explore variety within the turkey itself. A pre-smoked turkey is a flavorful way to stay close to the traditional, but add in a hint of something new. \n\nChristmas dinner is an important tradition with strongly held opinions. We connect with the ones we love over delicious food and special meals. Whether the tradition is held with a fastidious grip or if the tradition is to not have any tradition, we hope Christmas dinner is a time of laughter and celebration.