5 Tips for Hosting a Holiday Potluck

Christmas Potluck 2019 2This week marks another milestone as Latham Hi-Tech Seeds hosted its 10th annual Christmas potluck. Our first potluck was held in 2009 when Latham Seed Company and Latham Hi-Tech Hybrids merged to become Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. To symbolize our coming together, that year each employee hung an ornament bearing his/her name on our company’s Christmas tree. Those ornaments continue to hang, and each year new ornaments are made as needed.

Last year we added the Ugly Sweater theme. Those sweaters provided so many good laughs that we hosted our 2nd Annual Ugly Sweater Party in conjunction with this year’s potluck.

This year we also allowed for more serving space on the buffet line. That got me to thinking… Not everyone is used to planning parties or hosting large gatherings. Potlucks are such a great team-building activity plus they give people permission to slow down during an especially hectic season. Yet it seems that fewer people “open up their doors” to host others. How can we encourage more people to share a little holiday cheer?

Christmas Potluck 2019 1Below are five quick tips for hosting a holiday gathering:

  1. Spread the Word. Keep it simple. Your invitation doesn’t need to be Pinterest-inspired nor worthy of an Instagram moment. Just make sure the people you want to gather around your table know when and where to show up!
  2. Sign Up. We’ve learned that duplicates and triplicates can happen, so now we put a sign-up sheet at the front desk. This way we can see what others are bringing. Since we’ve started the sign-up sheet, we’ve had a much wider variety of foods from salads to desserts.
  3. Set up the Space. Many hands make light work. If need be, recruit friends and family members to help. If you’re a small business, set up a committee if need be. Be sure to consider the flow when you set up tables. Keep the crock pots hot and the cool dishes cool. Set desserts and small dessert plates by the coffee pot.
  4. Dish It Up. Supply Sharpie markers, Ziploc® bags and disposable containers to help divvy up the leftovers. There’s no sense in having good food go to waste! Plus, you can always freeze smaller portions to enjoy for lunch.
  5. Clean Up Crew. Don’t just eat and run! Many hands make light work, so do your part to help put away tables and anything else that needs to be done. In a matter of minutes, our office was even cleaner than before the potluck began.

Not everyone is an extrovert, and we often chose to sit next to the people with whom we work most closely. Consider place cards to help people get to know one another and develop a few “conservation starters” in advance. I enjoy asking people which dish they brought and why. There’s usually a good story behind the “why” a recipe is special. Another idea for a conversation starter is to ask the person next to you for his/her favorite Christmas carol, but be sure to ask “why” his/her chose that song.

Table Talk

This week we asked our management team members to share their favorite Christmas movies. Classics like “White Christmas,” “Holiday Inn” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” The most popular were “A Christmas Story” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” “Home Alone” received an honorable mention because one team member said she has watched it with each of her sons, and it allows her to see it through his eyes. One of our team members said “A Christmas Story” is her favorite because it brings back great memories of movie marathons at her grandpa’s house. One reason I love “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is because it brings back a great memory of uncontrollable laughter when I first watched this movie with one of my cousins who tends to be very serious.

While our dinner scene is far less dramatic than one in the movies, our team members know how to put on a spread! Deviled Eggs, macaroni & cheese with corn, as well as M&M cookies are staples. All the other dishes vary from year to year. In the past, we’ve enjoyed crockpot chicken and noodles and white chili. This year our large buffet included everything from seafood salad and bagel dip to Low Carb Taco Soup and ham sliders to brisket and Sweet & Sour Meatballs.

Each year there is an “it” recipe that gets requested by multiple team members, so we do our best to share that with you on “The Field Position” blog. This year’s pick is a simple, but festive cranberry gelatin salad from Becky Lane. Becky says this is one of her favorites because it is an unconventional way to use cranberries over the holiday season.

Did you know that our affinity for Jell-O dates to the 1930s and 1940s when refrigerators became more common? The first dish often made was Jell-O because that couldn’t be made in a traditional icebox. No wonder church and community potlucks are filled with so many Jell-O recipes… they’re a family tradition. In my family, we call one dish “Christmas Jell-O Salad.” You can learn more facts like this in Darcy Maulsby’s book, “A Culinary History of Iowa.”

As a storyteller, Darcy offers these tips to help you preserve your family’s history in just 10 minutes during the holidays. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Festive Ice Cream Dessert recipe card

Cranberry Salad


2 C. cranberries, ground

1 large apple, ground

1 C. sugar

2 small packages raspberry gelatin

2 C. hot water

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

½ C. miniature marshmallows

¼ C. chopped walnuts


Mix together ground cranberries, ground apple, and sugar.  Dissolve jello in hot water.  Add all ingredients to jello and chill.  Can be made in a mod or container of your choice.