It’s that time again. It’s that joyous time of the year when family and friends gather together to eat and reconnect with one another. It’s likely that you will be hosting a dinner party yourself this year. Hosting a get together is an enormous responsibility. You have to feed everyone, make each guest comfortable and try to get through the evening without losing face. There are traps everywhere, waiting to take you down. With a little luck and some planning, however, you can avoid the worst and make your party one to remember – in a good way.

Below are five ways to make sure your holiday gathering is a success:

1. Seating Arrangements: Careful seat planning is essential. If you make a mistake here, you risk all out war or worse. Remember Thanksgiving dinner 2009? Aunt Alice from your side of the family and Uncle Rob from the other side compared surgical scars right at the dinner table. Bare legs and bellies should be avoided at all costs, particularly when dining. Never seat political or sports team adversaries together, either. A “rolling around on the floor fight” is not the kind of spirit you are looking for this holiday season.

2. Cooking Miscues: You turned your back on the just-out-of-the-oven turkey for a split second when the cat jumped up and decided to try it out for herself? What to do? Simply cut the part around the bite area out, pull some skin over it and act like nothing happened. Did you forget the pie in the oven, burn it to a crisp and have to go buy one? Place it in your own pie pan and make it look like your own. Mistakes happen. Discretion is key when it comes to holiday cooking.

3. Hide the Sexy Underwear: It is impossible for you keep track of all of your guests all of the time. Curiosity will get the best of at least one of your visitors. Your bedroom door is open so it’s fair game. Your clothes dresser next to the bed – wonder what’s in there? Before any guests arrive, find a place to lock away all personal items that would be embarrassing if found. You don’t want your two-year-old niece coming out of the bedroom with a lace bra on her head.

4. Remember the Vase: Your great grandmother gave you a vase for Christmas last year. Don’t forget to get it out of the attic and display it in a prominent place. No matter that it is orange with a plastic pineapple glued to the front. Put it out for all to see. Now is the time to remember that it really is the thought that counts. Great Grandma will love seeing her gift in your home.

5. Hang the Coats: Yes, you may need to purchase more hangers. Yes, finding closet space for all the coats and jackets is difficult. At all costs, resist the urge to toss the coats on the bed. You don’t want a repeat of Christmas 2010. Your dog, Bunny, thought the fake fur fox head on Cousin Margie’s coat was a chew toy and chomped it to smithereens. Margie didn’t speak to you for a year after. Hang the coats.

Skilful planning goes a long way to ensure that you have a successful gathering. Even when things go wrong, and they will, take it with a smile. Many holiday mishaps become family stories that are passed down for generations. Holiday entertaining, mixed with humor and love can be a joy. After all, isn’t that what the season is all about?