Yes, the holidays: a time for family, friends, laughter, joy, and…dishes? It’s true: it might be the season for trees and tinsel but it is also the season for some hard work, particularly around the dinner table.

If you (or your house) are routinely volunteered as host or hostess for your family’s holiday gathering, you might be looking for a way to take some of the work out of your Christmas feast. Asking Santa for more time in the day might not work, but the following tips can leave you free of the hustle and bustle known to accompany nearly every holiday dinner.

Use Paper Plates: Exchanging your China for Chinette is a great way to keep one thing from piling up this holiday season: the dishes. Instead of throwing plates and bowls caked with mashed potatoes and gravy into the sink, scrubbing them and hoping your dishwasher works its own Christmas miracle, throw them into the recycle bin. Not only does the use of paper plates save you time, but it also assures you that the fine China handed down from your great-great-great grandmother won’t be broken, no matter how much holiday wine is consumed.

Have a Pot Luck: If you are hosting a Christmas dinner at your house this holiday season, there is no reason you have to provide all of the food. After all, with the cleaning, the setting the table, and the making sure everything is organized, you might not have time to cook all day. Instead of placing all the responsibility on your shoulders, take guests up on their offer to bring something. People generally feel better when they contribute to the meal. You make the turkey, and let your guests bring everything else.

Freeze What You Can: At the end of your holiday meal, when everyone has loosened their belts and settled down for a long winter’s nap, you will probably have a ton of food left over. Ham, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls: whatever it is, there’s probably too much of it. Instead of stacking these leftovers into your refrigerator – or just throwing them away - stack them in your freezer. This allows your food to stay good much longer (all the while keeping your refrigerator from having a nervous breakdown). An even nobler act is to donate leftover food to a local charity (assuming you have one in your area).

Assign Chores for the Kids: With a house full of little ones, things can get hectic, particularly around the holidays. Instead of watching your kids wreck havoc on your just cleaned house (or snoop around for hidden presents), assign them chores. Have them set the table, shovel the sidewalk, bring up folding chairs from the basement or dust the furniture. If they complain, simply tell them that now – more than ever – Santa is watching.