Traditional Christmas visitors (not the three wise men)

It's a Saturday afternoon and the promise of arctic weather conditions has been met. Not a problem. You've taken care of all your Christmas shopping online, so there's nothing left to do but settle down in front of the television with a mug of tea.

But much like the first snowdrops of the year mark the start of winter, members of your extended family arrive on your doorstep unannounced to signal the beginning of the Christmas period. Your front door may as well be a revolving one for the next few weeks.

This is no time to let your head drop though, you can rise to this challenge to be the best host they have known this Christmas - or any Christmas in history! Well, OK, revise your expectations down a little… you can give them something to eat and drink, while making sure the kids don't suffer from boredom. It will be relatively pleasant.

Alcohol is the best weapon available to any host. If they have a drink in their hand generally they're happy, that's my rule of thumb. If you want to earn some brownie points, head to the fridge and spend a couple of minutes thinking out loud about what wine would suit "such a refined palette" as your guests'. Then emerge with a cheap bottle of plonk you won in a raffle, they'll be too buttered up to notice the difference.

If you can't tempt them with wine, whip your blender out and raid the drinks cabinet. A few splashes of tequila here and carefully selected fruit juices there and you've got yourself a cocktail. Just don't fool yourself into thinking you can chuck bottles in the air and catch them like they do in trendy bars. Those guys are pros.

Wine and cocktails are great to get the conversation flowing but do be careful, a glass too many can turn an impromptu visit into an overnight stay. If your guests look like nodding off, an espresso should help to kick them back into life…

Eating far too much is pretty much the law around Christmas time, so you're going to need to have a fridge full of nibbles to keep the in-laws happy… and you may as well treat yourself - you wouldn't want them going to waste now, would you? Get some cocktail sticks and spear chunks of pineapple and cheddar for that traditional party snack.

OK, food and drink in everyone's hands, you're well set. But wait, a moment of awkward silence… That's the cue to raid your CD collection for a suitable soundtrack to put on the hi-fi. We all have a little Christmas hits collection in our cupboard somewhere - a touch of Cliff Richard should keep grandma happy.

Sir Cliff Richard normally makes an appearance on the stereo at this time of year

While easy listening music should keep your elders entertained, the kids might find Sir Cliff as appealing as the fourth helping of leftover turkey on December 28. Set up the Nintendo Wii in the spare room and leave them to it, you'll soon be established as their favourite cousin/aunt/uncle.

As the evening begins to close in, there are murmurs of "getting back home in time to put tea on". Wearing your best disappointed face, you enquire about why they have to leave so soon, before interrupting any second thoughts they might have by leaping to your feet and showing them the door.

With your day's work as the perfect host over, you can settle back down on the sofa and resume watching television with your feet up. Using your digital TV recorder to make sure you didn't miss out on that Christmas special never felt so rewarding.

Same time next year?

Have you got any tips on how to entertain guests at Christmas? Give us all some inspiration and comment below…