First, host a brunch instead of a more formal cocktail party. You can serve make-ahead dishes like soups and casseroles. (Try baked French toast - you'll never have it any other way.) Serve everything buffet style. And serve food that requires a minimum of eating utensils. Finger foods are ideal, as is soup served in a mug. Or try a fondue either as a main course or as a yummy desssert.
If you're entertaining a little more formally, plain white dishes are a geat idea to make everything 'go' together. You can use whatever other colors you like for decorations without competition from the dishes. If you don't have them, you can buy them very inexpensively at IKEA. No one will know they are inexpensive when you pair them with your holiday decorations.
For table decorations, go for colorful and festive using lots of round ornaments. Get as colorful as you like and fill large glass containers (try hurricanes, vases, trifles or anything large and glass) with them. Or put them hook side down on candlesticks in place of candles. Or hang them from the chandelier with a pretty ribbon. The possibilities are endless!
If you prefer something a little more sedate, nothing says Christmas like evergreens and white lights. Use a wreath decorated with red berries (holly or cranberries) as a centerpiece and place a candle in the middle. Then add evergreens with white lights in planters for a simple, festive look.
Whatever you decide to do to entertain during the holidays, just remember - the food and decorations are incidental. It's all about sharing with family and friends. So make sure you have plenty of time to do that!