How to set the mood and keep guests happy at your dinner party.

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Your holiday dinner party might not be perfect, but a few simple things can help everyone remember it that way.

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Lighting should be dimmed: lamps and candles yes, overheads no (we’re eating and drinking, not performing surgery). Put on some music; people like music (good fallbacks: Miles Davis’ “Workin’” or “Cookin’ ”). Taking a page from Kingsley Amis’ book, guests should be given beverages immediately upon arrival, then told it’s their own damn problem to help themselves after that. Nobody wants heavy appetizers before turkey, but everybody loves little dishes of snacks: You can’t go wrong with Castelvetrano olives and marcona almonds.

— Bethany Jean Clement, Seattle Times food writer