Use sliced carrots purchased from the produce department or salad bar instead of slicing your own. The ham and celery can be cut ahead of time, packaged separately and refrigerated until you're ready to assemble the soup.
Crisp breadsticks or crackers complete this hearty soup. For a sweet ending, serve fresh fruit and a plate of holiday cookies.
For extra color and flavor, sprinkle each serving with crumbled crisply cooked bacon or chopped fresh parsley.