Most people would agree: taking part in a traditional get together is what makes the holidays so special. That is, if you’re not playing host.
For hosts, cheerful isn’t exactly the word to describe the type of mood felt thanks to the overwhelming stress and strain of both looming, and real hosting catastrophes. And they are typically not as major as burning the house down or everyone getting food poisoning (although these aren’t out of the realm of possibility).
It’s as usual as the typical similar scenario of quickly putting on some sort of holiday attire while your kitchen timer loudly announces you have one minute and counting before your cookies self-destruct. Too bad the guests are already occupied with trying to get your aunt Martha’s cat out of your Christmas tree. But don’t let this frighten you. We come baring good news and great tidings. We went to the experts to see if there were ways to play host and keep your holidays merry and bright — approximately 7 — if you’re counting.
Plan Ahead of Time
Think ahead. Prior to even beginning to pull together a list of grocery store items, or decor from your attic, plan in your head what you have in mind. There is nothing worse than feeling the looming stress of trying to tackle everything last minute. Instead, pace yourself. Consider what you can prepare in advance and make a checklist of all your needed ingredients. Shop a few days before the event and schedule it around avoiding the evening weekday rush and/or weekend crowds. Set your tables and make sure everything is ready to go a few days in advance. That way, any unforeseen events won’t mean guests greeted at the door by a stressed-out host.
Pro Tip: Every time you make a meal for you and/or your family, double the recipe and freeze half. That way you have homemade, ready to serve meals on the fly. Not to mention you’ll have important guests (like your mother-in-law) fawning over your impressive Susie homemaker set of skills.
(Re) Arrange Your Space
Plan the layout of your home accordingly. Designate a drop-off point for guests to leave their bags and belongings. Open space by pushing furniture against the wall. This will allow for easier entertainment space, especially when hosting families with young children. Speaking of which, store any expensive items and knickknacks away for safe keeping. Unless you’re planning a lavish, holiday ball, don’t be afraid to mix up the seating arrangements. It’s perfectly acceptable to blend different types of chairs, tables, and benches. Just make sure your guests have comfortable seating without physical limitations.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to improvise. Throw a slipcover on an armchair. Or an inexpensive throw over any upholstery you’re wanting to protect. Just make sure you seat all guests at a similar height. A throw pillow next to a bar stool is about as awkward as sticking your elderly uncle at the kids’ table.
Don’t Be Obligated by Tradition
Try not to feel obligated to carry on a long-standing tradition of yore. Maybe your great-grandmother, who, when not busy tending to the livestock or wrangling in her 12 plus children, spent her free time tediously hand-decorating from scratch roll-and-cut-cookies. But that doesn’t mean you have to! Working a job or having other obligations, not to mention if you throw a few children in the mix, is plenty of work alone. Take the stress off yourself. If your house doesn’t burn down, or remains food-poisoning free, consider it a victory.
Pro Tip: Ask your niece or teenage relatives to help keep up with the kids during your annual viewing of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Or, see if your children want to take part in making your family’s traditional holiday jam. By enlisting their help, you are not only able to carry out these special moments, but also create new ones.
Focus on the Merry, and Less on the Bright
Often, watching a grandiose idea play out in real-time comes served on a platter of disappointing when it doesn’t turn out exactly as planned. And yes, this has a very “Ba-hum-bug” ring to it. And no, this article wasn’t provided by yours truly, Ebeneezer Scrooge. This is a tip to take some of the stress and strain of perfectionism from ruining the holiday spirit. Try not to go overboard by taking part in every holiday tradition. If your plans to host guests falls at the same time of a holiday party (or two) you’ve been invited to, it’s OK to say “no.” If you do plan on hosting a party or gathering, be a minimalist. Display your best holiday decor you know everyone will love. Invest in dishes you don’t have to wash. Not only will this make for an easier cleanup, but your guests will be grateful for the extra time you now get to spend with them.
Pro Tip: Stick to the basics. The holidays are not the time to experiment with new decor or recipes. It is a time of enjoying traditions with the ones you care about most. Instead, leave it up to your guests to supply their own personal take on traditional flair, fare, and festivities.
Beg, Borrow and then Buy
Maybe your favorite aunt decided to drop in and surprise you for the holidays. Or, your cousin turned the holidays into his opportunity to introduce the family to the fact that he is not only a husband, but also a father of three. Whatever the case, there is always the possibility you will need more dining tables and chairs than what you originally had on hand. Unless you already had plans to invest in more furnishing, there is no shame in saving your money and asking around. Consider borrowing from neighbors, family or friends. Or, if your guest list grew tremendously, another cost-friendly measure would be to rent from a party or rental company.
Pro Tip: Many furniture rental companies give you back the time to focus on aspects of your holiday events. Always ask about delivery services, and make sure to schedule convenient drop-off and delivery times. This includes complimentary table and chair set up, as well as end-of-night pick up.
Do These Tasks 30 Minutes Before Guests Arrive
Hopefully, you’ve followed the steps above and are in good shape for the guests to arrive. To take it an extra step further, there are a few easy measures guaranteed to make spirits bright. First, it’s important your home is visible. Late in the year, it gets dark early. Have a few festive decorations on the door lit up for guests to recognize. Do a quick sweep of your guest rooms, whether you plan on hosting guests overnight. It is always nice to have an extra area to stash coats, purses, and other important elements of your guests’ outerwear. Double check utensils and run the garbage disposal one last time to get rid of any food preparation smells (consider tossing down a lemon rind or orange peel for an extra pop of freshness). Wipe down all bathroom sinks, faucets, and add a few extra rolls of paper on top of the toilet or allocate them to a basket on the ground. Light a few candles around the home, preferably with the same (if not similar) type of festive holiday scent. Lastly, turn on your favorite holiday music playlist slightly before guests arrive. Make sure it is a few hours long, so you won’t run out of songs or repeat.
Pro Tip: Texts, calls, and emails constantly buzzing for your attention are constant temptations to just turn it on silent. In this case, it is less rude to go ahead and turn up the volume on your ringer. Make sure to always have it near you where you can hear it, so you are available if your guests get lost or need to reach you.
Give Yourself a Minute
The food is ready, the house is clean. Now is your chance to relish in your hard work. Enjoy a snack (it might be difficult to sneak in a meal while hosting), and step outside for some fresh air. Consider even scheduling a few hours to set aside on the day of to take care of yourself. Whether it is taking extra time to get yourself ready, or just enjoying a quick outdoor run or yoga class, it’s important you also breathe and enjoy time with family and friends. You’ve worked way too hard to pull this off. It would be a shame to not be able to appreciate it.
Pro Tip: Whether your about to freak out on the jerk who took your mall parking spot, or the recent grocery store shortage of canned yams — don’t. Remember what the season is about. Take a breath, relax, and remember what the holidays are all about. If you’re having an enjoyable time, nine times out of ten so are your guests. Or, what most like to refer to as a “win-win” situation.
Are you planning on hosting guests this holiday season? Have any more tips and/or tricks for staying sane you would like to add? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
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