As the years go by, you may find that in order to carry on certain family holiday traditions, you may have to take over hosting some or all of your family’s holiday festivities yourself. Or maybe, like a friend of mine said, her mother-in-law “volun-told” her to host this year! Instead of stressing about all of it, take a deep breath and realize it doesn’t have to be hard and can actually be so much fun.
Nobody is perfect, so don’t try to be. A lot of party hosts find themselves trying to be perfectionists. Maybe the furniture needs to look a certain way or the decorations have to hang just so, but this simply causes more stress than there needs to be. Remember that, at the end of the party, no one’s favorite part is going to be the decorations or the cleanliness of your home. Their favorite part will be the great company and the time spent with them.
Fortunately, there is a bonus prize when holiday gatherings become your responsibility. You get the opportunity to discover how you like to do holidays. Your family has its traditions, but what are the special things that you like most in each part of the holiday season? What are the things you wish people would do to welcome you "home" when it's your turn to be the guest? You get to make those things happen, in your own territory.
Many of us will be hosting guests throughout the season, here are a few practical ways to reduce stress so you can enjoy the holidays:
DIVIDE THE LABOR -- Just because you’re the host, doesn’t mean you have to shoulder everything yourself. Communicate with your partner and see what they can do to help you out. And if a guest asks, “What can I bring?” Tell them! Wine, ice, a pie—whatever will make your life easier.
FIGURE OUT WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY—AND WHAT DOESN’T -- Run through Thanksgiving Day in your mind. What’s your favorite thing? For me, it’s planning the decor and the menu. Now think about what you most dislike about the day. Is it the pressure of cooking a 15-pound turkey just right? Make a ham and a turkey breast instead. Is it cleaning for hours beforehand? Consider hiring cleaners, if you can swing it. (Or refer back to point #1 and ask someone else to help!)
PLAN AHEAD -- Thanksgiving is only one day, but if you’re the host you need to start planning a few weeks in advance. (It sounds like a pain, but I promise it will make things less stressful in the long run—especially if you schedule in time for your own relaxation!) Decide on your menu and write up a grocery list. We are about a week before; time to go grocery shopping, clean, and think about some fun activities to do with the kids. The day before, make any dishes you can, including cranberry sauce, desserts, and appetizers. The morning of, make sure you stock bathrooms with toilet paper and air freshener and clear a space for coats. And I make sure to have everything ready at least 30 minutes before guests are supposed to arrive, in case there are some early birds.
KEEP IT SIMPLE -- Prepping items for your holiday menu early will not only eliminate stress, but it can also keep you out of the kitchen and enjoying your party. Keep in mind that items like spinach dip, gravy, casseroles, holiday appetizers, and cakes can be prepared ahead of time.
Have Bellisari’s on Hand -- Whether you forget an ingredient or need a quick appetizer, having our gourmet sauces and spreads and our ready to eat phyllo shells on hand will give you everything you need to add an extra pop of flavor to something or if you need another dish entirely. Bellisari’s makes everything delicious and super easy!
When I’m in the last-minute “stash and dash,” I try to keep this quote by Maya Angelou in my mind: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In other words, people won’t remember what you wore or if your house was spotless, but they will remember how you made them feel while they were there, so spend your time and energy focusing on making your guests feel something worth remembering. Happy Holidays from all of us at Bellisari’s!