Have you ever heard the saying, “If you’re coming to visit me, come anytime. If you’re coming to see my house, make an appointment”? Holiday entertaining falls somewhere between an impromptu pop-in and a scheduled visit. With all of the stress of the holidays, it can be hard to truly enjoy our friends and family. We want to visit with loved ones, but sometimes hectic schedules and demands can make entertaining difficult and unpleasant. A few simple tips can help you entertain happily and without stress, while staying present during the holidays.
1. Clean quickly
Stock guest bathrooms with wipes. You needn’t scour the house from top to bottom because guests are coming for cocktails or a holiday open house. Stock bathrooms and kitchens with easy-to-use wipes and give everything a quick wipe down before guests arrive.
Wipe all surfaces, including mirrors and faucets, to make them clean and shiny, empty trash cans, stock all paper goods, light a holiday-scented candle (pine is good in a powder room), and you’re done!
2. Keep your décor simple and traditional
Unless you have lots of spare time and money, there is really no need to re-invent the decorating wheel every year. Fresh greens on the mantel and stairway railings, plenty of candles, a wreath on the door, and maybe some lights at the entrance to your house: this is all you need to set the mood for the holidays.
Find a style that is your own and stick with it. This might mean personal touches like holiday cards from years past strung together with ribbon and hung like a garland, or it might mean a beautiful tablescape that features seasonal greens and berries. Put out the décor that is beautiful and meaningful to you. Choose quality over quantity!
3. Let your guests help you
One of the simplest ways to entertain is to have a themed potluck. You provide the main dish and ask guests to bring a side dish or dessert that represents their family traditions, their favorite holiday movie, or another sentimental holiday theme.
4. Hold an open house instead of a party
An open house is an easy, casual way to see your friends during the holidays with a minimum of fuss and pressure. Friends drop in and out over the course of several hours, staying for the whole time or simply popping in for a quick visit.
This is especially considerate for families of young children who have nap times. Keep food simple with a festive punch (alcoholic or not), coffee, and an assortment of no fuss snacks such as a cheese and fruit plate and other things best served at room temperature.
5. Get something done
Have a gathering specifically for cookie baking or assembling DIY-gifts such as mixes in Mason jars. Many hands make light work, and this can work double duty as entertainment and productivity.
Some excellent DIY gifts that are easy to make and fun to work with include bath salts, homemade vanilla extract with wax-sealed bottles, and cookie mix in a jar. Depending on their age, kids can participate, too. Set up an assembly line and put out easy snacks, then bake a test batch of the cookies you are assembling.
6. Recognize that it is not about perfection
We get so caught up in the stress of having the perfect party or creating the perfect mood that we forget that the holidays are about spending time in gratitude and giving, not mastering the art of the place card. Wine will spill, you will run out of time, and the babysitter will cancel. These are all inevitable, so make peace with that and move on.
7. Keep your entertaining menus simple, and cook ahead as much as you can
Especially if you are working around pain conditions or health issues, a simple menu of delicious food can make a gathering more fun.
Use your crockpot to make soups and dips and keep them warm, and bake treats weeks ahead of time and freeze. Simplify party set up by labeling serving dishes with sticky notes (so you’re not scrambling before the party starts), or prepare food in a dish that doubles as a serving dish, too.
8. Keep clean up simple, too
Even the most environmentally friendly entertainer can be excused for using disposable plates, cups, and utensils for holiday parties.
There are many eco-friendly options for dinnerware out there, most of which can be recycled or reused. Stock up when they go on sale, usually after the holidays each year, and save time next year, too.
9. The holidays are about being with your family and friends
And the most important entertaining tip to keep in mind over the holidays is this:
Keep that at the center of every entertaining decision and only commit to parties or gatherings that nurture those connections. If the annual holiday party has become more of a chore as the years go by, start a new tradition. Maybe it’s time to scale back, do something outside of the house, or skip a year. Involve the whole family and let them help. Yes, with younger children this might be hard, but as they get older, encourage them to make decorations and help with set up and preparations.
10. Stay present and mindful
Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away. ~Unknown~
Spending the months leading up to the holidays in frantic shopping, cleaning, and entertaining mode can leave us breathless for all of the wrong reasons. We may be stressed, snappish, and short with the very people we are doing all of the holiday preparation for.
Stopping amid the holiday din and bustle to really enjoy family and reflect on what makes them so special is an important part of every holiday tradition. During the year and the busy time leading up to holiday celebrations, we may forget this simple practice as we cross things off our to-do lists. If we take time to reflect and live by the quote above, we can take these every day moments of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and gifting and turn them into a deeper celebration of the holidays.
This means practicing mindfulness in every step. Focus on Aunt Sally when you are buying her gift, thinking about the things that make her a special part of your family. As you are cleaning the house for a family gathering, remember the other times when you gathered in celebration. Cook mindfully with your kids instead of rushing through the steps to get it all done.
11. Focus on connection
Maybe your family starts a new tradition of Secret Santa instead of buying presents for every person in the family. Maybe the holiday dinner becomes a themed potluck instead of one person cooking everything. Instead of cooking dozens and dozens of different kinds of cookies, maybe a holiday cookie swap is a better way to go.
However you do it, make the time to truly engage with your kids, your partner, your friends, and the rest of your family, near and far. Technology means that even if someone you love lives halfway around the world, an internet connection can bring them into your living room. Instead of dashing off a quick holiday text or formulaic email, take some time to deliver your greetings “in person,” even if they are reaching across the miles.
There are many ways to connect with those who are close to you. Sometimes reflection and family time can be as simple as sitting down to a board game instead of zoning out in front of the television. If you have lost a loved one this year and are feeling their absence keenly, saying a prayer or starting a little ritual like lighting a candle to include their memory in your holiday celebrations is a great way to also connect with those who are with you. We may think of these things as “old-fashioned,” but an evening spent ice skating or walking around your community looking at holiday lights goes a long way to embrace the holidays and make them meaningful.
Whatever traditions you choose to observe, we want to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season from all of us at the PainDoctor.com family, with best wishes for love, luck, and breath-taking moments in the coming year.