How to Survive Hosting Family For the Holidays
Everybody loves a holiday get-together — except maybe the person who's hosting it. While throwing a party and making your home look beautiful can be fun, it's also hard to stay merry and bright if your potatoes are boiling over, you're trying to change into a nice outfit, and your Great-Uncle Jerry is (loudly) sharing his unpopular opinions. But fear not: we've got 25 tips to make your season a little brighter, your hosting duties a little easier, and your holiday happenings a little more . . . well, happening.
Grocery Shop Before the Masses
The stores are always slammed just before the holidays, so make sure you buy everything as much in advance as you can — and recheck your supplies so you can avoid an emergency last-minute trip.
Make Air Freshener Your Friend
Who says your house has to be spotless? Unless you have an insanely picky in-law, nobody's going to notice that you dusted the windowsills. Spritz a festively fragranced spray or light a candle, and call it a day.
Clear Some Space
When you're cooking for a crowd, you're gonna need a lot of fridge space, so make sure you're ruthless in throwing away those leftovers and old veggies in preparation. Another space to consider clearing? Your coat rack.
Put Away Those Breakables
A good rule of thumb: if you don't want it broken, don't leave it out. Same goes for any kids' toys that they'd freak out if something accidentally happened to.
Plan (and Prepare) Ahead
Certain dishes, like casseroles and desserts, can be made the day before and refrigerated. The less you're scrambling to prepare the day of, the better.
Say "Yes" to Store-Bought
There is ZERO shame in hitting up your local bakery for some prepackaged goodies. You can even pass it off as your own — warm it up, slip it onto one of your serving plates, and the family will be none the wiser.
Never Refuse Help
Sure, there's some truth to the phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" — but you don't have to be in the kitchen to chop veggies or fill glasses, right?! If someone offers assistance, don't be too proud to let them take some of the burden off you.
Don't Experiment With New Recipes
That cranberry and brie souffle may have looked totally easy during that 30-second Facebook video, but now is not the time to attempt anything new. Stick with what you know, and you're more likely to avoid potential food disasters.
Use Herbs to Make Things Look Fancy
Seriously, garnish is a thing for a reason — a quick sprinkle of parsley or a sprig of rosemary can take your finished dish from "meh" to "mouthwatering" (well, in appearance, at least). Nothing could be easier!
Disposable Dishware > Fine China
We all have fantasies of perfectly coordinated place settings and flatware polished to a gleam, but that's the thing about fantasies: they aren't always realistic. For a gathering, dishes you don't have to wash save you time and energy (wouldn't you rather sit down and actually spend time with family once dinner is over instead of cleaning up?). Buy an eco-friendly brand for sustainability, and remember, paper plates can be composted!
Keep the Appetizers Simple
Yeah, Pinterest has a ton of delicious-looking appetizer recipes, but do you really need the extra hassle of wrapping things in bacon and skewering them on toothpicks? Your guests are going to remember the meal, not the appetizers, so throw some precut cheese and crackers and maybe a few olives onto a plate and you're golden.
Stock Up For Overnighters
If your holiday guests will be staying for more than the afternoon, double check that you've washed enough towels, purchased enough snacks, and got plenty of toiletries on hand. Bonus points if you put these things in your guests' bedroom so they don't have to bother you for them.
Fortify Your "Facilities"
Big groups mean lots of bathroom usage, so stockpile extra rolls of toilet paper (in a location that's easily accessible).
Offer the Option of Alcohol
Nobody's suggesting you've got to have alcohol to have a good time, but it didn't earn its reputation as a "social lubricant" for nothing. A glass of wine or Champagne or a cocktail can take the stressful edge off.
Dole Out Duties
Even if you're the one hosting, you don't have to do it all — so don't be shy about appointing various family members to "official" jobs. Recruit someone to play board games with the kids, someone to refill drinks, and someone to take coats. Chances are, they'll be happy to have been given a task, and you'll have less to worry about.
Let the Kids Go Crazy
Worried about your kids (or someone else's) not sitting still at the dinner table or hurtling through the house like freight trains? Make sure they have an opportunity to get some physical energy out beforehand, whether it's playing outside, running through the basement, or just having a dance party in a bedroom. They'll burn off some steam, work up an appetite, and be much more likely to chill out when it's time to sit.
Give Yourself a Minute
Nothing skyrockets the stress level like a mad dash to get everything finished and greeting guests at the same time. Schedule everything to be done a little ahead of time (or appoint someone else to take care of those finishing touches) and take a few moments to breathe deeply, tidy yourself up, go to the bathroom, or do whatever else you need to do.
Lower Your Expectations
Sometimes when you've got a grandiose idea of how something should turn out, you're bitterly disappointed in the way it does unfold. So take some stress off of yourself. If nobody burns down the house or gets food poisoning, consider it a success.
Don't Feel Obligated to Carry On a Tradition
Maybe your great-granny made elaborately decorated roll-and-cut cookies for each holiday get-together, but she also gave birth to 12 children without anesthetic, and you don't have the time or the patience for either one. So don't! If a family member is upset about the lack of tradition, they can feel free to take the responsibility upon themselves next year.
Be the Diffuser of Touchy Subjects
There's a time and a place to get into debates about hot-button issues, and a holiday shindig probably isn't the best one, especially if your family members are sharply divided. Keep an ear open and quickly steer the conversation to something less polarizing — or, if need be, issue an outright ban on argument-inducing subjects. If they insist on debating something controversial, ask them to do it outside while enjoying the freezing temperatures.
Give Yourself Permission to Relax and Enjoy
Don't spend your mealtime not enjoying the fruits of your labor. You've worked hard to pull this thing together, so let yourself appreciate it. If you're relaxed, everyone else will be too, and you deserve the opportunity to leisurely enjoy the food and the company.
Have a Go-To Hiding Place at the Ready
Even the people we love can be too much after a while, especially when we're already operating under the strain of playing host. Think of a place you can escape to for a much-needed breather, and take advantage of it when you feel overwhelmed.
Stop Comparing Your Holiday Get-Together to Others'
It's so easy to get down on ourselves about virtually anything these days, now that everyone's successes are plastered all over social media. Sure, Brenda's turkey looks like perfection on Instagram, but that golden brown is totally a filter. And Heather may have a Martha Stewart-worthy centerpiece, but her meal was a total disaster (are you supposed to be able to slice gravy?). So many factors go into pulling off a fabulous celebration, and we never know who's working with what advantages, so comparison only adds to the stress. Don't do it!
Reflect and Be Thankful
Above all else, make sure you take a few minutes to reflect on the holiday, the people you're spending it with, and the joy of togetherness (even if it comes with a few less-than-joyful parts). Don't focus so much on the garnishes that you forgot, but instead remember how lucky you are to have family that comes together.
And Remember: The End Is in Sight
Even if your holiday get-together seems to be less than stellar, just hang on and smile - because just like a bad movie, it'll only last a couple of hours.