Before I get too far along let me tell you why I can even open my big ol’ mouth about the topic of holiday hosting.
Let’s just say I have a bit of experience in the world of hosting family. I am the oldest of 10. My husband of 16 years is one of 6. Between us we have 14 siblings. And during our 16 years of marriage our house has hosted most every. single. holiday. for one side or the other or BOTH.
Sometimes it has only been for a few hours. Sometimes for weeks. We’ve done it all. All sizes, all kinds, all drama, all the time.
So…I thought I would dispense on you the wisdom I’ve learned over the years. And some of my tips and tricks that I’ve gathered. With the hopes that you find a nugget of value that will help YOU this year as you host family once again. Or help YOU as you host family for the first time. Let's face it, it doesn't matter how many times you have hosted family for the holidays, each year brings a new and different challenge.
Tip 1: Understand the expectations people have of you.
Tip 1 seems fairly obvious. But, really it isn’t.
If your family is thinking having you host means something specific…you should know! And what if what they are thinking isn’t what YOU are thinking?? That would be horrible. And stressful.
Be sure that you know the expectations they have. And the expectations you have of yourself.
Tip 2: Understand the expectations you have of others.
Tip 2 also seems obvious. Just humor me.
So, your family promises to be well behaved this year. They promise to bring their designated dishes. But…they said that the year before. And the year before that. And didn't
You have a realism problem.
See here’s the thing…you have to make sure your expectations of others match what they are willing to deliver. If your family won’t stop drinking beer and watching football chances are your plan for a nice sit down dinner won’t happen. Be sure your family understands what you want. Make sure they really, really can deliver. If not…be sure you are willing to deal.
Tip 3: Be flexible
This is a horrible word. The f-word. Yes, it is that bad.
Being flexible means you don’t need to have everything you want exactly the way you want it. Gasp! But, you’re a drama queen and love having your own way? Well, girlie, unless your family is okay with that ... you’re in for a long day.
Be willing to let go of the vision in your head of what perfect holiday hosting looks like and shoot for a happy day. A happy day can probably be achieved with a simple menu, paper plates, and water.
Tip 4: Be firm
So, you know what is expected. Your family knows what’s expected. You’ve been flexible and adjusted to suit what works for your family. Now it’s time to hold firm to what was agreed to. Make sure you and your family aren’t taken advantage of. Be sure that it is a good experience for everyone!
Tip 5: Have fun
you worked hard…darn it!! Go have fun! Be sure that your day is set up in such a way as to free you up to enjoy it. If you are cooking and cleaning all day…you did something wrong. That is NOT what your family wants from you (or do they??? well then, you probably shouldn’t do holiday hosting). Go play!
Tip 6: Expect Help
“I like it a certain way”. I hear that so often from women to explain why they don’t accept help in the kitchen. Are you kidding?? Okay, that's fine...If you truly would prefer to spend your day in the kitchen. That's your choice. If that is more important to you than other things, just know that you are making the choice to clean and cook and you cannot be upset with others when they are having fun without you.
If that isn't what you want, you're going to have to deal with people doing things a bit differently. Get over it. Delegate, accept, assign…get help and use it!! Be easy to please. Don’t use the items that need special cleaning. Let others wash and you can put away if you are so particular. Use and expect help!
Tip 7: Have Boundaries
This tip applies more to those that are holiday hosting for a longer time. If you are hosting company for days on end you need to have some boundaries. Your family needs to understand what in your home is off limits. And yes, there should be off limit items and areas!! If anything…for your kids and spouse. In my house, my bedroom is off limits. For one thing…it’s creepy having people in my bedroom. But also, there is a t.v. and big bed in my room. It is a great place for my kids to curl up and disappear when they are over-cooked. We also have all the computers as off-limits. Computers are personal things, aren’t they! And we just don’t make our children (or ourselves) share that. We also don’t allow drama and fighting while in our house. There are family members that don’t like each other. They have to pretend to get along while in our house. I won’t put up with having to deal with drama. I put my foot down. Set boundaries!! Oh…and then be firm!
Tip 8: Have escapes
I mentioned my bedroom as an off limits area. That is mostly because I need to provide my family with a way to escape. Not that we don’t love my family…we do. But extended periods of time with company is just a lot. It just is. So, we have escapes built into the time. My husband goes to work, my kids go to a friend's house, watch a movie in my room, or are invited to the other family's house. Does that sound mean?? Maybe. But, having happy kids that are excited to be around family is worth it!! A happy husband that doesn’t want to break off the toes of siblings is worth it!! So…have escapes!
Tip 9: Use resources
Last, but not least…use tips and resources. There are products and ideas galore that will help you….use them!!
1. paper products are your friend. Not Styrofoam; we care for the earth here.
2. so are disposable aluminum pans.
3. put the trash can in a visible location. and the recycling bin.
4. clean up from one family activity before moving on to another. And be firm…you’ll get help!
5. Mark dishes with stickers, rubberbands with names written on…whatever. This eliminates glasses being used and then left.
6. have a menu…then ask for items to be brought from the menu.
7. have games and activities available.
8. use butcher paper or drop cloths for tablecloths. They can be drawn on with crayons for endless entertainment!
9. think about using prepared ingredients where you are able to give up the homemade.
10. designate family members to be in charge of keeping food items filled and fresh.
11. if you must use real dishes….think about having a bin with soapy water for dishes to be set in (if you aren’t making someone help you wash them!)
12. keep your cleaning gear in a basket that is easy to access…it will make it easier for people to help!
13. toilet paper and daily use items should be stored in a visible location to reduce the need for everyone to ask for them.
14. think about having your list of to-do’s for before, during, and after on the fridge. When people know what there is that needs doing…they’ll do it!
15. e-vites are a fun way to send an invitation to your family…they usually allow you to get an RSVP and ask for items to be brought. e-vites, punchbowl, and others are good sources! Even if your family is informal use an e-vite to put all the info in one place so there can be no excuse for forgetting.
Do you agree with these tips for holiday hosting? What would you add?
Here's another helpful post on how to be a great host.