Cue that moment in life where you may be asked to host a holiday dinner (dun dun dun!) Maybe your parents are ready to pass the torch or you can’t make it home for the holidays. Regardless of the reason, if you find yourself responsible for hosting a holiday dinner, check out these tips to help you make sure that it’s a success!
Assess your situation
Think about how many people you are expected to host, and work out details like where everyone is going to sit, how many plates you will need, where are you going to put all of the food, etc. Seeing what you have to work with already can help you make a list of items that you may need to purchase (like a tablecloth or napkins) or borrow from your family members (like extra silverware or a folding table to add additional eating or counter space).
Think about menu
Planning out you want to eat at your holiday gathering is important—you can make sure that you have enough room in your oven, food to feed everyone coming over, extra dishes for those with dietary restrictions and an idea of just what you’re getting yourself into. You may also be able organize your menu so that you can prep or cook some foods in advance, which will take pressure off of the gathering day.
If you have special dishes that you loved growing up and can’t imagine the holiday without (like my mom’s chex mix and sugar cookies) ask your family to give you the recipes or bring the foods that bring back those memories! Make sure to ask about reheating temperatures and time. That way, you can plan accordingly, so you won’t accidentally have something in the oven already at a different temperature when they show up or end up waiting on a dish to finish heating through when everything else is ready to eat!
Set the mood
If you’ve never hosted a holiday dinner before, it’s likely that you don’t have a bunch of decorative items for the occasion. Ask your family who have hosted before if they have things like candles, center pieces, serveware, etc. that they’ve used in the past that you can borrow to spruce up your place! Of if you’re like me and like everything to match, look for deals online or in stores for holiday decorations that are more your style. Then you’ll have things to use for next year as well!
Recruit some help
If you have siblings, a significant other or people in your life who are willing, have them come help you get things ready ahead of time! Whether that means helping you decorate, making cookies and desserts or even just cleaning up your house before guests arrive. Don’t let the burden fall solely on you to make sure that everything is ready for guests—ask for help and you shall receive.
Clean as you go
If you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher, load it as many times as you need throughout the day and recruit some guests to help put things away between cycles. If you don’t have a dishwasher, keep a sink full of sudsy water and wash as you go so you don’t end up with a huge pile of dishes to do once you’re finally ready to sit down after your busy day. Having a bunch of people in your house can be a blessing in disguise because they can help you tackle the mess along the way!
Take a breath
The holidays can be a very stressful time. I remember watching my mother run around the house trying to make sure everyone had a drink in their hand, while juggling making food, mingling with her family, and remembering to enjoy the day. It can be difficult to balance all that needs to be done, so do your best to prioritize, plan and step back and breathe periodically so you don’t get stressed out, cranky and upset. The holidays are about making memories, enjoying family and being grateful—do your best to have as much fun as everyone else.
Be aware of your pets
Having a lot of guests may overwhelm your pets, especially if you don’t typically have a large number of people over all at once. Make sure to warn people if your cat doesn’t like to be touched or if you don’t want them sharing food with your pup. Do your best to keep an eye on your pet to make sure that they’re doing okay throughout the gathering, as well and perhaps you could make sure that they have an out if things get too crazy, whether that’s letting them hang out in your bedroom or taking them for a quick walk.
In my case, my dog loves to jump all over people when they first arrive. Sometimes I have to put her in another room, or tell guests to ignore her until she sits politely so it doesn’t perpetuate the behavior and become too much of a problem.
Make new memories and keep the old
While it can be a little sad to change the way that you’ve been celebrating for all these years, make sure to keep the parts that you love about your holiday gatherings intact. Whether it’s playing Monopoly after your Thanksgiving dinner or doing a Secret Santa with your family, keeping these traditions if they’re are important to you can make your new holiday gathering just as enjoyable! It could also be fun to try starting some new traditions that can make the holiday even more special for you and your family.
No matter where you celebrate or who it’s with, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed by all. So make sure that you remember to have a good time, celebrate the love you have for your friends and family, and eat as many cookies as your heart desires!
Do you have a new holiday tradition that you’ve started recently? Let us know in the comments!