Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining

 The host or hostess should enjoy the party too.
We all have a picture in our heads of what the perfect holiday should look like, and it usually contains an unrealistic amount of work, money and planning to pull it off. One thing all our holiday fantasies have in common is a smiling, stress-free host or hostess who is actually enjoying the fantastic get together they worked so hard to plan. Your holiday can be less stressful and more fun if you're willing to bring a little more reality into your holiday fantasy.

Prioritize and Organize
You might dream of hand-painting a place card for each guest and filling hand-made velvet bags with potpourri you blended from ingredients in your backyard herb garden to give as party favors, but do you really have time for that? Make a list of the things you absolutely must do and focus on that first. For example, if you're hosting a party at your home the top three items would probably be:

1. Clean your home
2. Plan a menu
3. Shop for and prepare food

Only after you've completed or set aside adequate time for those projects should you worry about non-essential chores like decorating or handcrafting gifts for your guests.

Set the table the day before the party.

The Day Before
Don't leave all the details to be completed the day of your party. There are several things you can do the day before that will help keep you stress-free.
  • Set the table
  • Chop vegetables
  • Pre-cook side dishes
  • Set up the bar 
  • Prepare a music play list 
Be Awesome, Not Perfect
No matter how well organized you are, something is probably going to go wrong. A pie crust is going to burn, guests will be late, and you'll forget to get a gift for Cousin Ted's girlfriend. Relieve yourself of the pressure of being the "perfect" hostess and be an awesome one instead. Laugh when the dog eats the hors d'oeuvres and refuse to make a fuss when red wine gets spilled on the carpet. Focus on how fortunate you are to be surrounded with people you love sharing the holiday and making memories together. 

Host a cookie exchange instead of a traditional dinner.

Play to Your Strengths
You don't want to have the whole gang over for a holiday dinner? Then how about a movie night with a holiday-themed film instead? If the mere idea of hosting a traditional, sit down, big entree holiday day meal gives you a stress headache, then don't do it. If you're skilled at baking, host a cookie-exchange party. Love to wrap gifts? Have everyone over for a wrap-a-thon. If music is your thing, host a caroling party. Spread holiday cheer by sharing something you truly love doing, and your guests will love it too.
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