Special Occasion Entertaining

(OR Ignore TV Stereotypes—Holidays Are Fun!)

First off, let me take a second to appreciate the coincidence that today's post ended up falling on the 4th of July. Definitely not intentional, but humorous, nonetheless. Happy 4th, friends!

And moving on...

I wonder how many hopeful homemakers have been undone through the years by a failed Thanksgiving lunch or disastrous Christmas dinner? Or how many haven't even tried because the mounting stress seemed ultimately doomed to failure?

We all know the scene...
source / source
Not only do we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves during these events, but we also have the media to constantly bombard us with a reminder that we should be overwhelmed (and if you aren't, you probably aren't prepared enough, right?). From awkward local news anchors to celebrity chefs, every few months media personalities whip up a bowl of holiday horror stories and corner-cutting tricks, then smother it with "the holidays will be terrible if you don't do it our way" gravy. Grab a spoon and enjoy the taste of ultimate failure, chaos, and family dissension. What a load of rubbish!

Let's banish the holiday hosting fears and think about some real strategies for making holidays fun again!:

#1 - Remember why we celebrate! Whether it's a Christmas dinner, July 4th BBQ, or an Arbor Day brunch, 
       enjoy the time with the people you love. We are blessed to have so many reasons to celebrate!

#2 - Plan ahead. Think through what kind of event you want it to be...Elegant & formal? Super casual? Themed? 
       Potluck? Thinking big picture in advance helps reduce unnecessary stress and expectations from the get go. 
       Plus, now is the time to think outside the box for unexpected holiday themes, food, and traditions!

#3 - Build the menu. Whether the food will be served on doily-lined china or spread out on a picnic blanket, 
       knowing the menu is half the battle. What do you really want to serve? Note: Not the same question as "What 
       do I have to serve on (insert holiday)?"  The secret is, there are no rules! (My family has a longstanding 
       tradition of Red Lobster on Christmas Eve...random but we love it!)

#4 - Break it down. Make notes of which food items can be made furthest in advance, the next to last, then last. 
       Keep last-minute work to a minimum so you can enjoy the party too!

#5 - Simplify serving. Buffets and self-serve table spreads are a great option (will you need food tags?), but many 
       people also enjoy the comfort and intimacy of eating family style. 

#6 - Decorate & Tidy Up. Whether you go traditional or boldly in the other direction, embrace simple decorations
       to reflect the style and tone of the event. In the past, people spent lots of effort making elaborate table settings,
       but today, Pinterest is full of simple ideas for using inexpensive and natural elements to decorate. And of 
       course, tidying up the house a bit is a good idea too.

#7 - No Matter What, Have Fun! If dessert falls apart, take a deep breath and think of alternatives (fresh fruit is a
       great after-dinner option). Power goes out? An opportunity for a candlelit evening!

Hosting responsibility alternatives:

If attempting a special occasion event still seems daunting (which is totally okay), think progressively. As in a progressive meal...being one stop in a co-hosted evening helps reduce your responsibility and is a fun way for everyone to participate. Potlucks are great for the same reason and people love sharing their favorite dishes. If you're ready to own the evening yourself, still accept help when it's offered or ask for it when it's needed.

And lastly, but definitely most importantly: 
No "thing" matters more than people. It might be hard to keep this fresh in your mind when a child accidentally breaks your favorite vase or a friend spills wine on your new white tablecloth, but it's essential to remember for enjoying holiday events. No one item in our homes (regardless of how fancy) has more value than a person, or that person feeling loved. And certainly not guilt-ridden or ashamed because of an accident. 

People matter most, which makes flawless table decor and a gourmet meal seem pretty secondary. When that's true, holiday hosting sounds pretty fun, right?!

Enjoy the fireworks and come by next week for fun ideas of how to make non-special-event hosting more special with a little creative thinking!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

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