How to Be a Good Host, or a Good Guest, During the Holidays

One of the most joyful, and the most stressful, parts of the holidays is getting together with friends and family. The holidays are filled with parties, feasts, and other gatherings where friends and family come together. Odds are, at some point during the holiday season, you will be a guest at someone’s home and probably you will be hosting others in yours, as well.

When The Coach and I had Roo, we decided we wanted our kids to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. So we offered to host his family for Christmas Eve dinner and my family for Christmas Day dinner (and sometimes both families!). We also attend several family gatherings and try to connect with a few friends around the holidays.

Since no one wants the reputation of being that guest, or known as the hostess without the mostest, here are some tips for being an honored host and some for being a gracious guest.

If you’re the host:

  1. Keep it simple. Your guests aren’t coming for an extravagant affair, they are coming to socialize and enjoy the holiday spirit with those around them. I don’t plan activities for the kids (or the adults) at my house. The first year I hosted, I felt like I needed to have little trinkets for the kids, a plan and schedule for activities, and every appetizer and treat a guest could want. The kids just wanted to play, nothing happened according to schedule, and we were eating leftover snacks for at least a week. Lesson learned.
  2. The “appearance of clean” is enough. No one is going to be checking your baseboards for dust, studying your corners for cobwebs, or looking behind your toaster for crumbs. The first year we had everyone over for the holidays, I just about killed myself cleaning. Literally, I about had a nervous breakdown while Swiffering. Now, I give the bathrooms and kitchen a good cleaning, pick up the clutter, sweep the floors, and call it good. And no one has noticed, or at least they haven’t commented on, the cobwebs in the ceiling corners.
  3. Create an inviting, comfortable atmosphere. People are coming over to have a good time and relax with friends and family. Arrange your space to provide as much seating as you can. Fill your home with inviting scents (check out my Scentsy Giveaway for ideas!). Turn on lamps and low lighting, rather than glaring overhead lights.
  4. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time, so your time is more free to spend with your guests. Do as much food preparation as possible ahead of time. Do your cutting before guests arrive; have dishes prepared and in the fridge, ready to pop into the oven; have plates and cutlery out and ready ahead of time. Guests are more comfortable when you are able to hang out with them, rather than working away in the kitchen the whole time they are there.
  5. Put anything away that might be a problem. We have a rule with our kids when they have friends coming over – if they are going to be upset if a friend plays with a certain toy, then they have the option to put it away while friends are over. I also look around and put away toys that would not be good to play with in a crowd – PlayDoh, loud trucks, basketball hoops, etc. Finally, if your heart would be broken if an item got broken, you might want to consider putting it away rather than worrying every time someone is standing too close to it.

If you’re the guest:

  1. Offer to bring something. It’s better to ask the host what you can bring, rather than just offering a particular dish. The host is coordinating the menu, so ask her what she still needs or what would be helpful.
  2. Offer to help, or better yet, just start helping. Whenever anyone at my house asks if there is anything they can do to help, I usually always reply, “I think I’m all set.” However, there are always little things to be done that I’m not thinking of. What I appreciate so much more is when someone just jumps right in and does something that needs to be done. Start preparing plates for the kids or just start loading the dishwasher.
  3. Don’t overstay your welcome. Having been the host, I know by the end of a gathering, I am tired, still have cleaning and picking up that needs to be done, and kids to put to bed. Remember that the host would probably like a little down time. Instead of staying as late as your schedule allows, try to keep in mind the host’s schedule as well.
  4. Watch your kids! Nothing drives me crazier than seeing parents show up at a party or event and decide they are off duty. Kids get even more wound up at events during the holidays than they normally would, so they need more, not less, supervision. Keep an eye on kids and make sure they aren’t making huge messes in the host’s home or destroying what might be beloved toys (of the children or the adults!).
  5. Don’t forget the thank you! Hosting takes a lot of effort and work. A simple thank you is always appreciated. Consider bringing a small gift, like a bottle of wine or nice box of holiday candies for the host. You could also send a cute thank you after the event. I have a friend who always sends a picture from the event with my kids in it as a thank you. Have your kids make a card and include a kind, handwritten note inside. Make sure the host knows you appreciated the kindness.

What tips do you have for being a good host or a good guest?

Let Me Entertain You

I have been slowly getting more stressed as my week progressed. The Coach has been hanging out a little more with a new buddy. He’s another coach who happens to live a few blocks away from us and has kids around the same age as our kids. While The Coach does not actually coach with him, they are at different schools, they have a lot to talk about.

So a few weeks ago The Coach came home with his buddy’s wife’s cell phone number and a request that I give her a call and see if we could get together. Now being a social anxiety type girl, this was stressful to begin with. But The Coach got along with him and we all live in the same community and have kids, and so on and so forth. So I pulled out my courage, gave her a call, and invited them over for dinner.

So the plan was for a Saturday night, which gave me most of a day to clean, shop, prep food, and basically try to make my house, children, and life in general appear as close to perfect as I could. This is how I usually operate. And usually as the appointed time nears, I get more and more crazy and bossy to everyone around.

Then I got a text Monday asking if we could switch it to Friday because they had forgotten about some tickets they had to a show on Saturday. I agreed, because I really had no actual reason not to. But then the panic started that I would not have my almost complete day to get as close to perfect as possible.

Today, like a sign from above, I read a post on Simple Mom, Taking a risk by hosting an Easter dinner party. It was exactly what I needed to read. It reminded me that getting together was not about me appearing perfect. In fact, it really wasn’t about me at all. It was about getting to know new friends. It was about hanging out with another family that we at least had one thing in common with, and I’m sure we will find we have much more.

So Friday I plan on taking Sandy’s advice. I will be welcoming our new friends into our home and trying to make them feel comfortable. I will be trying to not worry about my house not being perfectly clean and still in the middle of a never ending de-cluttering process. And I will hopefully be teaching my children that what really matters is connecting with others and getting to know people, and not making sure all the dust bunnies have been banished from the corners. I can’t promise that 10 minutes before they arrive I won’t be yelling at someone to get all the Happy Meal toys out of the dining room, but I do promise to welcome our guests with a genuine smile.