It’s too late now.  You volunteered to open your home to the extended family for perhaps the most anticipated meal of the season, throwing a party that everyone looks forward for months, and already, the pressure’s mounting. This. Might. Get ugly. If you’re already feeling a mix of dread and terror at the thought of pulling off the big holiday party this year (while staying sane), you’re in good company. There are perhaps thousands of less organized,  less ‘domesticated’ gals finding themselves in the same boat. Hopefully these hard-won holiday survival tactics will make hosting this year a little less insane.

 

It’s Not About Us

Perhaps the most vital key to staying calm and happy through the hoopla is to remember it’s not about you. Sounds a bit crass, but I channel this mantra every Mother’s Day to prevent the crash in expectations I used to feel every year (how hard is it to make mama a meal?!) and it helps tremendously. Try and view hosting Christmas as a gift, or act of service. We’re giving our kids the magic of the whole family over their house for Christmas, and we’re blessing the friends and family who are just plain happy to not be hosting. There’s not one part of me that feels more alive/happy/fulfilled with a turkey baster in hand, but when seeing our efforts as a gift to our loved ones, we’ll stay in a much better headspace.

 

Don’t Break The Bank

There’s such pressure these days to be the best and biggest, everything…birthday parties, gender reveals, engagement parties…so it can be tempting to go nuts crazy spending a fortune on your party. But think about Christmas dinner growing up 20 or 30 years ago. Things were simpler. There was zero pressure to live up to the delusional Instagram post we’ve been envisioning since November. We were just happy eating excessive amounts of cookies and unwrap a present or two. Think about what it’ll really take to make your party great. Then ask yourself again. Do we need to offer 100 percent organic recipes to keep Auntie Beth happy again this year? Or would a little Red Dye 40 do her some good.? We’d all love that $200 Crate and Barrel punch bowl and fresh wreaths hanging from each window, but going broke will only stress us out, and sour our moods.

 

But Don’t Skimp On What Matters

Despite the former point, if you really want and need something- more silverware or a decorative table runner- I say go for it. We want to feel proud and confident when people arrive, and for all the elbow grease and effort we’re exerting, we should have the essentials without feeling guilty.

 

Designate. Designate. Designate.

For those of us who find it difficult to ask for, or receive help, this one can be hard. But when your mom, mother-in-law, etc. offers to make a few casseroles or help you prep, do yourself a favor and pause before declining out of pride or guilt. Consider the fact that these women are most likely less busy, kid-less, and very inept at the art of casserole. Involving others may come with unwanted input or opinion, but. it’s worth the annoyance when accompanied by corn souffle. Same goes for friends offering to help clean or take the baby while you prep. Yes, please and feel free to return with Starbucks.

 

Partner Up

I’m sure we’d all like to brag about our husbands pitching in with half the cooking and cleaning before Christmas dinner, but I’m not even sure mine knows we’re hosting this year. Generally, I’m fine with our division of labor (mama’s not cleaning the gutters or blowing leaves, that’s for sure) but when it comes to planning and executing family parties, I’d say women are the one’s rockin’ it. So how to solve this conundrum? Charge daddy with ONE task: the kids. In clearer terms, ask your husband to take the children. Take them far, far away, for as long as possible the day before the party and be on dad duty during the hours leading up to the event. This way you can prep your heart out without re-filling juice, wiping butts or disbanding sibling riots, which makes all difference in our sanity.

 

Plan a Spa Day

As much as I’m looking forward to the beaming faces of all our kin enjoying Christmas dinner by roaring fire, I am perhaps looking more forward to December 26. Or at least late Christmas night, sitting in jams with a victorious glass ‘o wine in hand next to the tree, with my hubs. Make a pledge to yourself not to cook, clean, or do anything more than ensure the survival of your children the day post-hosting.  Most of us are reward-based beings at heart. Plan something special for yourself as a reward for giving everyone around you a great Christmas. Could be a manicure, a girl’s night… fresh Boto- I mean…whatever makes you happy. Then just focus on that scenario/reward when your mother-in-law asks if she can help you season the turkey next year to avoid “blandness.”

 

Try To Have Fun

It sounds like an oxymoron…like relaxing during a root canal, but with the right mindset, it’s possible in small doses. Force yourself to at least sit and eat the meal (slowly) talk and catch up with your guests. It’s tempting not to jump right into clean up while people are still over, but try to resist, or you really will miss the all the hard-earned memories.

 

Don’t Forget to Pray

Number one piece of advice? Spend at least ten minutes of quiet time with the Lord at the start of the ‘big day” and take a minute to pray right before your guests arrive, asking for grace, patience, peace, extra energy, and a blessing on your time. It will make all the difference in the world when your toddler throws peas at Uncle Bob, mid-meal.

Looking for more inspiration?

Here are 75 easy Christmas Dinner recipes from Taste of Home.

Here are some easy & fun party ideas from House Beautiful.

Here is my tried & true Celtic Women Christmas playlist that gets me through at least 8 hours of party prep!

What are your biggest holiday party survival tips? What are your biggest challenges? Any memorable fails? Please share!

 

jessicakastner

Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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