My mom has taught me a lot of things throughout the years. One of them is how to host an amazing party during the holidays. These lessons learned were from seeing my bold and energetic mother at work, making magic. Now I can return the favor during the holidays by sharing some of her hosting tips with you!
1. Be prepared
Careful planning was always my mother’s forte. I swear she was a war strategist in a past life or the inventor of chess because she’d have everything down to a science. Nowadays, so few of us gather around for dinner anymore during the holidays that she is able to tone it down a little, but the essential “planning” is always done days in advance. For example:
- Ingredients for the hors d’oeuvres and main entree; also, meal prepping a day in advance
- Retrieving the party favors from the basement, like the seasonal table cloth and salt and pepper shakers
- Cleaning everything
- Figuring out entertainment (movies, games, etc.)
- RSVPs and knowing when people were coming (and noting who customarily arrived late)
- Constructing a schedule built around arrival times and cook time
Like I said, although my mom is no mathematician, sometimes it was like she used some complex algorithm or principles from quantum physics to make everything go off without a hitch.
2. Dress for the occasion
The holidays always brought out the playful accents in my mother’s wardrobe. Not so much anymore, though she will still don Christmas socks or wear autumnal colors for Thanksgiving. Regardless of whether or not she sticks to the theme of the season, my mom is always dressed up well. Even if it is just family, she does her hair, puts on some light makeup, and makes sure to be camera ready.
Looking nice and welcoming makes guests feel the same way. A disheveled appearance will not match a clean house, and vice versa. In a way, this presentation of self-care accentuates her confidence and amicability.
It rubbed off on me too. I took this lesson of being a fierce, classy woman into my own life. When you are hosting a party, the entire house is your runway, so you better be ready to steal the show.
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3. It is all about presentation
So aside from looking like you are hosting the Oscar nominations and being ready to pose for awkward family photos, there are another two facets of the presentation my mom is always certain to fret over: the house and the food.
Mentioned earlier, my mom begins preparing for the company several days in advance by virtually removing every speck of dust and smudge from the house. The towels are changed, the seating gets a spritz of Febreeze, the floors are mopped, and the dining room gets cleaned out. I still get a kick out of the memories of guests entering our home and saying, “Wow, this place is spotless.” Nothing satisfies my mom more than an enviably clean abode.
Well, nothing more than dishes that make the guests go, “Yum!” Not only is my mother a stellar cook, she knows how to dish out food to make it look pretty too. Of course, this artistic flair translated into my mind as a love of seeing people enjoying what she’s made. That love she’d pour into the effort was the secret ingredient, so to speak.
I eventually took up the mantle and starting organizing the hors d’oeuvres trays and plating dinner when I got old enough. But without her inspiring me, I would probably never go the extra step to bring a smile to my guests’ faces.
4. Have drinks at the ready
Being that my mom used to work as a bartender and went to school for it, she has a knack for mixing up succulent cocktails that guests rave about. Plus, she’s as glib and witty as the best bartenders out there too.
Now, this is not necessarily only for alcoholic beverages, although everyone loves free spirits and wine. This includes all beverages and the environment drinking together creates.
People converse over drinks. People laugh, sing, dance, and make memories over a good cup of coffee. Nothing will bring back memories of Christmas like a whiff of hot cocoa, you know? So always, always offer the guests something to drink, and make sure the options suit everyone’s tastes.
5. Do not be prissy
In other words, engage with everyone who comes to the party, even if you couldn’t care less about them. Every group has that one individual we would rather celebrate without, but they are there because someone else brought them. So being disrespectful to that person you do not like is going to directly reflect onto that other person, who might be a close friend or family member.
The last thing my mother wanted was conflict on the holidays (though it really can’t be avoided sometimes). She would placate everyone. If someone made a distasteful joke, she would just brush it off. But she never made guests feel like invasive aliens from a hostile planet. Everyone received the same amount of welcome and care.
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I think that tolerance says a lot of about hosting in general. Who you are as the host becomes the overall atmosphere of the party. If you are glum or moody, people will wonder why you ever asked them to come over in the first place.
Although our family has gotten smaller as I have gotten older and holidays are much less dynamic, we continue to put on shows for those who do come to enjoy some time with us.
Because of my mother’s aspirations to be an entertaining host, an enchanting woman, and a professional level cook, I too have learned how to manage time, generate laughs, and whip up a good drink or two for friends and family.