5 Mistakes I’ll Never Again Make When Hosting The Holidays

Been there, done that.

Kennedy Family At White House On Christmas

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I’ve made my fair share of holiday hostess mistakes. It’s trial and error, folks, and I’m yet in the infancy of my hosting days. There is so much still to learn. Thankfully I have an understanding family who won’t let a truck-stop fragranced living room stand in the way of coming back for more next year. [See mistake #5.] Blunders aside, there are a few hostess tricks I call on to set the tone from the start, which can help any little missteps barely even register as a hiccup. 

My number one rule is to have that bar cart popping from the start. Have a tray of champagne (or your cocktail of choice) on an entryway table to hand to guests as soon as they step in the door. It will immediately set them at ease. The second rule pertains to getting your mind right as hostess—the event’s success will absolutely hinge on it. If you are laid back and ready to party, your crew will be too and, once again, no one will sweat the small stuff. 

While being a stickler to these two short and sweet commandments can get you started on solid ground, there are a few pitfalls that have nearly done me in while hosting the holidays over the years, even testing the limits of the graces that comes along with free-flowing champagne and a well selected menu. It’s a cautionary tale, to be sure, but, if I’m honest, some of them have provided the type of memories that I hope to never forget. Cheers to many more holiday hiccups that result in rolling-on-the-floor retellings, year after year. 

Not Buying the Chicken Finger Platter

See also: Don’t put the kids in the nice outfits too early. We know, you’ve got an elegant roast planned and menu of perfectly selected sides. The house will be wafting in the scents of the season, making mouths water from the moment they cross the threshold. But, if you’ve got a crew of little guests too, just go ahead and pick up a tray of Publix chicken tenders. They’ll be so hopped up on the joy of the season that you’ll be hard pressed to get them to take a few bites, let alone sit down to a three-course meal. While I’ve found this trick to be most helpful for the 2- to 7-year-old crowd, tweens, teens, and probably your husband who needs a little midnight snack (after a third nightcap) might thank you too. 

Neglecting the Forecast

I’m not dreamy of a sweaty Christmas and neither are you, but we live in the South and so here we are, waiting on the Christmas Eve forecast like it’s the coin toss at the National Championship. Can we get away with that velvet mock-neck midi dress or is it going to be the short-sleeve A-line? Your guess is as good as ours. But, no matter how chic that positively to-die-for winter-white jumpsuit with the faux fur collar is, do not take that baby out of the closet if we’re talking unseasonably warm temps. The last thing you want to be is the sweaty hostess. Holiday is your cardio, as you merrily flitter from room to room making sure everyone is set on drinks and noshes while simultaneously running interference on Aunt Diane lest she start talking politics with your brother-in-law. And you know that fireplace will be ablaze in all its glory regardless of the weather outside. Here’s the trick: Look at the forecast then add 5 to 10 degrees and select your look from there. You’ll be easy breezy without a bead of sweat to show. 

Going Battery-Powered

Christmas Day entertaining can be overstimulating, even without brand new toys buzzing overhead, underfoot, and everywhere in between. A couple years ago, my husband and I did not think this one out. Up until this point, Santa had never delivered presents to our house that required batteries—or even on/off switches. If you ever wondered if a few AA-battery-powered toys have the power to take down an entire holiday soiree, one only need to peer into the window of the Shannon house on the early afternoon hours of Christmas Day 2020. It all ended with a nearly two-year-old chasing a trio of 5-year-old cousins around the house while wielding a battery-powered play chainsaw. The sound of that machine will haunt my dreams. 

Not Having All the Bases Covered 

Let friends and family bring items that aren’t integral to the meal, but instead act as special touches that make it memorable. Signature cocktail? You’re already stocked with wine, bubbles, and beer, just in case. Cranberry cheesecake? You’ve got a batch of Santa’s white chocolate chip cookies stowed away in a tin for emergencies. Oh, and that brie topped with apple chutney? While we’re certainly hoping Aunt Alice comes through, we’ve got some rosemary spiced nuts and enough charcuterie to satisfy your winter-league ladies’ tennis team. The point of all of this isn’t to say friends and family can’t be trusted to contribute to the meal—far from it—but the holidays do happen to fall during prime flu season. Kids get sick as well as adults, not to mention sometimes things just don’t pan out for one reason or another. The trick for stressing less might just be to plan for contingencies so scrambling doesn’t even enter the equation. 

Trying a New Cleaning Product at the Last Minute

I saved the best for last with this doozy. I’ll admit that sometimes before the holidays I can go a little gangbusters when it comes to my spic-and-span aspirations. I remember the day so clearly. It was Christmas Eve and I was on a last-minute grocery store run when I spotted toilet tank tablets that supposedly clean with every flush. Amazing. I picked up two boxes. With two tablets per box all three of my bathrooms would be shining beacons of glory. Family and friends would ask how I managed to make my toilets absolutely sparkle. They would request a picnic dinner on the floor just so they could be nearer the freshness. Womp. Womp. It was a major fail. These tablets turned my toilet water bright blue and put off an odor that can only be described as eau de truck stop. It was atrocious. An embarrassment of epic proportions. 

Sometimes, just settle for good enough and count yourself lucky—a lesson that pertains to both toilets and holiday hosting.

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