I grew up in a home where, when it came to entertaining and the Holidays, the hostess (IE my Mother) did all the work. Aside from cleaning the garage just before the party, my father did little to help.
The guests never lifted a finger. Their every need was anticipated. Their glasses were always full as they enjoyed an elaborate, multi-course, James Beard award-worthy dinner. My mother was effortless and elegant in her entertaining. And for the most part, the Holidays were pretty magical.
Recently I had the realization that for a few years now, I have not been into the Holidays. I’ve just not been “feeling it”. I noticed, I seldom enjoy the magic I create for everyone else. Often, I don’t even fully taste the meal I’ve cooked. While reflecting on why this is, I realized that the Holidays are magical largely in part to the matriarch of the family making it so. Such as the Holiday home decor, the Christmas tree, outside decorations, Holiday baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, fun family events, in-home entertaining and on and on and on. I’m not saying men don’t do anything. Of course there are exceptions, to varying degrees. But if that’s what you are hearing, then you are not getting my point and you should just stop now and move on.
I am a product of the environment I grew up in. Although, through personal growth, I am slowly peeling away many unwanted layers of that onion. However, watching my mother work her magic, combined with my artistic and perfectionist tendencies, I am left with pretty high entertaining standards. All of which, I usually prefer to do myself. Because A. no one will do it like I do and B. I was shamed time and again as a child when I asked for help, so . . . I have a natural resistance to asking for help.
After speaking with a few trusted loved ones about this conundrum, I am feeling my way through a solution. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make magic for folks. It’s a love language of sorts. I just want to figure out a scenario where I too enjoy the magic I create.
Not to mention, I’m also good at it. The planning and organization that is required when entertaining is how my mind works naturally (to a fault sometimes). I can multi-task like no-one’s business. Decor, candles, music, menu planning, grocery shopping, food prep, cooking, and all the little things that go into hosting and entertaining are just a few plates I have spinning in the air at any given time. I am creative, efficient and forward thinking. But it’s not necessary to go through the motions while feeling numb about it all.
A goal I’ve come up with is – I’d like to be hostess 50% of the time and a guest 50% of the time, while entertaining. This game plan is still being worked out. But a few strategies that should be helpful are: choose simple, yet tasty dishes. Ask for folks to bring something. Ask folks for help (doing this helps to get the guests involved). Set up a station(s) where folks can help themselves. Coffee station if it’s a morning thing. A drink / cocktail station if it’s an evening thing. Put the snacks or hors d’oeuvres out on the counter with cocktail napkins & small plates for folks to also help themselves. Put out the decor that feels right, and stop when I’ve had enough. Instead of striving for perfection, lean more toward approximation. And above all, apply the Ina Garten Entertaining 101 Rule – make things ahead when you can!
While brainstorming, I stumbled upon a simple story that would hopefully encourage others want to join me. “Instead of watching me make the magic, I’d like you to join me in creating it.” For me, the Holidays are about spending time together, connection, joy, laughter, magic and creating memories with those you love. Figuring out what was important to me, and communicating that in a loving way, encourages others to join and take part in the magic.
Disclaimer: This is my issue to work through. I am not pointing the finger. The Holidays are a “what is”. I can either accept it, and be numb or I can change how I think about it and or what I do about it.
Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk.
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