by Robin mcgraw

The secret’s out…I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS!

I’ve been known to go all out with my Christmas decorating just to surprise and delight our grandbabies! Last year it was a 12’ by 10’ gingerbread house in the foyer, complete with its own Christmas tree, fireplace, table, and chairs! And I can’t wait for them to see what’s in store this year!

It’s true, there’s no place like home for the holidays…but if your home is where friends and family always tend to gather, the holidays can tend to feel more stressful than cheerful. After all, there are menus to plan, tables to set and an entire house to clean. So to help take the hassle out of hosting and put the enjoyment back in entertaining, I’ve put together my favorite jolly holiday hosting tips to make your Christmas plans picture perfect.

Create the Concept

I just love having a theme, especially for decorating our home at the holidays! I’ve done a Christmas tree theme with trees and snow everywhere, another year my theme was Candy Land, and another was Santa's workshop at the North Pole! Whether it's an entire concept, or something as simple as selecting a color palette, a seasonal fruit, or even a favorite holiday song, choosing one design element to lead the way for your soiree will create cohesion. Nothing has to be too matchy-matchy, but if you give at least two or three nods to your theme throughout, it will really propel things to a new level of festive.


Cook Ahead

Every year on Christmas Day I love to serve honey roast ham and homemade biscuits, turkey and dressing and my mother's noodle dish 'Noodles Au Tim' (egg noodles baked with sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce). For a holiday party or big dinner, my favorite time and sanity-saver are to prepare as much food in advance as possible! Soups can be made weeks ahead and frozen, desserts always taste better the day after they’re baked, and many side dishes can be prepped a day or two before. You’ll save yourself precious time and no one will ever know the difference!


Delight in the Details

Maybe it’s fresh-cut flowers and a scented candle in the foyer (choose light scents and never use fragrant candles in areas where you’re serving food), festive dim lighting, party favors or a gorgeous signature cocktail in a glass with a sugared rim as your guests arrive. Whatever you choose, I’m a firm believer that it’s really the little touches that will stand out and make your guests feel extra special. An easy way to create just the right mood is with music! I like to use an app like Spotify or Pandora to set up a great playlist whenever I’m hosting. That way, you don't have to think about what to play, and you'll always have tunes in the background to enhance the holiday atmosphere.


Establish Traditions

Family traditions are really at the heart of everything holiday hosting means to me! Each year I try to find an ornament that represents an important event or memory we shared as a family. That way, everything on the Christmas tree signifies us and our lives together. I remember when the boys were young, I would decorate the yard and their bedroom windows every December, and we’ve also continued the tradition of collecting beautiful nutcrackers for 43 years that I just love to display at the holidays. Whether it’s my mother’s Christmas cookies that I bake just once a year or the pot of baked potato soup I serve up on Christmas Eve using a 40-year-old family favorite recipe…it fills my heart to create rituals and traditions that my family will remember for years. To me, traditions have always represented the beautiful thread in the fabric of our family memories, and they set such an incredibly personal tone for every holiday gathering. Incorporating traditions in your home at the holidays is as easy as it is meaningful, and sure to touch the hearts of your loved ones.

This may be the most wonderful time of the year but be sure to take a moment for yourself before and amidst the Christmas chaos. Whether it’s a glass of wine on the couch or counting to ten in the pantry, try to relax! If you skip one of the hors d’oeuvres or the apple pie crust gets a little too crisp, no one will remember. As a thoughtful holiday host, you can express your creativity, welcome those around you, make memories, eat delicious food and laugh until your belly hurts.

Remember that the most important aspect of Christmas is not in hosting the perfect party or in preparing favorite foods, it is simply being surrounded by the people you love. This Christmas, I hope you’re able to pause and reflect on the events of the passing year and anticipate the one ahead. From my home to yours, I wish you a very joyful, peaceful and merry Christmas!