Everyone wants it; that all-too-illusive "perfect" holiday. But in the midst of cooking, cleaning, and running around like that proverbial chicken, is it even possible?
Yes! And this is coming from someone who, for many years, was Queen of the Chickens. That is to say, I spent many years running around, too stressed to actually enjoy the holiday.
I would spend 8 hours on my feet cooking up that amazing holiday spread, only to find that once it came time to sit down and enjoy it, I was too tired! I'm not going to lie, I barely made it through several of those meals before collapsing onto my bed for a 4 to 5 hour "nap".
And before the meal, there were usually a lot of tense moments between loved ones, when we should have been savoring each others company!
Oh, we would pause for that "perfect picture" that proved the holiday was a success. But all too often those smiles weren't too genuine.
So, after about the 20th holiday like that, I set out to the secret to a more enjoyable holiday event.
The Secret to a More Enjoyable Holiday Event
I was so tired of the holidays being this huge burden. "Wah, I have to spend time with people I love and eat good food and have great conversations!!"
Ok, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic. But tell me I'm not the only one who sometimes worries over making it perfect!
Since I know I'm not, I want to share the 5 things I do to make sure that my holiday memories are just as perfect as the pictures.
Knowing exactly what needs to be done is one of the easiest ways I've found to make our family events more enjoyable.
If I'm not worrying that something was forgotten, then I'm able to just relax and enjoy the day.
Make a list of what dishes you want to make, the decorations you want to have out, the tables, chairs, plates, cups, serving pieces, and utensils you will need, as well as any gift exchange/games that need to be planned.
Once you have that list, go through it again and make a shopping list.
And here's the real secret...
Make sure you have that list with you when you go shopping! (Ask me how I know...)
Not only will it keep you sane, you will also stay on budget! No more guessing if you needed 12 or 20 of something. You will know exactly what you need and you won't over spend in order to have that great holiday event.
Setting Realistic Expectations
This one was very difficult for me, I hope you have an easier time of it! I just want so badly for everything to be a memorable event, that I tend to over plan or over expect for said events.
So go back to that list you made in the first step and re-evalutate it for realism.
Are you really going to be able to make (and store) all of those dishes? Do you really need to make (or buy) all of those decorations?
Make sure that you are over extending yourself by trying to make everything "perfect". If you stay calm and the food isn't burned, people will have a great time just being together. You don't need to "outdo" yourself for every event for it to be memorable.
In fact, if you try too hard and stress yourself out, the event may just be memorable for all the wrong reasons... again, ask me how I know ;-)
Make Some Dishes Ahead of Time
There are a lot of foods that you can make days, weeks, even months ahead of time.
Take advantage of that and make them!
For most holidays I spend about an hour in the kitchen. That's just to heat up the dishes I made before, and make the few things that need to be made fresh, such as stuffing, a green salad, some rolls, and maybe the pumpkin pie. Though I have been known to make that last one the day before.
Here are just a few of the things I always make in advance:
Crescent rolls or Biscuits (freeze until the day of, then place in the oven about 25 minutes before the meal)
Sweet potato casserole (leave the marshmallows off until the day of)
By doing the majority of the cooking in advance, I free up my time to be able to visit, watch movies with family, play games, or just relax!
Tip: When hosting a big family event, I usually get someone else to take care of cooking and bringing the meat dish. This frees up my oven to heat side dishes and reduces the stress (and cost) of the event.
If you're anything like me, this may cause a little bit of anxiety to well up in your chest.
Take a deep breath. It will be ok. It will be ok. Alright now... moving on.
On the big day, be ready and willing for people to help you. If you still have things to do in the kitchen, ask someone to help you. You'll finish faster with another set of hands, and you'll get to chat for a bit while things are still getting accomplished!
Here are a few ideas for things that younger family members can help with:
Setting the table
Gathering chairs from around the house and bringing them to the table
Putting ice in glasses
Rolling crescent rolls
Opening cans or jars of vegetables or pie filling
There may be other things at your house that I don't have listed here. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to delegate!
Finally, the overall secret to a more enjoyable holiday event is just to let go.
Let go of the idea that things have to be perfect.
And while you're at it, let go of any judgement you are worried about if things aren't "perfect".
Let go of the need to complete every task yourself.
Let go of the image of that Pinterest worthy table setting.
Let go of the desire to make 15 brand new dishes for each holiday.
Let go of the feeling that if your children act up everything is ruined.
Let go of the idea that your outfit has to be runway worthy.
Let go of the need to impress.
You will be surrounded by good food, family and friends, in a home that is filled with love. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a holiday that will be just as happy behind the camera as it appears in front.
May your every holiday be "picture perfect" and beyond.
Do you have any tips that I missed? Share them with us!