How Do You Take the Stress Out of Holiday Entertaining?
Readers share tips that will lower your stress and lift your spirits.
New York, New York
I put together “working play” parties. Depending upon the needs of the group, we might bake cookies or wrap presents together. It’s festive, fun, and low-key.
No one arrives without something for the meal. Dessert, side dishes, homemade bread, vegetables―you name it, someone has brought it. Because everyone helps, we end up spending time together rather than worrying about who has to do what.
Perth Amboy, New Jersey
For holiday cocktail parties and buffets, I hire a bartender. I can make the food and decorate in advance, so it’s not worth getting a caterer or a florist, but having help at the party is invaluable. A good bartender will not only serve drinks but also help replenish platters and stay for cleanup, so I can feel like a guest at my own party.
Since my husband and I are both vegetarians, much of the holiday stress involves one of our mothers or grandmothers worrying about what to feed us. Starting in mid-October, I make up batches of our favorite vegetable casseroles. That way, I can always offer to bring along “a really fun vegetarian dish for everyone to try."
The hardest guests to impress are my parents and my in-laws. So I ask my mother and my mother-in-law to each contribute a dish at our festive meal. By the end of the evening, they have received many compliments on their cooking, and they leave feeling the event was an absolute success.
Holiday entertaining should be fun. If children are included in the party, I set out plain sugar cookies with lots of decorations―frosting, brightly colored sugars, sprinkles, crushed candy canes―and let them have free rein. Later on, we serve the cookies for dessert and send some home with the party guests as well. It’s not much effort, and it makes things fun for everybody.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
I always hire someone from a cleaning service. She gets to my party early and stays until after dinner. She tidies up the kitchen, picks up after guests, and washes and puts away all the dishes. It costs me roughly $60 to $70 per event―a small price to pay to have a good time without worrying about the mess.