My mom has always been a worker. Growing up she worked to provide for us. As a single mom who was responsible for three daughters and the only daughter of aging parents she had a lot to manage.
So when the holidays rolled around she worked ahead. She “did along.” So I grew up watching a hostess who was a great planner. It hasn’t been hard to pick up a few tips along the way. She simplified long before that was a catch-phrase. She did it because that was what she HAD to do in order to accomplish all that she had before her to do.
She often set the table with linens and dishes a day or two ahead of time. She made sure she had all that she needed and that it was all in good order.
We can do the same. If there is only one table in the house this might be tricky but all the dishes and linens can ready to go. We can gather the things needed and stack them to the side. All that has to happen is to take a few moments to put it all out. And by the way this is a great kid/teenager job. Any who have OCD tendencies can set one place yourself and have teenagers copy it.
She also decorated the table ahead of time. Using what she had she cut holly and magnolia. Pine often made an appearance at our table. The effect was so charming that these are my go-to decorations for the holidays. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas if there isn’t some magnolia on the mantle. (Excuse me while I go and cut some right now.)
Because Mom was always the hostess of our Christmas brunch, make-ahead recipes became her friend. She could mix and prep her cheese grits a day or two in advance. She could get them all the way ready so that all she had to do was slip them in the oven on Christmas morning.
Her cinnamon rolls had to be made ahead so they had time to rise. In my recipe I talk about how these can be made WAY in advance. They would be hot and ready the day of the brunch.
Also she would prep her sausage and egg casserole the day before so there was no need to prep on Christmas morning.
She saved only the easy dishes for the day of the event. Biscuits were a day-of item. But as much as possible we need to save the day of the event for just the things that have to be done that day. Drink prep, last minute adjustments to the table, and getting the condiments all set out.
Now this detail is probably the MOST important one of all. Don’t miss this. I remember her sitting down with all the items she would be cooking on the day of the event. She would write out temperatures and times on a little piece of paper and think through a cooking schedule. We only had one oven for years. This was tricky. Some dishes had to cook together. Some were made earlier and kept warm. Now casseroles can be cooked and stored it in fancy insulated carriers to keep warm. (We used to use a cooler and towels before fancy items came to be.) But laying out the day in order of what needs to be cooked and when will prevent a lot of stress and anxiety.
It is so important to remember the why of what we are doing. We are providing a place for people to gather. Although Mom made our holidays pretty and used our nicest dishes, she didn't loose sight of the fact that it was about all of us coming together. She didn’t get overwhelmed with the details and allow them to steal her joy of entertaining.
She kept it simple. She often did similar things. She didn’t feel like she had to out-do the last event. There was no pressure (that I saw) to impress or astound the people coming. She just created a beautiful place and made delicious food. Often it was the same menu…and we still look forward to that menu every single year! I would be super sad if it changed.
A few questions to consider are:
What do you want to accomplish?
What are your goals?
What is the easiest way to get there?
Lay down performance and welcome relationships. Gathering is making a place, preparing a space, to step toward each other. We can simplify the process, without sacrificing the nice event, and be able to be present at our events. We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves on the alter of entertaining.
Enjoy your holiday by simplifying the process!
If you are just joining us be sure to check out the latest posts for a Peaceful Holiday. Trimming the tree with little ones around can be tricky. Check this article for help. If you feel that Christmas gets bossy check out a way to take charge of your holiday. And this wonderful article tells of a great idea for advent that got taken to a whole new level with children.