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Strategies For Stressless Holiday Entertaining

Stressless entertaining is fast becoming an oxymoron. With parties and social gatherings growing more and more elaborate, with everyone trying to outdo each other, hosting a get-together is a difficult task to undertake any time of year. Throw in some holiday chaos and it’s downright nerve-wracking.

Maybe in our eagerness to impress and bedazzle our guests, we’re missing the point entirely. Warm, relaxing, convivial social interaction should be our main concern when rolling out the welcome mat. Here are some strategies, excerpted from my new book “400 Ways to Stop Stress Now…and Forever!”, that will help you keep your eye on that objective.

Have small intimate get-togethers.

Big parties are expensive, time-consuming and a heck of a lot of work. Even if youe lucky enough to talk with everyone, it may only amount to brief, cursory snippets of conversation. A big bash can be fun, sure, if youe not the one throwing it. Smaller parties are easier to arrange, less work, less expensive, and leave lots of time to enjoy your guests, who feel more special, too. Entertain fewer people…more often.

Keep the menu simple.

There’s no need to overwhelm your guests with more choices than necessary. An hors d’ oeuvre, a main dish, a couple of side dishes, and dessert is plenty. It will save you time and money, and make entertaining easy enough that you’ll want to do it more often. Overdoing it also unfairly raises the stakes for guests who want to reciprocate. Focus on the quality of what you serve, not the quantity, and on making your visitors feel relaxed and comfortable. Your parties can’t help but turn out special.

Expect people to cancel out on you.

Last-minute dropouts and no-shows can be disappointing — especially when you’ve gone to a lot of trouble. Blame it on our over-scheduled times, a general slackening of social responsibility, whatever. But this, unfortunately, is the way things are. So be ready for it. If you’re planning an event or activity involving several people, expect one or more will almost certainly cancel. Invite or recruit extra people to make up for the inevitable loss. And if everyone does show up (slim chance), you’ll enjoy an unanticipated bonus.

Invite someone over for coffee.

Or tea, or a glass of wine, or a beer, if that’s your preference. Somehow this simple, casual way to connect with others during the holiday season has lost ground to more elaborate and expensive forms of entertaining. But informal drop-by visits with friends and neighbors is a great way to catch up, share experiences, vent concerns, and give yourself a needed break from the rat race. Pure, uplifting social interactionithout all the fuss. Try it.

Entertaining is supposed to be fun, remember?

When you throw a dinner party or host a gathering, it’s not an audition, you’re not on trial and your guests aren’t judges and juries. Yet that’s how you might see it — something to fret about, even dread. Which, if you’re worried things won’t go well, will all but assure it. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about inviting people into your home and making them feel welcome and comfortable. If you’re tense and unsure, that’s what they’ll pick up on. (How many times have you attended a tautly wound event and had a perfectly lousy time?) So make it fun. Be casual, gracious, spontaneous. You’ll be a hit, and so will your party.

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