Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Perfect Holidays: Hostess with the... Mostest?

The week before Thanksgiving, Hearts at Home hosted its monthly "No More Perfect Moms" blog hop. The topic was a fitting "No More Perfect Holidays" theme. In the pre-Thanksgiving bustle, I skipped out on this one. (I blame my therapist, whose has been successfully encouraging me to lower my expectations, especially of myself). So this is my belated No More Perfect holidays post.

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Shortly following a family gathering, my sister-in-law sent me an email in which she complimented my sense of hospitality.

My first thought… She must be thinking of someone else.

Me? Hospitality? Really?

I had always equated a good sense of hospitality with the “Hostess with the Mostest” type. The scent of the candles matches the season and the decorations are perfectly coordinated - beautiful place settings, matching serving dishes, plate chargers (and if you don’t know what a charger is, keep reading. This is for you).

These women make great hostesses because their commitment to their guests’ experience is apparent in their effort. They have handmade centerpieces and homemade pies. They bustle around non-stop, making sure the drinks stay full and the food keeps coming. Their creative extras add a lot to the party atmosphere, and the fancy touches are endearing. Their parties are so festive. And so fun.

And that's so not me.

Hosting events can be intimidating when you don’t have a Pinterest-worthy flare. It’s tough to host a fall gathering when you’ve been to a party where the soup was served in hollow pumpkins. It’s hard to be proud of cupcakes topped with plain sprinkles after you’ve been to a party where the cupcakes had Minnie Mouse ears. (Think oreo halves and pink sugar bows. Adorable). When you have Martha-Stewart-types friends and family members, it’s easy to feel like everything you do pales in comparison.

Hospitality was a quality I admired in other women, but it’s definitely never been on my list of my own personal strengths. My china is boxed up in the basement; my gravy boat has never been used; and I don’t own a set of napkin rings or plate chargers. (For those still wondering, they’re decorative plates that you put underneath your real plates. Yeah, I don’t get it either). I don’t have much of an eye for decorating, and I don’t use seasonal centerpieces. I prefer to keep things simple.

So what’s to compliment about that?

If you’re one of those women with over-the-top festive flare, that’s awesome. We admire your effort, we envy your creativity, and we have a great time at your parties. But I’m starting to learn that just as much as people appreciate all-out festive fun, they also appreciate the simple, calm, and casual. There’s no need to worry about breaking one of my dishes or spilling red wine on my white tablecloth. (The dishes were cheap and there is no tablecloth). No need to offer to help me in the kitchen. Let’s have fun. I’ll get the mess later.

I come from a “come on in and grab a beer” kind of family, and I’m proud of that. Matt and I host gatherings all the time, despite my mismatched dinnerware and lack of napkin rings. We don’t buzz around for hours beforehand making sure everything is spotless and perfect. We create a “make yourself at home” setting that is nice enough to be welcoming and relaxed enough to comforting. And we’ve discovered that people have just as much fun without plate chargers.

So if you’re next in line to host the big family Christmas, don’t feel like you have to spend hours on Pinterest finding the perfect recipes and creating the perfect table setting. People will appreciate you for whichever kind of hostess you are. A good sense of hospitality goes deeper than what people see when they walk in the door. It’s really about how they feel when they walk out.

Have a merry (and stress-free) Christmas! 

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