Pandemic, politics, family drama… The thought of a stress-free holiday dinner can feel like a pipe dream.
It’s especially true if you’re the one hosting the holiday dinner. On top of dealing with the peculiarities of this weirdo year, there’s the meal, the space, the cleanliness, the kids- it’s enough to drive a busy parent freaking nuts.
I’m not saying I have a magic wand when it comes to creating a stress-free holiday. There’s gonna be some intense moments, no matter what (and for that, there’s always meditation, baby)
But I’ve assembled some tips I plan on keeping on hand this year as we navigate through this holiday season.
Embrace the Crazy
I know you’re heard this time and time again, but I’ll add to it: It doesn’t have to be perfect.
I navigate stressful holiday meals by embracing two things: Delegating and Accepting the Ridiculous.
- Keep it simple – paper plates and other disposables are fine. I’m normally the queen of reusable (Silicone Bags 4 Lyfe) But paper plates are a perfectly acceptable substitute for lightening your load for the holiday meal. Don’t want to go full disposable? Just use paper products at the kid’s table and the nicer stuff for the adults.
- You don’t have to do everything all by yourself; put those high-energy kids to use! Have the kids make decorations for the table. Have them cut a bunch of construction paper to use as confetti. Or make name cards for every place setting. Or hang portraits of every guest on the back of their chair. It keeps the kids busy and could be a sweet keepsake, too.
Keep a Meal Time Backup Plan
Proper planning ensures good results. Always keep in mind that no matter how well you’ve planned, things can fall apart- and that’s normal!
Your kid could jerk the tablecloth and send the dinner tumbling down. Someone could mess up the sauce and ruin the dinner. So I keep a backup plan in the back of my mind to help keep the stress-free holiday spirit alive; if nothing, it helps safeguard against a mental breakdown!
- Keep a few DIY Meal Kits on hand to break open in case of emergency
- Keep a short list of which restaurants are open- just in case you have to totally throw in the towel
- Have the meal be a potluck of sorts; guests bring side dishes, and you do the Main Event (turkey, etc) in your own kitchen. If one meal fails, you’ve got the others to fall back on.
Create Fun, Simple Traditions
It could be a game of monopoly or a kiddie bake-off. Creating fun, simple traditions that will keep your guests engaged and entertained helps take pressure off the small talk and creates memories for a lifetime.
Simple, fun traditions like:
- making ornaments for each guest to craft together and then bring home.
- doing a family breakfast instead of dinner.
- Cookie competition: every guest brings a batch of cookies (homemade or store-bought) and everyone votes on the winner.
- take a walk around the neighborhood after your meal
- Everyone watches the same movie after the table has been cleared
Above all: relax. It’s just dinner. With everything else this year has already thrown at you, you deserve to enjoy a stress-free holiday dinner. Look around, and be thankful for the things you have- the people you love – the food on your table. Wishing you and your family all the best this holiday season!