There’s something about entertaining during the holidays that brings a level of excitement, but also to the disorganized person, a sense of dread. I love to entertain, but I enjoy it most when it comes together quickly and spontaneously.

1. Set the date and invite: Set the date for your party, grab a notebook and pencil and start making your list of who to invite. Don’t waver over the invitation list. Go with your gut on who comes to mind first and get going on the invitations.

MISTAKE: “But so-and-so can’t make it!” During the holidays you won’t be able to accommodate everyone, so once you set the date, move on to the planning stage. You could drive yourself crazy moving the date around to get everyone there.

2. Plan what kind of party you want to have: Think about formal, casual, brunches vs. dinner, buffet-style or open house. There are so many holiday party options, and it’s a crazy time of year, so choose one that fits your time schedule and your family’s needs.

MISTAKE: “I just can’t afford to entertain this way.” People forget the power of “delegation” and how much easier it is to simply ask your guests to bring a dish. It saves on the pocketbook and people are so willing to help out and to “be a part of the party,” whichever type you choose.

3. Be organized and keep your cupboards stocked. Make sure and keep relishes, cheeses, nuts and dried fruit and wines stocked for last-minute drop ins. People love to stop by during holiday seasons, because it’s such a cheery, festive time of year.

MISTAKE: “I never know what to serve for a quick appetizer.” We tend to over-complicate what should be simple. If we get out of our minds elaborate fondues and appetizers that take hours to prepare, and stick with a simple bowl of toasted nuts, a brick of goat cheese sprinkled with pomegranate seeds (festive for the season), along with some yummy crackers – there we have it! Slice a fresh pear (a symbol of the holidays) and you could sit and munch and talk with your friends for hours over the appetizers alone.

4. Don’t apologize to your guests when something goes wrong. Words of apology should never come out of a hostess’ mouth. Learn to bite your tongue when something burns or doesn’t turn out. Think quickly to how you can add a sauce, change the presentation of the food (turn the burnt side down), add fresh herbs to make it look better, or if a dessert, add whipped cream on top.

MISTAKE: “I’m so sorry I scorched the chicken!” Once you apologize, you can change the whole course of the evening. Everyone is thinking about what went wrong, it makes them uncomfortable, it takes away from the once–relaxed setting, and all eyes are on YOU. Many times, guests would never have known something went bad if you would have kept it to yourself.

5. Enjoy every moment of holiday celebrations. Holidays are easy because you can have music playing in the background, your house is already decorated and the spirit is in the air. Learn to sit back, relax, and enjoy your guests!

MISTAKE: “My house is not perfect, thus I don’t want people over!” When we fall into the “perfection-trap” we lose our joy and ability to enjoy others. Our mind is on ourselves and it’s a very selfish focus. Once we learn to put our perfections aside (and realize we are “all” imperfect), we can move on to the benefits of entertaining: spending time with family and friends and getting to know them in a deeper way. We create healthy memories for our children when we invite people over and show them how to become hospitable.

Entertaining during the holidays can be very stressful.

Again, organization, pulling your family in to help, keeping it all very simple (KISS–Keep It Simple, Sister!), and realizing the reason we are all gathering in the first place, really helps our attitude.

Instead of spending time in the kitchen, take off your apron, grab a plate of food, and join your guests.

There’s nothing left for you to do but enjoy.

What mistake do you tend to make with holiday entertaining? We’d love to hear your tips!

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