Host a holiday they won't forget

I have a streak of Clark Griswold in me. This happens to people whose parents went all out to make the holidays special. We're nostalgically hard-wired to recreate the magic we felt as children - especially if we have have children of our own.

Unlike Clark Griswold, I'll never be able to host Christmas at my house. My husband and I live far from our families, and we have no relatives in Richmond. Alas, we are relegated to long distance drives on 95, fueled by coffee at Wawa. Only one time we were able to enjoy the holidays at home - but it's because we contracted COVID-19. We made the most of it - especially since none of us lost our sense of taste. We ordered in mountains of Thai and sushi, and binge watched holiday movies in our pajamas. It was nice. But it would have been better if we could have shared this memory with our families.

Fayeruz Regan, Nadia Pietri, and Nabeela Barbari

Even Christmas parties can be touch and go. There's only a handful of weekends before Christmas, and when we hosted our Christmas party, were competing with multiple parties every weekend. In fact, my friends and I would coordinate when we were hosting parties, so not to miss out and divide mututal friends. At the end of the day though, many couldn't make it, and a lot of the people who did stop by had to make a cameo before they were off to the next one.

All this to say, I really wish I could host Christmas at our home in Richmond. But as a seasoned hostess and serial house guest to both my family and my in-laws during the holidays, I have some insider/outsider tips on how to host the best holiday gathering at your home. 

How to host a holiday they won't forget

Have a fireplace? Use it!

It doesn't just cut down on your heating bill - it creates a magical space for people gather. If it's wood-burning, have kids go outside and hunt for pine cones, where they glow like orange grenades. You can even have a little s'mores station set up on the side. But if pets are around, be sure to secure the goods under a cake dish.

roaring fireplace

Create nooks for privacy

One thing I love about visiting my in-laws, is that their house is set up for introverts who may need to hide away for a bit. But rather than coming across as anti-social, there are plenty of nooks and rooms that are lit up to make people feel welcome. There's a music room with a piano and instruments, a library, a greenhouse with koi and a garden - even an observatory.

Opening up different parts of your home to guests allows them to take a breather when discussions get heated, or when they need to check work emails. Put out a puzzle, have a hot cocoa station in the kitchen, stack a display of board games in the den, start a bonfire out back. Sometimes the crush of all being together in one room is a lot.

Movie night with mandatory pajamas

What could be more comforting than snuggling on the couch in your PJs, watching Kevin McAllister give robbers a run for their money?  In our home, when we have movie night, everyone must put on their PJs. You should institute the same rules for your houseguests. They won't regret it! Especially when you bring out hot buttered popcorn and weighted blankets. Light a few candles and dim the lights. If guests are coming to visit on movie night but aren't sleeping over, at least give them the option to come in PJs. You'd be surprised by how many people will take you up on it!

Another ground rule: classics only. A lot of bad holiday movies get churned out every year, and they do have their place, but for movie night - classics only. I'm talking National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story - you get the idea. 

movie night

Bake, bake, bake

Nothing smells more inviting than warm sugar, so kill two birds with one stone by baking something. It's an extra snack for guests that makes your home smell like heaven. Also? People love activities, or the option of participating in an activity when staying at someone's home. If you bake chocolate chip cookies, there will always be a kid or two that wants to help, and sneak in some cookie dough. You'll always get adults who are content to sit on the couch and wait to sample the goods. But whether you are baking chocolate chip cookies, or building a gingerbread house, it's a great way to give people something to do, and something to eat.

These are but a few tips and tricks on how you can make your home magical for the holidays. Think about the times you have been a guest in another person's home, and the things you wish were available to you. Then do those things for others. For all of you hosting out there who may be stressed about it, know that there are people like me out there who are jealous of you!

Happy holidays.

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