Published December 14th, 2016
Snuff Out Holiday Entertaining Stress
By Kara Navolio
Holiday entertaining can be elegant or eclectic, and let friends bring food to the party. Photos provided
It seems as if we just weathered Thanksgiving, and now it's time to do it all again: dress up the house, don our finest clothes and best behavior, and plan for those Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's celebrations.
Certainly the Holidays mean looking forward to spending time with our families; but they also bring stress like no other time of the year. Not only is it the stress of entertaining, but also in those interpersonal relationships with family members - you know the ones - with whom you may not see eye to eye. Sometimes even the best of friends or family members may snap under the pressure of a Santa-sized bag of expectations.
Here are some sure-fire ways to reduce stress so you can enjoy holiday entertaining:
1. Pre-planning. "Planning is essential; the earlier, the better," says Margie Reyerson, an Orinda-based marriage and family therapist. Thinking ahead and making lists can reduce stress. By writing it all down you can release some of the thoughts that keep you from relaxing and sleeping.
That pre-planning is essential if you are entertaining or hosting events in your home, says Lisa Cecconi, brand manager for Lafayette's Misto Lino. "I sometimes like to take a day off work when I can, just to focus on buying groceries when no one else is shopping."
2. Simplify. "It's important to remember that the purpose of the holidays is the joy, the celebration, and family time," Reyerson says.
Consider using beautiful paper products instead of china to simplify clean-up. Or maybe you can use paper plates just for dessert and simple table decorations. "I like to decorate with things from nature for the Holiday table," adds June Santoro of Misto Lino. "Things you have in your own yard, like fall leaves, branches, acorns, lemons all arranged on a simple table runner with votive candles interspersed."
3. Set a tone of serenity. Reyerson suggests lighting candles all around your home. You can add music that is calming too. If your family enjoys football, try to negotiate in advance which one game you will watch, modeling moderation and family time for the children. Keep electronics and TVs off during meals and present opening.
4. Get outside. If you are hosting, try to get in a walk or some exercise in the morning before guests arrive, or before the madness of digging beneath the Christmas tree.
5. Set tables in advance. If you are hosting a brunch or dinner, Santoro suggests getting the table ready two days in advance. This gives you the time to make sure your infrequently used dishes and glasses are clean and eliminates another chore on the day of the event.
Cecconi agrees - it goes back to that early preparation thing. "The less you have to do right before an event, the better."
6. Let others prepare or bring food. Ask guests to bring a dish already prepared. This keeps the kitchen free of too many people trying to use limited space. Or consider purchasing part of the meal or the entire dinner. Stores like Lafayette's Diablo Foods offer a complete holiday meals for a reasonable price.
7. Enlist help. Kids can set the table. Family members can take shifts with the clean-up duties. If it's too hard for you to ask for help, get your spouse or a sibling to ask for you. "It's important for men and boys to help too. Boys need to see men helping in the kitchen," says Reyerson.
8. Vent. If you need to vent your frustrations, find a trusted friend or family member and do it. As Reyerson says, "Get it off your chest; discharge it instead of keeping it in. You don't want it to come out later in another form."
9. Have a plan for dealing with conflict if it arises. "If you are concerned about divisive political opinions or a family member's drinking issues, think of ways to change the subject and redirect the conversation," Ryerson says. "Remind your guests that we are all here to appreciate each other. Don't give attention to bad behavior." You can also use place cards if you feel the need to keep certain family members separated.
10. Remember to enjoy the day. Cherish the time to be with your family. Sit down. Relax. It doesn't send a good message to children when they see mom and dad stressed out or running around the entire day.
Cecconi suggests setting time aside right before guests arrive to relax, sip some sparkly and enjoy the fruits of your labor. "Getting in the right frame of mind before a party will set the tone for the whole event," she says.
Finally, try to see the Holidays through the children's eyes. Perfect gravy or elaborate decorations don't matter; the relationships and the tone of the day do.
Happy Holidays!
[Peggy Spear contributed to this article.]
Lafayette's Misto Lino offers tips for easy holiday entertaining and decorating.

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