Savannah Marie searches for the best restaurants, wildlife and attractions that Harrisburg has to offer.
Whether you're hosting for the first time or the thirtieth, holiday meals can be stressful affairs. Between managing guests and food, it's no wonder people work themselves into a tizzy over holiday hosting duties.
With Christmas Eve just around the corner, there's no time like the present for a helpful list of hosting tips:
Create a Thoughtful Guest List
If you have control of your guest list, take control of it. Craft a guest list that makes you happy and sets you up for success. Keep it to a size that is comfortable to you and fill it with people who bring you joy.
Have a cantankerous friend or family member you can't afford to snub? Make a seating chart. Thoughtful and creative place markers and favors can help put a positive spin on assigned seats.
Commit to Truth In Advertising
Nothing gets your meal off on the wrong foot like clashing expectations.
Manage your guests' expectations of your theme and menu from the moment you issue invitations. Fancy sit down dinner? Tell your guests. Tapas and mingling? Tell your guests. Comfort food and paper plates? Tell your guests.
By being upfront, it's now your guests' responsibility to decide if that appeals to them or if they want to accept another invitation instead.
Make It a Group Effort
There is absolutely no need to drive yourself crazy doing everything yourself. For many, holiday meals are traditionally potluck, so ask your guests to pitch in.
(Just make sure you make the potluck aspect clear from the beginning. See above.)
There are plenty of tips and guidelines for planning a potluck, but be careful not to get hung up on "shoulds." Many say the host "should" cook the bird, but if a guest loves to do it and doesn't mind transporting it, what's the harm?
Have a few questionable chefs in the mix? Request a dish you know they can make or find a nice way to put them on drink duty.
Be a Thoughtful Host
Take the time to ask about dietary needs and food allergies well in advance. You don't want guests to feel hungry and left out because they can't eat most of your menu.
While these guests will likely bring a dish that's safe for their diet, it's important that you make an effort to provide a dish or two they can enjoy as well. It might seem daunting if you never cook gluten or dairy free dishes, but it's mostly a matter of using a few new ingredients.
Just be sure to practice any new dishes before the main event.
Plan to Share (the Kitchen)
Potluck dinners can make for an oven traffic jam.
To avoid this, try to coordinate a mix of dishes -- hot and cold -- so not everyone is jockeying for prime oven space as soon as they arrive. Remember that crock pots are a great way to keep a number of dishes warm and ready to serve without taking up room in the oven.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Make your life easier by doing anything you can ahead of time:
Relax and Be You
Social media adds a bizarre layer of pressure to holiday hosting.
Remember: you don't have to compete with perfectly staged Pinterest boards. Buy your pies. Use your everyday dishes. Don't feel pressured to make your own centerpieces or handmake 100 elaborate amuse bouche.
Remind yourself that it's not about the meal, it's about the fellowship you'll share and the fun you'll have. Relax, cut yourself some slack and enjoy your meal.