I have often been asked to re-post the following article, especially at this holiday season. It heartens me to receive these requests, for it means I am not alone in needing a gentle reminder to not loose my physical nor emotional energy as I prepare for the upcoming feasts and parties. And it lets me know that my words are helpful to others. That, indeed, is the best validation a writer can ever have.
To those who are so inclined, the very thought of hosting a holiday event brings out the Martha Stewart in them and, thus, creates visions of domestic bliss. There are actually those who revel in the pomp and circumstance essential in the world of entertaining; feeling most fulfilled caring for their guests by spending hour upon hour cleaning, shopping, cooking, preparing and decorating for these occasions.
I know some folks who grow their own produce; milk the cows to make the cheese appetizers; bake crackers, breads and cake; pluck the decorative flowers from their garden and place them in vases created in their own glass-blowing furnace. Some, I suspect, set the table using hand sewn tablecloths (created from the wool sheared from their pet sheep) and dishes they’ve created on their potter’s wheel.
May I now propose a toast to these fine women and men who care so superbly for their guests? Here’s to you, whoever and wherever you are. I tip my well-worn Met’s cap, down an orange juice glass of Dom Budweiser and announce that I am truly impressed and awed by your graciousness.
You fine folks are the true representation of my on-line dictionary’s definition of host: “A person who invites guests to a social event (such as a party in his or her own home) and who is responsible for them while they are there.”
There is, however, another definition of host I offer it to you now: “An animal or plant that nourishes and supports a parasite; the host does not benefit and is often harmed by the association.”
That one? That’s me. Or, at least that’s me if I tried to be the over achieving host described above.
I love inviting friends and family to my home for fun social occasions. Joe and I enjoy entertaining and do it often. The difference between me and my Martha Stewart-like counterparts, however, is that if I try to duplicate the efforts of those fine folks, I end up exhausted, annoyed and resentful of my company.
When I was younger I, too, believed that the only way to show my guests how much they were valued was to dig deep into my domestic core and dredge up every ounce of the inspired host I could find within. Quite capable of sewing, cooking, baking, decorating I called upon all of my talents and energy to create what I hoped would be a memorable and festive gathering. And, it usually was. The house always looked pretty, the food was quite palatable, and the attendees were genial. The only drawback was that, while I remained the socially adept hostess throughout the soirée, I hardly had time to converse with anyone – unless they wandered into the kitchen where I was busily preparing the next great course to appear on the buffet table.
For several days after my well-feted guests had gone home, I was completely totaled, burned out and wrecked. Yes, the gathering had certainly been festive and memorable. Festive for the guests. Memorable to my aching back, limbs and head.
Over the last several years I’ve learned much in the ways of party-giving and I’d like to share my hard-earned wisdom with you.
I’ve learned that one does not have to come within an inch of hospitalized exhaustion in the preparation and hosting a social event. Quite the contrary, if working so hard deems you inaccessible and too tired to enjoy your own party don’t do it. Not “don’t do the party” but take a more comfortable route. Buy prepared foods; allow your guests to help in the planning of the event and let them participate during the party, if possible hire someone to assist you; use disposable dinnerware when feasible. Trust me on this; no one will think less of you for being sensible. On the contrary, they’ll probably enjoy the more festive mood of their host and the opportunity to laugh and talk with you without having to watch you and your oven mitts juggling platters of sizzling appetizers and entrees.
A party is also called a bash. I, for one, have made a vow to never again be too bushed to bash. And guess what? I still host social gatherings. My friends and family still love to attend. And we all appreciate the time spent together laughing, eating and socializing. That is, after all, what it’s about isn’t it?
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