SummaryMary Ellen Barrett shows us how opening your home to guests in the holiday season is an act of love, which blesses both your family and your guests.
When I dropped my first daughter off at her wonderful Catholic college several years ago, I spent the ride home planning her return for the holidays.
It took about ten minutes for me to start missing her, and when she did arrive home a few months later, laden with dirty laundry and three extra people who could not get all the way home but needed some “home” time, I could not have been happier.
It has always been our custom to practice hospitality here, and I’ve written often in this space about the importance of home. Making a home welcome for your guests can be extremely overwhelming for a homeschooling mother whose plate is already too full of domestic responsibilities.
No One is Coming to Your Home to Criticize Your Housekeeping.
The whole idea can create stress and anxiety, and make what should be a lovely time of celebration into a dreaded time of extra work. If the idea of having guests, overnight or otherwise, creates that sense of dread within the pit of your stomach, please know that no one is coming to your home to criticize your housekeeping. I spent far too many years stressing about my ugly couch,
Formica countertops, and the spill du jour. What I have found is that people want to be welcomed and fussed over. They enjoy good food, laughter, games, and music. People want the comfort of immersing themselves in your family life, and yes, that means baby messes, toddler messes, and teen messes because that is what a home filled with people and love looks like; it can be messy.
To prepare for the invasion, I begin in the kitchen, as does Seton mom Carolyn Smith,
“Two weeks before, I completely get rid of all the old food in the freezer and fridge. I make sure the pantry food is not expired, and I organize it. I shop to the day in the remaining week, and finally, do a big shop of plenty of food and ingredients, and make sure I have the stuff for planned meals and snacks and drinks, so that nobody has to leave the guests or returning kids, and everything is ready. I know it sounds mundane, but my association with being welcoming is feeding people, and it makes a huge difference.”
People Just Want to be Welcomed and Fussed Over
This approach makes great sense to me. I too tend to focus on the food and gatherings that will take place, and when you have a large family and then add additional people, this type of planning is essential. Making a list of meals and snack times, and then from there planning what is needed for each meal and grocery shopping (or ordering) takes a great deal of stress out of
Next up: where do we put all of these people? If you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated guest room, it’s time to thoroughly dust and vacuum, freshen the sheets and blankets, and see that all the lightbulbs work.
I like to make sure there is a side table that can act as a night-stand, and that it’s cleared off to make space for a guest to use for glasses and their phone. Having a nice bottle of water and a package of fancy cookies to welcome your guests is a lovely touch that costs very little.
An Act of Love…
If you don’t have a guest room, a comfortably made up couch, an air mattress, or even a cot can be made lovely with sheets, pillows, and soft blankets. It’s not about hosting people in a fancy way but making sure they know they are welcome and loved.
What about that college student who is returning to hearth and home? Even though they are returning to the place that is most familiar to them, it warms a mom’s heart to make them as welcome as anyone who does not live in the house.
One way I learned to do this was to make sure I was entirely caught up with the household laundry. This sounds strange, but when the college kid returns for the holidays it is usually with a mountain of dirty clothes, and having a free laundry room helps get the process of catching up started pleasantly.
I would also freshen up her room, in the same way, I would for any guest, freshly washed sheets, a good dusting, and vacuum, as well as a small treat to be enjoyed her first night home.
Opening your home to guests in the holiday season is an act of love, sacrificial for some to be sure (especially us introverts), but one which blesses both your family and your guests.
If you relax and focus on the enjoyment of your friends and family and not worry about the dust bunnies under the couch, you will create an atmosphere that emulates the season: peace, love and the sharing of gifts.
Who knows? You may even entertain an angel or two!