It was about a decade ago that Sam and I found ourselves sitting inside a Chinese restaurant having dinner on Christmas. There were a few other people there sitting alone. The streets were quiet with no car lights passing by. We all knew where everyone else probably was…with their loved ones. We had each other but still, we felt that feeling of loneliness. Typically Sam is usually helping with Christmas Eve Services on the 24th so we’ll usually stay close to home with most of our extended family hundreds of miles away.
It was from that point forward that we wanted to create a home that welcomed others in at Christmas time. If we could keep someone else from sitting alone in a restaurant on Christmas then we wanted to do it. However, we found that it was a bit difficult to know ahead of the big day who didn’t have somewhere to go. The hustle and bustle of Christmas would come and go. Our desire to welcome others was there, but how do we connect with people to find those who are looking for somewhere to spend Christmas?
My family growing up consisted of my dad and mom, three siblings and myself. There were six of us on Christmas so the morning felt joyous and all kinds of wonderful. But it also sometimes felt that in the blink of an eye it was over. I remember friends nearby opening up their home on the evening of Christmas Day. It was an open house style and my family and I always looked forward to going over to the Turley’s house that evening. The kids would all get together and talk about what gifts had been exchanged that morning, we would play games and eat yummy food. I’ll never forget that feeling of being invited in, being welcomed, and all of the laughter that followed.
As Sam and I stumbled to compare notes on who had asked who if they had somewhere to go on Christmas Day it occurred to us that maybe doing an open house this year would be worth a try. It would give us a reason to connect with people and invite them over if they didn’t have other plans already. A few days later the date and time had been set.
I used the app Red Stamp to create a simple image for us to text to people.
We made a list of people who we thought might not have family in town and started texting. Then over the course of the next two weeks leading up to Christmas, we also mentioned the open house to people that we came in contact with.
As you know, Christmas has now come and gone.
We LOVED having the open house and we are looking forward to doing it again! To help others who might want to give it a try next year, I thought I’d recap what we did with 5 Tips For Hosting a Christmas Day Open House. Here we go!
1 – KEEP IT SIMPLE! – This is definitely the number one, most important tip! If you make it too complicated you’ll be stressed out on Christmas day. That just doesn’t sound fun! If your expectations are grandiose, you’ll burn yourself out! And the joy of welcoming others into your home on Christmas day will be lost.
2 – Be Prepared Ahead Of Time & Buy Food That You Can Always Use Later – How do you exactly prepare for having an unknown amount of people over to your house on Christmas Day?!? I was wondering the same exact thing! It’s not as if you can run out to the store and grab more food if needed…everything is closed. You could have people RSVP but we wanted people to have the freedom to just stop by if it worked for them. I prepared ahead of time by buying some disposable plates and cups to keep things simple. (They were from Sam’s Club so everything there only comes in one size…a lot!) However, I knew that I could use up anything left over at home in the future. I also knew that certain food items we always have on hand so I just bought extra. Anything that we didn’t use up could be eaten later throughout the week…things like chips & salsa, veggies, hummus, clementines, etc. Our oven is actually broken right now, so that added some complexity. At first I thought that would make things more difficult but in the end, it forced me to keep things simple. I went with a chicken buffalo dip and meatballs in the crockpot. I had a second bag of meatballs in my freezer (just in case I needed to cook them mid open house in my instant pot). One bag was enough and now I have a frozen bag to use sometime during Christmas break while the kids are home…another win!
3 – Adapt Your Schedule and Involve The Whole Family – Typically our Christmas Day at home looks like…breakfast in the morning, reading the Christmas story, opening presents, preparing a feast for lunch and then eating birthday cake for dinner because mommy is too tired to prepare anything else and the kids are SO excited to be able to eat CAKE for dinner! We all go home happy! (Or in this case, it would be, stay home happy). This year we came up with a different schedule that would make hosting an open house in the evening easier not harder. We started the morning right off with the Christmas story and opening presents. (The kids weren’t disappointed one bit about that!) 😉 Then we had tea and some biscottis to hold the kids over until brunch. While the kids were playing with their presents Sam and I prepared a feast for brunch. Some family was in town and joined us for brunch and an afternoon of games and hanging out around the fire. Then an hour before the open house we all worked together to tidy up the house and put the food on the counter. Shortly after 5 the food was ready, our first guest arrived and the kids grabbed plates to dig in. All of the same things that we typically do on Christmas day were accomplished but with our new schedule (because of the addition of the open house) the day ended up feeling even MORE relaxed than years prior. And the kids still got cake for dinner…with the option of veggies on the side. 🙂 It ALL was a win!
4 – Make 1 or 2 or 3 Things Festive (NOT 5 or 6 or 7!): – I wanted to add a little bit something special to the festivities…after all, it is Christmas! However simplicity is still key and with no working oven, limited time and the desire to keep things stress free…I went with punch, a special cake for Jesus’ birthday and a bouquet of red tulips and greenery from Target! I found this recipe for the punch. It was a hit! I was also forced to buy a pre-made cake for Jesus this year (because of our broken oven) and I wasn’t mad about it…not one little bit! I grabbed a tube of green frosting at the store to personalize it and to be completely honest…the cake has never tasted better!
5 – Be Present – Our friends loved the punch, comments were made about the YUMMY meatballs (the sauce was 3 ingredients suggested on the back of the bag!) and they enjoyed being somewhere warm inside on a frightfully cold Minnesota night. But ultimately, I kept reminding myself that people weren’t looking for gourmet food, a pristine house or fancy china. They wanted to be with people on Christmas day. People who cared about them and wanted to be with them. People don’t want to come over to your house to be impressed or to see how much you have OUTDONE yourself…they want to be with you!
So keep things simple, friends.
It seems to be the key for most things these days.
And in this case, it might be just the key to keeping restaurants around the world empty on Christmas day. 🙂