As I write this, the holidays are approaching and you’re the elected hostess. It’s entirely possible your house is already filling with guests in some sort of Christmas Vacation scenario, and your Cousin Eddie’s dog is rooting through the trash while his tenement on wheels is parked in your driveway. The bedrooms and couches are filled to capacity and you’ve started smoking your hidden cigarettes again to ease your nerves.

How to be a great hostessYou want everyone to enjoy their holiday and their time in your home. But you’re also freaking out a little and wishing you’d moved to Iceland last year when you had the chance to transfer to the Kirkjubæjarklaustur office.

Just in time to calm your nerves, I bring you The Reluctant Entertainer (affiliate link*), the book that reminds us that hospitality is about opening our lives to our guests, not trying to impress them with our superior decorating, cooking, and cleaning skills. Being a great hostess doesn’t have to look like what we see on TV.

“Opening our lives” means sharing our actual lives, not the perfect ones we fake for social media. The pile of shoes by the front door can stay. So can the toys spread across the living room floor and the heap of clothes you hide on the far side of the bed.

The nasty garbage and the pile of dishes that smells like something died in the drain might be going  a little far, because generally guests do enjoy being able to breathe through the nose without gagging. And a wee bit of attention paid to the bathroom never hurt anyone, either.

Guests need comfortable places to hang out, good food, and some clean towels. Mostly, they want our presence, and not the jacked-up, anxious, nervous-breakdown-hostess edition. They’d like the calm and relaxed edition of us, the one who eats too many cookies and then hides the dirty cookie trays in the oven.


On the other hand…some of you may be dreading your guests for good reason. They might be picky, demeaning, and critical, with a tendency to make pointed comments about your scuffed baseboards.

Guess what.

This says a lot about them, and nothing about you.

Their criticism comes from a dark place in their heart, and you don’t have to go there. Go about your business. Eat another cookie. Take a nip from the flask you keep in the top cupboard. But don’t let them convince you that you’re the problem.

You enjoy your holiday, be the best hostess you can be, share the joy of the season and the gift of Christ’s birth, and move on. They’ll go home soon and you can nap all through January.


7 Comments on How to be a not-terrible hostess this Christmas season

  1. David
    December 18, 2015 at 6:35 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you Jessie. However, for all you know I could be writing from Kirkjubæjarklaustur hiding from the Christmas hordes. But I’m not, even though I have always wanted to visit Iceland. I hadn’t realised that the Icelandic for church was the same word as in Scottish Gaelic. You learn something new everyday. Like I am guessing that baseboards are what we call skirting boards.

    We (all the HBC elders/deacons/staff/spouses/etc.) just had some wonderful hospitality round at our new ministers’ home. It was a great evening and much appreciated.

  2. Megan Start
    December 18, 2015 at 8:19 pm (2 years ago)

    I love this and totally agree but thanks to hearing, “do you want me to come to your house and find dirty clothes on the floor or a pile of dishes” about 1000 times in my teen years, I find it hard to enjoy guests if I don’t put a good effort into making the house presentable!!!
    The down side of that is I dont want guest who come into our home to be afraid to have us in their home because we appear to have it all together.
    Balance…it always seems to come down to balance

  3. Jessie Clemence
    December 18, 2015 at 8:29 pm (2 years ago)

    Ha! I’ve been ruined by all the Sue Grafton novels I read over the years. Her main character, Kinsey Milhone, was always breaking into houses and then commenting on how clean or sloppy the housekeeping was. Now I’m afraid burglars will think I’m a pig. And then I clean the toilet before I leave the house, just for them. (true story)

  4. Jessie Clemence
    December 18, 2015 at 8:30 pm (2 years ago)

    Fun! It’s always exciting to go hang out with the new people. And Iceland is always a good source if I need an improbable name. 🙂

    December 21, 2015 at 10:16 pm (2 years ago)

    Some good points here and laughs too – excellent combo.
    Btw, I loved the movie Christmas Vacation – hilarious.
    My mom will be visiting for a few days, so I’ll keep your tips in mind.

  6. Jessie Clemence
    December 22, 2015 at 1:36 pm (2 years ago)

    Let me know if it all goes south on you. Those are the best stories.