Today I'm sharing my top tips on how to be an awesome holiday guest so you can make a good impression, avoid being obnoxious, and get invited back next year. Gathering together is going to be a little different this year, so let's make it as meaningful and stress-free as possible.
I spent two weeks in October putting together (almost) everything I know about how to host a small holiday dinner in my new ebook Easy Holiday Entertaining. I was surprised by how much I had to say about what you need to do and consider when hosting a holidya meal, even if it's just for a few people.
You can pick up a copy for free by subscribing to my email list in the sidebar on your computer or at the bottom of the page if you're on your phone. Not only will you get this awesome ebook, you'll also get every new recipe and post delivered to your inbox, so you never miss a tasty thing. It's pretty awesome, and it really helps keep this blog going.
How to be an awesome holiday guest
But being a guest can come with its own stresses and challenges. When do I get there? What do I wear? Should I bring something? Should I help in the kitchen? Am I obnoxious? Will everyone hate me? It's cool. I got you.
I'm here to give you my perspective as a host on what the ideal guest would be so you can show up to any holiday gathering ready to make a good impression.
A note on social distancing
Before we get too deep, though, this being 2020, we need to talk about social distancing. I'm going to hope that this post will live on past this global pandemic, but please, please, please stay safe this year. Know what the restrictions are in your area and abide by them, even if it sucks. Trust that epidemiologists know what they're talking about. If that means you're not able to mix households at all (like we are right now) then you can just save these tips for when you're finally able to get together with people. It'll be so worth it.
If you can, consider limiting the number of guests this year. Make it easy for everyone to wash their hands often. Keep the windows cracked for ventilation, or better yet, have your party outside. Build a fire. Get out your most awesome outerwear. Fill a crockpot with mulled cider. Make a thing of it.
Start with empathy
The most important thing I can tell you about being a good holiday guest is to be empathetic. A lot of planning and hard work has gone into this day, even if your host makes it seem like it was a breeze. Show your appreciation by being grateful, flexible, and supportive. Don't make a bunch of demands or last minute changes. Don't suddenly decide you want to bring a date with seventeen dietary requirements the morning of. Don't complain or criticise unncecessarily. I know you totally wouldn't do that.
Show up on time-ish
When I plan a dinner, I usually expect that people will arrive up to 30 minutes late. Don't arrive more than 10 minutes early without checking with your host. They may really be scrambling up until the minute they expect you to ring the doorbell. But conversely, arriving super late is frustrating, especially if you haven't let anyone know why you're not there. Getting a lot of hot dishes on the table at once is hard. It takes a lot of math and a little bit of magic to make it work. Don't mess it up for everyone else.
Be intuitive about helping out
Some hosts are really particular and don't like anyone touching their stuff in the kitchen. Some are too afraid to ask for help when they need it.
I know for me, I don't really like too many people in the kitchen when I'm actually trying to cook, but if someone wants to help with the dishes afterward so that I can actually sit down for a minute and finish my wine, I'm extremely grateful.
Feel out the situation and be ready to jump in with things you're good at. Refill someone's glass before dinner while the host of putting finishing touches on the dishes. Clear up empty plates. Take more than just your own trash to the bin. It will be appreciated by everyone.
What should you bring?
There's always the question of what to bring. If you've been asked to bring a dish to share, check with the host, especially if it's going to need further preparation once you arrive. There might not be space on the counter or in the oven for an unexpected dish. If you can, bring something that doesn't need additional prep or can be heated in the microwave or served at room temp. Here are a few suggestions of dishes you could bring to a holiday dinner.
Wheaten Biscuits to add some homemade flare to a cheese board .
Holiday Brie can be heated in the microwave and assembled in under five minutes.
Bacon Parmesan Cheese Ball can be made ahead.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce is ridiculously easy and can be made ahead of time.
Red Bean Salad is no-cook, vegan, gluten-free, and served at room temperature. Oh, and absolutely beautiful.
And of course, pretty much every dessert can be made ahead of time, so if you're a baker, and your host is not, swoop in and take that off their hands.
If you don't cook, but you still want to bring something to share, wine is always welcome. Or any type of drink, to be honest. I inevitably forget to buy ice, so you might be a hero if you check in with the host on your way over to see if they need any. You can always just pick up some fancy nuts, crackers or other snacks to share. The type of thing that's maybe a little too fancy for lunch but you've always wanted to try.
Should you bring a gift?
As a host, I would never expect someone to bring a gift, but I would also be so grateful if that did happen. Just make sure it's not something that requires the host to do any work. If you want to bring flowers, bring them already in a container, for example. Something to help the host relax the next day would be awesome.
If you're staying overnight, a great gift would be to treat your hosts to breakfast/brunch the next day. You can either cook it in their kitchen or take them out for breakfast. If you want to make something yourself, I have a ton of awesome breakfast recipes here.
What have I left out? What other questions do you have? What's worrying you? Leave me a comment, and I'll be sure to get back to you with my thoughts.
Being an awesome holiday guest really comes with the same advice as most any situation in life. Be kind. Be yourelf. Say thank you. If you say the wrong thing, apologise and laugh. If you spill something, help clean it up. If you show up with gratitude and a warm heart, you really can't go wrong. Don't worry. It's gonna be awsome.