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Are You Stressed Before Having A Holiday Dinner?

We all love to eat and cook, but am I the only one who feels really stressed during the last two hours before guests arrive? No matter how organized I am with timeline, etc I'm still feeling it. How about you?

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  1. Mine's all family, and it's all I can do to keep them out of the kitchen. I know I'll have extra hands if needed for anything, so no, I don't stress about the meal.

    Now, if I could get my SO to get the house presentable prior to people pulling in the driveway, I'd have no stress at all...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pylon

      I *CAN'T* keep people out of the kitchen, and that's the source of my stress! My kitchen in Nashville had been opened up from the original plus a butler's pantry/breakfast nook, so my work triangle was on one side and the table where people gathered was on the other. That kitchen also did not do double duty as a hallway. In my current one, however, the route from the carport to the dining room goes right past the cooktop and wall oven, and the route to and from the back door and guest bathroom is in front of the refrigerator. And there is NO place for anyone to stand without being in my way! Now, I love company, and wish they could hang with me while I cook; that's a problem for all the aforementioned reasons, but there's another big one: except for carrying stuff into the dining room, I do not want anyone helping me. I know what I'm doing, and when I need to do it, and besides that there's no room for anyone else to chop stuff or peel potatoes or whatever. I do not "stress about the meal", because I know it's going to be just fine, and if some glitch does occur (like last year's raw-in-the-middle turkey!) we'll come up with a save (nuke it!). The closest I come to stressing is when my sister-in-law, an excellent cook, arrives with a dish that needs one of my ovens for about half an hour, and they're both booked solid! That she speaks hardly any English and I speak no French complicates matters as well …

      1. re: Will Owen

        Just had a dinner and a guest came an hour early. That really stresses me out.

        1. re: DaisyM

          Agreed, that is the worst. Last year I had a couple show up an hour early and expect immediate food and drink . . .they made a beeline for the kitchen. Totally threw me off to the point I forgot to even prep\serve a dish.

          1. re: gaffk

            That is awful! My ILs did that to me ONCE.

            In general, I do get stressed but in a fun way. I truly enjoy doing the hosting and the excitement/stress of prepping is part of the fun.

    2. Nope. I can do dinner for dozens and keep my cool. But that's only because I have decades of practice. Back in my younger days I was like you, writing up schedules days in advance and panicking if anything got off track.

      1. I don't think I've ever encountered a Holiday meal stress that a properly chilled, 4 to 1 ratio of gin and dry vermouth couldn't put in its place. I suppose it's the fact that it's a celebratory event, a day off, a fun gathering. Sure, people hanging in my shadow asking "What is that?" or "Can't I help?" aren't welcome, but they merely qualify as distractions, not disasters. Really, what's the worst that can happen? An overcooked roast? Forgetting to let the butter come to room temperature? I've endured real stress and that ain't it.

        Oh, and for whatever it's worth, I'm not much of a planner - definitely more of a broad brush strokes guy.

        1. No you are not the only one. The adrenaline you feel prior to the guests arriving is normal. And the more you have the family over for holiday dinners, the easier it will become.

          Also, the more you can get done the day before, the better.

          1. If you've invited the right people and are constantly "checking" to determine whether the wine has spoiled, how can one be stressed?

            1. I used to get very stressed for days ahead. It was a combination of nerves about the meal itself and having every inch of my house perfectly clean and presentable, just in case someone was going to do a dust bunny inspection under my beds. I got over all that a long time ago!

              I try to do what I can the day before, which helps immensely. I get stressed sometimes about timing of all the main components of the meal--having everything ready and hot when it is time to serve. Since getting a second oven, I manage that much better so unless something goes horribly wrong with a key dish (and I can't remember that happening in recent years), all is pretty manageable.

              I will confess to being a little "turfy" about my kitchen space. If people are crowding me or getting in my business without my express approval, I can get a little tense. Sadly, I cannot drink so don't really have a medicinal way to take the edge off. :-)

              1. DaisyM, and others who have also replied - I share many of your issues! I did a major kitchen remodel to open up my tiny galley kitchen to the living room so I could have people 'hang out' with me while I finished things, and now thousands of $$ later, they still come INTO the tiny aisle which is the main work triangle and I can't get past them to finish things! I know they just want to get in the action, but it makes it hard to get the meal on!

                As for the upcoming Easter holiday (which is my family's background), I had a brunch here for over a dozen years that got to be a pretty big tradition for a growing-every-year circle of friends in my 30's & early 40's; I had it down pretty well... I prepped ahead and did a couple big pans of spanikopita, marinated (by the end of the run, usually 3 whole!) butterflied leg of lamb the day before and grilled that in the morning, and when the guests came, popped big pans of shirred eggs in the oven to cook by the dozens. Guests brought fruit, pastries and champagne and it usally was a big happy crowd of up to 40 or so. People would come after 11am and drink momosas, the kids would hunt eggs, and around noon the feast was on.

                Finally, I had friends of friends start showing up and not bringing anything and it just started getting out of hand. I didn't want to buy fruit, champagne by the case, and send people out to get pastries at the last minute cause there wasn't enough to go around.

                Last year, I decided not to do it - and had just one friend over for a wonderful fresh artichoke egg's benny brunch. Ahhhh, what peace!
                I may get back to the tradition, but glad to let it cool it's heel's for a couple of years and that I don't have to be shopping and cooking the next 2 days! I am going to someone else's home this year - yeah!

                1 Reply
                1. re: gingershelley

                  Love your post! And wow does that brunch sound amazing and if invited I would have been happy to bring a case of champagne! I did something this year that was genius. People always bring cut flowers and then I'm running around trying to find a vase, fill with water, and unwrap the flowers. This time I had a large vase out on my dryer. I took each bouquet and put it unwrapped in the vase. So they were in water and out of the way and I could get back to cooking.

                2. Totally! And...I always feel very tired / lethargic / let down the next day. I think it's the end of the adrenline rush...