What does it mean to entertain thoughtfully? Some of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving have been when friends have gathered around our long farm table with leaves falling and children running amidst them gleefully while we talk and dine with no agenda. Sound magical? Well I think it is.
Holiday parties can often be hectic and stressful, but they don’t have to be. Entertaining thoughtfully should foster the joy and simple pleasure of just being with people and connecting on a deeper level. When you’re entertaining thoughtfully, you’re creating a space for people to gather and celebrate community.
I enjoy hosting, but I honestly don’t enjoy cooking (unless it’s for my family). Recently I decided to host an early holiday dinner party at Green Acres (our family’s homestead east of Austin) for the women on the Raven + Lily team. The theme was a farm-to-table potluck: we each would bring a farm-to-table seasonal holiday dish to share. That took the pressure off of me to cook for everyone, and it gave each person attending the chance to contribute something thoughtful to our dinner party. Everything was absolutely delicious, and I was able to focus on creating a beautiful environment. I used our open-air barn, a branch, lights, lanterns, plates, and greenery that I already owned. The new linen napkins from Raven + Lily’s holiday collection were a perfect touch for the table, don’t you agree? (NOTE: Due to high demand, these napkins have already sold out! Sign up for our newsletter to be alerted when they are back in stock.) I will definitely use these year-round. Some of the gals arrived early and helped me set everything up, including the cute place cards and herbs pulled from my garden as thoughtful details. The key here is that we did not spend a lot of money. We used what we already owned (except my newly purchased napkins!).
Hosting this way allowed me to not be stressed (because I believe stress transfers to party guests), and as a result we were able to enjoy each other and have great conversation. The most wonderful part of our evening was the focus on giving thoughtfully. Each person contributed a donation equal to the money spent on their part of the pot luck. We then collectively donated the full amount to Tirzah International’s feeding program for HIV widows in Kenya. I have visited these women several times, and their weekly meal has dramatically helped improve their health. That’s right, one weekly healthy meal has made a huge difference in their lives. The women learn to cook this meal using seasonal foods and a balanced diet. They start to glow again. I’ve seen it first-hand.
By the end of our thoughtful little dinner party, I was glowing too. I was so happy that we were able to gather and celebrate our friendship. It brought me joy knowing that there are women in Kenya also gathering around a meal we were able to help provide.
Entertaining thoughtfully is about people. You can be creative and bless others without increasing your stress and financial burden. I hope you will consider these ideas and host a farm-to-table dinner party this holiday. And consider giving back to one of your favorite non-profits.
Create an environment for good conversation and thoughtful connection. It will make the holidays a joy.
Photo credit: Katie Jameson Photography