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Redefining Hospitality this Holiday Season

It’s holiday season!

November 1st through January 2nd, a/k/a the holiday season, or as I like to call it: the most wonderful time of the year. 

Time for my winter-themed candles, that Christmas wreath I made two season ago when I was feeling particularly crafty, and the Christmas pillowcases for my couch that I convinced my husband we NEEDED at the end of the season last year. 

It’s also time to put on the hospitality cap and scroll through the backlog of holiday inspired recipes, crafts, and home decorations that I had been pinning on Pinterest for the last 10 months in order to create the most perfect, Instagram-worthy holiday spread for all of my friends and family. 

hospitality and hosting

While the holidays bring out so many wonderful and magical things – think Christmas music and peppermint hot cocoa – it can also be a time of immense stress and pressure. I know I’ve spent many late nights perfecting a decoration or holiday recipe so that I could come across as the June Cleaver of the 2010s. 

This desire for perfection is something that is talked about a lot right now. A quick Google search will bring up a plethora of articles talking about the notion that social media has created an unattainable standard that we measure ourselves by. This standard can create an overwhelming sense of failure.

And nobody wants to feel like a failure, especially during the holidays. 

Hospitality redefined

A few years ago, I stumbled upon something that changed my perspective: a new definition for the word “hospitality,” a word that I had previously struggled with because of the pressure that came with it. That pressure being one of perfection. 

To me, hospitality meant being the perfect host, which in turn meant being the perfect wife with the perfect home and the beautiful holiday decorations and the delicious meal where all the dishes were ready to be served at the same time. A house that was clean and perfectly decorated, just like I saw on all of the Pinterest posts that I looked to for inspiration. 

What I learned was that I had been going about hospitality all wrong.  

And now for a mini-linguistic lesson. The word “hospitality” can be taken from the Greek word, “philoxenos.” When broken down, phileo- is defined as “brotherly love,” and –xenos as, “strangers.” And while this definition of hospitality goes FAR beyond a simple holiday season and could be used to actually reshape our view of hospitality in general, for the purposes of this post I want to look at how it can specifically apply to our ability to make it through this holiday season with a new outlook. 

If you use this definition for hospitality, rather than the definition we have adopted as a society that lends itself more to entertaining, we change the way we go about the holiday season. 

Before, the season was all about the host. My goal as a hostess was to showcase all of my abilities in a way that seemed effortless. I wanted you to think that I was perfect, not just my home and hosting abilities. And this is where the fear of failure comes in. And this fear is what makes it difficult to actually ENJOY the holidays. 

Enjoying the holidays 

So, how do you adopt this new definition of hospitality into your already-busy holiday season? 

The first thing to do is to take the focus off of you.

This can be difficult to do sometimes because we usually do this unintentionally. 

Practically speaking, this can be as simple as knowing your strengths and weaknesses so you don’t set yourself up for failure. One example of this is the pressure to craft and bake during the holidays. If you love doing these things, GREAT! If you don’t, that’s okay, too. Don’t let the Hallmark-ness of the holiday season trick you into thinking you are less because you don’t particularly enjoy certain aspects of the season.

hospitality toward others

The second thing to do is to put the focus on others. 

It might seem counterintuitive that you would have to work to put the focus on others when you’re already taking the focus off of yourself, but I’ve found that the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. 

Part of the magic of the holiday season is to make those around you – both in your circles and out – feel thought of. Take the time to have those conversations, to drop off your gift in person if you can, or even to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to but  still think of often. 

Allow yourself to think of hospitality as more of a lifestyle, rather than just a mindset for a specific event. Soak up the moments that become memories and focus on the things that matter most.

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