Entertaining is an important skill for a Jew. Important for Jews because our tradition emphasizes the opening of our homes and extension of hospitality to others, particularly during Shabbat and Pesach, but at many other times too. During Chanukah, entertaining takes center stage. Fortunately, Chanukah provides eight days of opportunities so we an all take a turn at hosting a Chanukah dinner or party!
Don’t kid yourself, entertaining is a skill. One that takes practice and thought to do well. Even for the keen hostess, entertaining can take years to master. Mastery is the ability to put on a great event without stress or the appearance of effort to others. Fortunately, entertaining can be mastered, or you can come pretty close. A key factor in improving is reflection, taking stock of your efforts with a critical eye. After each event you host, make a list (mental or physical) of what you need and what you can do to improve.
Yesterday I held a Chanukah dinner at my house. From the hostess’ point-of-view (the only one I have for this event), I thought it went very well. Everything was ready when everyone came, I had most of everything at hand as the evening progressed, and the house was back in order half-an-hour after everyone left (mostly due to my husband who is mastering cleanup as I’m mastering hostessing). Most importantly, I felt I had a lot of time to enjoy my guests and the conversation. But even so, there were a few niggling items I could see I needed:
- Glass pitcher for water
- Chargers under the plates (the table really didn’t look finished without them)
- Trial the featured cocktail recipe beforehand
- Place dessert utensils and plates near dessert, ready for serving
An easy, achievable list. And one that if I heed it, will improve my next event. Of course, if you are just starting out, your list will have more substantial items. Things like more glassware, dishes, finish cooking, and the sort. Where ever you are on your list, each improvement you make is a step forward on your path to mastery, enjoying your own parties more, and playing an important role in Jewish cultural life.
I love this process of improving my ability at entertaining. I hope you do too. What’s on your list?