by Jennifer Andreu Yarbrough
My grandmother, Mrs. Rita “Wynette” Andreu or simply “Grammy,” was quite the Holiday Hostess. From the moment we entered her house on Christmas Eve to the moment we left everything was perfect. Here are a few things that I learned from my Southern Grammy about how to make Christmas special.
Start with ambiance — I will always remember the smell of Grammy’s perfume intermingled with smells from a fire in the hearth, a fresh Christmas tree, and delicious food baking. If you have a fireplace, use it! The smell of a fire, even in balmy Florida, creates ambiance. Buy a fresh, cut tree or wreath, the smell is festive! While we’re on the subject of Christmas trees, even if you decorate thematically give ornaments made by your children and grandchildren a place of honor. I was so proud that amongst the Victorian-themed ornaments on my Grammy’s tree, my handmade ornaments were prominently displayed.
Set your table — Unveil your China and silver; go all out to set a lovely table! Grammy always used her beautiful cream and rose China set, demonstrating that this was a special meal---this was Christmas! Using nice linens and tableware let me know as a child to be on my best behavior, which helped me learn about manners and etiquette. Also, include a low-profile centerpiece that reflects your taste and style. Go rustic or floral, or opt for a Florida centerpiece, like I am this year, with shimmering sand dollars, star fish, and small white Christmas trees. Clean all of these items the week before Christmas, go ahead and set your table and mark a big item off your list! My Grammy was cool and collected on Christmas Eve, as every hostess should be, and preparation was the reason!
Cooking— I remember the year that I found out my Grammy’s cooking secret—I saw it lurking in the trash—a frozen pie box! All those years I thought my Grammy cooked every last item from scratch, but she confessed that she had not and that made all the difference in getting everything done and being relaxed enough to have fun. Ask people to bring things! People love to contribute! Just give them a little direction—side dish, dessert, breads, drinks, etc. My goodness, don’t stress yourself out!
Hostess Fashion— Any Southern hostess will tell you, you need to look your best. This is Christmas, y’all, it’s a special Holiday, so by all means make time to get yourself together---fix your hair, put on a little makeup and press your clothes—whether they be casual or your Sunday best. And, take a tip from Grammy’s playbook, get yourself a cute apron. Practical for keeping your clothes clean and cute enough to make a fashion statement!
Start Traditions— On the way to Grammy’s house, my Dad would turn on the car radio and really play up the Santa Tracker, we loved it! Before we departed from Grammy’s house we selected one ornament from her tree to keep. Start your own tradition—peruse Pinterest and give your guests “Reindeer Food” as a parting gift, or a “Christmas Eve” box with pajamas, hot cocoa and a mug. Sing Christmas Carols around the fire. Have a Birthday Cake for Jesus, sing Happy Birthday and blow out the candles!
Christmas is a special Holiday no matter where you are. Love the people that you are with and make sure to enjoy every moment, making memories that will last a lifetime. Merry Christmas, y’all!
Local Authors & Experts for St. Johns Magazine