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by Tara Bone, contributing writer

It is time once again to cook the turkey, deck the halls and gather with loved ones: It’s holiday party time! But hosting a holiday shindig can be seriously scary, the hyperventilating, feeling-like-you-are-going-to-pass-out kind of scary. If you’re a party planning pro, reflect on your firsts and celebrate your successes. If you’re thinking about hosting your first holiday events — you can do it! It takes positive thinking, deep breathing and planning with a few things in mind.

Our family’s first holiday party happened by chance. It was 2002 in Oklahoma and my husband and I found ourselves wondering how we were going to celebrate Turkey Day away from family. I felt that hyperventilating fear at the thought of hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but my husband and a friend promised to help. Our goals: keep the kitchen from catching on fire and keep the guests from getting food poisoning. We planned, delegated and invited. My husband was (and still is) in charge of the turkey and stuffing. Ladies, this is an awesome tradition. Tap into your guy’s hunter/gatherer instinct and tell him how amazing it will be to carve the bird he cooked.

Cooked turkey on table

The turkey turned out great, but there were a few failures. First lesson: Don’t leave the shopping until two days before. You may not find cranberries, celery or a tablecloth that fits your table (really, nothing in a 15-mile radius). And, keep it simple. I thought it would be easy to whip up some rolls, but I couldn’t just leave it at that. We needed an entire basket made out of bread for the rolls. Three stressful hours and one burnt bread basket later, I learned store-bought rolls would suffice until I became a roll-making goddess (still working on it).

The meal was late, there weren’t cranberries and the bread was crispy, but it didn’t matter. We learned it’s really all about who’s sitting around the table. That Thanksgiving, our table was packed with Oklahoma State University basketball players, friends from Jordan and India and a family from our church congregation. It was one of our best Thanksgivings ever. Whether it’s your first or 50th holiday party, consider inviting someone new.

Overcome the fear and experience your own holiday family first. Don’t miss a chance to gather loved ones. Remember it’s not about making perfect rolls, it’s about making memories. Holiday memories take work to create, but the joy of spending time with friends and family is priceless.

Holiday party tips