From sharing everything from the history to traditional customs, this is what you need to know as the host.

By Caroline Biggs
November 18, 2020
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Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

'Tis the season for celebrating the holidays with loved ones. But not all of your friends and family members are privy to your unique cultural and religious traditions. "Sometimes, a host faces the challenge of introducing a new and unfamiliar holiday to their guests," says Lisa Cokinos, founder of LC Events Co, a full-service event planning firm in New York City. "In these cases, it's the host's job to convey the significance of that holiday for any attendee, young or old, so they can fully appreciate it."

Fortunately, finding ways to educate guests about a new-to-them holiday is every bit as entertaining as it is easy. "Sharing different cultural traditions with friends and family creates a strong bond and sense of community," says Bianca Hall, co-owner of Estera Events in Chicago. "There isn't a downside when everyone is respectful and eager to learn something new."

Interested in hearing more about how you can prepare guests for an unfamiliar holiday celebration? We asked Cokinos, Hall, and Erica Vanco, fellow co-owner of Estera Events, to share their advice and this is what they had to say.

Provide information up front.

If you know that certain guests are unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of your holiday party, then Hall says it's crucial to fill them in with details ahead of time. "Incorporate traditions into the invitation with a brief note on the history of the celebration," she advises. "Giving some information up front that you're inviting people to a mixed tradition celebration helps everyone get a little familiar prior to the event."

Put together a relevant playlist.

To help create a more immersive experience for guests that are commemorating a new-to-them holiday, Vanco suggests making a playlist with music appropriate to the holiday and culture you'll be celebrating. "Feel free to get a couple of guests to help curate the list too," she says. "A shared Spotify playlist is always fun, and you can share it with guests after the dinner as well."

Explain the menu.

Since so many holiday traditions revolve around food, Cokinos recommends walking your guests through the menu and any other unfamiliar customs so they feel more comfortable. "Have your guests set the table with you for the evening, and explain the significance of where each person sits and why," she says. "Create a menu with traditional foods and detail the significance of where the foods are from, what they symbolize, and why it is important to have them for the holiday."

Play a fun (but educational) party game.

No holiday celebration would be complete without a good party game, which is why Cokinos suggests creating a game that tells the story of the newly introduced holiday. "A photo scavenger hunt is a creative way to introduce an unfamiliar holiday to family members and friends," she explains. "Take photos of items that are relevant to the celebration, hide them around the area of the party, provide lists to teams of attendees with descriptions of items and their significance, set a timer, and go!"

Make sure everyone feels included.

Whether you're a guest celebrating a new holiday or the host of the event, all attendees at a party are happiest when everyone is comfortable and having a good time. "Have fun with it and be encouraging," Cokinos says. "Make sure to follow up with any newcomers by sending photos and videos of them at the event. Those little moments will be unforgettable memories that can hopefully turn into new traditions for guests."

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