How to Make Holidays with Family Extra Special, According to an Expert Hostess
Los Angeles hostess Stephanie Booth Shafran lets her love for celebrating the holidays with family shine in her new entertaining book.
There's no doubt about it: The coming holiday season will look different from those in years past. Oversize invitations with metallic printing might never arrive in mailboxes. Cocktail dresses in beaded sparkle probably won't escape the closet. But intimate time with immediate family members? That's one tradition that's sure to be present. You can count on it from esteemed hostess Stephanie Booth Shafran and her family of nine. The fifth-generation Angeleno's passion for gathering family and friends comes alive in her new book, You're Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining ($34, Amazon). The book is filled with Stephanie's gatherings—as varied as a charity luncheon and a 50th birthday party. But it's how families will celebrate Christmas that's truly important this year. Get Stephanie's take as we sit down for a Q&A.
Q: What led you to write a book about entertaining?
A: Years ago I remarried and found myself with a blended family of seven children who now range in age from 18 to 29. More people and a full circle of friends prompted me to share my passion for bringing people together. Entertaining is not about perfection to me. It's about joy. And it's a natural extension of my life and represents what matters to me: people.
Q: Why is learning how to entertain and naturally create comfortable social environments important?
A: The nicest invitation to me is being invited to someone's home. This Christmas especially, my guests mostly will be my children, and my goal is to create memories that they'll always want to return to. They are all grown now and are starting to have new obligations, so I appreciate the time they make for us to all be together.
Q: Your Christmas decorations are luxuriously elaborate. With such an affinity for creating, you must have a system in place that makes the season come alive easily. What is it?
A: I focus on one visual element, like the Christmas stockings that bear our names. They are made of simple cut velvet and white embroidery, but because there are so many, they have impact and make a statement on the mantel. I corral an abundance of like things: paperwhites in basic glass vases, drinks on a tray, and batches of cookies on my Christmas platters. The decorations don't have to be expensive, just plentiful.
Q: With a blended family, you've established new traditions. How does the Shafran clan celebrate?
A: We are about savoring moments and not racing through the process. When kids are small, there is an urgency to open gifts, but that no longer exists for us. It's important for tradition to evolve as the kids evolve. The joys change from multiple gifts under the tree to a few high-quality gifts. They have a sibling gift exchange and really get to enjoy and be thoughtful and creative. The kids—now adults—also have graduated to a Bloody Mary bar that we enjoy before we ever think about opening gifts. But I still present all of the kids with new matching pajamas to wear on Christmas. And they each get to open a box containing an ornament at their breakfast place setting. It's tailored to their own personality and interests. People who have that knack to entertain beautifully often inspire others to tap into their own creativity.
Q: How do you hope your gatherings inform your children's lives?
A: I've built beautiful vignettes that wrap them in holiday spirit, and they appreciate my efforts and respect them. Traditions bring comfort, and that's very important in the world, especially in these uncertain times. I want to provide them with familiarity and consistency that will always remind them of our time together now. I want them to always understand that when you open your home, you open your heart. And that is the greatest gift of all.
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