The holidays are a special time to open your doors to family, friends, and even strangers. It’s also a time when we assume some things that maybe we shouldn’t. As a homeshare host, it’s easy to forget that your guests may not be from the same area as you are. In fact, they may be coming from across the world where cultural traditions could be vastly different. So before you leave the recipe for the perfectly browned, juicy turkey and chutney (what, you don’t serve chutney?) on your kitchen counter, thinking you’re adding a nice touch for your guests, read our tips on how to make your home warm and welcoming for the holidays without jumping to conclusions about what your guests expect.
Seasonal yes, religious, no.
Of course you’re tempted to up your decorating game this time of year to create an extra comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. But what makes you feel comfortable may make someone else feel the opposite. So choose themes that are festive but don’t relate to any particular religion. White lights, cozy pillows and blankets, nostalgic artwork that may have local significance… even a holiday tree could work as long as you keep it neutral. Think pinecones and strings of paper dolls instead of a red and green or blue and white color scheme, and steer clear of crosses, menorahs, and other religious references.
Food. It’s complicated.
While it might be tempting to share your favorite family holiday recipe to make your guests feel right at home, the thing is, you don’t know what their home traditions are. Turkey could offend vegans or anyone who just doesn’t like turkey. Latkes could cause a kerfuffle, too. Let your guests decide how they want to celebrate and what makes them feel ‘at home’.
Greet your guests as always.
You want avoid that awkward moment where you say “Happy Thanksgiving!” and they say “What’s Thanksgiving?” And you have to explain that not so politically correct story about how the Pilgrims took the land from the Native Americans. A simple “Welcome!” will do.
Remember the weary traveler.
So many of us travel for the holidays! And you’re smart to capitalize on that, for sure. The truth is, you don’t have to go overboard trying to fabricate an all out, All-American Holiday Welcome Party to make it feel “special for the holidays”. What your holiday traveler will appreciate most—after crowded airports, traffic-clogged highways, cranky cab drivers, unbrushed teeth, and few hours of sleep—is a clean home, a hot shower, a comfy bed, and depending on what part of the country you’re in, perhaps a crackling fire. If you provide those things, and you’re attentive to their needs (while also giving them their privacy), they will go from being a weary traveler to a happy camper.
Compassion is always appropriate.
We don’t want to scare you into feeling like you’re going to do or say something wrong and you can’t express yourself. Many hosts love hosting for exactly this reason—to connect with new people. The bottom line is, as long as you aware, you can’t really mess up. It’s okay if you’re dying to share your cultural customs that have been passed down through the generations. Maybe Thanksgiving is YOUR holiday and you always go big with it. That’s fine. Just try to make it a two-way street. Like, “Welcome to our humble home, we are excited to share our holiday traditions with you, and eager to learn about yours as well.”
And a cheat sheet never hurts.
Happy Holidays in French: Joyeuses Fêtes!
Happy Holidays in Spanish: Felices Fiestas!
Happy Holidays in Vietnamese: Hạnh phúc ngày lễ
Happy Holidays in Chinese: 節日快樂
Happy Holidays in Filipino: Masaya pista opisyal.
Happy Holidays in Irish: Laethanta saoire sona.
Happy Holidays in Swedish: Trevlig Helg!