Martha Stewart’s 4 Golden Rules of Holiday Hosting (You’ll Want to Take Notes)

published Nov 7, 2023
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Martha Stewart Burning Questions
Credit: Photo: Getty Images, Shutterstock; Design, The Kitchn

If I asked you to think about the ultimate home cooking and decorating icon, the odds are high that Martha Stewart would immediately come to mind. The 82-year-old (yes, she’s 82 — and don’t forget she was the cover star of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit just last year) multi-hyphenate has done it all in the home and kitchen for her fans, from teaching us how to cut onions without crying to giving us ingenious hands-free cooking hacks. An author, business woman, TV personality, and commerce queen — is there anything Martha can’t do?

Ahead of the holidays, we sat down with Stewart to get the scoop on all the musts and decor inspo you’ll need for the upcoming hosting season, plus whether or not her beloved friend Snoop Dogg will be at the festivities this year, thanks to Pure Leaf and their “Don’t Do It Yourself” iced-tea brewing partnership. (Enter here for a chance to get your own Martha-approved Don’t Do It Yourself kit!)

Burning Kitchn Questions with Martha Stewart

What are some smart fall hosting and decorating tips and tricks you or your friends swear by? 

I have one friend who makes sure that everybody meets everybody at the dinner party before they sit down at the table, and I think that’s a nice thing. To take care of the seating plan is another thing to pay attention to — don’t put two archenemies next to each other or across from one another. So that’s my main thing, and to serve good food. You don’t have to serve as much food as some people do (sometimes people overdo it). Just serve really good food. 

I try to be an innovator, but I might get a really nice idea for a table decoration or setting or something — I don’t know how to do everything. We just had a big party and I think our table was really beautiful. It was a very long table for 76 people, and we did a beautiful centerpiece down the entire table of our bread baskets interspersed with all kinds of autumnal squashes and pumpkins and leaves. It was just gorgeous. I think it’s just really nice, if you’re going to entertain, to try to do as much as you can to make your guests feel wanted, to feel included and to be happy when they leave. 

Any big hosting or decorating hacks you’re most proud of?

You know, I was astonished to see at a party last year a big butter mound. You know, it’s a big thing now to mound up as many pounds of butter as you possibly can so you can just put pieces of bread in it. And I laughed to myself because in 1982 — you can look it up — I can’t remember the page number, but in my first book, there’s this mound of butter, so they must have gotten them someplace. 

Credit: Photo: Getty Images, Shutterstock; Design, The Kitchn

So what’s going to be on your Thanksgiving table this year?

Well, I have quite a collection of turkeys. I have taxidermy turkeys and I have glass turkeys and I have pottery turkeys. And probably a lot of those will be put on my long table that seats 18 in my dining room, and then I have other tables in a smaller dining room and I have a porch now that we can eat in. I used to think kids wanted to be by themselves, like on the porch, but they don’t want to be by themselves. They want to be in where the action is, which is nice, and I was pleased to see that. I haven’t finalized the guest list, but it’ll be fun. 

I have to ask: Is Snoop on the guest list?

Oh, Snoop is always welcome, but I don’t think I can accommodate his gigantic family. There’s an awful lot of them and he’s probably either in Hawaii or Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.

So no Snoop but a plethora of turkeys. Is that always your go-to for decorating for Thanksgiving? How many do you think you have?

I used to live on Turkey Hill Road and my house was called Turkey Hill, and I started my big turkey collection then. And it will continue to come out on Thanksgiving time. And I have many. Watch my show on Roku — I have a gigantic mold, a great big old chocolate mold, and we’ve made two big chocolate turkeys this year and I have them ready to go on the table — very large, beautiful chocolate turkeys. The glass and pottery turkeys, all that stuff, will be out. 

When it comes to DIYing, how do you decide what to DIY and what to buy when you’re planning to host a dinner party? 

I would never buy a dessert, ever, because homemade desserts are infinitely better. I don’t care what it is — it’s better if you make it yourself. And I never buy a Thanksgiving pie. Just don’t do it no matter what. And don’t have pie if you don’t make it yourself. I’m very strict about things like that. Don’t have pie unless you know how to make a pie — you better learn. And don’t experiment on your guests. Practice ahead of time. If you’re serious about treating your friends nicely, don’t leave it up to chance. You don’t want to mess everything up. 

Okay, so no buying desserts or pies. What would you buy? Maybe you’re running late. 

I might buy the brioche for my stuffing, my dressing. But if I have time, I’ll bake my own brioche. 

Cleaning up after hosting can be daunting. Do you have any hacks or things you do beforehand to ensure easier cleanup? 

Well, don’t try to clean while your guests are still sitting at the table. But when you clean the table, organize yourself in the kitchen so that dinner plates are stacked in one spot, silverware is put into a tub for washing. You don’t want to soak fragile handles, knives, and stuff. With plates, I always like to rinse them if you can do that quietly without making a lot of noise, and stack carefully. Don’t try to start washing dishes during dinner. And just make sure to keep the table very neat, remove things when you’re supposed to after certain courses, just be organized. You’re the organizational queen for The Kitchn, aren’t you?