As children, my parents made us sit in rapture at the top of the stairs awaiting an official start to Christmas morning. Until the ripe old age of thirteen, we weren’t allowed in the family room until beckoned. What I’m certain was merely a peacekeeping tactic on their end created a seemingly unbearable sense of anticipation for us. Our minds raced and hearts beat faster at the thought of unwrapping toys, feasting on cinnamon buns, and drinking our body weight in sparkling cider. That day was always uninhibited bliss.

As happens with many aspects of growing older, luster fades. Those enchanting sentiments dissolve into taxing responsibilities: A need to purchase the perfect gift, craft the most delectable meal, and host an unforgettable holiday party. Each year brings with it unique pressures or difficulties which dull our childlike enthusiasm.

Can we just say it?  Holiday hosting is intimidating; especially for those of us who are new to the hostess spotlight. However, I am here to assure you that the spotlight’s once harsh glare can easily be transformed into a warm glow that soothes and invites even the coldest of hearts this holiday season.

All you need is a little planning, a couple of easy hosting hacks, a few deep breaths, and some help from your friends. Below are four key things to remember to keep the merry  in your gatherings.

 This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. Share and celebrate your family update. Shop Shutterfly for personalized holiday cards that are unique, meaningful and that are just the way you want.

We’re gearing up for the gifting season and love looking for inventive (and, let’s face it, stress-less!) ways to show our love for those we hold dear. While Shutterfly has been our go-to in the past for printing epic vacation photos, memories from times abroad, and cementing important life milestones, we recently learned that they now make gifting those one-of-a-kind keepsakes even simpler through the use of their new Art Library. No uploading or extra thought required.

Available on their site, the library is preloaded with hundreds of free travel photographs, art images, patterns, quotes — you name it — for you to easily customize any number of gifts. So, in addition to stocking up on cards and calendars this holiday season, we’ve put together a Darling “Persona-Approved” gift guide to use while shopping Shutterfly’s products. Read on below to see what we picked!

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