Usually, we throw some sort of Christmas party, some sort of Yuletide gathering where we eat too much delicious seasonal food and enjoy time with friends during this busy season. Last year we hit on the genius idea to skip the fancy evening party and go with a lavish brunch after our church’s annual performance of The Messiah. Truly, this was one of my best ideas ever.
But this year we aren’t throwing any party. Not because we don’t have just as much holiday spirit, but does anyone else feel like there just aren’t enough days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year? We realized we could either throw a party and stress ourselves out, or just have more time to hit all the other parties and enjoy all our favorite holiday traditions. Mooch off other people’s cookies and don’t do dishes? Yes please. Tonight we are managing to hit not one, but two parties, the second being a murder mystery dinner where I am secretly hoping I am the murderer. James is hoping to get murdered, which shows that we a) don’t really know how this is done and b) are a true match. Plus, we are maybe still cleaning our kitchen from last month’s donut extravaganza, so big parties will have to wait.
Sometimes I wonder how the frenzy of Christmas parties evolved and why they become so stressful. It, plus the fact that my college bestie Bethany and I have been texting about it, has me thinking back on one of my favorite Christmas parties, one so simple and yet so perfect.
It was our senior year of college and I lived in a perfect little house with three girls, a whole host of mice that inhabited the walls, a family of deer that dwelt in our backyard and enjoyed the salt block we bought them (totally illegal, I know), and even the occasional raccoon that made it’s way into our mudroom. We also briefly had a kitten, but that didn’t end so well when it wandered off and was adopted by a fraternity house. I’ve written about life at The Ramp before, because it was a place where I was impossibly happy, happy in the way that you are in college houses, when you have no real responsibility yet but you are tasting the very first hits of true adulthood.
We decided to throw a Christmas party on almost no budget and launched ourselves into the preparations. Finals were ignored and Bethany and I spent an entire day “decorating” our house for the party. Since we were basically broke, this amounted to hacking down boxwood and holly from our back yard and the arboretum and scattering it around our house. We cleaned, baked some cookies, and filled an entire Crockpot with beanie weanies and BBQ sauce. We were reading to party.
Right before our festivities, we all trudged in the snow to see Bethany perform in the college choir rendition of Handel’s Messiah, which our school did every four years, ensuring every student a chance at participation. It seemed right that it fell our senior year, right that we could go out in a blaze of voices and organ chords. The church where it was performed was also beastly hot, and the choir had to stay standing in their robes the entire performance. Every night people fainted. To fight the heat, Bethany resorted to wearing swimwear under her robe, boldly flashing a bare leg our way as she climbed the stage and we giggled in the balcony.
Back through the snow home afterwards, where we served up beanie weanies on paper plates and dolled out mulled wine. We carded people at that party, partially because we were sticklers about the law (illegally domesticating deer aside) and partially (mostly) because wine don’t come cheap. We passed out Christmas cards where we had dressed as the Christmas family (the non-holy one) and made Elise wear her reindeer antlers at the party. I look at these truly awful Christmas cards and think about how fun they were to make, how different than they typical “let’s look perfect to impress everyone” thing we usually do. It was 2004, and sepia tones were still cool, and we made Bethany wear a pillow under her shirt. Sometimes I wish we could all still have parties like that, still send cards that showed how we act, still be content with beanie weanies on paper plates and foraged boxwood taped to doorways. It seems like so much of this season gets caught up in the presentation that we forget what it is really about. It’s about having everyone inside together, about feeding as many as you can, about the hours you wait for the Messiah’s final stanzas, standing together to sing those last lines. It’s about teetering between the old and new, expectation, and being bold enough to wear a bikini beneath your choir robe. In our flurry to throw the perfect Christmas party, we forget that Christmas is about remembering the humblest of beginnings. It’s about stables and babies and simple welcomes to this world.
Here’s to the season, in all it’s comes-as-you-are richness.
(PS: Bethany also just wrote the best Advent post ever here. )