I live in an area of the country where pretty much everyone celebrates Christmas in some form – Christians and non-Christians alike. Everyone has their favorite traditions for the holiday, and they also have their least favorite things. Some love the gift giving part, some hate it. Some adore Black Friday shopping, some loathe it. Some people think the best Christmas Movie is Die Hard – those are what I refer to as “my kind of people” – and some folks enjoy more traditional fare like It’s a Wonderful Life. For me, my favorite thing is shinypretty decorations, especially a really lovely Christmas Tree. I mean, what’s not to like about a shinypretty Christmas tree, right? Lights, garland, ornaments, cute little tree skirt?
I’ll tell you what’s not to like. Putting the darned thing up in the first place.
I love a good Christmas tree so much that when I walk into a new house, one of the first things I automatically think about is what the best place to put the tree would be. My mother can attest to this, since she and Dad heard me pass judgement about Christmas tree placement suitability on every single house they took me to look at when they were looking for a new home back in 1998. She probably also recalls when I did it again for every apartment I rented from 1997 through 2002, and when I bought my own house in 2003. A good Christmas Tree spot is right up there with indoor plumbing and central air conditioning for me.
But putting up the tree and other decorations? Complete pain in the ass, especially when you are doing it by yourself. Which is why a few years ago I went looking for a better way to do do things – and I found one – just 3 easy steps to getting up all your Christmas decorations in one day and having a ton of fun doing it. The secret? Throw a party!
You may be thinking “My God, woman, are you nuts? Throwing a party is even worse than putting up the decorations!” But I say if you do it right, it’s not harder at all. Last Sunday, I threw my 4th Annual Deck My Halls party with great success, and in a few short hours I went from having all of my Christmas decorations in boxes in the living room to having two completely decorated 7 1/2 foot Christmas trees, a big wreath, and a bunch of garland up around the house, and I got to visit with about 15 of my friends to boot. To make it even better, my kitchen was 95% cleaned up within 10 minutes of the party breaking up. Here’s how I do it.
Pick a date right *before* Thanksgiving for the party. A lot of people go out of town over the Thanksgiving weekend, and after Thanksgiving, it’s pure craziness to schedule almost anything. I’ve done the Saturday before T-day and the Sunday before T-day, and both of them can work! If you missed the pre-Thanksgiving window this year but still want to do the party, just do the best you can, and plan ahead better next year!
Make the party an Open House. My party this year was scheduled from 2-7PM on a Sunday, and it worked very well. I don’t do outside decorations at this point, but if I add those someday this timeframe will work great because it will allow decorations to be put up before it gets dark.
Invite a minimum of THREE fully qualified geeks. This is a MUST, especially if you are not personally good with Electrical Things. It is impossible to embark on any sort of Christmas decorating without running across something important that Will.Not.Light.Up.DAMMIT! You need some people at your party who enjoy dealing with such nonsense. I say to invite a minimum of three geeks because depending on the problem, troubleshooting and fixing the solution may require two geeks to work in tandem. The third geek is for backup in case someone gets sick. Trust me on this – I have needed the third geek before.
Make sure you have food that is tasty AND easy. People don’t come do your Christmas decorating for you purely out of the kindness of their hearts anymore than people will help you move house just because they like you. You have to feed them! And if you want to make sure you can have fun at your own party, you need to feed them tasty things. My standbys are a lovely dish we call Crock Pot Chicken, some amazing spinach artichoke dip that’s quite healthy, Little Smokies (or as I like to call them, Little Nitrates) and some chips and dip and veggie tray. That’s it, but the people seem to like the stuff because I always get recipe requests and there aren’t terribly many leftovers.
Use Disposable Dishes. Yeah, I know – not the most environmentally friendly thing to do. But in terms of reducing aggravation of throwing a party, this is one of the most important things to do. Sue me.
Have Interesting Decorations. My tree is full of delightful ornaments that you won’t find a whole lot of other places (especially places where geeks aren’t living.) I have handmade crafty ornaments made by my nieces, beautiful glass ornaments with poinsettias painted on, and lovely white and silver beads. All of which are beautiful, but not terribly interesting. However, when paired with Star Trek and Star Wars spaceships, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter characters, and Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, conversations really get started. I used to have a white, red, and silver tree that made Martha Stewart look like a chump, but my current decorations are way more fun and kids are much more interested in helping put them on the tree.
Relinquish Control. This whole scheme doesn’t work if you aren’t willing to let your guests have a little fun with decorating. Honestly, I don’t really even know exactly how my Christmas Trees are put together because my guests have put them up for the last 4 years. And if you are the type who has to have every ornament *specifically* placed in *exactly the perfect spot* on your tree, then this type of party will drive you crazy because you will just end up re-decorating everything, thereby largely defeating the purpose of the party.
Have Fun With Your Guests. Every person who gets an invitation to my party – whether it’s family, friends from work, my sorority sister from college, or my friends from CrossFit, is there for a reason – because I love them and care for them and think they are awesome. Therefore, my goal is to make sure I get to spend at least a little bit of time with each one of them during the event – because after all, there’s more value to a Deck My Halls party than just getting that dadgum tree up.
That’s it – just a few guidelines for one of the best events you can have to start getting in the holiday spirit and killing two birds with one stone – socializing and decorating. Perhaps some day if I’m smart I’ll make good on my threat to have an Undeck My Halls party in January. Stay tuned!