One big idea to light up the 12 Days of Christmas

How can you make the holidays even merrier? It’s simple…party for 12 straight nights!

No, really, I’m serious. I wish I could say that this was my idea, but I’d be lying, and then Santa would put me on his naughty list. So, in truth, this brilliant scheme was devised by a friend of mine (whom I’m sure would prefer to remain unnamed), but it’s so fun and so festive that I wanted to share it with all of you.


Of course, we all know the ubiquitous Christmas carol, with the French hens, turtle doves, lords-a-leaping, geese-a-laying, and swans-a-swimming (I’ve always wondered what they have to do with Christmas. And what’s with the maids-a-milking?) Let’s admit it, the obligatory holiday tune is repetitive and sort of annoying, right? Well, you probably wouldn’t mind the repetitiveness so much if drinking and friends were involved, would you? And that’s precisely the idea behind the 12 Days of Christmas Open House. Yep, you read that right — 12 consecutive nights of holiday open houses. Sounds like a lot, sure, but it’s not as much work as you might think (or so my friend says). Just decorate once and open your doors. People will come bearing gratitude and gifts!

My friend has been doing this for over 5 years, and the invite list grows steadily year to year as people hear about this decadently wonderful idea (and she emphatically encourages invitees to bring friends). Every time I go (and I try to attend as many nights as my schedule allows), I run into someone I haven’t seen in ages or I meet someone new. Some people pop in for 30 minutes on their way to somewhere else, and others stay for hours. But it’s always an interesting mix of people, and it’s a great way to get a jump on the holidays before they pass you right by.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 10.44.29 AMSome years, she starts on December 1st and continues consecutively through the 12th of December. Other years, depending on her availability, she may start later in the month and go right up to the 23rd or 24th. Each morning she sends out a quick email to her entire list of elves, notifying everyone of the plan for that evening – the time, the theme, drink special, dress code, etc.

Set-up for this kind of drop-in party is simple in theory. Just provide some wine, beer and maybe a tray of basic booze and mixers, if you choose. Most of this you can leave out from night to night and simply refill the ice bucket. Guests will inevitably bring wine or some sort of libation which will keep your coffers replenished. No one expects a meal, since it’s a come-as-you-are open house, so you can just set out some party mix, cheese and crackers, and maybe some charcuterie from Costco, if that pleases you. These will also last several nights, as people tend to drink more than they eat. Turn on the carols, light the fireplace or a couple of candles and wait for your holiday guests to arrive.

Each night, my friend offers a different featured cocktail. For example, one night she typically serves spiked hot chocolate and suggests that everyone comes in their pajamas…and they do! I mean, who doesn’t love chillin’ in their PJs with a cocktail in hand! Eggnog (heavy on the rum) is always fun, and it pairs perfectly with a movie night theme featuring “The Grinch,” “Frosty,” “Rudolph,” and lovable ole’ “Charlie Brown.” (But not “The Year Without Santa Claus” because Snow Miser and Heat Miser are just weird and plain old creepy.) A couple of years ago, she started featuring different guest bartenders for an added element of fun and to attract new people. One “bartender,” a wine connoisseur, organized a brown-bag blind wine tasting that got everyone warmed up. I don’t think I guessed any of the wines correctly, but it sure was fun.

plaidrunnerThis year, on the 8th day of Christmas, Mike and I are guest bartending with our friend, Kendra, and we’re planning a Scotch Plaid theme. The bar will be stocked with a variety of Scotch, as well as a Madras-inspired cocktail for those who don’t prefer the really hard stuff. Of course, we’ll be wearing plaid and will encourage guests to do the same. Another festive theme we tossed around was ‘The Nutcracker.’ Inspired by the hostess’ wonderful collection of nutcrackers, it could feature a special Amaretto drink and nut-centric nibbles.

If this all sounds like too much merriment for you to go it alone, then consider collaborating with some friends and organizing it as a progressive party with different people hosting at different houses each night. Personally, I think it’s easier to do all the hosting yourself which alleviates the need for a rotating schedule and the potential for people getting confused about where to be when, but on the other hand, a change of scenery can be novel, and this approach could be a lot of fun and less stress for everyone. If you plan ahead, you can email the 12-day schedule in advance, complete with location, featured drink, theme, etc., or alternately you could email each morning with that evening’s events, maintaining an element of surprise, sort of like a pop-up party. And if you want people to dress in conjunction with the theme, just mention it in your daily email (i.e. wear your favorite ugly Christmas sweater!). A daily reminder isn’t a bad idea after all. I always look forward to receiving my friend’s morning email to see what that night’s festivities will be. Whether I can make it or not, it’s always fun to hear what you will be missing out on. FOMO at its best!

I’ll never forget the first time I heard about my friend’s “12 Days of Christmas” open house several years ago – I was wowed by the idea of such an extraordinary undertaking.  But now that I’ve been a lucky participant, I just think it’s such an ingenious idea, I wish I’d thought of it myself. Maybe when Mike and I move to Portland, I’ll take the reins and start my own 12 Days of Christmas. I suppose I’ll have to make some friends first. Until then, I look forward to getting into the Christmas spirit starting straight-away on the first night of December. Gotta get a jump start because the holidays are over and gone in the blink of an eye, and then all we have to look forward to is January.


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