Evolution of a Christmas Eve Party

Fifteen years ago I decided to have a Christmas Eve party. Divorced that year and foraging new post-divorce friendships, after eleven years of subdued married life, I needed to tear one on. And I actually had people to invite now!

The first years were intimate gatherings of four or six neighbors, some parents of Daughter’s friends and the current boyfriend in my small house, the menu usually featuring grilled sausages, kraut and German potato salad from Geiers, our local German deli. (Five years out of seven, Christmas Eve falls on a work day, not much time to prepare a full scratch meal.) Around which delicacies I’d prepare platters of spinach-stuffed phyllo, crab stuffed mushrooms, and for my ten-year old, devilled eggs, which, alternately garnished with fresh dill sprigs and flecks of sweet red pepper became “Christmas Eggs.” And Christmas cookies of course.

Those early parties, people were kicked out around ten so Santa could come and do his thing. Even though by then Daughter KNEW. But still.

A tradition was born and each year as I varied the menu a bit and tried to vary the Suspects, as I began to call my guests. Repeat attendees were called, “The Usual Suspects.”

A few years later, an epic party occurred, which paralleled my life really. I was dating a barefoot harmonica player from Key West. My friend-pool had grown since joining a writing group. Longtime friends from Hawaii had moved to Georgia, now only a car ride away. My ex-husband was diagnosed that year with cancer, and through the fear we’d foraged a new relationship. So I invited him and his new wife to my Christmas Eve party. Along with the barefoot harmonica player, Dona and Bill from Georgia, Patty and teacher Pat from writing group, Cat from work and her fiancé Brad, along with the Usual Suspects. I’d added a room on my house so the space was bigger. I had all kinds of food.

Here’s the epic thing about that year: I guess it wasn’t enough to have my ailing former husband and his new wife at the party to satisfy the new infusion of humanity, for I’d also invited an ex-commercial shark fisherman who Patty and I had met drinking beer at Cortez Kitchen. What the hell, right?

Well this guy was odd! He wore a flannel shirt tucked in. He went around my living and dining rooms and stared at all the pictures, making me feel VIOLATED. He scarfed up ALL the crab mushrooms, he got Dona drunk on Goldschlager for heaven’s sake! He actually went around telling all my friends that he was going to marry me someday! While my barefoot harmonic player sat right there! OMG!

Tonight I’ll have my fifteenth annual Christmas Eve party. There will be 20-30 people cruising through at various times. Me and the Sharkman have a big house and this will be our 8th Christmas party as a married couple (I know. I know!). I’ll have roasted tenderloin and turkey breast, shrimp cocktail, German meats and potato salad, cheese and fruit, Christmas eggs (OF COURSE) and pumpkin pie, no cookies (empty nest now you know). We’ll all get up and sing, “Merry Christmas from the Family,’ by Robert Earl Keene. New blood will include the couple who bought and fixed up the short sale next door. My daughter’s step mom will be there with her boyfriend (she’s only missed one party since that fateful one). Daughter won’t be home this year but hopefully some of her twenty-something friends will come by because that’s become an interesting contingent to the party.

New attendees every year are told by a Usual the story of the party That Year, in the smaller house when the husband of Past, boyfriend of Present and husband of Future were all in attendance and look at that guy now, see how much he loves her? (And she him.) What a great party!


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