List 23: Memories from 20 Christmas parties

On Saturday, I threw my 20th consecutive Christmas party. (As I’ve stated before, I am an introvert who loves to host parties.) Below are 40 facts and memories from 20 instances of what has often been called the “Kimmy Z Christmas Party.”

  1. My mother started throwing Christmas parties with lots of food in 1970. She has only skipped 3 years.
  2. I began throwing my own Christmas parties modeled after hers when I got my first apartment in 1993.
  3. I’ve hosted my party in 3 cities: Pittsburgh, Arlington (Virginia) and Chicago.
  4. I’ve hosted the party in 5 apartments, 1 condo and 1 house.
  5. The first two parties were thrown with the cooperation of my roommate, Erin.
  6. Over the years Erin and I had grown apart then reconnecting when we moved to Chicago within a few months of each other.
  7. She now lives a mile away from me. She was the maid-of-honor at my wedding for which she also designed and made my wedding gown.
  8. She also makes beautiful things that you can find here and here among other places.
  9. (Hopefully this free promotion helps make up for the fact that I was a bitch to her 20 years ago when she bought imitation vanilla extract.)
  10. (And that I threw a fit when she used the last of the chocolate chips when I was planning to use them for something else.)
  11. To offset the cost of throwing an expensive party while we were college students Erin and I charged people to attend. It seems gauche, but it was a common practice in our theatre group to have people chip in for cast parties. No one argued with chipping in $3 to eat and drink all night.
  12. Like my mother, I typically start cooking for the Christmas party the day after Thanksgiving.
  13. Over the years my mother and I have collected a set of recipes that freeze well, and therefore can be made in advance.
  14. One make ahead and freeze item that was made by my mom for years and that I have made for all my parties is sausage balls.
  15. Although considerably less fancy than most of the other things I serve at the party, the sausage balls became legendary among my college friends. They are the item most cited as a favorite memory from my parties.
  16. Unrelated to the Christmas party I love old cookbooks and other images of “retro food.” Because of this I love the Dinner is Served 1972 blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw this post that specifically references the exact sausage ball recipe that I use (although I don’t have the problems making them that she describes). Update: my mom points out that the ratios of our recipe are the same, but we don’t precook the sausage.
  17. Gizzies are another of the lower brow recipes I make. That’s what we call my grandmother’s recipe for what is essentially Chex mix.
  18. Another recipe I’ve made every year is English toffee. It earned the nickname “Evil toffee” after it started to scorch one year and in a panic I poured it down the drain where it quickly hardened. This incident is how I learned to reset a garbage disposal.
  19. My mother always made gløgg (aka glögg) for her parties, but when I started my Christmas parties I made wassail instead because I was intimidated by the set up and care needed to flame the brandy.
  20. When I finally asked for my mom’s gløgg recipe she noted that the fire is optional but impressive. I posted the recipe here.
  21. (As a kid the flaming of the gløgg was my favorite part of the Christmas party.)
  22. Although I’ve now switched from wassail to gløgg as my official Christmas party beverage I have only used fire the first year I made it.
  23. My first 12 Christmas parties were in Pittsburgh.
  24. Among my Pittsburgh friends the party became such a tradition that people would start asking in October about when the party would be.
  25. At my 10th party my friends Chris and Dave had the distinction of being the only people other than myself who had been to every party.
  26. To mark the 10th party Chris and Dave gave me an engraved ladle, which I still use to serve gløgg.
  27. Dave had moved to Washington, D.C. but drove to Pittsburgh for that party to avoid breaking his streak.
  28. In December of 2004 I was completing and defending my master’s thesis. I considered not having a party but felt guilted into it by all the people asking me when it would be.
  29. That was the first year I chose not to get a tree. I had accumulated so many other decorations over the years that the party still looked quite festive. No one seemed to notice the lack of tree until a few hours in.
  30. That year I also cut down on my overly excessive cooking. There was still plenty of food.
  31. Due to a desire for variety and a fear of running out, I always have tons of leftovers.
  32. The theatre group for which I was a co-producer always scheduled its winter board meeting for a few days after my party, so we could eat the leftovers.
  33. Recently we’ve started taking cookies (which tend to be the bulk of the leftovers) to our local firehouse.
  34. That was also the last of my Christmas parties in Pittsburgh. Since I’ve moved my friend Rebecca took to throwing a “Kimmy Z Memorial Christmas Party.”
  35. Every year in her invitation she points out to those who may not know that I am not dead.
  36. We bought our house in December 2010, but we weren’t planning to move in until January. That year the Christmas party was held in a largely empty house containing a Christmas tree and some folding chairs.
  37. The housewarming year is the only year that I asked people to bring food.
  38. (Unless you count those first two years when Erin was my roommate, but I wouldn’t have let her help cook if she didn’t live there.)
  39. This year’s party including breaking news. About an hour in we learned that my Sister-in-law had her baby.
  40. Throwing this party ever year is a lot of work, but it is always worth it.

What are your long running holiday traditions?

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