Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties

Photo: Dennis Hallinan/Getty Images

A weeklong series on the art of entertaining, for women who are too busy for Pinterest. This article was originally published in 2015.

You love parties. You have always loved parties. But people don’t throw enough parties. This is one of the great disappointments of your adult life, second only to adult acne and property taxes. People are fucking lazy and they’re needlessly anxious about hosting so they rarely throw parties, and as they get older, they throw even fewer parties.

This is a big problem, because you don’t want to go to parties that are really just massive, sponsored events with banners for flavored vodkas and energy drinks all over the place. No. You want to go to a friend’s actual place of residence and pull a cold beer out of a bucket of ice and drink it while you talk to your friend’s other friend, the one you’re not sure you like that much. You want to keep pulling beers out of that ice and drinking them until your friend’s other friend starts to seem wittier and smarter than you remember her being, hilarious and raucous and outrageous and made of fucking magic. But this requires your friend to buy a few beers and shove them into a bucket of ice, big fucking deal. This requires your friend to buy some hummus at Trader Joe’s and scrape that shit into a bowl, just for you and this other friend. So what, right? How hard is it, really?

But no, everyone is too lazy and passive to throw parties. When you were a teenager or a college kid, you felt sure that once people had nice apartments or houses that they OWNED, for Chrissakes, they would be throwing parties left and right. Wasn’t that the whole point of growing older and having a miserable job, so you could invite people over to your place to drink beer together? You thought you’d probably spend your adulthood going from one friend’s house to the next, drinking cold beer and falling in and out of love with your friend’s other friends. But you were wrong. Because except for those rare heroes who can be counted on to throw ragers every now and then, no one ever throws big, raucous parties. Your acquaintances and your casual friends and your close friends are all lazy fucking chickenshits.

And do you know what happens to those few friends who aren’t lazy chickenshits, as they get older? They stop throwing ragers and they start throwing exactly one party a year. And guess what? It’s a holiday party.

A HOLIDAY PARTY. Because that’s just what you need in chilly mid-December, more than anything else. You need to choose between three or four weak-sauce holiday parties all happening on the same night. You need to hire a fucking babysitter or worse yet, drag your kids out of the house with you, just so you can stand around sipping mulled wine and nibbling stale cookies and smiling a pained smile as you watch some little kid in a green velvet dress twirling and twirling and twirling by a Christmas tree. You need to smash some Brie onto a tasteless cracker and break the stupid cracker and then shove the whole mess into your mouth in the middle of a strained conversation with some dipshit from your friend’s office whose lackluster baritone drone blends seamlessly with Perry Como’s baritone crooning of “The Little Drummer Boy,” so that you can’t make out a single dipshitty drummer-boy word.

But apparently that’s what mature adults do instead of laughing loudly and dancing and pouring icy tequila cocktails into their faces. They stand around until their hips ache, sipping bad red wine out of plastic cups, hoping that it’ll eventually make them feel “festive,” a word that conjures old candy canes covered in little green pine needles and partridges in pear trees getting shot between the eyes. “Festive” is a flaccid dick tucked into a pair of khaki Dockers. Festive is a mouth full of rancid rum balls. Festive is an ironic Christmas sweater. Festive is a sour-wine-flavored dry heave.

Now let’s suppose for a minute that you can’t get enough of the holidays. Let’s say you’re one of those Christmas-cheer junkies who erects a flashing animatronic Santa-and-reindeer train wreck in your front yard the day after Halloween. Let’s say you’ve been wearing jingle-bell earrings and ordering gingerbread-flavored lattes since early November. Let’s say you make all of your friends Christmas-themed music mixes each year, oblivious to how quickly such mixes incite suicidal ideation in three out of four human test subjects. Let’s say your great uncle is Bing Crosby and you’ve got a tangerine impaled with cloves shoved into your boxer briefs right now. That still doesn’t justify squeezing 90 percent of the year’s parties into two godforsaken weekends.

Because thanks to this shortsighted holiday bum-rush, on the cursed nights of December 12 and December 19, you will either have to choose one friend’s party and blow off two or three other friends, or you’ll hop from one party to the next “making an appearance” like some smiling, hand-shaking victim of debutante rush. And because everyone else at these parties is also “making an appearance” at two or three other parties, this will make each holiday party as relaxing and fun as an airport security line. “Oh, Lauren! It’s so great to see you! We’re actually on our way out, we’ve got, like, three other parties tonight, it’s nuts.” No wonder that guy sawing on the nut-covered cheddar-cheese ball looks about as cheerful as a stranger on the subway who’s trying to make sure you don’t steal his laptop. No wonder the woman ladling up mulled wine winces at you as you squeeze by her, like you might pull out a switchblade and cut her face off. Mingling at a holiday party is like trying to make small talk with desperate strangers waiting in line at Toys ‘R’ Us on a last-minute trip to the mall on Christmas Eve. But it’s worse, because at least at the mall you’re supposed to be miserable.

So this is where you land as the holiday invitations roll in: feeling as ambivalent as a flaccid dick tucked into a pair of khaki Dockers. You know that your friends are trying to be energetic and generous and brave, purchasing their wine and unpacking their cheeses and crackers and arranging them attractively on that ugly Christmas platter. You know that they’re going to have to vacuum their houses and bake their cookies and they could just as easily not invite your ungrateful ass. They’d obviously be right not to invite you. You are a thankless curmudgeon who deserves to spend the holiday season alone.

But you know what? All of the goddamn parties of the year shouldn’t happen on the same goddamn night. And some of the parties of the year should be actual fucking parties, with vats of cocktails and lively drunk people and friendly friends of friends who stick around for more than 15 minutes. They should be parties where really good music is playing, the kind of music that doesn’t make you want to hurl yourself through the nearest window in a shower of broken glass like Daniel Craig. And look, you wouldn’t even mention it if everyone were hosting parties in the spring and the summer and the fall, when no one has anything better to do. You wouldn’t even mention it if you didn’t love parties. But you do love parties.

So throw a party, motherfuckers. A real fucking party. Throw an actual goddamn party for a change, you lazy chickenshits, one that doesn’t feel like an extended wait on an especially awkward, pine-scented subway platform. Is it really so hard? Is it rocket science, buying a case of beer and a bag of pita chips? Don’t bother vacuuming. Throw a real party, in January, or June, or October. You know you want to. You love parties. You miss them. You want to throw a rager so bad it hurts. And you know just the thankless curmudgeon to invite.

Order Heather Havrilesky’s new book, What If This Were Enough, here. Her advice column will appear here every Wednesday. Got a question? Email

Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties