As Christmas parties go, the Up on the Housetop Party was pretty basic: newspapermen (and women) + massive amounts of alcohol = Christmas cheer.
This was in Columbus. The name came from the Christmas carol, which was composed by a local, Benjamin Hanby. For a long time, I’d hear people mention W.C. Handy, aka the Father of the Blues, and I’d think, “Yes, and no one ever mentions he also wrote ‘Up on the Housetop’, the B-list Christmas song.” It’s a good thing I never said this aloud, because if you follow the links above, you realize that not only are they different people, one is a white Methodist from Ohio and the other a black son of an A.M.E. preacher from Alabama, and their lives only intersected for six years. That would be embarrassing, but what can I say? At every Up on the Housetop party I ever attended, I was shitfaced.
The Up on the Housetop party was an unofficial Christmas party, hosted by a few of the older staffers. The official one was a buffet in the newsroom with an open bar. It was served by the staff at the company’s country retreat, where they entertained bigshots and advertisers. The bartenders had been well-trained to put guests in an ad-buying mood by pouring heavy, and they didn’t change their habits when serving at the Christmas party. This was at midday, and even in that different time most people knew enough not to get hammered when they still had half a shift to go and a paper to put out. Not all people. I remember walking through the hallway between the city room and the sports/features departments and seeing a young librarian on her knees, about to hurl. Merry Christmas, darlin’! Those bartenders know their stuff, don’t they?
Although we aren’t supposed to party like that anymore — I certainly don’t — those people knew something we didn’t: That there’s nothing wrong with letting your hair down a bit, as long as someone else drives you home. Most company Christmas parties these days are pretty joyless affairs, crippled by liability concerns and corporate skinflints. I can no more imagine my employer buying me a drink these days than I can — wait. I don’t have an employer anymore. Rather, I’m my own employer. Let me buy me a drink.
Wait. It’s 9:07 a.m.
Tell me the stories of your best/worst Christmas parties. Spare no details. Because there’s nothing that says “our savior is born” quite like stirring your martini with a candy cane, is there?
Holiday weekend bloggage:
Take Eric Zorn’s So You Think You Know Carols? quiz. I got 80 percent, but I? Wuz robbed. Hint: Beware of trick questions. UPDATE: Don’t miss the Scared of Santa photo gallery, either.
Good to see pranksters haven’t lost their sense of humor: A rash of baby-Jesus thefts ends in mass amnesty. If you read any part of this at all, see the last quote.
OID (or River Rouge, in this case): The world’s worst, and dumbest, babysitter helps toddler smoke a joint. And videotapes it.
Happy holidays, all! The holiday photos start next week. As of today, I have but two. So if you’re of a mind to, mail ’em in. Still plenty of time to get your mug up there.
brian stouder said on December 21, 2007 at 9:55 am
That was a hard quiz!
You got 64% correct. Tsk. You have been shopping and eating too much and not singing enough. Study up, study up, study up let’s go!
The scared Santa pictures are great! (I’d share a toe-curling Christmas party story or two, but I still work with half of the people involved, so I have to take the Fifth! Pass the fifth, please)
Peter said on December 21, 2007 at 10:37 am
I got 76%, so mad props to Nance.
When I was in architecture school I worked at a couple of large firms in Chicago. Back then some firms would have a Christmas Party at an empty suite in the building or an almost completed job site where everyone could get hammered and not worry about damaging good stuff. This firm would always invite the students back, but it was because they needed us to break up the inevitable fights where people told each other what they really thought of them. This firm required men to wear jackets during the party, so we could pull them over their heads during a fight as if it was an NHL scrum.
nancy said on December 21, 2007 at 10:48 am
So much of taking that test is test-taking skills. You eliminate the ridiculous answers and then sing the rest in your head, to see if they make sense or could possibly rhyme. That’s how even though Santa brings the seemingly ridiculous “tacks” to kids in “Up on the Housetop,” it made more rhythmic sense than “an asbestos teddy bear.”
Last night, while watching “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?,” the contestant was asked to pick the conifer from this list: oak, pine, maple. My own fifth-grader didn’t know what a conifer was, but knew that of those three, the oak and maple have more in common with one another than the pine, so “pine” was her guess. I was so pleased. If 90 percent of life is just showing up, the other 10 percent is educated guessing. I’m glad she’s up on those skills.
brian stouder said on December 21, 2007 at 10:59 am
Yes – my 64 definitely flagged – but I know almost nothing at all about the lyrics of any of those songs and hymns (although I could hear Jose Feliciano singing “….from the bottom of my hearrrART”) – so 64% is my baseline guessing skill
wade said on December 21, 2007 at 11:06 am
88% – a sure sign of a wasted childhood…
Marie said on December 21, 2007 at 11:06 am
The other joy of being your own employer is that you can start drinking at 9:07 a.m., right? (Or so my own joyless, crippled soul likes to imagine.)
LAMary said on December 21, 2007 at 11:09 am
Ahem. I got 96% correct. My years of torturing my children by singing along in the car paid off.
Peter said on December 21, 2007 at 11:21 am
Well John Garner and Harry Truman always said that it’s noon somewhere, so how about that drink…
Adrianne said on December 21, 2007 at 11:25 am
Nance, remember those News and Sentinel parties of yesteryear, when we seized control of the planning after the disastrous “Hate Whitey” escapade manufactured by the bitter executive assistant, Patricia whats-her-name? The best aspect was our $600 budget, of which we squandered a considerable amount on a karoake machine.
Sue said on December 21, 2007 at 11:35 am
86% for me. That’s because I have two jobs and have been listening to Christmas carols 55 hours a week for two months. Somebody kill me. Nancy, what does 9:07 a.m. have to do with it? Toss some champagne in your orange juice or vodka in your tomato juice and call it brunch. And the end quote to the stolen-baby-Jesus story makes me wonder if anyone else has noticed the cross-shaped greenery decorations taking the place of wreaths in some areas (just starting to show up here in Wisconsin but I guess the crosses are pretty common in the Chicago ‘burbs)? Am I the only one who finds that funny/disturbing? “Welcome, baby Jesus, this is what you have to look forward to!”
brian stouder said on December 21, 2007 at 11:38 am
The best aspect was our $600 budget, of which we squandered a considerable amount on a karoake machine.
If there was a video that could be Youtubed, of Madam Telling Tales belting out a few show tunes (or Smoke on the Water…) people all across nn.c land would surely love to see it!
LAMary said on December 21, 2007 at 11:44 am
My ex’s company Christmas parties were always brightened by the drunken girlfriend of his boss. One year she walked up to the guy who was performing some lovely classical piece on the cello and asked in her Italian accent, “Where the fuck did you get a tan this time of year?” This was in a roomful of silent people listening to the cello music. When the musician said, “excuse me?” she went on saying, “You! You have a tan!” No one knew what to do.
The next year she got into some screaming fight with her boyfriend, the boss, in the middle of the dance floor. This prompted him, also very drunk, to come over to me and say very loudly, “you wouldn’t do things like this, would you?” “Does your husband know how lucky he is?” “You should leave him. He’s fucking half the travel agents in California.” Again, this is all with a heavy Italian accent to add that special euro-trash spice.
Danny said on December 21, 2007 at 12:49 pm
Wow, Mary. Good times indeed.
I am not remembering any good Christmas party stories myself, but I did have a friend in high school who was a blackout drinker who fell into the Christmas tree at his girlfriend’s parent’s house, knocking it down and landing on it. They did not like him anyway, but that surely did not help.
Kinda like my favorite Kiefer Sutherland clip. Since he is currently in lockdown, Christmas trees are safe this year.
Danny said on December 21, 2007 at 1:01 pm
This is cute: What it would sound like if the Beatles played Stairway to Heaven.
And they’re good too.
nancy said on December 21, 2007 at 1:40 pm
Now, see, this is what I imagine Christmas at the Versaces’ to be like. One look at Donatella, and you know she’s a screamer.
(Also, very tan.)
Andrea said on December 21, 2007 at 1:54 pm
84% for me. I don’t think I know any of the words to “Carol of the Bells.” I could only hear the instrumental handbell version in my head.
Our corporate holiday party, held at the end of January, is usually dull and political. Even though the President has a holiday bash in his home for all of his direct reports, for the all-company party, we have to pay $15 each, for which you get a buffet dinner and one drink ticket. The rest is cash bar. They do give out pretty good door prizes, though.
Mindy said on December 21, 2007 at 1:59 pm
84% Sez I stand to be the life of any winter holiday party I attend should caroling break out. Except that I don’t sing in public out of consideration for my fellow man. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a glass of whatever makes the season bright.
Dorothy said on December 21, 2007 at 3:09 pm
92%. Whooo hooo! I’m almost as good as Mary!
#14 in the Scared of Santa pictures almost looks like a kidnapping.
Julie Robinson said on December 21, 2007 at 4:51 pm
LAMary, were we childhood twins? Also 96%! All those years in choirs have finally paid off. My pop culture knowledge is deficient, though–never heard the 1955 gem.
We just finished a week with both my mother and sister staying here, so if I could find me some champagne I’d be downing it. I love them, but a week of intense togetherness is way too much.
Linda said on December 21, 2007 at 7:47 pm
Re: Holiday parties. The employer where I work at refused to let the Staff Association have a party on the worksite with alcohol. So, our union offered them the union hall, where we could have beer, wine and stuff. Nobody EVER got shitfaced, even though it’s always held on Saturday night and there’s no work to return to. OTOH, my sister worked for a hard drinker who took his employees on a collective bender every December, and they DID have a job to go back to. My sister hated it, because she was the only person sober at the end, and for all practical purposes the work fell to her.
Connie said on December 21, 2007 at 8:34 pm
I have my very own collection of scared Santa pictures. And a few scared Clown pictures. Our favorite was the one we have always referred to as “screaming with the Easter Bunny.”
Laura said on December 21, 2007 at 8:56 pm
I got a 92 percent. Not bad.
basset said on December 22, 2007 at 12:17 am
Christmas music is ****in’ depressing and I don’t want to hear any more of it, ever. Hate carols, didn’t take the test, so I guess I got a zero.
In a perfect world I would go to sleep after Thanksgiving dinner and wake up the morning after the Super Bowl.
Danny said on December 22, 2007 at 9:49 am
Man, I only got 72%. I really thought I was going to get a higher score than that. Now I am going to have carol-envy of Mary and Dorothy … and Mindy and Andrea and Sue … and holy crap, even #@%^ing Nancy. I bet it was one of those secular songs that did it for her, marginal christmas caroler that she is. And Peter and I are tied. Probably an Engineer-Architect thing.
But at least I beat Stouder (HA ha) and I should think that would put us all in the true Christmas spirit.
Jeff, we got the fruit cake from Gethsemane Farms yesterday and we tried it out last night ….. and it is as good as a fruit cake can be, but alas, it is still a fruit cake. Of the four of us who tried it, I had the most favorable reaction finishing my piece and my wife’s. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, which is probably why I tended to like it more than the others. I don’t think they are happy unless they get a dessert that makes them go into insulin shock.
basset, you make baby Jesus cry. Or is that laugh with scorn and derision? I forget. Merry Christmas 🙂
basset said on December 22, 2007 at 10:15 am
>basset, you make baby Jesus cry
at least I didn’t lose the carol-recognition contest to a bunch of GIRLS…
brian stouder said on December 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm
I’m the Goat!! (not to say ‘old goat’)
This reminds me of the Lincoln joke about the man who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. When someone asked him how he liked it, he said “if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk!”
Oh well – if you’re gonna be a hanger-on, pick a smart crowd to afflict, I say!
Say – have you been reading about Alycia Lane, the anchor woman in Philly who clocked a cop? It just keeps getting better! She makes north of $700,000 a year, for being beautiful….sort of the female equivalent of Mitch Albom’s X-hundred thousands per year for being banal.
bonus – she e-mailed bikini shots of herself to a married colleague, and the e-mail was intercepted by his wife, and responded to! Good stuff!
deb said on December 22, 2007 at 12:41 pm
Ahem, part deux: 96 percent. LAMary, we rock. All those years of playing piano at church and school, I guess.
Kirk said on December 22, 2007 at 1:52 pm
80 percent. Must be this cold I’m fighting.
del said on December 22, 2007 at 7:48 pm
68%. To quote Beck “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t ya kill me.”
After reading LA Mary’s post about her ex’s X-mas parties, would not dare post about my lame parties.
Kirk said on December 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm
As a graduate of Up On The Housetop parties, I must report that Nancy forgot to mention the tradition that involved each person in attendance’s mandatory purchase of a bottle of $5 “champagne.” The clock on the wall was secured in a cage, so everyone tried to hit it with the cork.
Kim said on December 23, 2007 at 10:27 pm
92 for me. Took me some time to stop laughing over the last line in the Baby Jesus story so I could take the quiz. Sometimes you really can’t make this stuff up.
Merry, merry to all in NN.C Land. Even (especially!) basset.