Friday, December 16, 2011

let's talk about the Christmas Hangover.

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions that are near and dear to their hearts. For some, it’s baking Christmas cookies; others look forward to an extra-special homemade meal. For me? The Christmas Hangover.
Pictured: the heart and soul of every Christmas Hangover.
Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking “hangover” in the traditional sense. In my circle, a “hangover” is when my friends would come over and hang out for most (if not all) of the night. Under normal circumstances, this would be referred to as a sleepover. However, we were not sleeping: we were hanging out. Hence, the birth of the Hangover.

The formula for a Christmas Hangover is very simple: friends + food + games + movies + White Elephant presents = Christmas Hangover.
Food for Hangover 2008 = NICK BURGERS.
The very first Christmas Hangover took place in December 2004: my senior year of high school. My friends and I had been having frequent movie nights for the last year or so, but we’d never really planned something “fancy.” My friend Bob and I spearheaded the event: Bob assigned each friend some kind of food item, and I requested that they each bring a White Elephant gift. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing a White Elephant gift, it’s traditionally something junky (and often hilarious) that you spend no money on whatsoever.

We had a number of people at this first Christmas Hangover: if my memory serves me correctly, there could’ve been as many as ten of us. A few of them were boyfriends of my friends, and they really didn’t enjoy the festivities. Bob had planned an elaborate system of games that we would play in order for one person to be named “The Christmas Survivor.” (Bob was really into reality TV at this time.) Bob and I were the only truly competitive participants, so we were each captain of a team. I wish I remembered all the challenges: certainly elimination through board games, and I’m sure we were put through other Christmas-themed tasks. Either Bob or I ultimately ended up as the Christmas Survivor, but that was either because a.) Bob rigged it, or b.) we were the only ones who cared enough to see it through to the end.

In any case, the Christmas Hangover was a huge hit. I cursed myself for not thinking of it sooner: after all, it was my last Christmas living at home. However, my friends and I decided that we’d do our very best to keep up with them, whatever we ended up doing after high school. Sure enough, almost every year since then, we have managed to have some form of Christmas Hangover.

I really must tell you about our White Elephant presents. Earlier, I explained that it was mostly stuff you just found around the house. Over the years, my friends and I became White Elephant gift champions. All throughout college, that was one of the things I looked forward to most: coming home for winter break and digging through the recesses of my closet to put together the perfect White Elephant gift. Our White Elephant gifts were complex beasts: they generally ended up being a gift back or shoebox full of little goofy things that you pulled out from under your bed. Every now and again, I’d make a stop at the local Goodwill if I needed something extra-special for my White Elephant gift.
Generally, I had plenty of success in my closet.
No Christmas Hangover is complete without a Christmas movie or two. Bob, Sarah, and I were generally in charge of choosing the films. We’ve watched A Christmas Story more than once, and there is usually some version of A Christmas Carol involved: either Mickey or the Muppets. We’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life, and of course, we have a special place in our hearts for the old TV specials: Rudolph, Frosty, and Charlie Brown. I don’t believe we’ve ever watched Home Alone for a Christmas Hangover, which is a little odd. However, I watch it every Christmas with my family, so Home Alone is never completely left out.

And the games! We would raid my family’s game closet, always coming up with something ridiculous. We’ve played Candyland and Taboo; Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary. We also rigged up some kind of Truth or Dare with an actual scoring system. The best game we played, though, was hide-and-seek. You must be wondering what we were thinking: hide-and-seek? In the dead of winter? Yes, my friend: we played it inside. Indoor hide-and-seek is especially challenging, but it was wonderful. We came up with the best places to hide: in the shower, inside the giant fridge in the basement. Behind a door was a simple yet fool-proof place to hide. Clearly, you are never too old for hide-and-seek.
A rousing game of 90s Trivial Pursuit.
The food is delicious, the movies are classic, the White Elephant gifts are hilarious, and the friends are a blast. However, I must say that the absolute highlight of the Christmas Hangover is the photography.

I’ve been big on picture-taking for a LONG time. Before I had a real camera, I used to carry disposable cameras in my bookbag: you never know when you’re going to have to take a picture of something crazy in advanced biology. Everybody has that one friend who always wants to take pictures of everything: I’m that girl. But I’m proud to be that girl: looking back at the pictures we take never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s almost like being able to do it all over again.

Sadly, I couldn’t find my pictures from Christmas Hangovers 2004 and 2005. I know they were fun, though, so you’ll have to use your imagination. But you won’t have to use your imagination for the rest!

Clockwise from the bottom: Calla, Tiff, Meagan, Bob,
Sarah. You'll be seeing these faces often.
This picture is from Christmas Hangover 2006. We wanted to take a cheesy picture of all of us with our heads in a circle. Cuuuute! But we had a problem: no one was around to take the picture for us. So we had to do it ourselves: yes, a quintuple self-portrait. It took something like twenty tries to get everyone’s head at least partially in the picture, but man, did we have a great time!

We always take plenty of pictures with our White Elephant gifts, and I think it was Sarah who received the Abbey Road poster. Every now and again, you’ll get a White Elephant gift that is as good as a REAL gift, and Sarah was thrilled. We, of course, are the Beatles. Notice that Sarah took her shoes off and is holding a cigarette – just like Paul McCartney. You can’t see my glasses, but I’m wearing some lovely round specs that look a lot like John Lennon’s. The sad part is, I wore those glasses with pride for at least three years. Even sadder: it was before I knew who John Lennon was, so I can’t even pretend that I was trying to channel my inner Beatle.
From left: George, Paul, Ringo, John.
Christmas Hangover 2007 was stupendous. Our friend Camber was able to come, so the more the merrier! Bob decided that it should be a semi-formal event, hence the semi-formal clothes. I made (frozen) chicken kiev and (boxed) pasta, and we had a great time. We even took “family” Christmas photos. Lucky for us, my sister was around and was more than glad to be our photographer for the evening.

The whole Hangover family!

That year was a great year for White Elephant gifts. Tiffany was given a book about becoming a woman, and Camber was the lucky recipient of a battery-operated turtle that did the Macarena. And let’s not forgot my sweet Daktronics gear.
Or Sarah's Jazzercise VHS.
Christmas Hangover 2008 was kind of a surprise, as a matter of fact. If you remember from my story about how my family sucks at airplanes, I wasn’t even supposed to be in the state. Our family trip to San Antonio fell through when our weenie plane couldn’t leave while there was fog, so the first thing I did was call my friends and tell them that the Hangover was ON. That year saw an epic game of 90s Trivial Pursuit, of which Tiff and I reigned supreme. We had quite a lot of fun, once again, with White Elephant presents. I really should start wearing those sunglasses on a regular basis.
Sunglasses at night.
Unfortunately, Christmas Hangover 2009 was never to be. 2009 was a weird year for me: I graduated from college, moved to Denver for three months, moved to New Orleans for three months, and then I moved to Minneapolis. My friends and I usually tried to hold our Hangovers within two or three days after Christmas, but that year, it just didn’t work out. I had just a few days before I had to be in Minneapolis to start my internship, and my friends were out of town. Oh well. Missing one hangover since 2004 really isn’t that bad.

Christmas Hangover 2010 actually ended up taking place in January 2011, but it’s all the same. This is the first Hangover that didn’t take place at my parents’ house. It was also the first Hangover after college, so maybe we felt like we needed to be slumming it in the real world! Bob, Sarah, and I dined at Brookings’ finest establishment (Applebee’s) and spent a good deal of our day watching trashy reality TV (You’re Cut Off, anyone?!). We dug through the five-dollar WalMart movies (a favorite pastime) and met my parents for supper at Pizza King. And of course, there were White Elephant gifts.
Sarah's cat Fred thought we were out of our minds.
Finally, Christmas Hangover 2011. We really hit it out of the park on the movie front this year. We watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, A Muppet Christmas Carol, and Home Alone 2. It had been years since I had seen Home Alone 2, and Sarah impressed everyone in the room by knowing most (if not all) of the lines. Of course, we weren’t concentrating solely on the movies: there was White Elephant, like always! Sarah got marketing materials and puppy stickers, Bob got cows and more keychains than he could fit on his keys, and I got giant underwear (I’m told it was new) and Twilight. We had a wonderful time, but we always do.

So each and every year, while some children are waiting for Santa Claus, I wait for a Christmas Hangover. No matter whom it’s with or what we do, we always manage to have a good time. And that’s the true meaning of Christmas, right?

Close enough.


  1. Delightful! I especially enjoy the failed attempt at an 1800s family photo.
    I yearn to someday be present at another Hangover. It will be a Bucket List item that renews annually.

  2. Love it Skinny! Those are definitely some of the best of memories! O a hangover, nothing like those hangovers! :) --Muscles--

  3. I had such a blast writing this post; it was SO much fun to go through the pictures and see Hangovers through the years! We had wonderful times, that's for sure!