About December and the crashing of Christmas Parties.

November the 29th. That’s the earliest I’ve ever celebrated Christmas. It was still Thanksgiving weekend, sure. But we celebrated Christmas last year with my wife’s extended family on 11/29. You know, just to get a good practice round under our belts so we could watch game film and see where we needed to improve. Call it our non-conference Christmas season opener.

And though is wasn’t the same year, I think we celebrated Christmas with my family once in March (so that my cousin who was in the Navy could make it).

My basic point is that December is busy. So busy that it takes some families more than 4 months to adequately celebrate an otherwise one-day event.

That means, for all intents and purposes, December is pretty much a wash when it comes to scheduling appointments to meet with new potential supporters. You might make it two weeks deep in December with appointments, but I defy you to schedule an appointment after about the 15th.

I began coming up with fun ways to try and invite myself over to people’s Christmas party and turn said party into a support-raising function for me.

“Oh, your small group is having a gift exchange on the 20th? How’s about I bring a PowerPoint and a sign up sheet?”

I totally thought of it as a joke (and most others did, too).

Until it worked.

That’s a fun brand of awkward sauce. Gingerbread cookies, hot spiced cider, sausage balls and a financial support spiel. Tis the season!

In actuality (as with most stories on this site) the night went pretty well, and not as awkward as I’d have you think. But there was a strange dynamic to being at someone else’s small group party. I’ve complied the following tips, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Don’t Arrive Early or Too Late
There’s a bit of a give/take, lead/follow dynamic going on here, like a well executed waltz in tacky Christmas sweaters. Get there too early, and you are helping set out the mistletoe and fake snow. Get there too late, and you have to deal with 13 puzzled faces and a 74% chance of last minute Christian-fying of the house, as someone dives to cover up the Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale.

You want to try and hit the 4 minutes late mark. It’s a holiday party, so people will generally get there 10 minutes late, anyways. But at the 4 minute late mark you avoid having to set out the (strangely caucasian) Mary holding (far too chubby for an impoverished child) baby Jesus napkins.

When in doubt, don’t laugh.
This is a tricky one. But if somebody says something that, to you, is not all that funny, but to the rest of the room it appears hilarious (trust me on this) avoid the temptation to laugh. Because the only thing more awkward than sitting silently in a room full of people laughing is laughing at an inside joke when everybody else knows that you are outside of it.

Feel free to smile, or tilt your head sideways a bit and look expectantly at the person who told the joke, with a slight “hey buddy, I have no idea what’s so funny” expression. But don’t overdo it. Odds are, them telling the “hysterical” story of the time Frank hit his head on the countertop will be a “you had to be there” type of experience anyways. Take the free moment to feign interest in the hot cider you’ve been sipping for the past 20 minutes.

Have a go-to pastry.
That brings me to my next point. At an event like this, you are most certainly going to have ample moments where you need a physical activity to distract from the lull in the conversation. Since we can safely rule out jumping jacks as an acceptable option, it’s best to always have at the ready a tasty pastry (try saying “tasty pastry” 5 times fast. I’ll wait…) to give you something else to talk about, and to provide you with a reason to not be speaking. Your mom always said “don’t talk with your mouth full.” Now’s your chance to turn that exactly around: fill your mouth so as not to talk. Brilliant.

On Wednesday these tips will be continued,(UPDATE: click here for the rest of the tips!) but in the meantime, I’m curious: when’s the earliest you ever celebrated Christmas with family? Comment below.

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