Every year, I struggle to get my Christmas decorations up. Mostly because there’s always SO MUCH Halloween stuff that has to get taken down, organized, and packed up first. At least that’s what I tell myself, as the weeks tick by, and my Halloween decorations just sort of drift into piles upon various surfaces. “I am not just throwing stuff into boxes this year,” I’ll say, completely convinced of my new-found organization skills. “This year I’m going to get this stuff ORGANIZED so it’s not such a clusterfuck and I won’t have to hate myself next year for being a lazy asshole!” Inevitably, though, as Christmas gets closer, Lazy Asshole indeed makes an appearance, and brings down alllll the boxes marked “XMAS” from the attic, tears them open in a flurry of tissue paper and excitement, and then quickly runs out of steam. Consequently, the house becomes completely overrun by half-empty boxes of both Christmas and Halloween decorations, old newspaper, and bubble wrap, until approximately New Year’s, because the mess is so overwhelming I don’t even know where to start, so I just don’t.
Even that SENTENCE was a clusterfuck.
I do this every single year, exactly the same way, and yet somehow I’m always surprised when it happens again.
But zoom out a little, and…
One year, I tell myself, I’ll finally embrace this and throw a Nightmare Before Christmas cocktail party. But it wouldn’t be just Jack Skellington everywhere, although duh he’d be in there a little bit. What I’m picturing is all the cheesy good times of an ugly sweater Christmas party with a healthy dose of creepy camp. A little bit Buddy the Elf, a little Marley’s ghost. I never seem to have the capital or the motivation to do so (which doesn’t stop me from building it a huuuuuge board on Pinterest and generally fantasizing about it), but how about I detail it out, and one of you out there in the Great Big Internet can do it, and then show me pictures and tell me about it and I’ll just live vicariously through you? Cool thanks, here’s what you’ll be doing:
A Nightmare Before Christmas Cocktail Party
Part One: The Playlist
A great party playlist should work like a great movie score: it’s just in the background, guiding your emotions in the intended direction, and only occasionally do you really notice a particular song, just enough to be like, “ha! This song is awesome. Nice.” For our Nightmare Before Xmas Cocktail Party, follow this basic recipe:
- The soundtrack from the claymation classic of the same name is a no-brainer, but mix it up a little by using fun covers of selected tracks.
- Dump a hearty amount of Danny Elfman in there.
- Throw in a little cheese factor. The theme’s juxtaposition of merry and macabre is already kinda silly, so own it.
- Don’t skimp on the classics, but keep the Xmas ones bouncy and fun. Just hearing timeless Christmas tunes and old Halloween standbys next to each other will be amusing.
- Stir in a few standard-issue jams to keep the party mood going.
- Add some old-timey songs with a subtle creepy vibe.
Here’s a few suggestions. Click the song title to listen to it on Youtube.
- I Sure Hope I Don’t Have to Beat Your Ass This Christmas Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hungerforce
- Blue Christmas Elvis Presley
- The Killer Storm (The Omen sdtrk) Jerry Goldsmith
- Island of Misfit Toys/The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Glee Cast
- Birth of a Penguin (Batman Returns sdtrk) Danny Elfman
- I Party Far East Movement
- All I Want For Christmas Is You My Chemical Romance
- Kidnap the Sandy Claws (Nightmare Revisited) Korn
- A Cold, Cold Christmas Stephen Colbert
- A Marshmallow World Dean Martin
- If I Didn’t Care (Bioshock) The Ink Spots
- Somewhere in My Memory (Home Alone sdtrk) John Williams
- Gremlins Theme Danny Elfman
- What’s a Girl To Do? Bat For Lashes
- The Christmas Waltz Kristin Chenoweth
- Jingle Balls Deep Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hungerforce
- Sugar Plum Fairy Remix The Groove Gallery
- Halloween Aqua
- The Batty Bat The Count of Sesame Street
- My Chick Bad Ludacris featuring Nicki Minaj
- Someday at Christmas The Jackson Five
- The Ice Dance (Edward Scissorhands sdtrk) Danny Elfman
- Puttin’ On The Ritz Shiny Toy Guns
- Deatheater Dubstep John Williams/Terabyte Frenzy
- Baby It’s Cold Outside (Elf sdtrk) Leon Redone and Zooey Deschanel (or this more blunt version, at which I literally LOL’d)
- The Mooche Duke Ellington
- Re: Your Brains Jonathan Coulton
- Don’t Stop Me Now! Queen
- Nutmeg (A Very Colbert Christmas) John Legend (also here’s an amazing chipmunk remix)
- Living Dolls Nox Arcana
- Death of Sirius (Harry Potter sdtrk) Nicholas Hooper
- One Little Christmas Tree Stevie Wonder
- Trick or Treat Eat My Pumpkin
- Another Christmas Song Stephen Colbert
- What’s This? Danny Elfman
- Pennies From Heaven Louis Prima
- Ding Dong Mmkay (South Park) Mr. Mackey
- It’s An Addams! (Addams Family Values sdtrk) Marc Shaiman
- The Headless Horseman Thurl Ravenscroft
- A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (The Great Gatsby sdtrk) Fergie, Q-Tip, & GoonRock
- I Hate Christmas Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street
- This Is Halloween Marilyn Manson
- Witchcraft Frank Sinatra
- In Noctem (Harry Potter sdtrk) Nicholas Hooper
- We Can’t Stop Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox
- Science Fiction Double Feature Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
- Funky, Funky Xmas New Kids On The Block
- Twisted Nerve Main Theme (Kill Bill sdtrk) Bernard Herrman
- Christmastime Is Here Straight No Chaser
- Making Christmas Rise Against
- Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead Ella Fitzgerald
- Dick in a Box The Lonely Island
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Main Titles Mavis Staples
- The Boogie Man (Bioshock) Todd Rollins
- Cool Yule Louis Armstrong
- Ghostbusters New Found Glory
- Welcome Christmas (How The Grinch Stole Christmas sdtrk) Albert Hague
- Christmas Night of Zombies MxPx
- Santa’s Beard The Beach Boys
- Carol of the Bells Thrice
- Christmastime In Hell (South Park) Satan
- Finale/Reprise (Nightmare Revisited) Shiny Toy Guns
This list would also make a pretty decent power hour (+2 I guess), if you’re into that kind of thing.
Part Two: The Menu
Unless you’re having an actual dinner party, where each guest definitely has a chair for their butt and a table for their plate, stick to finger foods. It’s easier on you and your guests, and it encourages mingling. You can’t walk and talk while using silverware successfully, and it’s always awkward eating off a plate that you’re balancing on your lap. Don’t make it awkward, make it easy.
I’ve always imagined the décor/general vibe of this party riding the coattails of Edward Scissorhands’ set design, i.e., contrasting the loud, summery pastels of the Christmas decorations of a Californian suburb circa 1960 with the darkly beautiful Edward and his neglected gothic mansion. I firmly believe that it would be cute if the menu captured a little bit of that gelatin-mold,- weenies-on-sticks,- marshmallow-fluff magic of that era, but without actually making anyone eat that crazy nonsense.
- Rachel Ray is trying to bring back the cheeseball, and for this party especially, I fully support that. Click on the pics to get the recipes.
- What says ‘swanky cocktail party’ like shrimp cocktail in martini glasses? Nothing, that’s what. Save yourself a ton of $$ and clean-up by using plastic martini glasses. Add a little Delia Deetz flair by swirling black & white ribbon stripes up the stem, or simply serving them with black & white striped napkins.
- I make the following cocktail meatballs for like, everything and there are never, ever, ever, ever, any left over. Ever. No matter how many I make. The recipe is below. Use homemade meatballs if possible, it’ll taste better, but frozen ones will be just fine. Just try to find frozen meatballs without fennel in them. The fennel…doesn’t go with the other flavors, in my opinion.
- Ingredients: 1 1/2 jars grape jelly, 3 bottles Heinz cocktail sauce, approx 20-30 meatballs, crockpot
- Turn on crockpot to high, add jelly. Allow to melt, stir occasionally until smooth.
- Add cocktail sauce, stir.
- Add meatballs, stir together until sauce coats all the balls. Heh heh.
- Let simmer for about hour before serving, then turn down to low. Always check to make sure they are hot through to the center before serving.
- Put plates and toothpicks nearby, watch them all disappear. That’s it. Sooooo easy.
- It wouldn’t be the holidays without sugar! Go the quick and dirty route by piling up your platters with Little Debbie-type desserts, like Snowballs, Cosmic Brownie Trees, Ding-Dongs, Ho-Hos, Twinkies…you get the picture. If you throw in one cool centerpiece dessert, like this Graham Cracker Haunted House:
or these Jack Skellington Cake Pops:
everyone will be awed by that, and suddenly the Little Debbies will be seen as kitschy and cute, instead of cheap. It’s like when an asshole surrounds themselves with less attractive individuals in order to appear more attractive by comparison, but… kind of the opposite? Like the pretty thing makes the ugly things prettier, just by being around it… This is not a strong metaphor.
- Always, always, always have ginormous platters of veggies and fruits. For some of your guests, this may be the only thing they can eat, whether due to choice or chance, so make sure you have enough to go around with that in mind. Keep dips on the side, too; if there’s ranch dressing all over every vegetable, that might mean not getting to eat anything at all for some people, so be conscious of dietary restrictions. If you’re a Martha-in-the-making, feel free to go crazy with your veggie displays:
We’ll crush Parts 3 and 4, Cocktails and DIY Decor respectively, in later posts. I did not realize when I started this post just how long it would take to link all those songs. Oof. What say you so far, People of the Internet? Anyone out there already done something like this? Any tips? Any tips you got? Share them below!