Think standard-issue eggnog and fruitcake are bad? That’s child’s play for REAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. subject Rachel Vize, who shares her tips for throwing an awful―in a good way!―holiday bash
Credit: Mark Lund

The Concept: Five years ago, Rachel and her now-husband, Aaron, had a case of the bah-humbugs: They wanted to get all their friends together for a Christmas party, but were wary of blowing a wad of cash around the holidays. “We didn’t want to have some fancy affair―we just wanted a chance to have fun and reconnect,” says Rachel. The solution? “We decided to throw the Worst Christmas Party Ever―even just naming it that made it easy on ourselves,” says Rachel. Translation: They set out to pull off the cheapest, tackiest, most clichéd affair imaginable―on purpose, of course. “It was a huge hit, and it gets better and better every year,” says Rachel. Here, her step-by-step instructions on how to host your very own ho-ho-horrible event.

The Invite: From, of course. “We look for the cheesiest design we can find―last year we went with the abominable snowman template,” says Rachel.

The Décor: Think extremely low-maintenance, as in whatever decorations are already up for the season. (A decked tree, lots of lights and candles, etc.) In lieu of the usual matchy-matchy serverware, Rachel adds a “worst ever” touch by hitting up the dollar store for non-holiday themed gear, like Aladdin plates and non-coordinating birthday napkins. On the stereo? Whatever radio station is cranking out kids’ Christmas tunes.

The Food: Every guest is asked to contribute to the theme by bringing one item of disgusting food. The only rule is that the offering must be edible―at least theoretically. “We’ve gotten the grossest and weirdest stuff―Vienna sausages in a can, Cheez Whiz, a cake that says ‘I Want a Divorce’ on it,” says Rachel. Since the novelty grub usually doesn’t get too much action―gasps of horror notwithstanding―in recent years Rachel and Aaron have begun ordering a bunch of pizzas to keep the crowd from going hungry. For beverages, they set up a station for wine, beer, and sodas, plus a specialty drink, such as Poinsettias (equal parts champagne and cranberry juice) or Lemon Drops (equal parts lemonade and vodka with fresh mint leaves).

The Activities: The party’s main event is the present swap. “Everybody brings something, and we pick numbers to determine the order they’re opened in,” says Rachel. Most of the booty originates from the Goodwill or Salvation Army, and guests are constantly trying to outdo each other with bad taste. “Our friend George is really good at finding portraits―last year he found a 5 x 4-foot glamour shot of a woman we didn’t know mounted on foam core, and it was the funniest thing,” says Rachel. “This one guy Steve had a life-size cutout made of himself wearing a karate costume.” But there’s a catch: To keep the distribution fair, every gift can be “stolen” by other guests three times during the course of the night. (In other words, Black Belt Steve didn’t last long with his original owner.) Says Rachel, “It usually takes hours to open all the gifts, because we’re laughing so hard.” ’Tis the season, indeed.