Holiday Parties: The Merry, the Manic and the Mellow

The holiday party marathon staggered to a finish over the weekend, a final chance to be merry and bright before the obligatory joyous celebration with the relatives. “We’ve been out every night for the last week and a half,” said a jolly Jack Kemp at Thursday’s open house at the Spring Valley home of Patricia and Dick Carlson. The party was fanny-to-fanny with 240 festive folk (mostly Republicans, a few Democrats) like pundit Tucker Carlson, former Senate candidate Jack Ryan and lawyers Boyden Gray, Bob Bennett and Joe DiGenova. “Merry Christmas!” DiGenova boomed. “I refuse to say ‘Happy holidays.’ ” And, in case we didn’t get it, he led his tablemates in a rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The jolliest Saint Nick was host Carlson. “I love Christmas,” said the former ambassador. At the opposite Pole stood writer Christopher Hitchens, clutching a Scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “I’m the Scrooge of all time,” he grumped. “A lot of people pretend to hate Christmas — I really hate it.” That’s okay, beamed Carlson. “There’s room for diversity here.”

While those on Santa’s “nice” list celebrated at grown-up parties, the unrepentant on his “naughty” one flocked to the Foxhall home of Winston Lord Friday night. In its seventh year, Lord’s “Twelve Hours of Christmas” — 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. — party lived up to its reputation as the season’s rowdiest display of holiday merriment — even without the host.

“I was at work half an hour ago,” explained Lord, executive director of the Washington Baseball Club. “I came home and there were already over 20 people in my house.” Luckily, the open bar (and hot bartenders) seemed to distract the hostless guests.

“This year it’s an upgrade from a fraternity basement — we have paid staff,” joked Edward McNally, general counsel to the Office of Homeland Security. By 11, the scene was like something straight out of a John Hughes film, except empty bottles of Veuve Cliquot substituted for empty beer cans, and party animals were grinding to P. Diddy rather than Donna Summer.

Despite two floors of bacchanalia, which included a Red Bull bar in the basement, the overflow of revelers spilled out of the house into the yard. “Someone asked me who’s going to the party tonight, and I said who’s not coming to the party tonight?” said lawyer Shannon McManus. “Everybody in Washington is coming.”

Everybody included Mark Tuohey of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor, MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell, plenty of smokin’ gals and guys, and even a few representatives of the D.C. police. At 2 a.m. their red and blue flashing lights signaled the party’s premature end as guests disappeared faster than you can say “ho-ho-ho.” Oh well, it was a great “Five Hours of Christmas.” For those who prefer a more serene holiday, there was the Flow Yoga Center’s “Shake Your Chakras” party Saturday night. “We opened a couple of months ago, but I thought why not have the opening party and a holiday party at the same time?” said owner Debra Perlson-Mishalove, who invited her Logan Circle neighbors and students. Guests enjoyed henna tattoos, deep-tissue massage, live drumming and the chance to shake their own chakras with the help of the center’s professionals. There’s no place like Om for the holidays.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company