Did you know that tacky holiday gear has become a booming industry? Just a few years ago, finding an outfit for a tacky holiday party required rummaging through racks in a thrift store, looking for festive apparel that was obviously at least 20 years old.

Now, though, almost every retail store has a tacky holiday section. If you walk into Walmart, Target or even Nordstrom, you’ll see rows of “ugly” sweaters waiting to be donned by tacky party-goers.

Though now heavily commercialized, the underlying bonding that goes along with hosting or attending a tacky holiday party is important and relevant to this holiday season. Let me explain.

While talking about tacky holiday parties may seem irreverent — and maybe even irrelevant! — I believe there is a special and unique meaning to this newer trend.

Tacky holiday parties have become the “thing” to do, especially among my peers — those in their 20s and 30s. And finding the tackiest or funniest outfit to wear to the parties becomes a worthy goal. It is so much fun to be around friends in a relaxed, festive and, well, tacky environment.

While on the surface, these parties look like just fun and silliness (which they partly are), as I planned my own tacky holiday party with two friends, I realized there is much more to this new tradition.

Our party this year was our second tacky party. Everyone had so much fun at our party last year that we just had to have another one. Ours’ was a little different than your run of the mill tacky party and I don’t think it is a coincidence that the party was a favorite among our friends.

DEEPLY RESPECTFUL 

You see, my two friends aren’t Jewish — one is Catholic and the other is Southern Baptist. They are both devout Christians, but also deeply respectful of my Jewishness. We used to be roommates and they were the impetus for many late night theological conversations surrounding our respective belief systems.

My friends are eager to learn about Judaism and extremely inclusive. For this reason, our tacky holiday party isn’t just focused on Christmas or Hanukah — we celebrate both! At the same time, this is done in an atmosphere of mutual respect, to emphasize the two holidays are distinct and different.

Last year, I made latkes (unsuccessfully, I might add) and blue and white streamers were mixed in with Christmas lights and ornaments. This year, I was so busy with work and graduate school that I didn’t have much time to think about how to make the party equally Hanukah-themed. But, my friends had thought about it a lot.

We met a few days before the party and I was worried that I wouldn’t have much to contribute. But, over a glass of wine that night they showed me the Hanukah decorations they had found, proudly explaining the research they had done online so they would know exactly what to buy. Our party was going to take place on the last night of Hanukah, so one of my friends suggested we light the menorah during the party.

I was so moved by their gestures that it got me thinking about how lucky we are to be able to celebrate, both as Christians and Jews, together. The holiday season can be a sensitive and even, sadly, a divisive time, but what better way to overcome these obstacles than celebrating together — and in your tackiest outfit?

The night of the party went great, with an equal amount of Christmas and Hanukah spirit throughout the house, thanks to my friends. While a tacky outfit party may seem like just another holiday party with friends, I think it shows just how deeply my generation is committed to embracing and celebrating our differences.

Tacky or not, I have some of the best friends and I am proud to say that I support them in their beliefs as much as they support me in mine. Merry Christmas to my amazing Christian friends, our wonderful BJF Christian staff and our entire Christian community!