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The Hill Staffer Guide to Holiday Party Invites

It's the most wonderful time of the year — for parties. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By now your inbox should be full of brightly colored invites for holiday parties, open houses, receptions, dinners and cocktails. If it's December, the holiday party season is in full swing.  

Once you've read our Holiday Party Guide Ethics Overview , it's time to sort through the list and schedule your busy December social calendar.  With all the invites you receive — and for popular Capitol Hill staffers, that number is easily dozens — how do you decide which ones to attend? And how to maximize your time when you’re there? And — it happens to the best of us — what if the invite for the absolute best party of the season did not make its way to you? Here is some insight on how to rock this holiday season, including the ever-delicate question of party-crashing.  

1. Attend parties where you know someone. Make time to go to an event where you know one of the organizers. It’s good to say "hi," they’ll appreciate your time and it’s better to go where you’ll be treated like a welcome guest who can be introduced to others. Even if you enjoy the food at Fiola more than Tortilla Coast, you’re better off going to the low-budget receptions that you know, (Hill Navigator is not going to name names, you know who you are), than drinking Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the back of the room, scanning for a familiar face.  

2. Act like a staffer.  Be smart, remember you’re representing a boss (or organization) and dress the part. Sure, you can add some holiday sparkle or reindeer-themed chum, but keep your business wear on, even after hours. Abra Belke, also known as Belle from the Capitol Hill Style blog, suggests slightly dressed-up business attire for post-work holiday parties. "Put on a little more makeup, better pair of shoes, wear a dress that you really like so you feel comfortable," she said. For men, skip the holiday-themed ties, which Belke said are childish.  "If you want to show off Christmas spirit, socks are a safer bet; they're easily hidden," she advised.  3. Don’t be shameless. Every holiday season yields a handful of hot-ticket parties. Want to attend an event, but you’re not on the list? Hill Navigator just happens to have an overview on attending holiday parties when you don’t have an invite in hand. The good news for Hill staffers? Most of the time it will work in your favor and you'll be welcomed with cheers and mistletoe. But be careful: Depending on the host, party crashing can be seen as gauche, not endearing. Know your audience and keep in mind that the best staffers know they always represent the boss, as Elizabeth Lauten abruptly learned this week .  

Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call

Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call

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Topics: after-hours