You’ll never believe it, but our tradition of inviting all of our 35th floor neighbors to a holiday party began with the St. John Passion in 2004. Carl Crosier always liked to give a party after a big performance, and even though we had just moved into our building and didn’t have any area carpets down on the marble floors, we invited the principals of the St. John Passion over for a celebration party. Of course, that meant that we couldn’t even start the party until 10:30 pm, because we had to clean up the church for services the next day. That night, Carl said he poured at least 24 martinis (!), and the decibel level in our largely unfurnished apartment got louder and louder. The building security came to our door to warn us at least twice in addition to calling us on the phone several times about the noise level. As it was, we didn’t say “good-bye” to our last guest until 2:30 am!
Needless to say, we felt really bad about the whole incident, and a friend suggested that I give the neighbors on our floor a peace offering. In the next few days, I left a gift basket of goodies on each of our neighbors’ doors, with a note of apology. Every single one of them told us they never heard us — which meant that it must have been our neighbors either directly above or below us who complained.
That Christmas 2004, Carl came up with the brilliant idea that we would invite our neighbors in for a Christmas open house and buffet dinner. Unfortunately I forgot to put an RSVP on the invitation so when the time came for people to arrive, we got really worried about how many people would show up. To our pleasant surprise we had 12 people and they turned out to be the nicest people ever. We found out we had many things in common — for example, two of our neighbors’ daughters had graduated from the Priory where Carl worked. It was so nice to be able to say ‘hello’ to our floor neighbors in the elevator where usually people don’t greet each other or say anything at all.
Since then, I’ve always been careful to put an RSVP on the invitation and steadily our numbers grew and grew. We even included people on other floors with whom we became friends, including LCH parishioners Mark Russell and Rudy Riingen who used to live in our building. And we also included Jon and Jennifer Grems (she worked with Carl at the Priory) who also live in the building. Every year Carl came up with a theme to the menu. One year it was an Italian Christmas, another year, a French Christmas; another year, a Scandinavian Christmas, with the food of that country being the featured entreé. Other themes included a Russian Christmas, and even a Moroccan Christmas. Three years ago was Carl’s chef d’œuvre, his masterpiece, called “The Twelve Tastes of Christmas,” with twelve courses, each served on small dishes, and twenty-four people came! No wonder it took me three days to wash all the dishes, silverware, and stemware, since we never had to wash the dishes in between courses since we had plenty to spare! Just think, twenty-four people times twelve courses, each with its own serving plate and utensils, plus the bowls/pots/pans/utensils used to even make the dish, plus all the wine glasses! Egad!
Since Carl died, I have kept up the 35th floor holiday party tradition, and these days I provide the entrée and most of the food, but I also welcome people to bring side dishes, salads and desserts. At last night’s party, Carl’s name came up frequently. Mark Russell said he used Carl’s recipe for making classic martinis (don’t forget the orange bitters). I enjoyed retelling this tale of how the holiday party tradition began and how Carl loved to spend the entire year working on the menu. People remembered Carl’s generous spirit and hospitality.
Here are some pictures of last night’s party.
Yes, it all started with the St. John Passion!