Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? Have you ever wanted to go to a simpler time where ironic ugly sweater parties and avoiding the word “Christmas” at office work parties isn’t the thing to do? Or maybe your impression of the holidays has become some deep loathing of commercialism and you want to disappear in the past, maybe just as short of a jump as one lifetime ago.
Maybe you just can’t seem to get into the spirit of the holidays, what with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Local Business Saturday, school concerts, and fighting crowds, checking your Amazon lists for price drops, etc. The holidays become a slog, a slow march to the end of the calendar year, and before you know it, they are gone already.
Well, this is probably exactly what you’ve been looking for.
What is this all about?
This year, my girlfriend, some friends, and I got to experience the winter festivities from the same folks who brought you the 1940s Ball. The event where I would say at least 90% of everyone who attends dresses up in vintage clothing or ’40s inspired costumes. Elise and I actually met at the Ball in June and she got our tickets for the White Christmas Ball the day they dropped. We have been excited to go for months. It’s hard to believe that it has already been a month since the ball in December, but because of the holidays, I have gotten behind in my posts.
Unlike parties held on 70 degree days where you have to sweat your guts out wearing ugly sweaters, or fighting your way through traffic to go skiing for a day, the 1940s White Christmas Ball is probably the most Christmassy thing you will see. No, binge-watching every Hallmark holiday movie for two weeks doesn’t count. It should never count.
This event, like the Ball in June encourages those attending to get decked out in their best 1940s/50s inspired outfits. The difference here is less of a focus on WW2 and costumes and history and more of a focus on what would probably be the end of the War and just the flavor of the era. Think White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. Maybe even a Christmas Story or Holiday Inn. Mostly people are here to get dressed up and have fun.
The Ball goes all out at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Denver. Celebrities from the time have autograph signings and live music occupy stages throughout the hotel. Celebrity impersonators of that era rub elbows with ticket holders. The drinks are mixed hard and the vibe from an era of cocktails, cocktail-dresses, fedoras, and absolute class is hard to miss. I always explain the 1940s Ball as “Renaissance Festival for people who love the mid-20th Century.” This is Prom for people who would have voted for Eisenhower.
There is so much to see at one of these events. Almost too much to really take in all at once. For one thing, if people watching is your gig, this is the event you cannot miss. The outfits, the costumes, the hair styles, the characters, the music and dancing; it’s all a festival for the senses.
You can take pictures with Santa, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, listen to the Satin Dolls–an Andrew’s Sisters-esque show which is half vaudeville and half swing music concert. The women are all adorable and the men are all handsome. It begs the question of why did people stop dressing like this?
The event is a lot of fun, but I will have to say right off that Elise and I enjoyed the 1940s Ball in June a little bit better. The White Christmas Ball is a whole other kind of critter though. It is more like a New Years party that hits the ground running. Music, dancing, drinks, and lots of people. The biggest drawback is that this venue isn’t nearly as spread out as the Boulder Airport. You have hundreds of people in poofy cocktail dresses and suits trying to navigate through a convention center type hotel. If you don’t know what to look for, you will probably walk right by it.
Unlike the 1940s Ball, the venue is more soundproofed. At the Boulder Airport, you are surrounded by the music of the time, whether it is a recording or a live band playing out the songs of that decade. You can pass from one stage to the next and the sounds just blend. Here, you don’t even know if the bands are playing sometimes.
Elise and I did jump in with both feet and learn how to dance. A swing dance group which meets regularly in Denver at the Mercury Cafe, and other places, taught a couple hundred of us the Jitterbug and enough moves to make us dangerous. It was a lot of fun and the instructors made everything fun and comfortable.
There were plenty of places to sit when you weren’t on your feet, and I got to catch up with T.C., one of my best friends from High School and his fiancee. We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years and picked up right where we left off. We got to enjoy drinks and some great conversation for hours before finally catching a pedicab for the end of the night.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to have a good time
- Eat. The drinks are mixed strong. You’re gonna need something in your stomach.
- Stay hydrated Probably the biggest reason for not wearing all of that wool is it is heavy and it is hot. Combine that with dancing and drinks and you will get dehydrated.
- Get there EARLY. The event started at 3:30pm this year and it ends at 1:00am. It’s good to get there early and scout things out beforehand. The 1940s Ball organizers are not kidding when they encourage people to get there early and they send out plenty of emails to keep ticket holders informed of the best places to park too.
- Take it all in. Keep your eyes open for all the cool things to see. The old cars, the lines for photographs, the adorable women, the classy suits on the men; there’s even a scavenger hunt to help you out, and the winners get prizes!
- Drink responsibly This event was a little boozier than the summer event. Just because you bought drink tickets doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Get an Uber, pedicab, or take the train and make it home safe. Get a hotel room at the event or nearby, but be aware that parking is not cheap.
- Don’t worry too much about missing things. We missed plenty of things. Which is why we’ll probably be going back next year.
- Just have fun. Even if you can’t dance, take the group lesson. Nobody is going to yell at you or embarass you for not knowing the steps of a dance to songs that haven’t been popular for 75 years.
- Dress the part. Start checking out websites/thrift shops/estate sales/etc. right now for your outfit. You don’t want to be the jackass in the ugly sweater for this one. Because it’s Winter, you can dress a little warmer too. They have free coat check, so you can peel a layer or three anytime you need to.
- Remember to take lots of pictures! (I didn’t)
- Meet new people! This is easy. This event was more couples and groups, but there were still a lot of people here on their own. Just because someone is there with a group is no excuse to not make new friends. Compliment someone’s outfit, talk to them about the dancing, make conversations about the music. Just relax and enjoy yourself!
Get out there!
If you are sick of office parties which are more like excuses for coworkers to blackmail each other (and really, who the hell wants to go to a party with people you have to work with anyway?), or obligatory family get-togethers with people whose calls you screen, check out THE holiday event for Denver. It runs usually the first Saturday in December. This year it was fittingly held on Pearl Harbor Day.
Hope to see you there!
For more information about upcoming 1940s Ball and 1940s & 50s White Christmas Ball and other events, check out their website at 1940sBall.org.