The holidays may be a time for reverence, but there’s room for revelry, too

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published December 10, 2014

 Fred Hajjar’s ugly Christmas sweaters have been gaining popularity across the country.

Fred Hajjar’s ugly Christmas sweaters have been gaining popularity across the country.

METRO DETROIT — Somewhere among the glittering ornaments, the elegant tapers and the crystal champagne flutes, there’s a place for holiday revelry that’s a bit less — formal.

In fact, Fred Hajjar said that some people aren’t just looking for casual holiday celebrations, but downright ugly ones. Hajjar is the owner of TVStore Online.com, which sells fun costumes, graphic T-shirts and other novelty wear. Some time ago, looking to find out what sort of new products his site should offer customers, his team stumbled upon something interesting.

“We do a lot of Google statistical analytics to see what people are searching for online and kind of noticed a trend for searches for ugly sweaters. So, we saw an opportunity to make a business out of it,” said Hajjar.

Several years ago, ugly sweater parties became increasingly popular during the holiday season, when friends and family would get together and don old Christmas sweaters — worn once for style, now making a resurgence for their ironically comical value. Party attendants raided their parents’ closets, shopped at thrift stores and looked wherever they could to find the gaudiest holiday sweater of all.

In late 2012, Hajjar launched UglyChristmasSweater.com, boasting a huge variety of vibrant, tacky and sometimes just plain offensive holiday apparel. He wondered even back then if the ugly sweater trend was just a phase that would quickly flitter out. But so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“The traffic this year has already tripled,” he said of the website. “It used to be more of a trendy hipster kind of thing where people would throw ugly Christmas sweater parties. Now there’s more mass appeal. Ours are a little different: some are R-rated, more extreme with lights on them. We even have a 3-D one. They’re something the department stores wouldn’t carry, so we think ours are unique.”

Hajjar’s online store and two mall Kiosks, located at 12 Oaks Mall in Livonia and Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, are chock full of sweaters with funny Christmas movie quotes, crude holiday images, bright colors and even your favorite sports teams’ logos.

“It’s to get a laugh and to be noticed. The more extreme, the funnier (it is). When somebody sees them on, they really think it’s funny,” he said.

The silly accessories don’t just apply to outfits, but to table décor, as well. At Party Adventure in St. Clair Shores, manager Mary Beth Hyvonen said most customers prefer to keep to a relatively modest holiday table scheme: red and green napkins with poinsettias or holly, perhaps with touches of gold here and there.

But lately, there’s been a new trend that customers can’t seem to get enough of, and you might not even notice — unless, that is, you took the time to look underneath your cocktail glass.

“The funny cocktail napkins are really big, especially for people who want some fun stuff while not being completely un-classic,” said Hyvonen.

Party Adventure stocks rows of the cheeky beverage napkins, with sayings like “Mingle All the Way” and “Recipe for the perfect Christmas Cocktail: 2 parts Naughty, 1 part Nice; consume liberally!”

For those with a bit more of an adventurous side, the store also has reindeer antlers, camo Santa hats, light-up red and green balloons, and Christmas cracker favors that guests can pop open to find small toys or jokes inside.

“People seem to really like them. A lot of people ask for them,” she said.

The silly stuff, she said, is a nice way to incorporate younger guests at a party — or even give them something to do so adults can take a breather.

“Like these buttons,” said Hyvonen, holding up a button that reads “Official Elf.” “You could give them a button and have them pass out gifts.”

And, every year, one or two brave souls come in looking for something serious — you guessed it, the Santa suit. At about $100, it’s an investment that customers will likely hope to use for holiday seasons to come, but can be sure will be a hit with party guests of all ages.