Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Ms. Universe Party

Every year in my family, usually on the weekend before Christmas, my family throws the Ms. Universe Party.  For this party, everyone is given a sash with a name on it (names are determined by the theme for the party - I'll go into more detail on this later) and we enjoy good company, exchange gag gifts, and finally prance around the house as contestants are eliminated, one by one, until Ms. Universe is revealed.  Ms. Universe then gets to give his/her speech, wear a crown that has been in our family since the 50s, and recieves some money as a prize.

Alright - let me give you some background information so you can better understand this information.  The Ms. Universe Party was created by my great grandparents in the 1930s as a way to get all the family together and entertain all of the children (which, at the time, there were a TON of kids in my family).  It was meant to be a way for the adults to act silly for the day while entertaining the children on the cheap.  It was entitled the Ms. Universe party because the real Ms. Universe Competition was a very big deal for all the women in my family (which outnumbered the men at the time).

So every year on the weekend before Christmas, everyone in my family congregates to my "aunt" Caroline's house.  (Caroline isn't technically my "aunt" - she was absorbed into my family after my uncle introduced her to us.  She is just such a wonderful person and my family loves to adopt these sort of people into our family).  When you arrive, you must put a dollar into a hat and then recieve a sash.  Each sash has a name on it, and the names have been picked based on a theme.  For example, one year our theme was disasters and people were given names such as "mudslide", "earthquake", and "acid rain".

Once everyone arrives, we begin the fun gag gift game.  When you come to this party, you must bring a gag gift.  This gift can be as cheap and hideous or as expensive as you like.  The gift must be wrapped.  When the gag gift game begins, all of the gifts go into the middle of the room and everyone sits in a circle.  Then, everyone draws a number and the person who draws the number one picks any gift they'd like from the middle of the room.  They are then allowed to open the gift.  Then, everyone goes in numerical order to select a gift.  If someone wants to "steal" the gift that you picked, they may do so until the gift has been stolen 3 times, at which point, the gift becomes "frozen".  If a gift is stolen from you then you may pick another gift.

After the gag gift party, the Ms. Universe competition begins.  Everyone gathers into the living room in anticipation.  Everyone's sash name is written on a small peice of paper and placed into a hat.  The youngest (which has been me for many years) gets to select the first name.  Whatever name that is drawn, that person is eliminated from the competition.  Once there are only 15 people remaining in the competition, music is played and everyone parades around the room.  The parade continues when we get to 10 people, 5 people, and the bottom 3.  The bottom 3 give their "speeches" about how they'd like to end world hunger and go on a shopping spree.  The person who wins recieves all of the money that was collected when everyone arrives.  When the winner has been selected, a homemade "crown" is placed on the person's head.

Needless to say, this silly tradition is so much fun.  I've won about 3 times in my lifetime, while my cousin Arianne who is 30, has never won.  My boyfriend had his first experience with the party last year, and unfortunately he was the first one out of the Ms. Universe competition because I accidently picked him.  (He still won't let me live it down)  It is all up to chance on who wins, but everyone wants to so that they can get their hands on that money!

Above is a picture of me when I was about 5 years old and at this party.  As you can tell, I have a sash wrapped around me and I am wearing all of my holiday clo

 Above is a picture of my mom, my cousin Christine, my cousin Kali, and me.

Above is a picture of the entire family during one Ms Universe Party.  The picture might be too small, but I am right in the middle wearing the crown.  This was one of the years that I won the contest.  I certainly got to pick out a lot of candy that year.

Update on Dec 18, 2008:
Randy - I love this tradition.  I knew my boyfriend was a keeper when he went with me last year.  He didn't believe me until he actually saw it - but he rolled with the family and was fitting in very well.  He was so polite, laughing with the family, learning a million embarrassing childhood stories, seeing pictures of me as a kid, and he even faked a good cry when I pulled out his name first!  But this year, he is determined to win and the party will be on Saturday.
Three years ago I took a boyfriend of mine who was HORRIBLE at the party.  I knew that if he couldn't handle my family, then he couldn't handle me - sure enough, we broke it off not long after.
Most of the people in my family use this as a "test" to see if their significant other will be a long term keeper.  This test really does work, and has been proven more times than I can count.  It really does prove if someone loves you for who you are and loves your family (which, I've always considered my family to be part of the package).  


Cindy said...

Elyse - Love this story! What a great family tradition and so very different. I'm sure it will live on for many generations to come. I'm sure it's a lot of fun when a new "in-law" is added to the family!
Have a great Christmas!

Randy Seaver said...

Elyse - what a wonderful way to create family memories and have a lot of fun.

I'll bet your boyfriend said "you do what?" when you first told him about this.

Thanks for the chuckles -- randy

Apple said...

It's amazing that this tradition has lasted 70 years! What a fun and unique holiday tradition and fun for young and old alike. I hope you and your family can keep it going another 70. We have a tradition that only goes back about 10 years and that is the gift game you describe. We call it Steal Bingo even though it has nothing to do with bingo. We do not have the 3 steal rule so our games sometimes last a very long time.