If yours is the sort of family that celebrates the holidays with your warm, fuzzy-sweatered grandma icing cookies with the children, just after they've taken a bath and been swaddled in their candy-cane onesies, then congratulations.
Others of us may wind up spending at least part of our holidays with our chosen families, our "logical" families, those people who want to be with us not in spite of, but because of our flaws, foibles, and special quirks.
And if you're not in the mood to drop hundreds on an elaborate meal that gets snarfed within minutes and leaves a fabulous mess, or to stress over the silly tradition of buying stuff, maybe you'd prefer to go out and get your groove on, your drink on, and your eat on in true celebratory style.
So grab some friends -- the family can come too, if they promise to behave -- and go have some actual fun this Christmas.
10. 7th St. Entry "Christmastime for the Jews" isn't just a brilliant claymation skit from SNL. It's a real thing -- Jewish folks get the run of the town on Christmas and I'm here to tell you that it's great fun to join them (or to be one.) Case in point: the annual Jewbilee at 7th St. Entry where bands, comedians, and those who love them gather for music and laughter. This year, Meinong's Jungle, Planet Plookey, the Rivkins, Kids Like Us, and more.
Christmas Eve, Doors at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets here.
9. Szechuan Spice We like a little heat to offset the chill of winter, and warming up from the inside out is as good a way to do so as any. Many Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas, but Szechuan Spice is an intimate spot in Uptown, where it's nice to gather 'round a table with a big group and slurp Dan Dan noodles. Also check out all three locations of Little Szechuan.
8. The Lowry One of those good neighborhood bars that doesn't go too far in any direction, the Lowry is neither divey nor twee, there's something on the menu to please anyone -- from chicken pot stickers to chocolate chip cookies -- and it's raucous enough for your hard drinking friends, yet congenial enough for your grandma. Opens at 6 p.m. on Christmas Day for all of your thirsty needs.
7. The 331 Club John Oulman, owner of the 331 and Amsterdam Bar, personally bartends on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, when he keeps the bar open for those who "need" to be out on those days. And we do. You're going to need something to soak up the Margaritas and Lonestar Tallboys, and he recommends their "killer Reuben."
6. Palmer's Bar Palmer's is the great equalizer. It's a place for everyone, so long as you've got the stones to cross the threshold. Inside, you'll find people from all walks of life -- old craggy dudes who've been sipping brown liquor so long they're practically affixed to the bar, bike punks with ear gauges so wide you can see through them clear to the other side of the bar, pretty young hipsters who've come to cut a rug to the piano-banging of Cadillac Kolstad. It's the perfect place to meet more orphans to adopt into your chosen family.
5. The Gay 90's The entirety of the bar isn't open on Christmas, just the dim little annex with a jukebox in back. So dial up Mariah Carey and dance the night away with new and old friends. And of course, they pour the stiffest vodka tonic in the city, making socializing and bootie-shakin' easy.
4. Marin Restaurant and Bar Hotels: They've gotta be poised with hospitality hats on at all times. The show must go on, 365 and 24/7. Turn to them with your hungry bellies and thirsty gullets at the holidays. Marin in the Hotel Le Meridian is a good choice to flout traditional, heavy holiday fare -- their menu trends toward light California-style cuisine, so you can indulge without the dreaded bulge.
3. Brasserie Zentral If you're feeling extra flush this year, dine finely at Brasserie Zentral, where big-name chef Russell Klein is churning out fussed-up Eastern European food. They know how to do Christmas in that part of the world, so we would not be surprised if the crew has extra flair up their sleeves for the occasion. In any case, don't miss out on their dainty cookie program, so impeccable you'll never hanker for Nana's again.
2. The Groveland Tap With its many pool tables, sports screens, and jukebox, the Tap offers lots of other stuff to do if you're already tipsy and stuffed, and conversation is flagging. Anyway, a pound of chicken wings, a Lucy, and a tower of cheese curds trump a Christmas goose each and every time.
1. Moscow on the Hill If you've been trying to find an excuse to order a whole bottle of vodka and a hill of pelmeni (Russian meat-filled dumplings, hearty as a Minnesotan in a deep freeze), what better excuse than the holidays? You'll need a few friends to help you with that Stolichyna anyway. Don't forget a little herring to cut the richness of it all, and you can revel in the fact that you're having more fun than the Scandahoovians with their lefse.
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