Vancouver the birthplace of the Ugly Sweater Party

Dig out your best (or worst) ugly holiday sweater and join one of the city's many ugly holiday sweater parties this season.

Credit: Carolyn Boyd

Ugly holiday sweaters at the Commodore Ballroom

Ugly holiday sweaters at the Commodore Ballroom

As the birthplace of the original ugly holiday sweater party, Vancouver abounds with fugly knitwear parties, including the Commodore’s famous annual sell-out event


‘Tis the season for god-awful cable-knit sweaters with polyester patches, bejewels, sequins and patterns that should never have been invented… it’s called ugly sweater season.


While ugly sweater parties have become popular around the world, it is our own city that claims the official status of “ugly sweater birthplace.” For eight years, the multigenerational party venue that is the Commodore Ballroom, has been throwing its annual ugly sweater party, and each year, hundreds of people flock to the Granville Street venue as one of the biggest and boldest eyesores ever witnessed unfolds inside. Even the skinheads that have so kindly parked themselves across the street next to the Plaza Club turn away at the sight—and they aren’t afraid of anything.


Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Commodore Ballroom

A sea of red and green blinds the eye at the Commodore Ballroom’s annual ugly sweater party.


History of the ugly Christmas sweater party

According to Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch, cofounders of the Commodore’s annual ugly sweater party, they are the official trendsetters.


“Nine years ago, we [along with Scott Lindsay] set out with one goal in mind, to organize the cheesiest, most feel-good Christmas party imaginable.”


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Chris says that between Jim Carey’s dream sequence during the movie Dumb & Dumber and his own experience working at a retirement home, where he was exposed to a wide array of extremely festive sweaters, the guys weren’t short on inspiration. The party became an instant classic. 


The first event, in 2002, was the beginning of a tradition. Two years later, the festive social could no longer be contained within the confined space of a house, so the party moved to the Highland Pub at Simon Fraser University. In 2004, they made a leap to an even larger venue, attracting more than 400 people with very little effort.


Then, in 2005, the celebration moved to one of Vancouver’s premiere show venues, the Commodore Ballroom.


The guys stick to their claim that they are pretty much the godfathers of the ugly holiday sweater party… and I don’t think anyone is going to dispute such passion.


”We have always claimed to be the first, and even trademarked ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ and ‘ugly Christmas sweater party’ here in Canada,” says Chris.


So, in honour of the ugly holiday sweater, we present to you…


Vancouver’s ugly holiday sweater party line-up:


9th annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Commodore Ballroom

On Friday, December 17 the Commodore Ballroom will open its doors for a night of kitschy fun. $25 and an ugly sweater gets you into the “original” holiday party. Celebrate the holidays in good fashion! I would like to issue a festive overkill warning—expect prizes, carolling, eggnog, mistletoe, Santa and incessant holiday cheer! Scrooges need not attend.


Doors open at 8 p.m. This event typically sells out its 1,000 tickets so snap yours up quick. Partial proceeds from the $25-a-piece tickets will go to Options Community Services in Surrey.


Website | Tickets | Facebook



Ugly Sweater Tweet-Up Ice Skate at Robson Square

Social media has joined the ugly sweater bandwagon with an appropriately themed tweetup event. In celebration of hitting a milestone 3,000 followers, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (@downtownvan on Twitter) is inviting friends and social media aficionados to meet face-to-face in a “quintessential downtown holiday gathering” at Robson Square on Wednesday, December 15 from 4:30-6 p.m. Ugly sweaters are mandatory.


The ice skating is free (rentals are $2 and are first come, first serve) and Starbucks has donated a Christmas coffee to keep your insides warm. Organizers have asked that you save a tree, or at least a small chunk of a tree, by bringing your own mug and kindly RSVP so they know how many ugly-sweatered ice skaters to expect.


Website | Twitter



Ugly Sweater Holiday Party at The Venue

If you are one of those last minute types that doesn’t even begin to think about Christmas until it has almost smacked you in the face, the Venue nightclub is hosting an Ugly Sweater Holiday Party, just days before the big guy barrels down your chimney on Wednesday, December 22 from 9 p.m. to late.


DJs Darylo and Johnny Jover will be spinning all night alongside Santa’s Little Helpers, a.k.a. The Goldenlight Dancers. Don’t miss the prizes for ugliest sweater. Entry is $10 or two non-perishable food items, benefitting The Greater Vancouver Food Bank.


Website | Tickets | Facebook



Beer Humbug Ugly Sweater Night at The Edgewater Casino

An ugly sweater is still ugly after a few pints, you just laugh harder! Just Here for the Beer is hosting Beer Humbug 2010 on Saturday, December 18. The event, catering to the city’s growing crowd of beer snobs, is also doing it up ugly sweater style at the Edgewater Casino.


Tickets are $50 and include beer samples, snacks and a souvenir mini-mug. Hundreds of beer will be available, including winter ales. There’ll also be live music and door prizes.


Website | Tickets | Facebook