By Margot Carmichael Lester
Most people think of the stretch between Christmas and Epiphany as a no-dating zone: Everyone’s either out of town or catching up from the holidays. But why waste valuable time? Here are the 12 Dates of Christmas (or just after Christmas), beyond the tried and true. Why not enjoy a few with someone interesting you’ve recently met—they’ll get you off to a terrific start!
1. Santa’s (newfangled) sleigh ride
“Forget the reindeer and let a chauffeur do the driving,” suggests Darryl White. “I did this for the gal I was dating last year, and she flipped.” Arrange to spend the evening checking out local holiday decor—preferably from the comfort of a limousine. That way, the driver handles the traffic and you and your date can focus on each other. Cater it for even more fun.
2. Champagne decadence
Here’s a great idea for New Year’s Eve or any holiday night, according to Belinda Chang, director of wine and spirits for Cenitare in Buffalo Grove, IL: “Go to your favorite wine shop and purchase the most decadent bottle of Champagne that you dare,” she suggests. Then visit your favorite luxury food purveyor and purchase the largest tin of caviar that you can, a bit of crème fraiche and some brioche. Satisfaction guaranteed!”
3. Babes in toyland
Nothing gets you in the spirit like a visit to the toy store. “It’s a great way to relax and have fun with your date, talking about the toys you like and learning about each other’s childhood,” says Kitty Manning, founder of L.A.-based Bed-Tested. “Of course, there are toy stores just for adults, too, if you’re daring enough.”
4. Santa’s workshop
“I’ve recently gotten into scrapbooking and I think making New Year’s cards together would be a great date,” says Suzie Bourne of Kansas City, MO. “Just get some supplies at your local craft store and you can each make a few for family and friends. Much more fun than going to the store and buying them.”
5. Festive feast
Dine in—in the restaurant’s kitchen, that is. Call your favorite restaurant and ask whether a chef’s table is available. “Chef’s tables are, most famously, in the kitchen of the restaurant,” explains Kevin Callaghan, chef/owner of Acme Food & Beverage Co. in Carrboro, NC. “There is no ordering, no menu. You get what the chef is cooking that night and usually an abundance of tastes. It’s magical as small, delicious and beautiful plates of food appear in front of you. You definitely feel very special and taken care of.”
6. Work it out
With all the extra eating that goes with the holidays, why not get some exercise while you socialize? “Many personal trainers are happy to create a workout for couples,” suggests Dan Reckhouse of Seattle. “You can burn calories while spending time together.”
7. Sparkling evening
Not sure you’re ready to spend New Year’s Eve alone together? Enjoy a sparkling-wine tasting flight together before or after the big day. Chang suggests choosing splits of Prosecco from Nino Franco, Cava from Marquis de Gelida and Méthode Champenoise from Iron Horse or Schramsberg. Add some candlelight if the two of you want to feel very cozy. Not ready for that? Invite another couple to share in the fizzy good time.
8. Line up!
Who knew? You can make gift returns and exchanges a dating opportunity. “The lines are usually long, so it’ll be fun to have someone to talk to,” says Tina Winger of Chicago, IL. “And you can help each other pick out new items. It’s not the most romantic date, but it does give you relaxed together time.” Finish it off by catching a movie at the mall’s multiplex or getting a hot cocoa together.
9. Best foot forward
The only thing we think about our feet during the winter is how to keep them warm. But after weeks of shopping and parties, give those puppies a treat. “I was skeptical when my girlfriend suggested we get pedicures together,” admits Steve Peters of Watertown, MA. “But I have to admit, it felt great and was really relaxing.”
10. Catalog chat
Before you recycle all those holiday season catalogs, why don’t you see if they can bring you and your sweetie closer? “I had a ton of mail-order catalogs lying around and my boyfriend and I starting going through them, talking about what we wanted and wouldn’t be caught dead having,” says Lee Borden of Albuquerque, NM. “We ended up learning a lot about each other—and got some good gift ideas, too.” Make some mulled wine to spice things up as you flip through the pages together.
Nothing’s cuter than little cherubs re-enacting the Christmas story or the local kids and farm animals forming a living Nativity. “I always drag my date to at least one of these events,” admits Terry Stein of Atlanta, GA. “They’re cheesy, but it’s hard to stay Scrooge-y in the presence of cute kids.” And the price is usually right: free or a donation.
12. A feast for two
If your date loves food, set up a special-order dinner at his or her favorite restaurant—or somewhere both of you are itching to try. “Chef-driven restaurants will often very willingly knock out a special four- to 10-course meal if given enough notice,” Callaghan notes. “Do it on a Tuesday or Wednesday and come in late enough to miss any rush that may occur.”
These ideas will help you keep the dating momentum going through the holidays and into the New Year!
Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in Carrboro, NC.