holidays at the office: share your weirdest stories

It’s the season of forced workplace merriment, inappropriate coworkers gifts, holiday party disasters, and other seasonal delights!

In the spirit of the season, why not share the funniest holiday debacles you’ve witnessed at work?

Did a game of Secret Santa end in tears? Did your company’s top-level managers take all the best prizes from the holiday party raffle? Did your manager provide you with a three-page document of “party procedures”?  (These are all real stories that we’ve heard here in the past. Now you must top them.)

Share your weirdest or funniest story related to holidays at the office in the comments…

{ 890 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Also: Stories shared here may be shared in a future column (anonymously, of course!). If you do not want yours shared in such fashion, please feel free to note that!

    1. kd*

      I once received at a $15 holiday gift exchange, one of those candy necklaces on elastic and 1 package of the cheese crackers with peanut butter, the bright orange ones. It was a large event, maybe 100 employees, so anonymous. Co-workers at my table were embarrassed, but I laughed and put the necklace on. I did not eat the crackers….

      I also received a man’s manicure set in a Secret Santa, so they knew who they were ‘buying’ for. Re-gifting at it’s highest form. me = female.

      1. Biff*

        I do wonder if they didn’t know that they were different. I certainly had no idea that there was a genderization of this item. Nails is nails, right?

        1. Anonsie*

          Yes, but I think that’s why they always brand them super hard. The men’s ones always have big ol’ labels that say MANLY MAN MEN’S NAILS KIT FOR MENS

    2. Manager Red*

      At a old job, my manager was notoriously greedy and selfish. She demanded drive her places, even on days off, and spent her work days online shopping.

      Our janitors wife made an amazing cookie tray each year that he would put in the break room for staff. One year she took it and called us in to her office to “take 2”

      She also was cloaked in being a religious person, and insisted on wearing a “Jesus is the reason for the season” despite being a public service building and having Jweish, Hindi and atheist staff.

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    A friend of mine (I swear it was a friend and not me) made out with a VP at our company’s Christmas party years ago after doing shots with him. She was then too hammered to drive home so she passed out in her car and woke up and drove herself home the next morning.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Even the morning after you can still be over the limit, especially after a heavy nights drinking.

      1. the gold digger*

        Let those among us who have not gotten drunk at a company event by drinking shots of tequila on an empty stomach after about six straight games of wallyball and necked with our boss’s married boss who had been flirting with us for weeks and who was later fired for sexual harassment (this was the 80s, so it had to have been really bad) throw the first stones.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I wasn’t meaning to throw stones, a friend of mine lost thier license when they got stopped the morning after a big night out. My comment was meant to be general advice not criticism.

        1. Meg Murry*

          My uncle got picked up for “operating a vehicle under the influence” when he was passed out/asleep in his car because his keys were in the ignition even though the car wasn’t moving. I don’t know if he was charged with actual DUI or just had to have someone (my father) come pick him up at the police station – but crashing in your car isn’t a good plan. Makes for a funny family story to pick on drunk uncle though … especially since I think it might have been after his bachelor party the night before his wedding.

          1. NoPantsFridays*

            This happened to a college friend. Friend got in the car, put the keys in the ignition, then wisely decided not to drive home. She sat there with the keys in the ignition and called someone to pick her up. She fell asleep before her friend got there and woke up to a cop. She was not charged with actual DUI but I can totally see that happening under certain circumstances. It was kind of a sobering event for her because she realized she could have been arrested for doing the right thing.

            1. CAA*

              Yep, I was on a jury for a DUI where the defendant was picked up while sleeping in the car. In his case there was some very strong circumstantial evidence that he did in fact drive the car while drunk though, since it was parked on a sidewalk about 3 miles from the bar where he’d been partying.

              1. fposte*

                And in some jurisdictions you’re technically “in operation of the vehicle” even if it’s parked. (Also worth remembering that the legal limit means they don’t have to prove you were impaired when you’re over it–if you’re demonstrably impaired under the limit you can still get a DUI.)

            2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              Had a co-worker get a bit gassed, tried to drive home. He stopped at a rest area on the interstate – was sleeping in the back …. and the state police pulled him out and had him blow in the bag.


              Because there was no way he could have gotten to where he was – without driving the car drunk.

          2. HR Generalist*

            Yup, had a friend this happened to. I’m in Canada – had another friend who was charged for the same thing and their keys were IN THEIR POCKET, not even the ignition. Sad.

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              Yep. Guy I know had his license taken away for sleeping in the back of his car under the influence. Keys in his pocket.

              1. Hlyssande*

                See, that’s ridiculous to me. Sleeping in the backseat of the car is a reasonable (and smart) thing to do if you know you’re too drunk to drive and you have no other way to get anywhere (assuming it’s not obvious that he’d already driven drunk). I think that’s what I’d do in a similar situation – make sure the keys are nowhere near the ignition and that I’m not in the front seat before flopping over and passing out.

                It’s weird and to me that you could get in trouble for sleeping drunk in your car when the keys are in your pocket.

                1. fposte*

                  As long as you’re in control of the keys, you can be considered to be in control of the vehicle. Hand somebody else your keys and sleep in your car, and you’re safer.

                2. anonintheuk*

                  I once had a bizarre conversation with a police officer on the way out of a bar which revolved around the fact that yes, I had car keys in my hand and yes, I expected I was comfortably over the limit. However, I also had no driving licence and no death wish, so I was going to hand the keys to my (pocketless) friend who was stone cold sober, and we would be on our way.

                3. LoFlo*

                  A trick I have heard to get around possession of your keys, is to put them under your car while you are sleeping if off.

        2. Ashley*

          my first week of college I saw someone getting a roadside sobriety test at 8am. That was a lesson that stuck with me.

          1. SerfinUSA*

            I work in a college town, but live in a rural area 15 miles away. I often listen to a police/emergency scanner when I’m home alone nights & weekends, and the DUI calls are enlightening as well as entertaining. College kids and post-game country-folk…

          2. Treehugger*

            A student emailed asking to make up a test he missed. He said he had an excuse – he was in jail on a DUI and had proof. He got the DUI while driving to class – at 9 am in the morning. Needless to say, he was not allowed to make up the test.

        3. AnonyMouse*

          I think it’s useful advice! I don’t drive so not relevant to me personally but I’ve reminded friends and acquaintances of this fact before.

        4. azvlr*

          Hi Apollo! I didn’t read either comment in that way. Yours is very helpful, as many people may not realize this fact. I was more focused on the description of what said person did or didn’t do with their boss’s married boss than on the throwing stones part. lol

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    I think I may have told this one before when asked about worst holiday gift swaps, but here it is again: one year my client, who was a fairly straitlaced kind of guy, was in the office on the day of my team’s Yankee swap. The account executive, in addition to her own gag gift, purchased an additional gift “from the client.”

    It was the Chic Shaper — basically a girdle. An undergarment. It was drawn by a woman on my team who is very shy. I don’t know who was more uncomfortable — her, at receiving this gift “from the client,” or the client himself. Of course, no one stole this crappy gift from her in the swap. She had brought a very nice bottle of wine, and what she got for it was a load of embarrassment. I felt so bad for both of them.

    I still don’t understand what that account exec was thinking.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      She was apparently thinking “Haw haw! Fat people r funny! Because fat! Haw haw!”

      Gives account executive the worst stinkeye ever.

        1. Ethyl*

          Nobody is saying the gift giver or receiver is fat, they’re saying a *girdle* is a gross gift because the only reason it would qualify as a “gag” gift is if the “gag” is that “fat people are funny.”

    2. Alma*

      Oooooh yeah, but to the other creepy extreme. An elderly woman (in her mid to late 70’s) gave all the women on staff the same thing every year: a pair of Sears Roebuck thigh-high stockings. And she did a such a lousy job “guessing” at the appropriate size it felt like a deliberate slam. Iccccckkkk.

  4. AggrAV8ed Tech*

    This isn’t actually funny or weird, more toxic and abusive… But when I told my boss last year that I couldn’t attend the annual holiday potluck (which is perpetually hosted at an entire different office 45 minutes away from mine, despite his assurances 6 years ago that it would rotate every year), his reaction over the phone was simply to yell, “Oh, f@#$ you!”

    I’m waiting to see what his reaction will be this year when he finds out I’m not going. And I’ll be sure to record the call this time.

    1. Laufey*

      Obligatory pointing out that recording calls without the knowledge of the other party may not be legal in your state/county/province, plus what exactly do you hope to achieve by recording the call? Don’t you already know he’s a jerk?

      1. JB*

        Because sometimes it’s useful to establish a pattern of bad behavior? Because that way HR won’t take it as a case of he said/[s]he said? I get warning people that recording bad behavior is not always going to solve a problem, but it’s not like it can’t ever be useful.

      2. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        I’m in a single party state (believe me, I’ve researched this) so I’m okay on that front, plus I take so much abuse from him that I’m sure HR and/or my union might be interested in such…behavior.

        1. Colette*

          Recording someone is enough out of the norm that I’d wonder why you were doing it. Did you set up the boss in some way? Are you planning to publish it on the internet?

          It would change my focus from “this manager is behaving badly” to wondering what you’re up to.

          1. Bea W*

            Wanting to record someone being abusive to you as proof when you make your complaint to HR or the guy’s manager isn’t really that far out of the norm, especially if you think there’s a chance you won’t be believed or the guy seems to somehow be protected. It’s hard to be caught on tape behaving in such a way that is totally unacceptable at work and deny it even by claiming a set up, because you can’t really excuse this kind of behavior, period.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I’ve been following AggrAV8ed Tech’s work issues for a while now, and when you have a boss that yells at you to not help clients in a certain way, or to always copy him on certain requests, then yells at you to do EXACTLY the opposite, WHY are you DOING that you IDIOT, then recording conversations is not only warranted, I would do it in a two-party state myself. I’d rather be arrested for that than be bullied and lied about to HR and executives.

            2. Colette*

              IMO, if you’re in a situation that’s that bad and you believe HR or a manager won’t believe you without proof, you need to leave. They don’t have to act even with proof (unless what he’s doing is illegal), and going to that effort is not going to make them more inclined to believe you’re the wronged party.

          2. M-C*

            The fact that he behaved badly last year in the same circumstances would make being ready to record this year’s outburst seem totally normal to me. If I worked in HR, or was on the jury :-).

          3. VintageLydia USA*

            Eh, I know AggrAV8ed from elsewhere and his boss doesn’t exactly need to be “set up” to do something objectively terrible.

  5. Apollo Warbucks*

    This was years ago but someone gave the office junior a sex toy and crotchless panties as part of the secret Santa, it was absolutely mortifying, the poor girl was so embarrassed, and the management didn’t seem to care.

    More recently, at the party last year the one of the young guys did 2 grams of coke and was completely wasted, he went around telling everyone what he had been doing and attracted so much attention to himself, it’s such a conservative office I’m shocked he didn’t get sacked, or at least written up.

    1. bob*

      Wow. I just can’t imagine how someone could be a in workplace and also be THAT clueless. I know there are some socially under developed types out there but this is so over the line it’s amazing.

      1. INTP*

        Not sure if this is about the sex toy or the coke but my experience with people on coke is that they cannot.stop.talking.about.themselves. And usually that includes how awesome their coke high is. So I wouldn’t be surprised, because it turns even people who normally have some decorum into blabbering idiots who think everything they say is amazing. Seeing other people party on that stuff was enough to convince me to never, ever experiment with it.

        1. Karowen*

          Honestly, I assumed that bob was asking how you could be so clueless as to think it’s okay to do coke at work…

    2. Anonymous Ugh*

      Ew, what is wrong with peoples judgement! I don’t know if this is better or worse than just one person in a group recieving a sex toy but at old job I had handed in notice and was finishing the first week of January but still went to the end of year Christmas dinner which included a secret santa. The catch? The regional manager (my boss’s boss) decreed it to be a naughty secret santa meaning everyone was required to buy some kind of sextoy/dirty game/novelty shaped candy combo and exchange gifts at dinner. I’m not a prude but just…wow…

      1. J.D. Walker*

        Upon hearing of that decree, I’d have basically made a beeline straight to HR. I can’t imagine any HR person worth their salt would not address this.

  6. Christy*

    It’s not particularly weird, but our office is pretty small and everyone’s been here for at least 5 years, pretty much. About half the office has been here since the office was founded 14 years ago. We have this small bust that is in every gift exchange, and people always try to avoid it, and it’s always hysterical when it’s picked by accident.

    It’s a strange office, but I never feel closer with everyone than I do at Christmas. We’re practically family at this point, with the annoying uncle and all.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      At one company I worked at years ago the perpetual gift was the ugliest possible lamp in the world. Same thing — it was a small, family-type company, and the lamp was the hit of the party, year after year.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        In my last job it was a jumbo sized package of Halloween gummy rats. They had to have been 8 years past expiration at least. It highly entertaining. :)

    2. Andy*

      My brother in law’s company has an Owl Lamp, straight from somebody’s grandpa’s hunting cabin. Creeptastic.

    3. MaryMary*

      One group at OldJob did an annual White Elephant gift exchange, and several of the gifts were so dreadful/useless that they were stored at the office and regifted annually. Such gifts included: a hamster that sang Born to Be Wild, a Cosby-esque sweater with a horse knitted into it, a package of eight blank cassette tapes, and an artificial Christmas tree with a motion detector so it would light up and sing (it also had a face and a Santa hat) Holly Jolly Christmas.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          My brother wanted to take the singing controller out of Billy and have him just flap like crazy whenever anyone got near. Knowing how I would react, I laughed like a hyena when he told me (I jump 2 feet when the phone rings). His wife wouldn’t let him do it, though. She was afraid someone might have a heart attack.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Those Big Mouth Billy Bass flapping things always make me think of that ’80s horror movie House with William Katt, where the wall-mounted marlin starts flapping and squealing.

            1. Steve G*

              I love you right now. I have been looking and looking for a movie from when I was a kid for years, and when I looked up the House 1986 trailer on youtube I realized that the movie I had been looking for for so long was House 2, that came out in 87…..I remember it was on tv all of the time when I was in 2nd grade and I thought the scenes were so cool and I built lego houses with secret rooms with weird stuff like forests in them to imitate it…

              Thanks for helping me find this movie name!!

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          ME TOO. At one agency I worked at, someone had one, and the managing director’s young son got his hands on it.

          “What if it were you hanging up on this wall?” ALL. DAY. LONG. And none of us could do a thing about it, because this was Big Brass’s precious angel making the ruckus.

  7. Holiday anon*

    A group of people from our office did holiday carols that were themed around the type of work we do. The rest of us started clapping and half way through a song one of them stops everything and says, “We like that you’re into it but you can’t hear the lyrics we wrote with all of the clapping so we need to start over and if you could listen this time.”

    1. Judy*

      We had a year that the manager wrote a parody song with names in it. The song subtly poked fun of everyone, and not so subtly poked fun of two people. He brought his guitar, and we all got to sing along.

    2. Sue Donem*

      As someone who HAAAATES it when people clap through songs for that exact reason, I’m glad one of the carolers spoke up. I think I’m one of the few people who finds the clapping rude. (Besides my mother and my closest friend.) I also have mild SPD, so the clapping is a huge distraction to me.

  8. Anon for this*

    We had an all day shopping scavenger hunt on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas. We were randomly assigned to teams and had to spend a certain amount of cash (provided by the boss, luckily).

    I *hate* shopping in the first place, let alone with others and during the holidays. I got a great pair of jeans out of it, but I would rather have worked in the office on a Saturday than give up my day off to travel 3 hours round trip, plus another 4 hours shopping with people I already spent all week with.

    1. Colette*

      “All day”, “Saturday”, and “two weeks before Christmas” should never be in the same sentence – unless it also involves “nap” or “couch”.

    2. Lia S*

      I don’t mind traveling for work, especially with the food places that my boss likes to take us….but I really don’t want to give up a Saturday in December to attend a work party. So, yeah, I’m right there with you.

  9. Nerd Girl*

    I was one of ten temps brought on to help with a huge end of year project. We happened to be there through the holidays. The day of the holiday pot-luck weirdness ensued. It started with the Yankee Swap. All but one of the temps opted to sit out of the gift giving. The one who opted to bring something gave a used Coach bag. The bag was leather and it was all faded and stained from years of use and the lining was badly ripped. He’d given it in the original box – which was in MUCH better shape than the bag itself – and he actually smiled when the recipient realized that the gift wasn’t as nice as the box implied.
    Later that same afternoon the temps were all called into the office of the department manager. We were all thanked for our services and told that all but two of us would be celebrating our last day that day. Myself and another temp were asked to stay on through the new year (eventually being hired as permanent employees). This abrupt termination wasn’t a surprise to any of us. We’d been told that the project was completed and that our contracts were ending about a week prior by the agency. The temp who had given the gift in the swap got MAD. He actually started yelling at the manager, telling her he was “a team player who participated in her holiday horror-show”. (Which was not true…the pot-luck was well done, inclusive, and very specifically did not “force” the fun as so many work holiday parties seem to do.) The last I ever saw of that temp was as security was escorting him out of the office. He slammed doors, kicked over trashcans, and even pushed over a small tree someone had on their desk.

    1. Karowen*

      I mean, it seems a little weird to me to have everyone called in (including the two that were staying) to say good bye, but…Kicked over trash cans? Pushed over someone’s tree?! That’s a bit crazy.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        Ya i thought that too. Goodbye everyone, except Cara and Sam, you guys can stay. Also a little weird not to give you any notice and tell you at the party.

        None of that is half as weird as that guy though. At first I thought maybe the bag was supposed to be a joke?

      2. Windchime*

        Crazy-AWESOME! What a way to kick off the holiday; with a crazy temp knocking over Christmas trees.

          1. Judy*

            There’s a post about someone (at the end of an interview?) who “used” the plant in a conference room.

    2. GeekEngineer*

      Wow, gives away used coach bags, slams doors, kicks trashcans, and pushes small trees… what a badass.

    3. Anonsie*

      and even pushed over a small tree someone had on their desk.

      Oh no! Not the tiny trees! That vicious brute!

      This image is so hilarious, it’s going to coast me all the way through the rest of the holidays. I’m imagining him leaning all his weight into shoving a wee little 6″ stick in a pot.

  10. Apple22over7*

    One year at an old job, we were told in leiu of Christmas bonuses we would be getting gifts instead.

    Those gifts turned out to be corporate branded mugs with our names on (some spelled incorrectly). We were then told those mugs were not allowed to leave the office and were to replace our personal mugs we had been using – because colourful mugs were inappropriate for the office. Despite the fact we weren’t client-facing, and the most “offensive” mug was simply one with bright swirly patterns on (so no mugs with swear words or inappropriate pictures on). We all really appreciated our gifts that year..

    1. Wonder__aloud*

      Sounds like the year Sr. leadership set a budget of $10/gift *after* taxes, so were each given a gift card for something like $7.58. AND we had to sign for it to prove no one got more than one!

        1. LoFlo*

          The IRS is why. Gift cards = cash and go on the W2. The amount was probabbly less FICA taxes. Some companies dole out quite a few gift cards, so it is hard to justify exceptions.

          1. Judy*

            I’ve always seen the year to date income amount on the paystub increased by the giftcard plus tax amount and the taxes YTD having the tax amount added. So it was $10 gift before taxes, but your YTD income showed an extra $12-13 something and your YTD taxes showed an extra $2-3 something. And anything like that came in envelopes with our names and badge numbers on it.

      1. jordanjay29*

        Wow. I think my pride would have cause me to refuse that “gift.” That’s beyond a joke, that’s basically an insult.

      2. MaryMary*

        It was before I joined the company, but legend has it one of the vice presidents once gave the department gifts from his recently deceased mother-in-law’s house. People got candlesticks, candy dishes, a clock, serving spoons…a few girls got jewelry, but no one was sure if that meant you were his favorite or if it was random. Some of the gifts were in good condition, but some weren’t. Worst of all, it was common knowledge that he’s at the top of the pay scale, he could easily afford to give actual gifts if he wanted to.

        1. thirdlee*

          Not Christmas-related, but your post reminded me of an incident that occurred in the office not too long ago. A coworker was wandering around trying to sell underwear out of a plastic bag… Underwear that had belonged to her recently deceased aunt and had, at one time, been considered “very pricey” so she didn’t want them to go to waste.

          1. fposte*

            I did not want this little gem of weirdness to go unrecognized. I’m wondering now as a manager if I would take refuge in the “You can’t run a second business on our facilities” line or if I would have had to break it down to “Take the dead lady underwear out of here now and don’t ever let me hear about it again.”

            1. Thirdlee*

              She showed up in see-through leggings and a cat sweater that she claimed was “just over-sized enough to cover everything important” for Halloween about a month later. It definitely wasn’t. She probably could’ve used a pair of those fancy panties.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        That’s just what I was thinking! Maybe the boss came by later and gave them all convertibles…

        except Matthew

          1. Mister Pickle*

            My bad – after I posted I realized that I mixed things up.

            I’ve always sorta wondered: how much would “Fibber McGee” actually cost?

    2. Sascha*

      That level of global micromanagement sounds exactly like the kind of thing my previous job at a university would do. And we did get school branded mugs one year…followed by glossy brochures about donating a portion of our salaries back to the university.

      1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        Ah, yes, the annual “give us some of our money back” pleas from the university. I always chuckle at those.

        1. cuppa*

          Not Christmas related, but for a little over a year I worked part-time for a college that was known for being very exclusive and high tuition – and I still get postcards asking for donations. I just got invited to a gala for $500 a seat.

    3. some1*

      Ooh! You just remeinded me of a story. At a former employer they gave all of us identical coffee mugs with the company logo, which was fine. I used mine as a pencil holder because I didn’t want to mix it up with anyone else’s, and used my personal mug which had a pretty design and no text or pics (got in the china dept on Macy’s) because I like it & it held a larger amount of coffee without being bulky like a thermos.

      Sometimes I covered (voluntarily) covered reception when the receptionist was out, and I got dinged for not drinking out of the company mug while sitting there….underneath a 10′ sign with the company logo on it.

    4. Adam V*

      > We all really appreciated our gifts that year..

      And you were all gone by the next Christmas, am I right?

    5. Rivakonneva*

      I’m surprised that there weren’t several “accidents” involving knocked-over and broken mugs. Especially those with names spelled incorrectly.
      Of course, then the problem is how to explain a mass explosion of ‘butterfingers’ in the office………..

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I have arthritis in my hands, and I could drop an ugly coffee mug if it was super glued to my fingers.

          Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    6. stellanor*

      I temped at an office with no customer-facing staff where non-managers were not allowed to have ANY drink at their desk except for water in a company-branded water bottle purchased at your own expense (for $25! Most of these employees made $12/hour!). Managers could have whatever drinks they wanted in whatever containers they wanted.

      The ostensible reason for this rule was that people had spilled drinks on their computers, but 1. I worked in the mailroom and we didn’t have computers; 2. how the computers were set up the only thing you could spill on was the keyboard, which is all of like $9 to replace if you use the piece of crap keyboards they used, 3. apparently managers magically don’t spill, and 4. the company-branded water bottles were notoriously prone to spillage.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        2a. keyboards are pretty water-resistant; if you spill soda on your keyboard (or honey, even) you can put it in the top rack of the dishwasher or run it under the faucet without doing any damage. You just have to make sure it’s completely dry before you try to use it again.

        1. Natalie*

          My old work laptop was 4 for 4 surviving spills. Including noodle soup once – that was a PITA to clean up and I was SOOOO hungry.

          1. Paige Turner*

            RIP Noodle soup!
            I once spilled an iced chai all over the stove*, and I was more mad about losing the drink than having to clean it up, so I feel you…

            *I had to pop the cover of the stove up and clean underneath, not fun

        2. stellanor*

          I was so demoralized and had so little to lose at that point that I just brought a water bottle from home (because without a water bottle you had no access to water between your breaks) and used it, and when my supervisor (who was an unreasonable tyrant generally) got snitty about it I completely ignored him. That job made me so miserable I almost wanted to get fired over my water bottle.

    7. Jennifer*

      My job requires that we have signs put up whenever we’re not at our desks. Now we got told we have to “standardize” our signs and all use the same ugly/boring ones. Blech.

  11. Savannah*

    Lets set the stage here: I am a Jewish 26 year old. I’ve been on the job about a year and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of NYC for this job. My family is not super religious but we certainly never celebrated Christmas growing up.
    My boss, a usually nice lady, has taken it upon herself to educate me about Christmas this season. She is super into the holidays, which I appreciated for Halloween, but has been declaring to the whole office how this is “Savannah’s First Christmas” and taking that opportunity to spend well over $500 on Christmas decorations which she has strategically placed mostly around her and my office. She has bought me my own Christmas stocking and ornament which says Savannah’s first Christmas” with a date and her signature on it. She has placed red velvet bows around anything they will stick to and she has replaced our office coffee k-cups with eggnog. She has put up lights in the hallways and decked my door with some kind of tinsel that keeps sticking to my clothes and following me home.
    She keeps reminding me what ornaments are and is amazed when I told her that I know the words to some Christmas songs.
    She also has invited me to her home for Christmas because “no one should celebrate their first Christmas by themselves”. Basically our office looks like Santa and his elves threw up on it. Everyone in the office is slightly amused and mostly horrified. Lets see how amused they are after 22 more days of this. Apparently she hasn’t ever gotten into the Christmas spirit this much and is using me as an excuse. oh happy times.

      1. Alma*

        O M Grinch, I used to HATE to have to dig out the crappy old decorations every year, and “the girls” (grrrrrr….) had to decorate the office and windows and put together the moth eaten Charlie Brown tree and then make it all disappear like magic after Christmas.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Are you at my work??? That is exactly what happened here, down to the crappy, spindly fake tree and the making it disappear. I’m glad I’m not alone!

    1. fposte*

      This one is so weird and appalling and a little bit adorable and a lot bit offensive–very high marks from me. Good luck with Easter.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes! This could make a really over-the-top TV episode or movie. Though Savannah, I’m definitely sorry you have to deal with it in RL! How awkward.

        1. Steve*

          I don’t know if anyone here watched “Dead Like Me” on Showtime but I now have this image of Delores Herbig (as in her big brown eyes) running amok!

          1. Michelle*

            Yes, yes it does! How I miss that show!

            So sorry for you Savannah. Nothing like recognizing diverse religious practices or just not recognizing any in the workplace.

        2. Suzanne*

          Too bad The Office is off the air! Your story would have made an excellent episode. People who have never worked in a dysfunctional office never can believe how true to life that show could be.

        3. So Very Anonymous*

          This has “very bad Lifetime Movie Network Xmas movie” written all over it. (Also, I’m sorry. This sounds completely insane).

      2. Savannah*

        I know..and its just so Nice too. Like she really thinks its the best thing she could be doing for me. I still haven’t replied to her home invite…

        1. Artemesia*

          Let her know that you are attending temple that day as part of Hannukah and can’t attend her religious event. (or make up some Jewish ceremony you will be attending)

      1. JMegan*

        That one I can see being kind of cute, carefully done and in the right context. The “right context,” of course, would include knowing that the person would find it amusing, and that gift being the only mention of the person’s “first Christmas.”

        But WTH is up with the boss putting her signature on it?? Like Savannah is supposed to treasure it forever (which is usually the intent of these types of gifts), along with fond memories of the loving and generous boss who Made Christmas Happen for her?

      2. Journalist Wife*

        Agreed. The ornament made me crack up. Best story so far! I hope OP sends in an update after the holidays of how the whole month played out. Also I want to see a photo of the ornament. Because reasons.

      1. LBK*

        What’s weird is that is seems so specifically about converting someone to Christmas, not Christianity. It’s not like she set up a life-size nativity scene in the breakroom and is posting quotes from the Bible on the OP’s door…just really aggressively doing commercialized Christmas-y stuff. I would almost find it less weird if she were going for the religious angle.

        1. Jamie*

          I think it would be more weird if it were the religious angle – but this is plenty weird. It’s like the boss is excited to introduce her to customs she (the boss) finds amazing, seemingly unaware that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone living here not familiar with colored lights and peppermint flavored everything the last month of the year.

          On a personal note I’m finding it odd that my inner grinch hasn’t shown up yet. Usually I make a plea to forgo the tree…complain about the work of decorating…but I enjoyed it this year. And I got a jump start on my holiday baking with 4 dozen cranberry muffins in the freezer and the first batch of kolachkis already inhaled.

          I have been infected with some kind of virus leaving me symptomatic with holiday cheer and turning on Christmas tunes of my own volition. What’s happening to me?

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            I know! As if OF COURSE the reason Savannah doesn’t celebrate Christmas is that she’s never heard of it. I just…huh?

          2. LBK*

            Maybe we’re balancing each other out – I am feeling extra curmudgeony this year apparently. Normally I’m fine with Christmas spirit as long as it’s post-Thanksgiving, but at the moment I’m ready to punch the first person who plays a Christmas carol in my presence. The only holiday-related presence I’m okay with is the bowl of candy canes my roommate put out in the kitchen, because candy canes are the second-most-pure form of deliciousness (after bacon).

          3. LBK*

            Also I think I would only find the religious angle less weird because Christianity has some aspect of evangelizing/converting people built into its teachings, and because religious pushiness is at least a somewhat common theme when it comes to inappropriate office behaviors. This is the first time I’ve heard of holiday pushiness at this level.

          4. Anonsie*

            seemingly unaware that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone living here not familiar with colored lights and peppermint flavored everything the last month of the year.

            You’d be surprised. This will be my partner and I’s fourth Christmas and he still doesn’t get it. He grew up in the US but in insular and non-American-holiday-celebrating neighborhoods, so every time any holiday comes around I have to rehash what I want to do and why and yes it’s important to me that we do this, dude, just go with it.

            I haven’t had to have the stocking explanation to him yet this year, which is nice. I have to explain Christmas stockings to him every year, although on this fourth try he remembered that you’re supposed to put presents in them and has stuck a few in mine already. This is a dramatic improvement, as Christmas morning the last three years I’ve stuffed his with goodies and then on Christmas morning found mine empty. Every time he’s tilted his head to the side and ask me what’s the deal with these, again?

    2. Natalie*

      ” she has replaced our office coffee k-cups with eggnog. ”

      I am amazed this woman is still alive.

      1. Chinook*

        ” she has replaced our office coffee k-cups with eggnog. ”

        Okay, there is a line and she has most deinfitely crossed it. I refuse to work in a office where no one else is well caffineated. I also refuse to drink anythign that is labelled “chicken milk” (as it is known in French – Poulet au Lait. Stock boys in Canada with basic french and a sense of humour always put the french side pointing out).

        As for “Savannah’s First Christmas,” I see it as sweet or an inside joke if it was one stocking or ornament, but this is overkill AND disrespectful of Savanah’s religion and of those of us who celebrate the month before Christmas quite differently and sedately (think lighting pink and purple candles, homemade baked goodies (which are always in season) and preparing for Christmas – the party atmosphere is suppose to be for the 12 days after Christmas).

        I actually feel quite uncomfortable with the bit of decorating I see in my office because I don’t know how accepting others would be if I hauled out the Nativity scene, with empty manger, and put it on my desk. Stockings, garland and anything beyond a tasteful tree in the front entrance seem like overkill and negating the split between home and work.

        Bright lights, on the other hand, are okay if only because the sun doens’t rise until an hour after I get to work and it sets about a half hour after I leave – seeing somethign other than flourescents during the work week is necessary for sanity’s sake.

        1. stellanor*

          I love decorating for Christmas but I restrict myself to a string of battery-powered snowflake lights in the office. They go up after Thanksgiving and stay until the new year. Conveniently that is how long the battery lasts.

          1. De Minimis*

            The facilities department brought up the boxes for our decorations earlier this week. They’ve just been sitting there, I think everyone is waiting to see if someone else will do the decorating…or at least I know I am.

            1. MaryMary*

              When facilities decorated our office, they re-appropriated my coat hook as a wreath hook and I’m kind of grinchy about it. Did they think I just had a random hook that served no purpose hanging in my cube?

        2. Alex*

          Lol – It’s “Lait de Poule” not Poulet au lait. Yes, chicken milk; not chicken cooked in milk sauce.

          1. Chinook*

            Oops..I don’t drink it and all I can remember is the gigantic POULET on the carton and a picture of a chicken. DH think’s it is hilarious and always wonders outlod at the grocery store how you milk a chicken.

          2. Mabel*

            Is there no word for “egg” in French? Although, what is a “nog” anyway, so maybe the exactness of the translation doesn’t matter.

            1. Jamie*

              Nog is any beverage made with beaten eggs – usually with liquor but not necessarily.

              Which I just now learned – so doesn’t this make the name eggnog redundant if nog already refers to the eggs?

              My definition of eggnog is “something I love in theory and crave, then take one sip of and remember it’s too thick and sweet (and slippery) so I cut it with 3 parts skim milk to one part eggnog and drink most of one and am satisfied until next year. Also eaten with pickled herring which is as gross as it sounds, yet delicious.”

              1. Natalie*

                If you ever have the opportunity, try a homemade milk punch, the drink that has been bastardized into commercial eggnog. It’s milk consistency and less sweet, and it has spices in it.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I like the commercial eggnog. When I was a kid we only got it at Christmas and I was bereft, but then I found this recipe for it in a Childcraft book that used to belong to my mum (it was a kid-sized recipe and made a single glass of eggnog). After that, I drank it all the time. :) It was much tastier and fresher.

                In fact, now I’m going to go home and look for that book. I’m pretty sure I still have it.

            2. Ducky*

              Yup, the word for egg is oeuf. And calling it egg milk probably wouldn’t really clarify the situation, unfortunately. I’d be more likely to use it for French toast instead of diluting rum, and why waste a good drink if you don’t have to? :)

          3. Jen RO*

            My mind was just blown, I think. We have the same thing in Romania, also called ‘chicken milk’, and: a. I had no idea anyone else had such a weird name for it (though we probably got it from French); b. that it’s eggnog! Watching American movies exposes you to many notions of food you never actually get to see/taste…

        3. Audiophile*

          Last year, one employee went around complaining that the manger was empty and she kept insisting on telling me, because I had a dual role of sorts as reception/security. I finally got so annoyed that I pointed out it was supposed to be empty since Christmas hadn’t come yet. The funniest part to me, is that she celebrates Christmas. I’m still puzzled as to whether she was trying to engage me in conversation or joke with me or if she really didn’t know the manger is empty until Christmas.

          Side note: I kept typing manager instead of manger.

          1. Jamie*

            I didn’t know about the keeping the manager empty tradition until I was well into adulthood. I tried it for a few years at home but I’d always forget to put him in there until I was taking stuff down.

            Weird if she needed it explained more than once, but it’s not universal to do that and a lot of people who celebrate Christmas would have expected the manger to be full from the get-go.

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              Yeah, it’s definitely not a universal tradition. We have a Nativity set at my house, have since I was a kid, have since my dad was a kid in the 50s, and Jesus was always in the manger from the beginning.

              Different strokes.

              1. Laufey*

                And you see, in my family, putting out Jesus early is grounds for disownment. And the Magi have to start across the room and begin marching to the nativity on Christmas.

                1. Bea W*

                  The first year at my current church, the kids would move the baby Jesus closer to the manager each Sunday by picking him up and placing him on one of the window sills. I had only been there less than a month maybe, and it made me think “This is a church I would be a member of!” Seriously, I have a fondness for my childhood church, but if I had ever left Jesus on the window sill, I’d have gotten a stern talking to.

                2. Bea W*

                  Same experience here, empty with the Magi making an incremental journey across the room or the table, which I always thought was weird because in public scenes you just see the nativity with Jesus and the Magi already there.

                3. Katie*

                  I LOVE the idea of migrating Magi. Our little cardboard nativity doesn’t have a removable Jesus, but the Magi can definitely be shifted :D

              2. Windchime*

                Same here. This thread is the first time I’m hearing that Baby Jesus shouldn’t be in the manger until Christmas.

                One time I drove to town in a snowstorm and bought a Nativity set. I got it home and started setting it up… Joseph. He was missing. My friend suggested that maybe I could get a GI Joe(seph) to fill in, but instead I drove back and exchanged the set. I still have the second set (and Joseph is still around).

            2. Audiophile*

              I didn’t mean to imply it was universal, because clearly it’s not. But this office has always done it this way, and she’s worked there much longer than me and is an actual employee while I’m not.

              It was more that she felt the need to tell me, as in, “haha, you’re security. You should be on top of this.”

              If I remember correctly, when she brought it up, my reaction was. “why are you telling me?” ]=

              Like do you want me to send out a search party. “Attention all visitors… the manger is empty, keep an eye out.”

            3. esra*

              I had never heard this. My poor mom just gave up one year after multiple Christmases of me replacing baby Jesus with Quints dolls and My Little Ponies.

          2. Purple Jello*

            We started hiding the baby Jesus until Christmas when I was a kid. Usually we remembered in time where he was before we had to put the manger away. We also moved the shepherd with sheep off to the side somewhere, and put the wise men & camels on a “journey” for a month or so.

            I’m really puzzled about the “First Christmas” ornament – does Savannah even want to celebrate it. This is just weird.

            And give me my coffee.

            1. Jamie*

              Yep – one of the few years I did it I found him in the piano bench. In March. You were all interactive though, props for that. My group of wise men? Very lazy. They get set up and stay put (when not off scene being super glued back together. We have one who has been repaired and decapitated so many times the kids call him nearly headless wise man.)

              Our manger is super crowded because two nativity scenes owned by someone prone to breakage leaves you with quite a road show of 5 wise-men, many shepherds, enough donkeys and sheep to start a mid-sized petting zoo, and an extra Mary and baby Jesus (who are set up elsewhere, lest we blaspheme!)

              1. fposte*

                “Yep – one of the few years I did it I found him in the piano bench. In March.” Oh, please tell me this was on Easter.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Laughing so hard I can’t breathe re the petting zoo! Good thing I only have to type, not talk, to comment that this is hilarious.

              3. Alma*

                I went to the toy store and got a bag o’critters for the Veterinarians’ office. We were in a rural community and they did barn calls as well as have huge livestock trailers pull up in the side lot all the time. So they NEEDED pigs, horses, cows, chickens, donkeys, dogs and cats in their creche scene.

            2. Karowen*

              Our tradition was always Baby Jesus out on Christmas Morning (which we remembered because we’d fight over it) and then we could put the wisemen out – and they moved a little bit each day for 12 days until January 6th/aka Little Christmas (when the Magi supposedly reached Jesus – that’s where the 12 days of Christmas thing comes from!) and then on Little Christmas my Grandma would always give us little gifts like costume jewelry.

              Not super relevant, but wanted to share that you’re not the only one who did that! Also, I miss being 6.

            3. JustPickANameAlready*

              There was a little Souther Baptist church down the road from us when I was a kid– the type that flew a Confederate flag OVER the US flag. One year my friend and I removed the baby Jesus from their nativity scene and replaced it with a female African American Cabbage Patch doll that had belonged to his older sister.

              They were not pleased.

          3. Formerly Bee*

            I keep reading “manager” instead of “manger” and imagining somebody’s manager dressed as a little baby Jesus.

          4. EA*

            I once worked at a theme park that had a rather large light display (and nativity scene). One of our crowd control positions was “Baby Jesus’ Bodyguard”, because apparently teenagers thought it was funny to try and steal Baby Jesus from the manger.

        1. fluffy*

          That’s a Tom and Jerry. My father-in-law always confused the 2, buying Tom and Jerry batter when he wanted eggnog

      2. Paige Turner*

        I’m glad other people feel this way because WHAT KIND OF MONSTER does this?

        Seriously, though, if this we me I would not be okay with it.

    3. BTownGirl*

      I’m a half-Jew, so I feel guilty for laughing!! Also, you know she got that First Christmas ornament from the Baby Keepsakes department…which makes it by equal measures creepier and more hilarious. I CAN’T.

      1. Parfait*

        In what way is her heart in the right place? I would be super-outraged at being singled out in this way.

      2. Ted Mosby*

        You know what, you’re probably a nicer person than I am, but I’m not so sure her heart WAS in the right place. I’ve never really appreciated the attitude that Jews are only Jews because no one has invited them to be Christians yet. Growing up in a Catholic town, I was constantly told it was ok for me to come to mass, or attend Sunday school. I know it’s OK, I just don’t want to.

        I am constantly reminded of the Wade Davis quote “Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you.”

        1. Jamie*

          That’s actually kind of surprising to me, since I have always found Catholics to be very like Jews in the not looking for converts thing. Then again as a lifelong Catholic I’ve never heard of a parish that offered Sunday school. That’s usually a protestant thing. We have CCD which believe me, you don’t invite people to because it’s school. It costs money, they take attendance, you have to pass…it hinges on sacraments – it’s not a drop in and become one of us kind of deal.

          I’m not doubting your experience, just surprised.

          I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood and by far more of my friends celebrated Hanukkah than Christmas. I had some friends who wished they could do a tree and I was jealous of the whole 8 nights of gifts thing. As a kid differences between you and the majority can be isolating or no big deal, depending on how it’s handled. I also expect it was less of a big deal for me because while my immediate world was more Jewish, I had TV and the US at large made Christmas a very big deal so I would imagine seeing my culture in every store window and on every holiday special lessens the “otherness” for lack of a better word, significantly.

          1. Bea W*

            When you grow up in an all Catholic town as a non-Catholic, you are absolutely encouraged (and sometimes taken by other parents) to mass…at least based on my experience growing up in the 70s and 80s. It’s like you are expected to be Catholic like everyone else, and in many cases it is assumed you are Catholic. (I still run into this!) I went to mass many times with friends. It was pretty much a condition of being able to sleep over. My friends were never permitted to attend church with me if they slept over, and if they were going to sleep over, their parents made them go to Saturday evening mass before going to my house so that they’d be all set, and could safely spend Sunday morning at my house without fear of going to Hell, just as long as there was no non-Catholic church going planned for our Sunday morning.

            Really, I was confused as feck as a kid. There were clear religious and cultural difference between my family and everyone else, and no one ever explained them to me and other people assumed everyone to be Catholic. I’m not even a non-Christian. I was just Protestant…with two Catholic grandparents, which made it even more confusing, because we did not have these issues of religious division at home. I don’t even think I realized that my grandmothers were Catholic like my neighborhood until I was much older, like nearly an adult. I just understood they went to a different church and they did some different things, but there wasn’t the division at home that I would encounter outside as a non-Catholic.

            I also grew up going to a church outside of my town. So I didn’t share the experience with any of my peers in my neighborhood. I have wondered if it would have been a bit easier on me if we had attended a church in my neighborhood.

            I did not meet a Jewish person until I was a teenager, and that was at my church in youth group when the youth pastor invited a couple from Israel to teach us about Passover. There were no Jewish kids in my school. I think aside from me there were 2 other non-Catholic kids in my elementary class, but it’s not something that was a topic of bonding over. I just knew they were a brother and sister who did not go to the Catholic church. They didn’t go to my church either.

            1. Jamie*

              I think assumptions are pretty common when there is a clear majority – it’s laziness (or efficiency if you look at it another way) because if the vast majority of a population is X then guessing X you’ll be right more often than not.

              Even in online forums – if the majority of posters are American and someone posts something about the law without specifying where they are from a lot of people will respond with the assumption the poster is speaking of US law just because odds are…but it’s not malicious, just a little myopic. I have a Polish maiden name which most of my friends parents assumed to be Jewish until learning otherwise – it never bothered me, but maybe it’s one of those things that normal people are annoyed by and skate over my head. It’s not like there was ever a negative reaction to learning I wasn’t what they thought so no big deal to me.

              And I could be wrong but it’s possible that at least some of the insisting you go to mass if you slept over was not wanting someone’s else’s kid alone in their house while they were gone. That would have been my rationale – not that I’d have cared one way or the other about anyone else’s religious beliefs, but they’d know going in that if we were going somewhere in the am they had to come too, whether it’s church or IHop – because the whole supervising other people’s kids thing is easier to do if you’re actually with them. :)

              And not going to another church is something a lot of Catholic’s practice, for reasons I won’t get into here, far more so in decades past – but it’s just part of the religious practice. Most of my friends growing up didn’t keep kosher – but those that did could never stay for dinner. If we were going to eat together it would be at their place as eating there didn’t violate a rule of my faith, but eating at my place would have violated theirs. Parents of all faiths want to make sure their minor kids aren’t in a position to disregard the religious principles with which they are trying to raise them when they are away from home.

              For how I was raised and how I raised my kids it’s a live and let live thing. I could care less about anyone converting and just because something works for me is no reason it should work for anyone else. So we did our thing and assumed everyone else would do theirs.

              But I am sure there are evangelists of every stripe out there, including mine, I just have zero tolerance for it so I’m not one to be approached for involvement on any level.

              1. Jamie*

                Shoot – I realized I’d gone crazy off topic and went to delete this post and hit submit instead because apparently my fingers aren’t obedient.

                My apologies for rambling – I did try to self correct, but you know what they say about good intentions. :)

                1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  I have an ethnic name – which would imply I’m Catholic – and, I’m not.

                  But most of my friends were / are, I was allowed to join CYO, and in college ( a Catholic one) a girlfriend dragged me to midnight Mass, which was OK, but I drew the line at conversion.

                  I always learned to “get along by going along”. I also had exposure to the world of Judaism. owing to my father’s business connections – and my wife and I occasionally enjoy a Friday night Shabbat with friends.

                  Probably the most intense experience? I prayed with a co-worker – a Muslim – after the 9/11 attacks.

                  I can’t get offended at religious celebrations – they almost always are joyous, and as an easy-going Protestant, I have no conflicts with participating in ANY of these events.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Growing up Catholic in a mostly Baptist town, I ran into the same thing. “You’re not doing baptism right. You have to be DUNKED.” “Come to my church, come to our revival meeting; we’ll save you. You can’t go to heaven because you’re not saved!” And my personal favorite: “Why do you pray to Mary? You’re supposed to pray to God!”

          Also, that quote is awesome.

          1. Mister Pickle*

            Oh wow. You should go do it! Okay, maybe don’t really get baptized there, but – I once dated a woman who attended weekly religious services that (according to her) were held in a tent, with a dirt floor, and people would regularly “be overcome” and foam at the mouth and fall to the ground and writhe about speaking in tongues, and there were snakes … She was always asking me to go with her, and one of my few regrets in life is that I never took her up on it (*sigh* at the time, the notion of spending an entire Sunday sober was simply a non-starter).

            But I wish I’d gone – I’m sure there would have been some great stories to come out of it.

          2. JustPickANameAlready*

            Huh. I went to an Apostaolic Charismatic Non-Denominational 5-fold church. They referred to the Catholic Church as The Great Whore, which always confused me since most current modes of Christianity evolved out of mainstream evolved from the Catholic church.

            They hated critical thinking, too.

    4. ZSD*

      About halfway through reading this post I realized my jaw was actually hanging open. Your boss’s behavior is jaw-droppingly inappropriate.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OMG this is so offensive, although she obviously means well. Could you say something to her like, “You know, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I appreciate you being so inclusive, but I also really don’t want to celebrate Christmas personally, although I’m delighted to partake in the general holiday spirit in the office”?

      1. Savannah*

        I’ve attempted to broach the subject a few times. I tried to discuss with her the fact that I don’t celebrate Christmas and that’s where the whole “Savannah’s First Christmas” was born. Another time when I mentioned something about celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas she went out and bought this Hanukkah inspired contraption, which was really just 8 round traditional ornaments with a light in each of them. She said they were Hanukkah balls. I’ll try again more directly. Its just hard not to look/feel like Grinch.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          It’s not like Judaism is some wild, out-there religion, and your average layperson can’t understand that Jewish means no Christmas. I think you need to tell her that due to your RELIGIOUS BELIEFS you don’t celebrate Christmas, and don’t plan to start now.

          Nicely, of course.

          This is insane. I don’t even think her “heart is in the right place.” If it was, she wouldn’t be ramming Christmas down Savannah’s throat.

          1. Sharon*

            Yeah, this would seriously tick me off and I come from a Christian background. Alison, can you come up with more diplomatic way for OP to tell her boss she’s being flat out overbearing and obnoxious?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Wow, the new information makes it even worse. How about:

              “I know you’re trying to be inclusive, but this is a religious issue to me and I am not comfortable personally celebrating Christmas. I’m Jewish, and my religious beliefs do not permit it. Thank you for understanding.”

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  Yeah, I really, really feel for you. I would not be able to look that woman in the eye.

                  About 12 years ago, the fact that this is in an NYC suburb would have shocked me. Now? Not surprised. I have met some ridiculously provincial people in the NYC environs, and in NYC itself. “What is this… Rosh Hashanah? Never heard of it.” Dude. You live on the Upper West Side.

                  I wish you much fortitude, and I WANT UPDATES.

                2. tmm04*

                  Isn’t there such a thing as harassment based on religion in the USA? It’s actually illegal to harass employees on the basis of gender, religion, politics, disability, etc up here in Canada. She’s lucky you don’t make a claim to HR or The Human Rights Commission because she certainly sounds over the top.

          2. Chinook*

            “This is insane. I don’t even think her “heart is in the right place.” If it was, she wouldn’t be ramming Christmas down Savannah’s throat.”

            I have to agree. It makes me wonder if the boss is overcompensating for something in her personal life. Maybe she remembers how lonely her first holiday away from home is? Maybe this is the first holiday without her kids around? It is still so very wrong, though.

            On a separate note, the invitation to her home for dinner for the holiday probably comes not from cultural insensitivity but from coming from her own culture where the idea of someone being along for Christmas is wrong and strangers must be invited if they are new in town and don’t have family there. At the army bases I have lived, it is very common for higher ups to ensure that anyone who isn’t going home on leave has an invitation with someone (of an appropriate/comfortable rank/social level – no private at a major’s house type of thing) so they aren’t eating alone on the 25th. It is a way of making sure that everyone feels like a part of the community and not isolated.

            1. Savannah*

              Yes, my parents do this for Passover. Its customary to make sure all Jews you know who are around have a Seder to go to, so sometimes we have strangers at our Passover. I’m trying to see this invitation like that but I’ll probably find a way to back out as gracefully as possible.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I wouldn’t be so flabbergasted if she had extended an invitation once, mayyyyybe twice, saying, “If you’d like a place to go on Christmas, you’re welcome at my home.” But no. This is way beyond that! I’ve had people give me the, “But it’s so saaaaaad to do nothing on Christmas!” and I’m all, “It’s my favorite day of the year because I don’t have to deal with you or anyone else, so shut up.” Not that rudely, mind you.

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  Fun story: Christmas Eve, 2009 or 2010. Met a fellow Jewish woman for Chinese and a movie. Went to the movie, then went to a Chinese restaurant on Bleecker Street (West Village) for some kung pao chicken. As we were paying the check, three middle-aged nuns in full habit walked in. So nuns have Chinese on Christmas too!

                  My guess was that they were in town for Christmas and needed somewhere to eat before Midnight Mass, or they were local and had let their staff go home for the holiday. Even so, it was awesome.

            2. Ted Mosby*

              “It makes me wonder if the boss is overcompensating for something in her personal life.”

              I kind of doubt it. As a Jew, I would say there is a very small, very loud faction of Christians who are so convinced that Christianity is better than all other religions that they think Jewish people must know this too, and maybe are a little bit sad that they don’t get to be Christian, and they constantly try to invite us to their churches and holiday functions, with the actual, genuine expectation that we will be RELIEVED that someone has finally extended the invitation. It’s a special kind of stupid that all of my Jewish friends have experienced at one point or another.

              1. Natalie*

                Ah, yes, I know those people, too (atheist). They think there are only 2 reasons to not be a Christian – either I’ve somehow never heard of the religion, or I hate God, baby Jesus, and probably you.

                My boyfriend’s parents were apparently all in a tither about whether or not they could pray before meals in my presence. Sheesh. I’m not going to throw dinner rolls at you.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I wrote a whole blog post about this–because I’ve been told by atheists that I’m delusional because I believe in God. Hey, I don’t tell you to do my thing; please show me the same courtesy.

                  The boss doing this at work is super-inappropriate.

              2. The Strand*

                I don’t disagree entirely, but I think there are graduations in this behavior. Religious practice is not just about belief, it’s about community for a lot of people. Plenty of people who go to church don’t believe in God, and a lot of people who do believe in God would prefer to do so privately.

                Sometimes people want to share the experience of celebrating a holiday with one of their favorite people, because it’s a very happy one for them – not that they expect their friends to be converted or because they think their friends are sad not to be Christian. And if they don’t know about the movies-Chinese food thing, they may think a single person may feel left out on a day when everything is shut down – for the same reason my better half and I, and our closest friends, always ask people if they have plans for Thanksgiving.

                In college, two of my roommates held a seder but did not tell or invite me – I came home from class and they were having it in our living space with other people. Not being welcomed to break bread or even told that they were celebrating a big holiday in our shared space did, indeed, make me feel left out, but I guess they assumed that I wouldn’t care, even though my sister had recently converted to Judaism and I’d mentioned my supporting her in that. I think it is possible to underestimate the level of curiosity and interest others may have in our traditions, especially those of us from families that are mixed, religiously, and that sometimes an invitation will be understood as friendship, not coercion. A lot comes in how the invitation is made, as well.

                I also spent a memorable Christmas with my best friend, who was Jewish. This was before “Chrismukkah” was a thing. Indeed, we ate Chinese food and went to the movies, and I loved the opportunity to understand her tradition, just as I appreciated learning about the prayers and candles her parents lit at Shabbat dinner. I hoped she would then share some of my (secular) traditions with me, like opening some presents, but not because I expected to convert her, and the discussion we had about that – she clued me in to the kind of behavior you described experiencing – was very valuable to me. She learned something from the fact that I wanted to be with her – despite our different backgrounds – rather than my crazy parents – on a special holiday.

                1. The Strand*

                  This was in response to Ted’s comment, not the OP… I’m in the “I’m sorry I laughed, but this is way uncool, time to call HR” camp.

          3. Alma*

            When I was about 7 yrs old, and my brothers much younger, my Dad was in the hospital over Christmas after 1960’s era surgery for kidney stones. He was actually in the hospital several months. I will never forget the kindness and thoughtfulness of a woman who was one of my Mom’s friends, and was Jewish, who dropped by a huge container of homemade Christmas cookies because she knew Mom wouldn’t have time to bake that year. G-D bless her!!

          4. Just Answering*

            I actually know Messianic Jews who do celebrate Christmas (these are Jews who keep all Jewish customs, but also believe in Jesus.)

            I also know Jews who celebrate Christmas secularly as culturally important. In fact, as I teach in an Orthodox Jewish school as their General Studies teacher (even though I’m not Jewish), I got in trouble one year for telling a student (with the best of intentions) that there was no Santa. I never imagined that a family sending their child to an Orthodox Jewish school would celebrate Christmas and Santa … but they did.

            And, of course, there are many, many mixed marriages where one Jewish spouse celebrates Christmas *for* their partner.

            So, I guess what I’m saying is … never assume. There are Jews, who for various reasons, do celebrate Christmas.

            1. Just Answering*

              Whoops! My comment above was supposed to be to another commenter. I don’t know how it got here. :-(

        2. LBK*

          She said they were Hanukkah balls.

          I don’t know why but this sentence has me in hysterical fits of silent laughter. Hanukkah balls! What does that even mean!?

            1. kozinskey*

              EXACTLY MY THOUGHT. Maybe matzoh balls, but with lots of food coloring and edible glitter? (I would eat that….)

          1. Chinook*

            “Hanukkah balls!!”

            Is it wrong that I would want to point out to the boss that they aren’t because they aren’t carefully trimmed shorter at one end?

        3. Bea W*

          The whole thing is so over the top outrageous. Perhaps you could reciprocate with “Boss’ First Hanukkah”. ;) (that’s also not appropriate, but I’m totally amused with the image in my head of over the top dueling holidays)

          1. bad at online naming*

            This is probably not constructive or appropriate but I would LOVE for it to happen. Anywhere. Anytime. (Just not in my office.)

          2. Chinook*

            “. Perhaps you could reciprocate with “Boss’ First Hanukkah”. ;) (that’s also not appropriate, but I’m totally amused with the image in my head of over the top dueling holidays)”

            I love this idea because it either shows the boss how inappropriate she is or she enthusiastically eats it up and it becomes a cultural education (where she evntually figures out that Christnmas and Chanuakah are not interchangble)

        4. Marina*

          OMG HANNUKAH BALLS. I am genuinely busting up laughing at my desk. This makes my own token-office-Jew issues look like nothing.

        5. JMegan*

          I’ve told this story before, but this seems like a good time to repeat it. Hopefully it’ll make you laugh, or at least see that you’re not alone!

          I live in a large, multicultural, North American city. The predominant December holiday is Christmas, but Hannukah is a close second – certainly most people are aware of it, even if they don’t celebrate. At my friend’s son’s day care last year, the teachers had all the kids make Christmas tree ornaments. My friend’s family is Jewish, so the day care very thoughtfully had her son make…a menorah…for his Christmas tree ornament. Oops.

          1. German Chick*

            I just came back from Vienna. In one of their main museums, the Oberes Belvedere which hosts Klimt’s “The Kiss”, they had a huge christmas tree full of ornaments depicting menorahs, stars of David, and signs that said “Happy Kwanzaa”. Irritating.

          2. manybellsdown*

            When I was in like … 3rd grade, we were doing holiday crafts – some sort of red-and-green garland thing with candy canes and peppermint scented sachets. Or, if you were Jewish, you got to make one with cinnamon sticks and sachets in blue and white. I wanted the cinnamon on my red-and-green one because I’ve always hated peppermint. I was told no because I wasn’t Jewish.

            Only a decade later did it occur to me that I wasn’t Christian, either.

    6. louise*

      Pretty sure she went to the Michael Scott School of Management. Wow.

      I kind of wish someone would do something to her that’s sort of on par with this…perhaps a week of Holocaust Atrocities Awareness is in order?

        1. Lizzy May*

          Michael wouldn’t force Christmas onto Savannah, he’d force Hanukkah onto the rest of the office. He’d have a party with just latkes for food, make everyone learn the words to Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song and “teach” everyone about Judaism. It would be equally offensive just in its own way.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Announce that it is Boss’s first Hannukah and see if various people in the office can get her Hannukah presents for each day — and start with a Menorah and make sure lots of dreidels are involved.

    7. LOtheAdmin*

      I laughed by reflex after reading this the first time, but the 2nd time I read it, I imagined myself having to deal with this in real life. I’m so, so, so sorry Savannah.

      Also, $500 on decorations??

    8. Hermoine Granger*

      It’s kind of sweet but clueless at the same time. Is she assuming that you haven’t celebrated Christmas because nobody has taken the time to teach you how? I just don’t understand her thought process.

      This sounds like something Michael Scott would do.

    9. Paloma Pigeon*

      Oh my goodness. I think you are handling this very well, but I would consider what your personal line is and be prepared to be firm when she crosses it. It sounds like it’s a smaller office, and she is unaware that she is veering on creating a hostile environment for you. Think of it if it was flipped: let’s say you were the only Christian in the office, and menorahs were set up around your workspace, and your boss insisted on frying latkes at your desk, and replacing the sugar in the office with chocolate coins, etc. It would be ridiculous, right? And while you are appreciative, you are there to work, not to learn about another religion. Singling you out as a reason to push this religion into common work space because you are a different religion? And to invite you to participate in a religion (not your own) on your personal time? Big boundary pushing. I think HR would be interested to learn about that.

    10. beyonce pad thai*

      Oh, my god. On top of everything else, does she think you just, I don’t know, fell out of the sky or something? Like a Jewish person growing up in the U.S. could not possibly know what Christmas is about until some lady from Scarsdale takes it upon herself to explain?

      1. Savannah*

        This is the part that does make me a little irked. I’m Jewish in a Christian nation. I’ve de facto celebrated Christmas before because my country celebrates Christmas.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          The most offensive thing to me how infantilizing it is. As someone else pointed out, “Wakeen’s First Christmas” stockings are usually baby-themed. In general, celebrating “firsts” as life milestones is done for infants and children. It’s also an overly personal thing for any co-worker to do for another, especially a supervisor.

        2. Person of Interest*

          I feel you. As others have said, your boss and people like her forget that Christmas is not a cultural thing, its a religious thing. I have also experienced the “c’mon, but everyone loves Christmas!” pressure from people who really don’t get it. And no, it doesn’t make me feel better to find amidst the flood of Christmas decorations a $5 menorah that the receptionist picked up at the drugstore during her lunchbreak in a last-minute effort to make things “inclusive.” My personal preference is that religion stay at home altogether, it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Trying to be inclusive invariably excludes someone.

          1. Jamie*

            In a weird way it’s like sports. I cannot tell you how many people cannot believe I don’t care about sports and try to explain the awesomeness to me. I grew up in the Chicago area – I’m familiar with professional sports mania and have spent more than my share of time being exposed but some people think if you just gave it a chance you’d love it.

            It’s way worse for my boys who also don’t give a crap about any sports team. It’s like people want to revoke their right to live here because they have Y chromosomes and don’t care about the Bears.

            It’s only analogous to a point though, because even though for many people the holiday is secular (to them) they forget that it’s not for other people and it’s more than obnoxious, it’s obnoxious in a religious context which can take it over the line to offensive.

            I know several atheists who celebrate Christmas – and I don’t mean they go along with it without complaining, I mean doing the tree and the lights etc in their own homes and all the non-religious traditions, etc. There are so many modes of celebration from the purely secular to the devoutly religious to (most common, amongst the people I know) to an amalgam of the two at various points on the spectrum that there are those who really don’t get that Christmas = Christianity to many people. I know it sounds like a weird thing to forget since it’s right in the name, but it’s a thing where people totally don’t make the connection and are unintentionally offensive.

            I’m not excusing it – just trying to understand why people who wouldn’t think of evangelizing from a religious standpoint think it’s okay to try to lasso everyone with garland this time of year.

            1. KJR*

              I don’t care about sports either. But yet I married a sports fanatic and gave birth to two more. It’s kinda lonely sometimes I tell ya!

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Same here, but for me it’s mainstream sport. No, I do NOT want tickets to the minor-league baseball game. I did not watch the handegg game. I did not watch the World Cup either. When my office has Sport Shirt Day, I have Nerd Shirt Day and wear a tee with a great big TARDIS on it. Unless it’s winter, and then I wear my US Figure Skating sweatshirt, because that’s the only sport I care about.

              Off-topic, but Gracie Gold won the NHK Trophy skating competition in Japan (her first ISU Grand Prix win!), and she is going to the Grand Prix final! Go Gracie! :D

            3. Jen RO*

              I’m one of those atheists. I don’t *forget* that it’s a Christian holiday, I just ignore those parts. I like the tree, it’s pretty and makes the living room more cheerful, it entertains the cats – and the presents part is nice too!

            4. AnonEMoose*

              Well…the tree, lights, etc., were pretty much “borrowed” from pre-Christian religions, anyway… for a laugh, go to Youtube and search for “Santa Claus is Pagan, Too.”

              1. Barefoot Librarian*

                +1! I was going to point this out also. The tree is certainly pagan and I could list a dozen other elements of Christmas that don’t originate from Christianity and some things that you’d think were purely secular that have Christian origins. For example my mum gets very upset about the abbreviated Xmas, but “X” comes from the Greek letter “chi” and is a very old stand in for Christ. I think that you can have as secular or as religious a Christmas as you want. Live and let live. :)

        3. Observer*


          I’m “ultra” Orthodox, and if anyone thought my kids didn’t know about the existence of Christmas, with the tree, decorations, lights and Santa with reindeer by the time they were 10 or so, they would be making a big mistake. Between everything that’s closed, street decorations, people’s house decorations, mall music and all of the other stuff you can’t miss, it’s kind of hard not to. If you are not so insular, I would think it would be IMPOSSIBLE, even in a city as multi-cultural as NYC.

          1. Suz*

            Same here, even in the less cosmopolitan city of Sydney. I would say we knew all about it except that some people celebrated it only culturally and not religiously- since everything we celebrate is celebrated religiously.
            Still don’t want to participate in a cultural even I don’t identify with either and that shouldn’t offend anyone…

    11. Amethsyt*

      I’m horrified on your behalf. That is so inappropriate and also bizarre. Besides ignoring the fact that Christmas is still a religious holiday and it’s incredibly offensive to go on and on about your “first one” like this, she’s acting like you have somehow magically never been exposed to literally anything Christmas related.

      Even if she’s using it as an excuse because she personally loves Christmas decorations, the office is still not her personal celebratory space. I celebrate Christmas but would be annoyed by the tinsel and the k-cups. Also, the home invitation. Do not invite employees to celebrate YOUR holidays. What. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

        1. Kinrowan*

          You can tell her that the unofficial rule for Jews in NYC and boroughs is that on Christmas is to go eat Chinese and then go to the movies. It’s tradition! Been there.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        This is right up there with Wakeen and chocolate teapots in AAM-isms that need to live forever.

    12. Aisling*

      My eyes grew larger and larger the further I read! This is so terrible it’s almost funny – except it’s pretty horrific.

      1. projectile coffee*

        I told myself I could read through these holiday stories (after reading previous years’) without laughing out loud….This one made me lose it. +1000 for Hannukah Balls and I really am both sorry and grateful that you get to experience such amazement this holiday.

    13. Theresa*

      This is obviously horrifying, but just as weird as it is that she’s acting like you’ve never heard of Christmas, how can someone who lives in a suburb of nyc act like she’s never met a Jewish person before? I mean… She must have, right?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        As I said above, nope, not surprising at all. I once worked with a girl who was very sweet but had never heard anything about any Jewish holidays, nor did she know any Jewish people personally. She grew up in Manhattan. Near a yeshiva (religious secondary/post-secondary school), no less. Luckily for all of us, she was more curious than anything (and only 19) and I was happy to answer her questions.

        I worked with lifelong New Yorkers (Long Island-ers, mostly) at a MEDIA COMPANY (we’re supposed to run those, right?) who had never heard of Rosh Hashanah and had no idea why I always took a few days off in the fall. I also met a woman from CT who once recommended a financial planner to me by saying, “He’s a good Christian with a nice family” before she gave me any professional credentials.

        Ignorance is everywhere, my friends.

        1. Theresa*

          The girl from Manhattan, I’m not as surprised about. The Long Islanders, I am. Lifelong (raised Catholic) Long Islander, and I can guarantee you all of my Catholic friends growing up knew more about Judaism than most of the Jewish people I went to college with. But forgetting all of that, not knowing what the Jewish holidays were? That’s crazy! Unless you went to Catholic school, you got those days off as a kid.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I’m telling you, it’s super weird. I grew up in MD and assumed everyone on Long Island knew a ton of Jews. I went to college with someone who said she was the only Jewish girl in her school. In Smithtown. And I later worked with someone from the South Fork who didn’t understand why I didn’t put up a Christmas tree and didn’t want to.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Where I live, I’ve met only a few Jewish people, but I’ve never met anyone as staggeringly ignorant as Savannah’s boss. Even (most) people here in Bumblef**k Missouri know what Hanukkah is.

              1. The IT Manager*

                As far as I know, the first time I met Jews was in college in Bumblef**k, Missouri. Although to be honest, my knowledge of Jewish holidays was probably pretty lacking then.

                Now I would say I don’t know any Jews, but I don’t talk about religion much so I totally could and just not know it.

                Savannah’s boss is completely offensive and NOT GETTING IT, but for me the Christmas Tree, Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman, etc are cultural and not related to the religious sicelebration of Jesus. A lot of people put up a tree and give gifts without going to a religious service or giving any thought to Jesus. As someone pointed out the tree did not originate with Christianity.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  This is a common thing that you hear from people who do celebrate Christmas, but while those things may not seem particularly “Christian” to you, I can tell you as a Jew that they are absolutely symbols and markers of a Christian holiday. It’s true that Christmas trees didn’t start out that way, but they sure are now! Observant Jews will not have those things in their homes and those things are very much not secular for many of us who aren’t in this country’s dominant religious group :)

                2. Karowen*

                  I know I’m way late to this, but wanted to add to Alison’s point – I had someone tell me the other day that Santa Claus is not a religious symbol and I was completely shocked. He’s called Saint Nick for a reason. The fact that some people of other faiths have him deliver gifts doesn’t make him a non-religious symbol.

                  On the other hand, I’m with you on Frosty. It actually frustrates me how much music is called “Christmas” music when they lyrics are about snow. Frosty is one of those.

          2. Karowen*

            This has actually stood me in good stead later in life. I was playing a game with friends where you had to name 5 things and mine was 5 Jewish holidays – nailed it because I grew up in NJ.

            1. Maggie*

              Yes – St Nicholas Day is still marked on 6 December in some countries. Traditionally children leave shoes out at bedtime to be filled with sweets. It was the forerunner of the Christmas stocking.

              By the way, I showed my Jewish boss about Hannukah balls. He has adopted the phrase in the office now.

      2. Bubbles*

        I have a friend who is a practicing Orthodox Jew, and therefore wears a yarmulke. He was asked by a stranger in a NYC suburb if he would show them his horn.

    14. Malissa*

      1. Replacing the coffee with eggnog–That’s about the worst thing you can do to an office. Seriously, pay cuts would go over better.
      2. I’d be bringing in Hanukkah decorations and blasting Adam Sandler’s song.
      3. We must have weekly updates of this situation. Keep a log. Seriously, I want to know how this plays out.

      1. Jamie*

        Replacing the coffee with eggnog–That’s about the worst thing you can do to an office. Seriously, pay cuts would go over better.

        Oh, let’s not get crazy now…I know you were kidding but put the paycuts down and back away slowly and no one gets hurt…

        I can stop at Dunkin’ for coffee – I cannot stop at Dunkin’ for more salary. Although tbf I’ve never asked.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          “Can I get a large iced coffee with one cream and two sugars, an apple fritter, and $1,000?”

          “Sure, $3.27. Your cheque is in the bag.”

    15. Kerry*

      I would love for you to respond to everything she does as if you had literally never heard of it before. “So you cut the tree down and put it in your house? That’s so interesting! And cover it with – what are those things called again? The little shiny balls with decorations? Wow, how cool! That’s fascinating!”

      1. Anonsie*

        What’s this? What’s this?! There’s colors everywhere… WHAT’S THIS? There’s white things in the air!

    16. peanut butter*

      I hope this hasn’t been asked already, but are you going to do a Boss’s First Hanukkah?

    17. AW*

      Oh man, I am so sorry.

      This sort of thing is exactly why I haven’t told anyone at my current job that I’m Hebrew. I had a really weird moment during a meeting a few months back where someone mansplained Yom Kippur to me but that’s still preferable to something like this.

      1. AW*

        BTW, this is not meant to be criticism of the fact that people at your job know. Sometimes there just isn’t a way around that and you really shouldn’t have to hide it anyway. Just pointing out this sort of behavior, while probably seen by the person who’s doing it as being nice, is enough to make it feel unwelcome or even unsafe to tell people you’re not Christian.

    18. Formica Dinette*

      I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this loon. Maybe you can make some money off the situation by writing a best selling novel about it.

      Also: LOLOLOLOLOL @ Hanukkah balls!

    19. SallyForth*

      Savannah I know this was horrible for you, but you win! It was like a very bad Dwight Schrute as manager Office episode.

    20. Paula*

      Did you ever tell your boss you are Jewish? Or does she think you grew up in a non Christmas practicing Christian family? I don’t see where she knows that you are not Christian. I think the longer this goes on, the more she will be embarrassed when she realizes you are Jewish, you should tell her. But if she does know…definitely tell her to cut it out, that celebrating Christmas is against your religion.

  12. oleander*

    Not a weird story, but a ordinary holiday question for you all:
    I’m going into my first Christmas season at the new job I started 6 months ago. Just announced today: White elephant gift swap in which the gifts may not cost over $10, and regifts are fine. My group of co-workers consists of about 10 people — mostly women and a couple of men, a mix of established professionals and a few graduate student interns.

    Any suggestions for successful cheap gifts?? Something that someone would actually enjoy ending up with and not want to just throw away? My first inclination is to go with a bottle of wine, but that seems awfully boring.

      1. Judy*

        Depending on the group, a Best Buy gift card is good, too. (The last one I participated in was with engineers, but it was an oddly even number of males and females. The 2 Best Buy gift cards got stolen most often.) I have a BB gift card (now used) from the other year that is a small ice scraper, I keep it in my computer bag for emergencies.

        Or I think Barnes and Noble has a Godiva “gift card box” so you could get some chocolate and a gift card for someone.

        I saw a really cute gift card from Target that was some sort of a little toy from the Hex Bug folks. Last year someone got my son the Hex Bug gift card, it was a toy and a gift card.

      2. Pickles*

        Yes, that! If you want to jazz it up a little (and/or mess with people, which is sometimes fun), hide it in a mason jar surrounded by M&Ms or similar.

      3. Karowen*

        Totally agree – I would just try to make sure that whatever you get a card for, there’s one near your office. You’d think Starbucks would be ubiquitous, but I work about 20 minutes away from the closest one and while I pass a Starbucks on my way in, friends coming from the other direction don’t, so it’d be useless for them.

        1. Jamie*

          Amazon gift cards are my favorite as they combine spending money without having to get off my computer – what could be better?

          They sent me a couple of blank ones with my last order which you go online to activate – so there’s my department’s contribution to the Christmas raffle.

      4. Sascha*

        Second vote for the Starbucks gift card. If they don’t like Starbucks, they can always give it to someone else.

      5. Night Cheese*

        Or you can get them a Visa gift card that they can spend anywhere. I got one for a colleague that did me a big favor and she loved it.

        1. zecrefru*

          Unless they’ve made a change, both Visa & American Express charge an expensive ($6?) “activation fee”. I’m opposed to such fees especially when the company is already getting the benefit of sitting on your money until the recipient gets around to spending it.

        2. Cautionary tail*


          They may seem ubiquitous but one of the cards on store shelves is the prepaid Green Dot VISA card. This is not a gift card and it states this in the tiniest print on the bottom of the packaging.

          Someone gave us one of these cards and we couldn’t get any vendor to accept it for a month.

          Finally we Googled it and found that it’s actually a debit card and to use it you have to give this scam company all your personal details. Their phone number only goes to an automated activation system requiring you to give them all your personal information. We would not do this and on gethuman . com we found a phone number to their corporate headquarters. Each prompt on the system brought me back to that automated activation system so kept redialing and tried every prompt until finally the Night Audit option rang through to a person. That person said they would forward me to someone who would help but twice they only forwarded me back to the activation system. Finally on my third human call I got the person to send me a check for the value of the gift we received. I also looked up the company and their were scam complaints all over the interwebs about them with people abandoning being able to use the cards and they either gave the company all their personal information or threw the cards away. I apparently was one of the lucky few who was able to get the value of the card (minus service fees) back from them without needing to divulge my everything.

          You have been warned.

          1. Liane*

            TL;DR: On second thought, get a gift card to a specific company–Amazon, Starbucks, whatever movie chain is in your area, etc.

            Yes! Meant to mention this in my other post:
            **read the package to make sure you aren’t picking up a Prepaid Debit Card** (which is meant to be reloaded & reused by people who don’t have a bank account &/or want a card not connected to their account). Visa, MsterCard & AmEx all offer these as well as non-reloadable gift cards. The latter, which is what you want, often have Christmas/birthday/generic wrapped-package artwork on the folder as a hint, but always read as well!
            Also, the real gift cards *do not* have an activation fee debited from the funds on the card–but the giver pays up to $5 *in addition to the amount loaded on the gift card* when they purchase the card. I also just remembered that Visa & AmEx gift cards are usually available in amounts of $25 (USD) and up, which is usually above the limit for these kind of gift activities.
            And as Cautionary tail & Mister Pickle mentioned–if you put money onto a prepaid credit card because you mistook it for a gift card, it is very hard to get it back off, except by using it. The store you bought it from cannot refund it to you, not even by voiding a same-day transaction. So you have to deal with the company that issued the card, which is time-consuming *at best* & can be a nightmare like Cautionary tail experienced.
            @ Cautionary tail:
            The Green Dot company isn’t a scammer itself. However, scammers LOVE for their victims to pay them with Green Dot’s **MoneyPak** a different Green Dot product, which is why my company & some other retailers no longer sell MoneyPaks).
            The reason Green Dot asked for all that personal info is that under the USA’s banking laws & regulations, prepaid debit cards–but not the gift cards–are considered Banking Products, & banks have to have your personal information on file.

        3. Mister Pickle*

          Another vote *against* a VISA gift card. I once bought a “Vanilla” VISA card without reading the fine print and it had all kinds of restrictions (can’t use it for subscriptions, can’t use it with non-US merchants, etc) that made it virtually unusable. (I ended up converting it into an Amazon gift card, which worked out fairly well).

          1. Lizzie*

            That’s what I’ve done too. My aunt gave me Vanilla Visa cards for holiday/birthday gifts for a couple years. I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, so it wasn’t a huge deal (plus I’m not going to complain about someone going to the trouble and expense of getting me a gift!), but after the 4th or 5th one I was like, really?

          2. Al Lo*

            I *love* the Vanilla Mastercard for a very specific purpose: It’s the only pre-paid card in Canada that I can register with a U.S. zip code, which means that I can use it to pay for my Hulu Plus subscription (which doesn’t accept a non-U.S. billing address). But we only use it in our household for that one purpose, and it does have an activation fee attached, so we buy the $100 card once or twice a year, and it lasts us for almost a year’s worth of monthly billing.

        4. Liane*

          Caution on this: Visa’s computer system treats their “gift” cards the same as it treats their credit cards that have a spending limit, at least in brick & mortar stores. If the Visa gift card doesn’t cover the full amount of the purchase, Visa will refuse the transaction–just as if it the buyer went over the limit on a real credit card. (With other branded gift cards of this type, whatever is loaded on the card will be credited to the purchase and the buyer pays the difference with another tender.) It doesn’t just happen at my employer’s stores; my customers tell me they’ve run into it other places & that has been my experience when I get them from AT&T as rebates.
          If you go this route–which is a good idea by the way–either get one from AmEx or warn the giftee to keep track of the balance so they can have the cashier “split the tender.”

          CSR who deals with this A Lot

          1. Summer*

            Yes to this. I hate these gift cards for this reason. You have to keep meticulous track of how much is left on it to actually use the full value, and you have to be that obnoxious person who asks the cashier to split the bill into some weird amount.

            My mom actually did some after school tutoring (she’s a teacher, and it was through the school system) to earn some extra cash and they tried to pay her with Visa gift cards. She was already annoyed they wouldn’t just give her money, but when I told her about this issue, she went back an raised holy hell until they would just cut her a check.

            1. Liane*

              Fine details: it isn’t obnoxious to ask the cashier to split the tender when you can tell them the amount as part of the request–it’s easy, register does all the math. It is obnoxious (to cashier & others in line) to ask the cashier to split the tender when you don’t know what’s on your card! And then ask Cashier to find out the balance. And then get upset that Cashier’s register can only query balances for This Place gift cards & not another company’s.

              It is Really, Really Obnoxious the way your mother was treated.

      1. bmainwaring*

        I’m a big fan of consumables when I’m on the receiving end–something I can enjoy but I don’t have to find a “place” for it.

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      A nice ceramic mug filled with fancy hot cocoa mix? Pretty innocuous and if someone doesn’t like it, they can regift because everyone knows someone who likes hot chocolate.*

      I am assuming you are in the northern hemisphere and it’s cold outside…

      1. Jamie*

        Love this – I am such a fan of cute mugs and I’m clumsy so I can never have too many since they won’t last forever.

        I did the mug/cocoa thing a lot for the teachers when my kids were small. Then I felt bad when I thought about how many mugs they must get.

    2. LillianMcGee*

      I wrapped up a roll of quarters one year ($10). The heaviness and nice wrapping fooled them into thinking it was something fancy. It ended up with one of the interns… laundry money!

      1. Paige Turner*

        I would totally steal this from someone…laundry quarters are (irrationally) more valuable to me than other money ;)

        1. Nashira*

          I used to love wrapping coins up into rolls as a kid, and so my uncle the busy doc would give his change jar to me a few times a year. We would trade them into the bank for quarters, and give them back to him for laundry money/parking meter fodder. He didn’t have the time, and always was surprised at the thoughtfulness.

    3. Lore*

      Goofy office stuff can be fun–I still use a very elaborate snowman pen that I got in such a swap years ago, but little notebooks or post-its or magnets (if you have magnetic surfaces in the offices/cubes) can be good too.

      1. Karowen*

        My office doesn’t buy post-it notes for its employees, so those are always a huge hit for us. I also found a really cute dinosaur desk organizer that I think I’m going to buy for all of my co-workers. Because I want one.

          1. Karowen*

            Seriously – I would love to know as well! It’s been a Rule since before I started here 6 years ago and no one I work with really seems to know what happened.

          2. Ornery PR*

            Ever since the post about post-its, I keep wondering, would a company not buy toilet paper for employees either? I mean, you just throw it away.

      2. AMG*

        Yep, I go goofy. There’s a ‘Daily Mood Flip Calendar’ for the desktop that I got from

    4. ZSD*

      Last year at ours, somebody had the cute idea to give a travel toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, some floss – and a $5 gift card to a cupcake place.

        1. JB*

          +1 I wouldn’t get annoyed with the gift-giver if I got something Dilbert-y since this is something it seems like a lot of people don’t know, but I sure wouldn’t keep it.

      1. Jen RO*

        I would love anything Dilbert or xkcd. I don’t have to agree with a writer/cartoonist’s personal views to enjoy their creations.

    5. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      Make sure they don’t do gag White Elephant swap. One office I worked at there was always a mix of funny and actual gifts, which left some feeling jipped. Not me though, I walked away with a reindeer headband complete with bells. I wear it every Christmas.

      1. No to Stella and Dot*

        Ditto. I admit that I’m kind of a lame-o when it comes to White Elephant swaps – I usually buy a useful or practical type of gift. And there’s always some jerk who thinks it’s funny to wrap up a box of empty candy wrappers and push pins – and I usually end up drawing their gift. :(

        1. Laufey*

          And things like this are why I refuse to do Secret Santa/White Elephant/Regifts/Dirty Santa exchanges anymore.

      2. Deb*

        This! My last group had a very aggressive gag white elephant. Favorite gifts last year included a banana, a package of depends and a portrait of one of the employees. It was meant to be disappointing.

        1. JMegan*

          “It was meant to be disappointing.”

          This, I don’t get. To me it’s in the same vein as celebrity “roasts” and embarrassing speeches about the bride and groom at the wedding. Why would you deliberately set out to make someone feel bad? Or especially in this case, make a lot of people feel bad, in a group and in public? I just…ugh.

          1. OhNo*

            I think the intent of deliberately, complete goofy White Elephant swaps is never to make people feel bad, but more to poke fun at the idea of holiday gift swaps in the office.

            If everyone is giving/getting silly little things like packages of push pins or bananas, then it’s okay. If most people are getting decent gifts, and there are one or two outliers who get crap, then it’s hurtful.

          2. A Non*

            It’s not supposed to be disappointing as in shaming people or making jokes at their expense – it’s a parody of the usual gift-giving tradition. Who can come up with the very worst gift?

            My favorite white elephant gift was a pink ceramic shoe that had white fuzzy “down” glued over the toe. It was the ugliest bit of kisch I’ve ever seen. It got passed around my family a few times, not sure where it finally ended up.

            1. dawbs*

              ours is a bowling ball.
              It usually gets hidde at/left at the host’s house for next year.
              The one time we were forced to leave with it, it got left in the host’s mailbox.

              I think he found it before the mailcarrier did. At least I hope. I should ask…

          3. Anonsie*

            You don’t feel bad though, it’s all just funny. You know it’s in good fun so it’s amusing, not embarrassing.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, it’s really important to know whether it’s a gag swap or a nice-gifts swap. They both exist, but it’s just a recipe for hard feelings if people don’t know what to expect.

        (And we probably should ixnay that word.)

        1. the_scientist*

          I know this is basically a tale as old as time, but I was on the receiving end of a gag gift at a nice-gifts gift swap and it really soured me on the group of people that planned the event. I was a high school student at the time (this was a volunteer/extra-curricular keener organization) and I spent $15-20 on a nice, thoughtful, unisex gift for this gift exchange and ended up with a useless joke gift (it was a box of minidisks…does anyone else remember those?). I mean, at least it wasn’t a sex toy or a used cat toy (both of which I believe have come up as examples here) but I can’t lie that I was pretty cheesed about it. Allegedly it was a long standing “tradition” to rip one person off and since that was my final year of school I couldn’t re-gift the box the following year and hopefully stopped this “tradition” in its tracks.
          So yes, definitely a recipe for hurt feelings and I think it’s worth it for the organizers to be specific about this in their communications.

      4. plain_jane*

        Tiffy, you probably weren’t aware, but the term “jipped” is a highly problematic & offensive one for the Roma people. I’m sure you didn’t know, but it’s always good to learn these things so you can avoid in future.

        1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

          I was trying to figure out what word she said I should ixnay. I’ve never realized it was offensive. My mistake.

          1. Mister Pickle*

            I always thought it was spelled “gypped”?

            (I’d hate to be considered ethnically offensive and a poor speller!)

            1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

              Maybe that’s why I never realized it was offensive… because I don’t know how to spell.

              1. Mister Pickle*

                (For the record: I wasn’t snarking at you, Tiffy. If that’s how it read to you, please accept my apology).

                1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

                  Oh no I didn’t take it that way at all! Sorry, my comment back sounded unintentionally snarky too.

              2. Anonsie*

                I went through this same thing as a kid– thought it was spelled the other way and when someone told me I shouldn’t say it, I kept running over it trying to make it into some other term and could not figure it out. Then I was afraid to ask anyone what it was about (back in the days before you could just google things to answer your questions and all) since the person who corrected me was really upset about it.

      5. Sherm*

        Yeah, no gags. If you get the gag gift, you are stuck with it, because no one will want to steal it. It happened to me, and I felt like the butt of a joke. Also, don’t think it would be cute to have your young children play. They will just be confused. And they might cry if someone steals a gift from them.

      6. MaryMary*

        My favorite generic gift is a nice pair of gloves (good for unexpected in-laws or girlfriends who appear at the holidays). If you get a a pair of big, cozy, fleecey/furry mittens or gloves, you’re set whether it’s a jokey exchange or a real one. Even if the gloves are ugly, it’s always smart to keep an extra set in your car.

    6. Sam*

      Last year someone brought a roll of toilet paper, which everyone kept swapping. Once all the swaps were done, the person who got the toilet paper was told to unroll it. Hidden a few layers in was a gift card and some lottery tickets.

      1. YourCdnFriend*

        My cousin used to do this all the time at family swaps. One year it was a case of beer where all the bottles were actually filled with water (and a nice gift card at the bottom). Another year he screwed 2×4 lumber scraps into a box with a gift card inside. Getting in required a drill.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          My sister and I always did this! Other options: seal a gift card into a 2-liter soda bottle (cut open the side then duct tape it shut and refill it, gifts in balloons, and a gift that was “wrapped” in a giant knot of rope.

          1. A Non*

            My brother welded a gift card into a little metal box once. You could hear the card rattling around inside. After letting people puzzle over it for a few minutes he pulled the real gift card out of his wallet. My husband still uses the box as a paper weight.

            1. Katieinthemountains*

              I have a friend who does this kind of exchange with his sister. Once his scavenger hunt led to a gift frozen inside a five-gallon block of ice. And once her scavenger hunt led her to a saw, which she needed to get into her present.

        1. Steven M*

          But definitely NOT the fake scratch tickets (they look real, and every one’s a winner, but buried in the fine print is the ‘not a real ticket/no value’ disclaimer). At a previous job somebody put a handful of those into our exchange. They ended up with one of our interns, who got super excited when she scratched one off at the party and saw she won (I forget how much, but at least $5,000)… and then super upset and angry when she found out it was fake. Never did find out who put them in the exchange.

          There were certainly people at that company who would have seen the humor in the cards, but when you don’t know who the gift will end up with, just no.

        2. Midge*

          We did this at a family gift swap a number of years ago, and they were a HUGE hit. I think the person who ended up with them even won a little money.

        3. books*

          Gah, I hate it. I just spent $5 on something which is most likely paper, a small chance worth less than what was spent on it, a tiny percentage actually $5 (minus the trip to exchange it at a convenience store) and if you’re super duper really lucky, a winner.

      2. Frances*

        Heh. I did this to my brother once. He wanted me to knit him a pair of socks, but he didn’t tell me this until it was too close to Christmas to actually do it. So I bought him a really cheap pack of white athletic socks and wrote “IOU one pair knitted socks” on one — then I stuck a gift card in it and sealed the package back up. I went to my SO’s family that Christmas so I wasn’t there when he opened it — he didn’t see the adjustments I made and actually believed I’d only given him tube socks until I called to say hi and cleared things up.

    7. JayDee*

      Consumables are always good. If you know a close work-friend of the person, you can try to find out their favorite snack or hot beverage or their favorite lunch place or coffee shop and get a gift card. Otherwise, chocolate, coffee, tea, Starbucks or other coffee shop or restaurant gift cards are good. Some people like fun office supplies (bright colored sticky notes or a certain kind of pens that management won’t order because they cost too much). For some people something like scented candles or fuzzy socks might be good, but for others possibly terrible.

      1. bkanon*

        Yeah, I’d be pretty hapoy with office supplies. Notebooks, fun pens, fancy post-it notes, colored paperclips – I love it all. One year a friend bought me a dozen $5 notebooks for my birthday. Good paper, fancy covers. One of my favorite gifts ever!

    8. DL*

      Lottery tickets. A gift exchange is actually the only time I’ve ever bought them, and I did not know that it’s a cash-only purchase.

    9. Frances*

      Last year I bought a mug for our office swap because pretty much everyone in our office drinks either tea or coffee. It was a nice mug but had a very simple, gender neutral design and the coworker who drew it still uses it.

      For non office Yankee swaps I often buy a small game of some kind (a card game usually, although I’ve occasionally found some other “travel -sized” games), which could work for the right group of coworkers.

    10. TeaBQ*

      A popular one at our office is buying whatever the gift limit is in one dollar lottery scratch off cards.

    11. Artemesia*

      a yankee candle with a Christmasy scent — boring but something they can stick in their bathroom and non offensive (and regiftable).

    12. AB*

      I always make up a gift basket for these things and they go over really well. I did one last year that was a pretty mug with single servings of really nice hot cocoas and then some goodies to go with the hot cocoa, chocolates, single serve fancy cookies, a candy cane and a couple small shot bottles of Kahlua and Baileys. It was the most stolen gift, and yet it was also the simplest.

    13. AnonCan*

      Those forced amaryllis potting kits have been a hit with my group. Assuming your office allows plants, of course.

    14. Chinook*

      “Any suggestions for successful cheap gifts??”

      A box of the really good chocolates (up in Canada – Black Magic or Pot of Gold). They are perfect for regifting or sharing with guests. Depending on the office, you could even go with one of the liquer choclates that are seasong with Bailey’s of Jack Daniels.

    15. TCO*

      It’s always tough to give a generic gift! What about nice hand lotion (unscented if possible), soup mixes, gift certificate/tickets to a local movie theater or museum, or a nice loaf of bread and some spreads?

    16. Lamington*

      i found at Ross a really nice set of shot glasses and a chocolate martini kit withartini glasses but no alcohol.

    17. De Minimis*

      I’ve done gift cards before. Wal-Mart mainly, since just about everyone has access to that [although one town here has a Starbucks a lot of the employees live elsewhere.]

      Okay, here’s my confession. Last year I got some Christmas candles at the Goodwill for our gift swap. They were nice enough, and cheap! The person who wound up with it seemed happy enough that she didn’t try to swap it out for anything else. I plan to try that again this year, but I guess I better hurry.

    18. MaryMary*

      At OldJob, the other manager in my department and I would go in together and get little office toys for our team. maybe you could do that for your gift exchange. Something little to put on a shelf and play with when you’re on hold waiting for a conference call or while your computer restarts. Stress balls, those little magnets you can make into shapes, wind-up toys…

    19. Jess*

      Coffee mug (usually only a few dollars) stuffed with some treats – nice coffee sachets, chocolates, sweets, stationery.

    20. blueblazes*

      By FAR the most popular gift at our white elephant exchange has been lottery tickets. Ten of the $1 scratch tickets just about started a riot (in a good way).

    21. Heartlover*

      Depending on your area, perhaps a gift card/certificate/tokens from your local car wash (even if it’s just for one or two basic washes, it’s one less someone needs to purchase).

      Also, the Perpetual Kid and Uncommon Goods sites have great selections of all kinds of stuff for that limit – whether just something silly for the office desk, or something centered on a particular interest or a collection they keep.

    22. lowercase holly*

      doesn’t “white elephant” mean you are supposed to give weird/terrible gifts though??

    23. Manager Red*

      We clarify “silly” gift for White Elephant, because if it is named that it is meant to be funny and creative. The person who gives a nice dish or gift looks like the don’t understand.

  13. Bend & Snap*

    The holiday party at my first job where the married owners took us out to dinner and forced us to listen to stories about their past that involved sex, streaking and weed.

    The holiday party at my second job that had an open martini bar and no food. One of our owners came in still drunk the next morning, dressed as Santa Claus, drinking a beer.

    The party for the women in the office at a coworker’s house, which turned out to be a sex toy party.

    1. Nerd Girl*

      OMG! Were these all the same company or three different companies? If it’s the same company (which I doubt based on your phrasing) then why did you stay there so long? If it’s three different companies… what kind of hellish lottery are you in that you keep coming across these crazy places????

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Two different companies–the last two are the same company and I left a couple of years ago. I now work for a huge, global, buttoned-up company where nobody has more than two glasses of wine at the Christmas party.

    2. NoTurnover*

      Ugh, all of these stories make me glad to be in a fairly conservative office where people rarely drink and I can happily pretend that none of my coworkers ever have sex.

  14. Lanli*

    One of my coworkers got holiday decorations banned permanently after he found all the human and animal shaped decorations (elves, Santas, reindeer, etc.) in the office and arranged them in sex positions late at night.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I know I should be appalled, but if that happened in my office I would secretly find it amazing.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I am a sucker for narrative rearrangements. If I had the energy, that would be my vandalism of choice–rearranging lawn scenes into stampedes, or echoes of famous paintings, or sinister cabal meetings.

        1. louise*

          I do not condone vandalism or theft, but my senior year of high school (over a decade ago), some miscreants stole a bunch of political signs (of every possible persuasion) and covered our government teacher’s yard.

          I like your idea of rearranging, though. I’d bust out laughing if I passed a stamped of reindeer trampling Santa.

          1. MaryMary*

            In college the boys on the fourth floor of my dorm moved all of the furniture in their common room to the third floor common room. Housekeeping was very upset and called campus police. Campus police had a hard time explaining to housekeeping that no crime had been committed. Nothing was damaged, so no vandalism. Nothing was stolen, it was still on university property and in the same building. It was just…rearranged.

        2. Adonday Veeah*

          Please, start with the pink flamingos in my mother’s front yard. You can only improve things.

          1. Laufey*

            Some people I used to live near would rearrange their own flamingoes for holidays – hitch them to a sleigh at Christmas, dress them up in costumes for Halloween, picket/candidates signs (mocking everyone, so it was fun) at elections, rabbit ears at Easter. It was endlessly amusing.

          2. Liane*

            Our church’s Youth Group used to do yard flamingos as fundraisers (only amongst the congregation!): People paid to
            -have them put in someone else’s yard
            -have them NOT put in their own yard
            -have them removed from their yard–possibly because a fellow church-goer donated more?

              1. Judy*

                There’s an organization here in town where you can, say, rent 50 flamingos for your lawn for your spouse’s 50th birthday.

        3. JMegan*

          Okay, I am actually laughing out loud at “narrative rearrangements” and “vandalism of choice!”

        4. AB*

          My brother used to do this with my mom’s nativity scene. She has one of those huge, involved sets. He would move the goats to stand in the pond or have the shepherds and angels playing limbo. He would also sneak his action figures in there to see if mom noticed that the shepherds had been replaced by storm troopers and gollum was now in the crib.

          1. Chinook*

            I had students do this with my nativity scene one year as well. The figures weren’t posable but there was a distinct narrative involved (which included an explanation to why some of the plastic sheep have splashes of red on them courtesy of my brother when he was 6). Another student then did a little scene that involved what the pregnancy conversation between Mary and Joseph would have been like, using the figures as stick puppets. I found it hilarious.

          2. Tau*

            My family has a big fancy nativity set from my father’s side of the family where it is for some reason Solemn Tradition woe betide you if you ignore it that one of the cows must be in the upstairs window. I don’t think any of us know why.

        5. Nerd Girl*

          There’s a fundraiser in my town ( in the spring) where you can pay to have your yard or another person’s yard covered in Flamingos for one day. Basically you call, pay a fee and schedule a night when, under the cover of darkness, someone comes and covers your entire lawn with pink flamingos. They’re literally there for one day and gone before the next morning. They leave a sign that says “You’ve been flocked” LOL! It’s really popular. I think the organizers call the people who’ve been “flocked” ahead of time to let them know it’s coming and get permission but don’t give them the date so there’s the element of surprise as to when it happens.

          1. LiteralGirl*

            We were flocked, and I loved it so much we called and paid to keep the flamingos for the weekend. (We weren’t told about it ahead of time, though.)

    2. Mimmy*

      OMG….I thought I had it bad when I used to find my two beanie babies in various sex positions at a previous job!! (not Christmas, but still very icky…I ended up taking them home because I couldn’t take it and couldn’t prove it).

      1. Windchime*

        I had a Woody doll from Toy Story in my cube. People made fun of him because of his name (haha, Woody, get it?). One day I came to work and Woody was off his normal shelf and doing the nasty with Barbie, who was lying on the keyboard with her skirt up around her waist.

        This was years ago, back when Toy Story was new but it still makes me laugh.

      1. ConstructionHR*

        OK, take out a new pad of paper. Your punishment is to write the sentence “I will not place the beanie babies in fornicating or otherwise compromising positions.”

        You will write it out one time or until I finish giggling, which ever occurs first.

        That is all. Dismissed.

    3. littlemoose*

      Before he retired, my dad had a coworker who put out a little stuffed reindeer as a Christmas decoration. One day he felt mischievous and put some raisins behind the reindeer in a little line, like reindeer droppings. The best part was when he stopped back by her office, while she was there, and ate one.

  15. Kelly L.*

    At one of my old jobs, we had our holiday party at a nearby bar. The boss gave each of us a couple of drink tickets, and then after that we could buy more drinks with our own money. Most people drank sanely, if festively, but one guy went around cajoling unused tickets out of all the teetotalers, drank all of that, bought still more booze, drank all of that…and then didn’t show up to work the next morning. When we all put our heads together and realized how much he’d drunk, we were actually worried about him safety-wise, but it transpired that he was OK (I think someone saw him around town shortly after–don’t remember the details). But he never came to work again. We didn’t know if he was embarrassed or assumed he was fired or what.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      Yeah, I’m always ‘on edge’ at company-sponsored parties. The guy not showing up again reminds me of something many years ago, when I attended an extremely swanky Christmas party out in Los Angeles given by a Japanese financial services company. The company had had an extremely good year, so the party was held in their new offices on the 30th floor of their new skyscraper (!). Did I mention it was swanky? They had a string quartet and the food and booze was unbelievable – the only open bar I’ve ever seen that served 50yo single malt. But one of the execs had invited her somewhat estranged husband out to visit from New York City – they’d been attempting to do the ‘bi-coastal long distance marriage thing’ but it wasn’t working well – and when he showed up (dressed totally inappropriately) he also brought some rowdy friends with him who raised hell, being rude to the party guests, setting off fireworks on the roof, breaking glass in the unfinished offices above where the party was being held, even throwing stuff off of the roof – it was bad enough that the police were called and. It actually got coverage on the local news.

      Actually, we found out about that the next day. My friend who’d invited me to the party and I were blitzed and we went downstairs to her office and crashed. And then Christmas morning, we had to hoof it 28 stories down the stairs because the hooligans somehow managed to break the elevators.

      The aftermath wasn’t what I expected: at an American company I would have expected to hear that people got canned over letting things get out of control, but I’ve heard that the Japanese have different attitudes about wild work-related party behavior. I found out later that at this place, the site director apparently ended up leaving the company and was never seen again – while the executive who invited the unruly guests was promoted. And she apparently patched things up with her husband and he ended up moving to LA, so I guess it has a Happy Ending.

      1. OhNo*

        I’m not going to lie, when you started off with “Japanese company”, “skyscraper”, “swanky party”, and “estranged husband from New York City”, I thought this was going to be a set up to the story from Die Hard.

        I have got to stop watching so many Bruce Willis movies.

        1. HR Manager*

          Well, they have been playing those Die Hard movies non-stop on cable for the last month or so.

        2. whatnow*

          That’s exactly what I thought! Especially with the estranged husband, long distance relationship etc. :)

  16. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    Our floor through a potluck that we were having during the workday, and after we were done eating we played a game where we wrote down, I think it was phrased “our most memorable or funny Christmas or Christmas gift,” and then we had to guess who the story belonged to. The planner of the game meant for it to be funny, and most of the stories were pretty funny. But then someone wrote down, “My dad died on Christmas.” No one wanted to guess who it was, and the writer finally claimed it after what felt like an eternity. The writer started to cry. It was uncomfortable, and everyone felt so terrible we stopped the game immediately. People scurried back to their desks rather quickly after that.

      1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

        It was really upsetting. Everyone felt so badly for her. If I remember correctly some other people started to cry too.

      2. Adonday Veeah*

        Not this year — I was around 12 at the time. But it took years before I could appreciate that holiday again. Tiff’s co-worker has a long road ahead. My heart goes out.

      3. Artemesia*

        My stepgrandfather, a wonderful old guy, dropped dead Christmas Eve. It was a timely death but we were still sad for years on Christmas Eve. He was such a joy to my grandmother in her old age after a very very hard life — he was that last great thing.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          My nana gave me a stepgrandfather too. I bless him every time I think of her happy later years.

      4. Liane*

        My dad passed away the day before Thanksgiving when my Teens were very small. This story & yours, & several below, hurt my heart too.

      1. The Bookworm*

        I had a boss whose mother died on her (my boss’s) birthday – which also happened to be Christmas day.

        So sad.

    1. louise*

      This is the perfect example of why someone may not enjoy participating in festivities but doesn’t want to say why. Give people a free pass out of this stuff, already! Merry-making should be opt-in and easy to avoid! Just reading it gave me a knot in my stomach without even witnessing it firsthand. Ick.

      1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

        Well to be fair, she could have shared a different story, made something up, or abstained from participating. There were several people who didn’t participate.

        1. Observer*

          Of course she could have shared a different story. But, stop and think what it must have been like for her to hear everyone else’s “most memorable” stories. It’s no wonder this popped out.

  17. Janet*

    This is actually a holiday party that I ruined. Led an unannounced inspection of a facility the week before Christmas. When we were walking to their front door the lady in charge of the facility saw us, recognized me, and being caught off guard said something to the effect of “Oh no! It’s our Christmas party and cookie exchange day!”
    Felt horrible but had to conduct the inspection, pulled a lot of their staff out of the party & definitely hindered the mood. She later told me that when she saw us she thought that we were lost and needed help – which made it even worse.

    1. cuppa*

      I once had a surprise inspection on Christmas party day. It totally killed the mood even though nothing bad happened.

  18. LillianMcGee*

    One year, my small office planned its holiday luncheon at a local pizza pub. I asked (via the RSVP sheet posted by reception) whether it was BYOB as in years past. The party organizer responded something like “Why yes, Virginia” which I didn’t get was a reference to something. TURNS OUT it wasn’t BYOB and the pub had a strict no-outside-food-or-drinks policy and I had brought two bottles of wine to share. So I beefed with the party organizer. What the heck?? The party organizer was embarrassed, but I conceded that I hadn’t chosen the best means of communication…

    I still opened the wines and we drank it out of our soda glasses >:) My boss approved heartily.

    1. H*

      Even understanding that reference I’d still take it as an affirmative reply! I don’t know how else to interpret that “Yes, Virginia, the spirit of lunchtime drinking is always alive in our hearts! But it’s not real.”

    2. Gwen*

      What the heck. That only works as a clever response/reference if the answer is actually yes. Why didn’t they say “No Ho Ho” or something that made sense. Shoddy references/wordplay are such a pet peeve of mine.

    3. Another Ellie*

      *You* hadn’t chosen the best means of communication? The party organizer apparently chose the “answer a direct question with an ambiguous, oblique reference” method, and the “change what always has happened before, but don’t explicitly tell anybody” method.

  19. Sabrina*

    I used to work at a company that had free lunch for all employees, and also where it was customary for managers to take their direct reports out for a holiday lunch. Sometimes two units would combine if they worked closely together or if they were small. One year I had transferred to a new area that was really small, five people besides me including a C level executive, two managers that reported to him, and three employees that reported to those managers. The C level was new to the company but had been told about the expected holiday lunch, and invited the whole team to a holiday lunch about a week before Christmas. Apparently whomever had informed him of the holiday lunch wasn’t detailed enough because he held it in the company cafeteria, where we all ate our regular free food.

  20. SJP*

    At my first ‘proper’ job after finishing my first year at University…, any way the Christmas party was on my birthday (15th December) and we’re at this fancy restaurant..
    Anyway, the obnoxious IT guy spent the whole evening taking bottles of company provided wine from others tables, taking them back to his and drinking them.. safe to say he was wrecked (still able to walk/sway about, and speak)
    Anyway I’d literally just turned 19 and only been at the company 2 months. I’d struck up a friendship with another girl who worked in another department, she was a couple of years older than me.
    Anyway, we’re all standing outside the restaurant and he staggers out and proclaims loudly to myself and my work friend/colleague how much he’d like to see us naked and other vulgar things..
    I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to do or say. Everyone was speechless..
    I can’t really remember what followed on from this as it was 8 years ago but if this happened now i’d have definitely gone to HR to put in a formal complaint! He couldn’t look at me for months after wards. Glad he didn’t I found him repulsive i’d probably have retched

    So yea.. that happened

    1. Mister Pickle*

      > i’d probably have retched

      I’ll bet you a dollar he eventually did all the retching for you!

      1. SJP*

        I hope so, I hope his head really hurt and felt like a complete tool. Because basically everyone that was there at the time and heard about it basically lost all respect for him..

  21. Luke*

    I work at an Islam-affiliated nonprofit. A few years ago, the CEO’s new executive assistant, not herself a Muslim, was tasked with organizing the holiday party. It was a disaster for all kinds of reasons, but the icing on the cake was that the restaurant she booked had made all the entrees on the fixed menu with bacon. About a third of our staff couldn’t eat anything but appetizers. WHOOPS.

    1. Karowen*

      That’s insane. Beyond the basics of knowing your demographic, with all the world’s religions that don’t eat pork (or don’t eat meat at all) and all the vegetarians/vegans, did they not think that people would want food without bacon?

        1. HR Manager*

          My brussels sprouts proudly proclaim their bacony goodness. Why hide their deliciousness?

          I’m surprised though that the EA wouldn’t have run the menu and the venue by someone to ok? Even for the most informal of gigs, we often do that to make sure to get a few thoughts on location and food, to make sure something isn’t objectionable.

          1. LeighTX*

            My Thanksgiving Brussels sprouts had both chopped bacon AND bacon jam, and they were glorious. However I always, always include vegetarian options when I’m responsible for a company meal! You never know who’s avoiding what for whatever reason.

        2. JB*

          Yes, unless the organizer knew to grill the cook about ingredients, it’s hard to know for sure what will be in something just from looking at a menu. But when you are planning for people with dietary restrictions, you should let the restaurant know about those restrictions, because they do know what goes into everything. Supposedly.

    2. Artemesia*

      This one is a bit unforgivable. Making sure your staff can eat what is offered is pretty basic. And this one is not obscure.

    3. Stars and violets*

      That’s like the steak dinner the international association my husband belongs to organized, forgetting that a goodly percentage of their members, some of them very senior, were Hindu. Lots of red faces that day.

  22. Ash (the other one)*

    So this is not so “weird” as it was frustrating. I am Jewish (well, Jewish/Agnostic really) and was the only Jew at my previous organization. The incessant “Christmas” everything in the office was driving me a bit batty, but I put up with it since I didn’t want to be a spoilsport. They finally decided they should “honor” me by having a menorah…except it was about a week too late from that holiday, which they didn’t really seem to get. I know people say that there is a “war on Christmas,” but, seriously, some of us don’t celebrate that holiday…

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      Ugh. That’s so obnoxious. I try to be respectful of other religions and cultures and it makes me sad when others aren’t.

    2. Frances*

      I like to joke that there is a war on Christmas, but it’s a one woman effort. I have an acquaintance who somehow got on the mailing list of a Catholic school, and so she received a religious Christmas card. She took to Facebook to complain.

    3. Stephanie*

      I’m not Jewish or Christian, and so don’t celebrate Christmas, though I certainly enjoy the festive atmosphere surrounding the 25th. This morning, a co-worker and I were discussing a necklace I was wearing and I referred to it as my “holiday necklace” because I only wear it during December (because of the colors).

      He ripped into me. “Ugh, are you one of THOSE people? I can’t stand people like you.” When I tried explaining my reasoning for not celebrating Christmas, he shouted, “This is America. You have to!”

      1. Artemesia*

        And this is the reason there is a ‘war on Christmas’ — clueless gits like this who want to hammer their religion down everyone’s throats. I personally am fine with whatever holiday greeting someone wants to give but I can’t imagine being Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or whatever and having to put up with incessant Christmas clatter for 3 mos of every year. It isn’t that people are saying ‘Merry Christmas’ on Dec 23 — it is being immersed in Christmas foofurah for weeks on end. It is triply offensive in the workplace.

        1. Stephanie*

          I just found that to be such a shocking and ignorant thing to say. It amazes me that he gets no blowback from saying things like that in an open office space where everyone can clearly hear him.

          A good percentage of my office is Jewish. When I was helping hang up the holiday decorations yesterday, my boss said, “I’m too Jewish for that,” referring to the red and green tinsel I was planning to hang on her office door. You know what I did? I went and found a different colored strand, like a respectful, normal person.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          It makes me sad for Christians. Public trees, lights, xmas music on the radio, people saying Merry Christmas, I love it all! It’s festive and fun. But when there is Christmas candy out in late October, I find it SO annoying.

          I’m actually really thankful no one has tried to commercialize my holidays yet.

      2. Adonday Veeah*

        I’m with you, Steph. I don’t celebrate either. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut about it. People don’t take it well. I love it — “This is America!” Christmas, the ultimate American holiday!

      3. louise*

        Ugh. “You’re free to do what you like!” is the only acceptable phrase after “This is America!”

        I believe what he meant was “This is ‘Merca! You have to be just like me!”

      4. catsAreCool*

        I’m Christian and celebrate Christmas, but I’m not going to give someone a hard time if that person doesn’t.

        What does bug me is that there no longer is anything safe to say, unless I know the person pretty well. If I say “Merry Christmas”, people who don’t celebrate it might get offended. If I say “Happy Holidays”, some people will get offended.

        1. Liz in a Library*

          Gah…my grandmother is one of those who gets offended by Happy Holidays. I really don’t understand the point of view that even acknowledging other holidays exist is offensive.

          1. JustPickANameAlready*

            Exactly. Saying Happy Holidays is not about “TAKING CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS” but rather about acknowleding that we live in a diverse world and that there are plenty of other holidays are being celebrated around the same general time frame.

            If you are a Christian, and if you know for a fact that someone else is Christian and celebrates Christmas, by all means tell them Merry Christmas. If you don’t know that for a fact, retreat to the less specific and more professional standby.

            It’s really not that complicated.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I say “Merry Christmas” because I truly believe in “Peace on Earth to men of good will”. It’s what I wish for everyone. I’m not offended if anyone decides to take it badly.

      5. Kerry*

        It must be really sad to be a person whose first response to hearing “Yes, I really like it, it’s my holiday necklace!” is to shout angrily at the person who said it.

    4. SH*

      I was raised Catholic but I’m now a Buddhist so that causes a lot of confusion. The holidays kinda depress me so I try not to think about them too much.

      1. OhNo*

        Well, fancy that, another Catholic-turned-Buddhist. I haven’t met too many people who have had the same religious trajectory that I did. If you celebrate it, have a happy Bodhi Day!

    5. jhhj*

      One can start debating if there is a war on Christmas when December 25 is a normal work day like January 25.

      1. Ash (the other one)*

        My new office is at least half Jewish and many are asking if they can work on the 25th and have off on the 31st… I’d much prefer that, too!

      2. Mister Pickle*

        I’ve never heard of a “war on Christmas”; really?

        On the other hand: there is a war on Samhain that appears to be sponsored by some Christian churches. Every year I see more and more “Fall Festivals” or “Harvest Festivals”, funded by local churches, where costumes are “optional”, etc. A lot of money gets spent on Bouncy Houses and other attractions – all to keep kids from trick-or-treating door-to-door. You may laugh, but it’s true: they want to ‘cleanse’ All Hallows’ Eve of every bit of otherworldliness or spirituality, and have our kids grow up into a sterile, Bradbury-esque future where Halloween is a clean, modern, but meaningless holiday of minor and insignificant historical interest.

        I need to go listen to some Type O Negative now.

        1. JustPickANameAlready*

          She’s in love with herself…she likes the dark.
          And on her milk white neck…THE DEVILS MARK!


          My teenage years are sneaking out again.

      3. Artemesia*

        In the early days of America, Christmas WAS a normal workday for businesses and the government. Greedy ornate celebrations of Christmas were considered vulgar and pagan.
        The whole Christianist America thing is of fairly recent origin. The Declaration and Constitution don’t even mention Christ and the only God is ‘nature’s God’ which was a way of saying that vague whatever that got the universe started and then booked it. Oh and I remember when ‘under God’ was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance — I actually learned it in elementary school without that and it was added about 1954 or thereabouts.

        1. Omne*

          Most of the Founding Fathers were Deists and didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ. They included Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Madison, Paine, Hamilton, Allen etc. The US was in no way formed as a Christian nation.

          1. JustPickANameAlready*

            Yup. Except that now in Texas they include Moses as one of the founding fathers.
            Large parts of this country have gone batsh!t insane.

    6. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      You know, one of my favorite holiday experiences was in college, when I lived with a (fairly devout) Christian and a (devout) Jew. I am atheist. But it was a year when Christmas and Hannukah overlapped, and so each evening we would gather together, light a candle of the menorah, and add a figure to the nativity scene. Sometimes we would talk about the significance of a particular night or figurine. It was really pleasant, and I learned a lot about both faiths (and they about each others’), and I think we all three enjoyed it.

      I wish more interactions in the real world could be like that.

      1. Artemesia*

        I love this. My Catholic husband was partners with a Baptist and a Jew and they enjoyed the interesting conversations that resulted from their different religious backgrounds. Being bigoted is not a requirement of being religious; it only occurs when people cannot imagine that they MIGHT be wrong. To be bigoted is to take the place of God i.e. to assume you are infallible.

    7. Collarbone High*

      Conversation I once had with a colleague (at a newspaper):

      Him: We should show that we’re inclusive by running a list of Hanukkah events, along with the Christmas events.
      Me: Hanukkah ended a week ago.
      Him: No it didn’t! Hanukkah is the same day as Christmas! Geez, how dumb can you be?

      (He left the room shaking his head about “ignorant people” and told everyone he saw the hilarious story of how I thought Hanukkah had come before Christmas.)

  23. Boo*

    There was the year that one of our senior managers told the Chief Exec to f*ck off. He was promoted in the new year.

    The same manager got horrendously drunk the following year (it was well known that he was an alcoholic) and followed me around for much of the evening stroking my hair until I left. Creeepyyyy.

  24. Sandy*

    Our team of five went out for a Christmas lunch last year and my (admittedly crazy) boss made a show of giving everyone but me a gift (100 USD gift card each).

    …and then she made a show of pointing out how she didn’t give me one.

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      This is so insane! It’s awful she didn’t treat everyone fairly (fair isn’t always equal but you never completely exclude 1 person) but that she pointed it out is outrageous!

    2. Jade*

      Why didn’t she give you one? Did she give you anything? Did she have a ‘logical’* reason or was this solely meant as a snub?

      *By logical I of course mean only to the crazy. Just wondered if she made some attempt to justify the crazy.

    3. No to Stella and Dot*

      This reminds me of a former boss I had. She loves parties and celebrating in general, especially birthdays. She would always make birthdays in the office a big deal – baking some kind of delicious, expertly decorated treat, balloons, card and taking the birthday guy/gal out for lunch.

      So imagine my surprise when my birthday went uncelebrated two years in a row! The best part – she tried to blame it on me, saying that I didn’t tell enough people about my birthday. I’m sorry, but I refuse to go around for several weeks before my birthday and announced, “My birthday is such and such date…make sure you do something to celebrate.” Um, pretty sure as a boss she has access to all of my personal information, including my birthdate.

      1. Artemesia*

        If an office is going to celebrate this way then someone needs to damn well be sure everyone’s birthday is covered unless they are asked to exclude it. I have seen this pattern where the favorites are celebrated and other people ignored — it is demoralizing.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Your co-workers should have made an equal show of either paying for your dinner or giving you $20 each. Not that they HAD to, but I would have felt like a $#!+heel otherwise. Teach the crazy boss the meaning of Wheaton’s Law.

    5. LV Ladybug*

      I’m curious as to everyone acted to that. In my office all of the managers get a bonus at the end of the year. One year, a new manager (as of February) didn’t get one, she was crushed. The rest of us all chipped in and gave her some of ours. It would have been a nice gesture if your co-workers did the same. Esp just to show this boss that they cared about you.

    6. Anonsie*

      I had a similar experience, only it was a nice lunch out. As they were leaving the supervisor came by and said “I was going to invite you, but I didn’t.” I actually laughed out loud and said it was fine before going back to work.

  25. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I preface this by saying I’m a hater of all office holiday parties.  I’d rather have the day off, and the money that would be spent on a party should be equally divided among all workers.  Every year, I get creative and manage to get out of it.  (Trust me, no one notices anyway.)

    Several years ago, I intentionally scheduled a major meeting during the holiday potluck party.  By the time I got back, the party was over.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!  This ran way longer than it should!  Hope you all had fun.”  I managed to nibble on what was left, and then I cut out early to head to the airport for my flight home.

    I ended up getting food poisoning from something Big Boss brought.  To make matters worse, the second leg of my flight was cancelled, and I had to drive home in a severe blizzard.  That’s when my food poisoning hit.  Hard.  I thought I was going to die.  

    I really, REALLY wanted to tell Big Boss about it, but there was no point.  I’ve managed to avoid all holiday parties since.

    1. cuppa*

      That’s awful. However, I would think “I got food poisoning from a potluck once” would be a good excuse for life…

  26. Aly*

    My office is on a street with several historic buildings, and the trust that owns them is constantly popping in for random inspections to make sure we’re not punching holes in the wall, etc. Last year at Christmas they circulated a memo to all the companies working around here detailing exactly what kind of holiday decor we could have – including telling us that only Christmas trees that had been cut at an angle precisely between 30-45 degrees would be allowed.

  27. Spooky*

    The four most terrifying words in the English language: “Holiday employee talent show.”

    And it was game-show style, too.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      To be fair, we had a talent show this fall and it was amazing. About 30 different acts, mostly singing, and it was so much fun. Completely optional and no pressure.

      1. A Non*

        I could see it working well in a large organization, where odds are high that there are employees who are amateur performers and would enjoy the chance to show off and odds are low that any individual person will feel pressured to perform. In a small office… nothanksI’llbeoverthere.

    2. JTD*

      I had someone from a completely different team drop by my desk asking if I could join a singing group for the office party.

      I didn’t feel pressured at all, but she laughed a lot when I said “I’d love to, but me singing in public is a breach of the Geneva Convention.”

    3. Maxwell Edison*

      One year we heard rumors that there was going to be a talent show at the next big holiday gathering. My group was all horrified, and I suggested that we fight fire with fire and put on a mini-production of Glengarry Glen Ross (I wanted to be the Kevin Spacey character). Fortunately it was only a rumor and the holiday gathering was the usual backpatting/awkward conversation/enforced gaiety.

  28. WolfmansBrother*

    At work we would get a holiday bonus/present in the form of a check. It wound up being a few hundred dollars, which for some of the staff was nothing to sneeze at! Then, one year when the economy wasn’t doing so hot we heard through the grapevine that there was not going to be a bonus this year. That brought out some serious grumbling among staff and it seems like there was a quick scramble by management to do something for employees. So, we all got a ham! Everyone. Even if for personal or religious reasons you didn’t eat meat, or more specifically pork. Plus, the hams required refrigeration. Our staff refrigerator did some extra duty that day from all the hams crammed in there.
    The following year we didn’t get anything, ham or otherwise.

    1. OhNo*

      I’m curious – was the final switch to nothing inspired by necessity, or was it a response to people being “ungrateful” for the hams?

      Either way, you’d think that people would think these things through before buying everyone something that a significant portion of the population can’t or won’t eat.

    2. Judy*

      At one company we always got a “Turkey Check”. I guess long ago they had a refrigerated truck at shift change and they handed out turkeys. It was from Butterball, but was effectively a $15 check you could deposit in your bank account.

      1. Liane*

        I was a long-term temp years ago at a company where most of the people were really great. But sometimes the Company’s policies on Little Things seemed designed to make sure temps Knew Their Place, which was 2nd Class. :(
        Example: at Thanksgiving, Company gave out turkeys to all employees. Except *who*, Team AAM? Yup, not the Temps. Company also had a plan for people who didn’t want their turkey, for whatever reason–those could be donated to a charity. Several of the permanent staffers who didn’t want their birds asked if it was okay to give them to any temp who wanted/needed one. Answer was a resounding “NO!” You either kept it or let the Company donate it.

      2. Hermione*

        We used to get these. My third year there I found out that my coworker had been throwing them out for seven or eight years because she didn’t realize they were real checks (instead of vouchers). And I quote: “Well HOW was I supposed to know? Turkey is for THANKSGIVING. On Christmas we eat HAM!”

      3. Hlyssande*

        My uncle has done display/conference/show work for various meat companies through the years. We’ve never had a shortage of random meat products because they can’t send an opened case back to the warehouse…

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob did the turkey vouchers for Thanksgiving. I live alone and hate turkey, so I always gave mine to a coworker who had extra family members to feed every year.

      5. Meredith*

        One of my former employers didn’t do any bonuses as a rule, but every employee got a gift certificate for a turkey at a local grocery store (between X and Y pounds), along with a holiday card. The certificates arrived before Thanksgiving, so you could use it for that. My family already had a turkey that year, so I donated my freebie. We could pick up the turkeys at our convenience!

      6. peanut butter*

        I was once given a frozen turkey as a holiday gift. Everyone knew I biked to work and I had to put it in my backpack and bike it home in the middle of December on a rainy night. I was still thankful but for heavens sake – about half of the workers there either walked or biked to work since we were mostly in high school, I wish someone had thought it through. Most of our parents had already gotten a turkey for the holidays as well so it was just odd. Giving high schoolers frozen turkeys just isn’t that smart of an idea.

      7. Kelly*

        My father has worked for the same company in a management role for over 5 years now. At the first location he was at, they did the frozen turkeys at Thanksgiving. He never took his home, instead giving it to the food bank or if someone else wanted a second one, because we traveled for Thanksgiving. They did the turkeys in his first year in his current location, but they were cut out last year due to the company having financial difficulties, including layoffs.

    3. HR Manager*

      Wait, did people put stickies on their hams too, so John didn’t accidentally take home Mary’s ham? I would love to be a client to open up a fridge for some creamer to see 30 hams with stickies inside.

    4. Sabrina*

      My husband has worked at two companies that have given away hams. One gave them out the day before the holiday break so you would likely have already purchased any holiday meal you were going to make. The other gave out gift certificates so nothing had to be refrigerated, but they had to be reserved, and it was still too late to reserve them in time for the holiday. Luckily for that one the expiration was a year out so we just redeemed it and used the ham for Thanksgiving last week. My company gives us a $25 Visa Check Card. I like ours better.

        1. Labratnomore*

          We used to get these, but then they were told they needed to take tax out of our paychecks for the gift certificates. They swiched to giving us Turkeys instead. It is cold here so we can just put them in our trunk and they stay frozen. We know we are getting them ahead of time, and they come a week before Thanksgiving, but it never fails that my Mother-In-Law buys one and we put my in the freezer. I have two at home now, I might need to just have a Turkey party one weekend!

    5. LBK*

      This is hilarious to me. I can’t imagine what that brainstorming meeting was like. If ham was the best idea they could come up with I’d hate to know what ideas got shot down.

    6. Artemesia*

      My employer switched from a big staff Christmas party that was tedious and no one liked, to just giving everyone a turkey at Christmas. You could opt for a tofurky with notice and they also had a lottery with the tickets so that some people also got a ham. Everyone liked this a whole lot better than the Christmas party. And all the turkeys that were left after people picked up their turkey (it was a huge organization and they ran it like a military campaign — very efficient centralized turkey pick up) were donated to the local food bank. Seemed win win to me.

      It was not a bonus culture as it was a non-profit. We did do a collection for a holiday bonus for the janitorial staff in our building.

    7. So Very Anonymous*

      I worked for awhile at a museum that was a former plantation. Door prizes at the holiday party my first year there were things like “two Virginia hams!” (won, I think, by a vegetarian) and “a cord of wood!” (which I really didn’t want because I didn’t have, y’know, a fireplace).

      1. Al Lo*

        If the cord of wood was delivered, I’d take it! That’s a pretty significant value! (But, yes, I have a fireplace and we use it at least 3x/week in the winter. Big pre-requisite for loving that gift.)

    8. Mister Pickle*

      That reminds me of an old _WKRP_ episode:

      Herb: Nesmann’s got a sponsor, and we’ve got a lot of ham.
      Andy: It’s gonna spoil.
      Herb: No, no, no. No, it can’t. This stuff is… well, it’s not exactly real meat.
      Mr Carlson: Well, what is it?
      Herb: I don’t know. But, it can’t spoil.

      1. Artemesia*

        oh but the best WKRP of all — the turkey drop from the helicopter — maybe the funniest 5 minutes in television history ‘AS God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly’

    9. MaryMary*

      We have a client who is a meat packing company, and every year the account executive goes out right before Christmas and brings back discounted ham for anyone who would like one. It is strictly voluntary, and we still pay for the ham, it’s just at cost.

      I would like us to sign a vineyard as a client, but that hasn’t happened yet.

  29. TotesMaGoats*

    Nothing salacious here but we are spending our lunch time searching through to find a tree to buy, as a group, for our office. The main campus gets decked out each holiday. Beautifully decorated trees and wreaths, completely secular in tone. They rent them every year.

    So, we decided that if the main campus could have trees then our little outpost could have one too. Amazon prime, here we come.

  30. Midge*

    A South African themed potluck. Where the recipes were in metric measurements and had obscure, hard to find ingredients. Because the boss’ husband happened to be from South Africa (this was in California). People were mostly sports about it but I found it rather imposing.

    1. Artemesia*

      Nothing says ‘Merry’ like forcing people to make difficult recipes to please the boss’s husband.

    2. Sam*

      I spent some time in South Africa and wanted to make some recipes from there. I had the same problem with the metric measurements…I just want my malva pudding, damnit!

      1. UK Nerd*

        This is how I feel whenever I make an American recipe. Even now I actually own a set of measuring cups, I still end up shouting “Why can’t you people just weigh stuff like everyone else?” as I try to remember how many random cup fractions of flour are in the bowl. It must be even worse if you’re trying to do metric weights without a balance.

        Next time I make my favourite American recipe, I’m weighing everything and writing it down for future reference.

    3. Katie*

      Doesn’t giving out recipes kind of ruin the ‘luck’ part of potluck? Or have I always misunderstood what a potluck actually is?

  31. Government Worker*

    I had a prior supervisor who was very unprofessional, and her being in her position was a bit of a scandal in the first place. Well, she decided to do an award ceremony during our holiday party, but instead of buying cheap trophies or printing out awards on paper, she went to all of the thrift stores in the area and bought a bunch of old barbie dolls. She stripped them, spray painted them gold, and called them “trophies” that she presented to staff as an award. No printed certificate or anything to go with them, just nude, gold, spray painted barbies.
    Also, this isn’t a holiday story, but the same supervisor was in charge of my birthday cake one year (we were each in charge of getting treats for another randomly chosen coworker). I happen to be vegan, and she got a huge cake that wasn’t vegan. She had the whole party while I was in a meeting and I happened to walk in just as it was finishing. She said that since I couldn’t eat the cake anyway, there was no point in me being there…for “my” party. She did end up being fired later on for many, many reasons.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      The nude spray painted Barbie awards made me laugh so hard my coworker had to ask me if I was ok!

    2. LittleT*

      Ok, I just shot Diet Coke out of my nose at the “nude gold spray painted barbies” line.

      Holy crap, what a horrible idea to give these as “trophies”!

      Because nothing says appreciation like naked spray painted dolls that probably have bent legs & frizzed out hair (seeing as they were from a thrift store).

    3. Karowen*

      That might be one of the crappiest things to (purposefully) be done on someone’s birthday. I’d rather my birthday be forgotten than be fake celebrated.

      Also, did none of your co-workers say “Hey, shouldn’t we wait for GovernmentWorker?”

      1. Government Worker*

        Yep, they tried, but she just told them I was “unavailable”. Looking back, I think she did this same thing to someone who was diabetic too.

    4. LBK*

      “Nude, gold, spray painted Barbies” sounds like a calling card an Austin Powers villain might leave behind.

    5. LeighTX*

      Next year, my Christmas tree shall be decorated in nothing but Hanukkah balls and nude gold Barbies. I am loving this thread . . .

    6. Sue Donem*

      I cackled out loud right in my work’s cafeteria at the Barbies. They remind me of Conan O’Brien’s “Audiency Award” trophies. “Take an action figure, tape it to a model chair, tape that to a tuna can, spray paint it gold. Boom. Audiency.”

  32. Ann Furthermore*

    Here’s another favorite: a very good friend of mine, who is gay, went to his office Christmas party like he does every year. He is an extremely affectionate, gregarious, outgoing person — the kind of guy who will go to a bar and have 10 new best friends at the end of the night. He kind of oozes charisma and people just seem to be drawn to him wherever he goes. We’ve been friends for almost 30 years, and it’s always been this way.

    Anyway, at the company party, he and his partner at the time were sharing a table with a group of people he worked and was close with. When they were getting ready to leave, everyone was giving hugs, kisses, and holiday wishes. He leaned over to a woman he worked with and said, “Happy holidays!” and kissed her on the cheek.

    Fast forward to Monday morning, when someone told him this woman was very upset about him kissing her. He thought she was kidding, but no, it turns out she really was worked up over it. He felt terrible, and apologized profusely, and told her he was sorry he’d upset her, and he would never have done that had he known it would make her uncomfortable, and then said that he’s naturally a very affectionate person and sometimes gets carried away, and that he (along with everyone else) had had a few cocktails, which likely impaired his judgement. So, he owned his mistake, and apologized immediately — what else can you do in a situation like that? This woman went on and ON about how out of line he was to kiss her on the cheek, it made her so uncomfortable, it was completely inappropriate, it had ruined her whole weekend, and that she was considering going to HR to file a sexual harassment complaint.

    So he said, “Well, I’m sorry you’re so upset, and it is absolutely your prerogative to go to HR if you feel you have no other option. But before you do that, you should know that I’m gay, and I really don’t care who knows it. So go ahead and file your complaint, and I’ll have my lawyer file a lawsuit against the company for discrimination and anything else he can think of. And I’ll win, because he’ll put 200 people on the stand who will all testify that I am THE gayest man in all of [our state.]” That, of course, was the end of the talk about sexual harassment.

    1. LBK*

      To be fair, I don’t think orientation really matters when it comes to sexual harassment. If he had honked her boob, that certainly would’ve been cause for alarm and discipline, even if it didn’t sexually excite him.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes, but he didn’t honk her boob. He kissed her on the cheek — when everyone in the group was giving hugs and kisses and so on — and then insinuated that he (and only he) was somehow trying to put the moves on her. In her position, even if I *was* upset about a kiss on the cheek from a co-worker (which is highly unlikely anyway), a sincere apology would be the end of it for me. I wouldn’t respond to it by threatening to go to HR.

        1. Jamie*

          My goodness – you would be hard pressed to find someone less inclined to enjoy kisses from strangers than I and even I don’t get this.

          If I had a lawsuit for every holiday kiss I’ve received at work I wouldn’t be posting here…I’d be happily retired with my billions with no thoughts of workplace issues sullying my little head.

        2. LBK*

          Oh, I totally get that – I think it’s a pretty ridiculous claim to make. But the orientation argument doesn’t hold as much water as the “A kiss on the cheek is a platonic gesture” argument, IMO.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I guess the point is that since so many things can be either salacious or completely chaste based on your delivery and your intent, he was saying that his completely chaste intent should be obvious. I’ve seen creepy kisses on the cheek; trust me, they exist.

            1. fposte*

              Most of us have gotten them, in fact. I think she sounds way out of line, but I also think his response turned into something wrong-footed.

      2. BRR*

        I don’t think orientation matters either but this just sounds like an innocent mistake since everybody was doing it. I take my queues from others so if everybody was kissing on the cheek I would join in. It sounds like he did exactly what he should have done afterwards by apologizing.

      3. INTP*

        Some things are universally inappropriate, like touching private areas – I think it is relevant when it comes to proving intent in a case like this, though, where the action in question might be a harmless social gesture by one person or an attempt to force physical contact on someone under the guise of a harmless social gesture that it would “cause a scene” to reject by another. (I’m assuming of course that he didn’t, like, make out with her cheek while she was frozen by shock – that would be universally inappropriate.)

        I’m not sure why he thought he could claim he was being discriminated against for his sexuality just because a woman reported him for sexual harassment, though. Gay doesn’t = a protected right to kiss women. And it sounds like she was genuinely upset for whatever reason, and the complaint would have gone nowhere after investigation anyways, so trying to intimidate her out of reporting wasn’t necessary.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I’m pretty sure he wasn’t serious about filing a counter-suit of his own, he was just using that to make a point. He kissed this woman on the cheek, and it ended up making her very uncomfortable. He regretted it when he found out, and so he offered her a sincere apology, which she refused to accept in the spirit it was offered, and instead threatened to go to HR and launch an investigation. So he was irritated and fed up, and in his position I would have been too. His point was more to make it clear to her that she’d end up looking extremely foolish if she actually went through with it.

    2. Liz*

      Not saying her reaction was justified but, pretty sure the sexual orientation of the harasser doesn’t determine whether it was sexual harassment or not. A gay man could still, legally, sexually harass a straight woman. And I don’t think “I got carried away / I’m naturally affectionate” is a legitimate excuse for touching people in ways they don’t like.

      1. HR Holidays*

        Liz & LBK are correct but if she did take this to HR it would be investigated and found not to warrant any further action. She’d also look petty and silly.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        Over and over again, after being asked to stop? No, absolutely not. But in this context, when it was an innocent mistake that was not repeated, I think she got way too worked up.

    3. Chriama*

      I’m actually… not okay with that story. I can think of lots ‘justifiable’ ways that woman felt uncomfortable (other people were kissing, but were they kissing *her*?, did she try to step back but was blocked by other people?, etc), and your friend intimidating her out of reporting it to HR makes him sound like a douche. If he weren’t gay, this would be like a woman saying she felt uncomfortable in a situation and the guy threatening her job or telling her “no one will believe you anyway”.

      I think it was an unfortunate situation all around, but “owning” his mistake doesn’t mean she should have just been okay with it. An HR investigation probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere (except maybe to ban alcohol and/or physical contact at holiday parties), but I don’t think she was out of line for wanting to do that. Him being gay doesn’t preclude him from sexually harassing anyone — and why didn’t he just tell her that anyways, instead of adding the aggressive line about suing her back. Iis this kindergarten? You’re tattling on me so I’m going to run to mom first and tell her “whatever she says, it’s not true!” ?

      1. Chriama*

        Also, whether or not she got “too worked up” (and we talk about gaslighting all the time here, so not sure why it’s ok to say the woman in this situation was “over-reacting”), it would have been better for him to leave it at a sincere apology. That way, even if she does go to HR, as long as he explains the circumstances (everyone was doing it, no reason to think she didn’t want to participate since she didn’t leave), it probably gets resolved with everyone promising not to touch each other in the future. Getting counter-aggressive with someone who was genuinely upset makes him the bad guy, in this situation.

        1. Formerly Bee*

          Gaslighting is a serious, long-term form of psychological abuse. Please be careful about using the term.

          1. Chriama*

            … I think you’re overreacting (see what I did there?). I didn’t state she was being gaslighted, just pointed out that commenters in the past have mentioned gaslighing in conjunction with this kind of behaviour (i.e. telling people their concerns are unwarranted).

          2. Stars and violets*

            Gaslighting as a term can also be used to mean trivializing another person’s feelings, like, in this case, saying the woman overreacted.

            1. Formerly Bee*

              It can be used for a million different things. Here are some other ways to describe behavior similar to it: Manipulative, dismissive, trivializing like you said, calculating, confusing, disorienting, dishonest, deceptive, using mind games, using plausible deniability, destabilising.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          Also I should add that in my opinion it’s complaints like this that diminish reports of *true* sexual harassment, and make it harder all around for people with legitimate issues to be heard, be taken seriously, and for scumbags that truly harass co-workers or subordinates and make the workplace a horrible place to be.

          Another friend of mine supervised a college intern that he hired full time after she graduated. She got mad at him for telling her that her work had to be reviewed before it left the department (and made it clear that was a rule that existed for everyone, including him, to prevent having to restate things or do rework) and so she reported him to HR for sexual harassment. When he told me about it later, he said the end result is that he now views claims of sexual harassment with a skeptical eye, given that he was unjustly targeted by them himself, which he knows is wrong, but it’s just always there in the back of his mind.

          That’s the most unfortunate thing about stuff like this.

          1. Formerly Bee*

            I want to agree, but I wasn’t there. Maybe the kiss on the cheek really was inappropriate.

            That said, false reports and exaggerations don’t help people who are trying to report genuine harassment or abuse. It’s already hard enough to be believed.

          2. Chriama*

            I’m not seeing these 2 stories as similar, since this supervisor didn’t phyiscally touch the intern. I believe you when you say your friend is a nice guy who got frustrated when trying to have a conversation with someone who he felt was being unreasonable. However, I’m overall surprised at the lack of sympathy for the female coworker here. I’d like to think that if I had concerns about how someone treated me, I wouldn’t be expected to take someone’s “sincere apology” as reason not to go to HR.

            1. Chriama*

              (I wish there was an edit button!). By my last point, I mean that an overly friendly person might be pushing boundaries with a lot of people without realizing that they’re uncomfortable, and I don’t think it’s a false report for someone to go to HR and state “this is what happened, I want you to know in case other people are experiencing something similar and maybe you could talk to him”.

          3. Stars and violets*

            Why is this argument only ever used in cases involving sex? If I maliciously and falsely accuse my co-worker of stealing from me, no-one would ever say I shouldn’t do that because it makes it more difficult for genuine victims of theft to be believed.

            1. Hedgehog*

              It’s all too common. In fact, the rate of false claims (at least in the US) for sexual assault/rape/harassment are the same as the rate of false claims for theft/burglary/kidnapping, about 3% of all reported cases. That’s why I personally think everyone should err on the side of believing the victim– it’s 97% likely that they are not making it up.

            2. Formerly Bee*

              It’s pretty hard to be believed or taken seriously when reporting some things, or discussing them.

              I wouldn’t know if reporting theft is any different.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I don’t see it as him intimidating her out of reporting to HR. He provided her with information that was relevant, and then told her to do as she pleased. And for heaven’s sake, it was a kiss on the cheek. If he had drunkenly grabbed her and forced his tongue down her throat then by all means, report away, and let the chips fall where they may.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          If she’d make such a big deal over a peck on the cheek, I’d be concerned that, upon finding out that he was gay, she might run to HR over being infected with AIDS or some such stupidity.

          (I dunno what her issue is, but I’m not impressed with this person).

        2. Chriama*

          I can feel myself getting into argumentative mode, so I’ll leave it at this PSA:
          Even if you’ve had a drink or a few, don’t get overly close with people who don’t know *you* well, and save physical contact for people who’ve initiated it with you first. Then everyone goes home happy ;)

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            First Chriama, I apologize…it was not my intent to put you on the defensive. My feeling about so much of this kind of thing is sheesh, we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. If one of those mistakes is brought to someone’s attention, and the person sincerely apologizes for it, why isn’t that enough? Why does it have to be escalated? Why do things have to immediately go from zero to HR? If everyone behaved that way, we’d all have to tiptoe around each other on eggshells all the time, because we’re so afraid of offending each other. A little forgiveness and compassion can go a long way and diffuse much of the tension.

            Of course we should all be aware of others’ feelings, and try our best to be respectful and considerate, but sometimes we’re going to really step in it. If someone does that with me, and says, “Wow, I really stepped in it there, and I’m very sorry about that,” I appreciate it. And if I screw up and say, “Yowza, I was really in the wrong there, and I apologize,” then I would hope that would be the end of it and everyone could move on.

            Now…if my friend had told me that he’d kissed that woman on the cheek *again* at a later time, and she was threatening to go to HR, I’d have told him, “Dude, you had fair warning. She made it clear that she was not comfortable with that kind of thing, and you ignored her. Not cool.”

            1. Chriama*

              No worries Ann. I think we’re just seeing things from different perspectives. It’s kind of like when we hear a story of someone having an issue with their boss, and the advice makes it seem like the boss is getting away with something, but then a commenter points out that the OP wrote in, not their boss. I’ve been advising as if the OP was your friend, you’ve been advising as if the OP was the other woman. I think both perspectives are valid.

  33. JenCanRead*

    I used to be a paralegal at a small law firm. Paralegals and Legal Assistants had the opportunity to make bonuses every month by meeting their billing goals, so the partners determined that Christmas bonuses were unnecessary for the support staff. Attorneys, however, made both monthly bonuses as well as an annual Christmas bonus. In general, this is understandable, as it’s a way to incentivize the attorneys and potentially retain them as partners eventually. There wasn’t any animosity because this, and in general, everyone was pretty happy or at least ambivalent towards the arrangement.

    In December of that year, the named partner threw a big holiday dinner party at a steakhouse downtown. All employees (attorneys, support staff, receptionist, etc) were invited and were encouraged to bring a +1. We were all asked to RSVP, specifically so that the headcount would be accurate. The day of the party we found out that there would be a white elephant game which included prizes like cufflinks from Saks Fifth Ave, an iPad, a Kindle, gift certificates to 5 star restaurants, etc. When we arrived, every seat had a number at its place setting, which corresponded to numbers in a bag, which would determine the random order for the game. The problem? There weren’t enough gifts for all of the attendees, and the numbers picked all corresponded to attorneys! So the attorneys, who already made more money and received additional bonuses also got the nice gifts while the support staff just sat there.

    It was the weirdest thing I’d ever experienced during the holidays, and it created a divisive and negative atmosphere for the rest of the night, which was pretty unfortunate.

    1. AMG*

      and that’s why the most selfish A-hole at the company shouldn’t be in charge of the Christmas party. ugh.

    2. Artemesia*

      Being left out is always saddening. Publicly showering the ‘important people’ with big ticket gifts while the proles get coffee mugs or nothing is grotesque.

      I remember in my first job, the boss sending out a poem at holiday time that mentioned various staffers complimenting them on their various achievements during the year. I remember scanning it for what was to be said about me — and discovering that while he mentioned about 80% of the employees, he left me and another 15 or 20 employees out. It wasn’t like 5 big mentions and a happy holiday to all, it was a couple of closely spaced creativity mentioning almost everyone, but not quite everyone. I am still astounded at the almost physical reaction that gave me. I felt just a cold chill and weird feeling in the pit of my stomach — at what seemed a public shaming.

      I imagine the public shaming coupled with no gift for you would be even worse, although at least it was just saying ‘all the support staff are worthless’, rather than hey, Artemesia, you personally are worthless.

    3. LillianMcGee*

      As a paralegal and a damn hard working one, I have never been specially recognized or thanked by any of my attorneys. Outwardly, I call it all part of my chosen profession. But inside I call them selfish soul-suckers!

      Power to the support staff!

    4. Mister Pickle*

      That sounds about right, for a law firm. I’ve done a lot of work with attorneys, and at every law firm I’ve ever known, there’s been a seriously noticeable class divide between the “royalty” (ie, the attorneys) and the “commoners” (ie, secretaries, admins, support, and everyone else).

      I lack experience, but I hear that doctors are much same.

      1. JenCanRead*

        Yes, exactly. It’s why I left the profession, actually. I know attorneys have additional education and skills, so I understand why their compensation is greater than support staff, but the attitude that goes with it is just too frustrating. I didn’t want to be an attorney, but I didn’t want to be treated like I wasn’t a professional or equal to them on a social level.

        The reason this sticks out in my head is because we were all actually okay with not receiving bonuses at first. As I stated, the majority of the support staff understood the need to retain successful attorneys, and it’s not like we didn’t have our own bonuses. But the White Elephant was done so poorly that it created a resentment that wasn’t really there at the beginning of the night. Such a strange choice.

      2. Karowen*

        Academics too, sometimes. My mother was a secretary for a professor/researcher when she was young and was invited to his holiday party. Everyone was very nice to her, until someone asked where she got her doctorate degree. When she explained that she “only” had her bachelor’s degree, she was suddenly a social pariah.

        Of course, on the flip side, her boss was always very nice to her and treated her as a social equal (he did invite her to his party, after all). They kept in touch for years and she still speaks of him fondly.

      3. Anonsie*

        As medical support staff: Yeah. I’d say most are nice and don’t necessarily reinforce it themselves, but the institutions still do.

  34. AMT*

    At my old job, my notoriously stingy boss (who used to keep the supply of stamps in her office and make us ask her for individual stamps) always gave her subordinates $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards from the organization every Christmas. The year I started working there, she switched to 7/11 gift cards because Dunkin’ Donuts no longer offered them in $5 denominations. If Dunkin’ Donuts thinks you’re being cheap, you might be a little cheap. There were no more than eight people working under her in this office.

    1. Anonymous person*

      I’m sorry, but even though I know that this is relating to the boss’ overall stinginess, I can’t help but feel a little put out by your comment that a $5 gift card isn’t good enough. For me, I try to get my team a little something, but it usually doesn’t average out to be more than $5/person. I’m the only one working right now between me and my husband and personal money is quite tight.

      Even though you say that there were no more than 8 people in the office, that’s still $40. That, for me, is the equivalent of a tank of gas that I then have to try to figure out how to pay for, usually by cutting our food budget. And my team is bigger than 8 people that I have to get gifts for, and now I feel guilty that they’re going to think that I’m being cheap this year.

      1. AMT*

        Let me clarify — it was a gift from the organization, not from her. I definitely wouldn’t be complaining if she got us gifts out of her own pocket!

        1. AMT*

          That is, she had the discretion to get staff gifts from the budget, but (unlike other directors) chose to go unusually cheap. Your holiday gifting to your employees sounds lovely!

          1. Anonymous person*

            I’m sorry for the misunderstanding on my part. If she had the funds from the organization, then yes, that was unnecessarily cheap of her to go just for the gift cards with the cheapest amount available. Especially since other directors spent their full budget on their teams. That puts it into a completely different light and her into the “bad boss” category. I understand the frustration there.

            My apologies again.

            1. AMT*

              No apologies necessary! You sound like a thoughtful boss. I admit, I probably would have been more grateful had she not been crazy in other ways. Like that time I had to get the Department of Labor to force her to give me my last paycheck…

      2. KerryOwl*

        She said “from the organization.” If you’re paying out of your own pocket, that’s different, and I’m sure your team appreciates your gift.

        1. Anonymous person*

          I completely misunderstood her original comment. Yes, having the funds from the company and choosing not to spend them on the employees is not right and places this boss in the “bad” category.

  35. Ashley*

    I think gift exchanges/white elephant exchanges always end badly. People always get their feelings hurt or one person brings something awful, etc. My first job out of college I worked at a place that had one and I just avoided it. They are just never, never a good idea!

    1. De Minimis*

      Our boss tries to change the rules of our white elephant exchange while we’re playing it in order to create more drama, but none of us have ever really gone for it.

      1. HappyCamper*

        This thread is making me so intensely grateful for my current workplace. They are phenomenal in a lot of ways, but their handling of Christmas is like they read all of these horror stories, took them to heart about what not to do, and then planned a low-key, appropriate, and positive holiday experience. An optional, $15 secret santa where the expectation was politely set out that gifts should be appropriate, because the goal was the appreciate your coworkers, not embarrass them. An optional (covered) luncheon in a very nice restaurant near the office, during work hours. Executive leadership does a light-hearted (optional!) christmas carol tour of all of our facilities. A few low-key seasonal decorations (bead garlands and generic ornament balls) put up around the office. Despite the fact that it’s a religious not-for-profit, there’s been absolutely no religious language, decorations, or pressure to make those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas/don’t celebrate religiously uncomfortable. AND they try to make sure people can take holiday leave in ample, fair ways even though we’re a 24/7 business and don’t shut down over the holidays like most places do in this country.

        Fucking magical.

        One Christmas, I was working with a team of all business analysts, and we had a Secret Santa. With no coordination or rules, everyone got everyone else ridiculously practical, thoughtful gifts. Like, a set of dishes for the breakroom for one staff (a previously mentioned desire), a pair of binoculars for a bird-watcher, bike safety equipment for a cyclist, etc. It was the best thing.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      They’re fine IF people sincerely bring a decent gift. If you can’t manage that, at least get a gift card!
      Stupid “joke” gifts are just that… stupid.

  36. A Jane*

    We had a people scavenger hunt based on self-volunteered random facts. The facts were pretty innocuous, but one girl used it as an opportunity to flirt with a coworker. I think hers were “Won Most Flirtatious in High School”, “Voted as Homecoming Queen”, and “Most likely to kiss under mistletoe.”

  37. E.R*

    Nothing to share yet, but I may after out BYOB axe-throwing Christmas party next week. When did axe-throwing become a thing? Sigh.

    1. Creag an Tuire*


      Please be sure to update us next week. I… I want to make sure you’re still alive and well.

      1. OhNo*


        Yikes. This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. How many personal injury waivers do you have to sign before they let you in to the party?

    2. YourCdnFriend*

      An axe-throwing Christmas party!?!? While this is weird for a work event, personally it sound hilarious and awesome.

      I would bring a can of axe body spray to throw just to add to the fun

      1. Liane*

        “I would bring a can of axe body spray to throw just to add to the fun”
        Not sure this is legal in the USA. There’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules on air quality.

        I told Husband about the Axe-throwing party, knowing his fondness for archaic weaponry. He is speculating that there may be pink slips handed out after the party.

      2. JustPickANameAlready*

        Nah, you are supposed to throw an axe at the men who wear Axe.
        Of legal age only, teenagers are excused for their Axe reek due to lack of experience with professional grooming habits.

    3. Karowen*

      I feel like your username is very appropriate. Surely SOMEONE at that company is going to wind up in the ER after that party.


      1. Euchre*

        I was wondering the same thing! Last year about a dozen of my friends had their individual office parties at the axe-throwing place in Toronto.

      2. E.R*

        Yes, Karen, I’m in Toronto! I’ve noticed its a thing but I dont know why. I’ll find out next week, I suppose! In any case I cant imagine why its a good idea to mix it with booze.

    4. Stars and violets*

      BYOB and axe throwing have no business being in the same sentence unless BYOB means bring-your-own-bandage.

    5. peanut butter*

      Is your user name of E.R. a hint that you don’t think the axe throwing party won’t go well?

      1. julie*

        Maybe she’s Queen Elizabeth, and after years with Philip the idea of having axes flying around at a party sounds like a relief.

  38. Suzanne*

    I used to work for a non-profit that had a headquarters in a major city in the state & regional offices throughout the state. Every year we had a holiday party at the headquarters which was a good 2 hour drive from our regional office. It was potluck, so naturally, almost everybody from the regional offices brought chips & cookies as it’s a little tricky to drag your crockpot full of meatballs as you zoom down the interstate at 7 am.
    One particularly memorable year, we ate the festive lunch & then spent the afternoon watching a movie (how much fun is that?!?!) with popcorn, followed by team sudoku while those of us from the regional offices looked forward to the 2 hour-for some offices 3 hour-drive home. Put us in the holiday spirit I can tell you. We could never convince the powers that be that it was no party for us and that we’d much rather they show their appreciation with a gift card or $ for an office party.

      1. MaryMary*

        I used to work with a lot of actuaries. We had running jokes about what actuaries do for fun, including team sodoku at the holiday party and Yahtzee at the summer picnic.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          My sister is an actuary. She does crossword puzzles.

          Except – they don’t use words, they use numbers. And they have clues like “27 down: 4 across times 13 down divided by 3 down minus 8 across”. I’m not making this up.

  39. De Minimis*

    One year we had a small Christmas display stolen out of our department’s waiting area. It was a Nativity scene that we’d laid out on a small table.
    The thing is, it was most likely an “inside job,” because patients rarely come to our department and the thief must have had an idea as to the office schedule and knew that people were going to be gone a lot during that particular morning. Always wondered what happened to it, the bad part is that it belonged to an employee who had let our department borrow it.

    My co-worker was very angry about it, she refused to eat at the employee Christmas dinner that day because she “didn’t want to eat with a thief!”

    1. Chriama*

      That is so bizzare1 How many people were there in the department? Did you suspect anyone in particular?

  40. Nobody Here By That Name*

    My office had a holiday party at a very lovely venue last year. However someone had the bright idea to hire a comedian to entertain us. This would’ve been a bad idea no matter what, as most people wanted to chat with their fellow co-workers in lieu of any entertainment at all.

    But what made it worse was that the comedian hired gave a slew of offensive jokes one right after another. He began his set by insulting the town we lived and worked in, segued into racial and ethnic slurs of the “ching chong Chinese” variety, went into misogynistic rants, lisped through gay imitations, and wrapped it all up by acting out various sex positions. It was the kind of set that even Gilbert Gottfried would’ve said should’ve been toned down.

    Many of us tried to hide at the back of the venue. A good number got up and left. Sadly there were those who found the jokes hilarious, which sadly included the members of the party planning committee.

    After the fact there was no word from the party committee, HR, or any of the executives who were at the party to apologize about what happened. It’s one of many reasons why I’m looking for a new place to work.

    1. projectile coffee*

      Ouch. ‘Taste’ in comedy is so diverse; I would probably have joined the folks who just got up and left or yelled at the guy that he isn’t funny and to get off stage.

    2. Liz*

      Ahh, that’s awful. Seems like “offensive as possible” was this guy’s who M.O., too, so no way the party planners didn’t know.

      We do a dodgeball thing every year with all the other agencies in the area. It’s meant to be a fun, community-building thing. Last year the MC they hired spent the entire night cracking offensive jokes, particularly misogynistic ones. Each team was required to have at least 2 female players, and admittedly some of us were pretty poor dodgeballers and only there to fill the quota, but it wasn’t supposed to be super competitive anyway. This guy just spent the whole time ripping into the female players *while they were playing*. It was terrible and ruined the whole experience for us.

      1. Nobody Here By That Name*

        Supposedly they watched YouTube clips of him beforehand to make sure he’d be okay. Given how much the members of the committee were laughing I suspect their definition of okay is not the same that most would have for a work event.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ah yeah, that’s a lot worse than my first holiday party at CurrentJob, where they hired a small combo, which included the inept former boss at PreviousJob who had laid me off.

  41. NinaK*

    My husband worked for an IT consulting firm for a number of years. The holiday party was at the home of the co-founder and his wife. There were probably 50-60 staff and their guests at the party and the age range was approximately 30-50 ish (no interns or recent college grads.) The first year we went to the party we found out that the real highlight for these peeps every year is the tradition that at 12 midnight the third floor bonus rooms is opened for (even heavier) drinking and pool and overnighting. Almost everyone at the party expected they would hit the bonus room, drink themselves to oblivion and crash at their boss’s house, on the floor.
    I guess I am old. I don’t crash on my boss’s floor wearing an evening gown. Just not fun.

  42. anotherengineer*

    I once made a site visit to a waster water treatment plant on the day they happened to be having their holiday potluck. The client invited us to stay for lunch, so we ate a potluck lunch in the maintenance building! I felt awkward, but it seemed like it would be rude to turn down the client’s hospitality. I just wished we had not had to spend time before lunch in the solids handling area, that smell burns in to you…

    1. CC*

      I was once invited to join a client site’s staff for cake for a retirement party. I’d been there for a couple of weeks at that point (and yup, I had been working in the solids building) so I didn’t really notice the smell anymore. It’s remarkable how quickly smells stop bothering you when it’s a constant presence.

  43. Long time contractor*

    I’ve been at the same job for almost 10 years, as a contractor. I have very little interaction with the people in the office, and they keep the (50-75) contractors sequestered from each other — e-mails to all of us go out on a BCC. For a few years, they sent us these terrible gifts, like a “first aid kit” that was a company-branded 2×3 inch polyester pouch with a band-aid and two aspirin in it, or a company-branded stress ball. Now, they just send us a trite card thanking us for being a huge part of their success, signed by the receptionist.

  44. Volunteer Advocate*

    We had a holiday party with the usual gift exchange game (you could take a gift someone else was holding instead of a gift off the table) and one of the employees got a brand new Microsoft Surface tablet – WELL above the $10 limit!

    After the gift exchange, the owner stepped forward and made some nice comments about the employees and then said, “By the way, everyone’s getting a Surface!” – and proceeded to hand one to each employee. (They were hidden at the time.) This was back when the Surfaces were brand new, and they came with the more expensive covers, so it was generous gift! It was a great holiday party, to say the least!

    1. Mister Pickle*

      That’s awesome! In the midst of so many FAILs, it’s nice to remember that some people ‘get it’.

  45. Hermoine Granger*

    Not weird but I do have a holiday story. In a past position, I was the new employee at a small company but the other staff members had been with the company for quite some time. The holidays were coming up and I was invited to participate in their yearly gift exchange and potluck. The thing is everyone was invited but the boss / owner of the company and probably for good reason. He was socially inappropriate and one of those people who will put their hands in stuff or will use their utensils to eat directly out of the bowl instead of only eating from their plate. So the staff have a holiday event pretty much every year and he’s never been invited.

    My mom’s co-workers told her about a holiday party (or some other type of gathering) that was organized by members of her department. For whatever reason, my mom didn’t attend. Her co-workers organized an outing to a local bar. One of the co-workers drank heavily and became really drunk, way too drunk to drive. They took away the intoxicated co-worker’s car keys, another co-worker volunteered to drive her home, and she was placed in the co-workers car. The intoxicated co-worker then proceeded to urinate all over the car seat.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh my god! Please tell me the company paid for a thorough cleaning of that poor coworker’s car!

      1. Hermoine Granger*

        Lol, if I’m not mistaken I believe the car owner ended up cleaning the car seat. The employees organized the outing on their own so the company had nothing to do with it.

        My mom has all kinds of stories of her about her co-workers’ shenanigans at and outside of work.

  46. Torontonienne*

    I worked in a corporate owned coffee shop for minimum wage (it should be noted that we were not permitted to accept tips so it was absolutely minimum wage). The company threw the holiday party at a very expensive restaurant. On the way in we were given our Xmas bonus: a pound of coffee beans and a drink ticket. A drink cost more than an hour of work at minimum wage so you can imagine how expensive the food was. The salaried managers and head office staff were eating and drinking and carousing and wondering why us young people weren’t helping with the holiday vibe. Our sober faces were clearly making them uncomfortable so we hung out near the kitchen to snag the free appetizers as they emerged. It was all so awkward.

    (Eventually my manager realized what was happening and bought us a few rounds. He was always too good for that company.)

    1. projectile coffee*

      This is horrible. If you are invited somewhere you should not be expected to pay!! (This is why guys always pay for a date when they pick the location!!)

    2. AMT*

      Ew. I think they should be required to put the word “holiday” and “party” in quotation marks when they require you to pay for your own food and drinks.

    3. Chriama*

      That is so awkward! Did you know ahead of time that you would need to pay for yourself? I’ve heard of company parties where the company covers 1 drink, or the meal but no drinks, but it does seem a little tactless to invite your minimum wage staffers to the same event as the corporate head honchos and not pay for the food.

  47. K.*

    I may have told this story before, but it ages like a fine wine.

    At my first holiday party at the second company I ever worked for, my “secret santa” co-worker bought me an extremely fancy purse from one of the most expensive stores in the metro area. Then, by the eggnog bowl and after he had imbibed several, he proceeded to very graphically threatened to kill me (pulling out my guts through my mouth and shooting me in the head was involved) unless I punched my new manager in the face. Meanwhile, another employee was vomiting in the CEO’s potted plants and was screaming obscenities at the top of her very drunk head, and eventually had to sleep on the CEO’s couch, missing work the next day. And during all THIS, the CEO’s college-aged son was passing around a bong which everyone from the HR manager to my manager to the vomiting co-worker partook in. (For the record, I have no issue with marijuana use, but I was a liiiiiittle shocked to see it embraced at a company party)

    It was a verified sh*tshow and I only stayed at the company another 5 months after that. At the time, I was horrified and was desperately trying to figure out if I should go to HR, at the very least about the whole death threat thing. I ended up not doing so because the company literally treated their employees like family members and I definitely would have just been told to talk it out… “like siblings would”. Now? It’s one of my favorite stories.

    1. K.*

      Oh, and the dude that threatened was eventually fired within the next two months for throwing a party after hours at the office and trashing the place. He broke computers, chairs, scattered people’s paperwork everywhere, and even smashed an office window. It was nuts. But what was equally nuts was that everyone received an email from the CEO that read something like, “As you may have noticed, we needed to let {NAME} go this afternoon due to the incident that occurred last night. While we view ourselves as a forgiving workplace, this was the second [!!] time an incident like this occurred with {NAME} and we needed to take appropriate action. We still love {NAME} dearly and he will always be part of the {COMPANY NAME} family. We plan on providing him with strong references to any future employers and encourage you to do the same.”

  48. Meg Murry*

    I worked at a place that had 2 guys named “Bob” (names changed to protect the innocent). At the company Christmas party at a hotel with an open bar, Bob1 and his girlfriend got really, really, really drunk and proceeded to dirty dance on the dance floor – very unpleasant to watch. Bob2 apparently also got drunk, and less publicly, admitted to his buddies that when his name had been pulled to go participate in the monthly random drug screen the company required (2-3 employees a month were “randomly” selected in a process that seemed awfully fixed, but that’s another story) he had stopped and bought some kind of “clean pee” product designed to help you fake passing a urine test on his way because he probably had marijuana in his system.

    Come Monday morning, we hear that through the grapevine that “Bob” had been loaded up in a cab with his manager and taken directly to the drug screen facility – the “clean pee” story hadn’t made the rounds yet, so most people assumed they were talking about Bob1 – but no, it was Bob2, and he failed the drug test and therefore never came back. Meanwhile, Bob1 disappeared for a while as well, and it was assumed that he was also fired due to his performance at the Christmas party and/or drunk tested and failed – but it turns out he volunteered (or was voluntold) to send himself to rehab, and he came back a few months later.

    No one learned the open bar lesson, until the next year, when one of the few 18 year old employees got totally hammered at the open bar and had to have his keys pried out of his hands to keep him from driving home. After that, the company went to a 2 drink ticket policy – people still got drunk, but on their own dime, not the company’s.

  49. No Secret Santa*

    I’m relatively new to my job and this is my first Christmas season in the role. The other day we were talking about Christmas in the office, who brings in decorations, where we’ll go for Christmas lunch etc. I asked if the team does Secret Santa (I previously worked in two other teams in the same organisation and both did this) and was greeted with silence and awkward stares.

    Turns out two years ago someone gave the (at the time) only black person working in the team a Little Black Sambo book. It ended with lawyers involved. Needless to say the team no longer do Secret Santa!

      1. No Secret Santa*

        I know, right? I can’t wrap my head around what the gift giver was thinking. My only thought is trying for gag gift and wildly missing the mark but I can’t believe anyone would not get how wrong a gift that is.

  50. CAS*

    I was the one employee singled out by the boss to not receive a Christmas gift. It was a small office — there were only a few staff plus Boss. I worked my tail off at that job, and Boss had zero appreciation for my efforts. She was a cruel person. The admin. assistant was tasked with buying gift baskets. Boss directed her on what to put in each employee’s basket. When the admin. assistant asked about a basket for me, Boss replied coldly, “I don’t think she deserves a gift.”

    The admin. assistant told me she replied, “You can’t do that. You can’t give everyone a gift except CAS. That’s really mean.”

    Boss thought about it for a minute and then said, “Fine. Get her a bottle of wine. That’s it.” And everyone else got big, fancy gift baskets, and I got a bottle of wine. The admin. assistant told me about it in advance so I wouldn’t be surprised/hurt to see the really nice gifts the others received from Boss. I gave away the wine.

    Unbeknownst to Boss, I’d been interviewing elsewhere. A few days before Christmas I was offered another job. Boss was out on a big holiday vacation to NYC. I called her at the hotel and told her I was resigning. She was utterly shocked and began sputtering about how she really needed me and I couldn’t leave. I said, “Yes, I have to leave. They need me at my new job.”

    Boss came back after her trip and begged me to stay. The begging was the best Christmas gift she could have given me. But I took the new job anyway. I agreed to work on contract for Boss for several weeks at almost double my pay rate until she hired a replacement. She was very impressed with herself about the new guy she’d hired. She bragged endlessly about his qualifications and how he’d do such an excellent job. I trained him when I was still on contract with her.

    A few months later, I got a call from the admin. assistant. She wanted me to know how unhappy Boss was with the new guy. Apparently, Mr. Fabulous wasn’t working out so well. Boss was going around telling everyone that she made a terrible mistake — she’d taken for granted all the work I’d been doing, and she never should have let me go. All I could do was laugh. It was a very happy new year.

    1. projectile coffee*

      awesome. Huge kudos for quickly taking action to better your situation!! I’m sure you’ll be missed there for quite a while

  51. Brittany*

    I have two:

    1 – Job from 2009, I was fairly new and we were doing a Secret Santa. I was pretty broke and decided to see what I could potentially re-gift. I happened to find a very nice, extra iPhone workout band that I didn’t need since I had gotten two for my birthday that year and figured, this is a pretty awesome gift that I would be thrilled to get at a Secret Santa, especially considering it was slightly over the $$ limit. I was even more happy when I saw that my co-worker who was a level above me ended up getting it because she is very fitness-oriented and is a runner. She had been nothing but cool and professional until this point, so imagine my horror when she FLIPS OUT because it’s “not the one she wanted” and proceeded to sulk in the corner for the rest of the party. Um, it’s free, and I’m your coworker, not your mom, so no I couldn’t possibly know which one you wanted. I was mortified and hightailed it out of there with my Turbie Twist (best gift ever, I still use that thing).

    2 – Last year’s holiday party at OldJob. Swanky affair held at a museum – think “we’re about to lay off people but we want everyone to think we’re still doing well” kind of party. Alcohol is flowing and we were allowed to bring as many guests as we wanted. Some of the younger employees were fresh out of college and one in particular had brought her two “cousins”. These girls were dressed like they were coming out of a bar at 2am and I’m pretty sure they were drunk when they showed up. Every time someone walked by with hors d’oeuvres, they would devour the plate like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. Anyone’s husband was fair game, including mine, which was actually pretty hilarious to watch. I left before one of them wiped out on the dance floor and the other one threw up all over it.

    The real clincher was the employee who was at least 30 who got absolutely ripped drunk and proceeded to run around with a breathalyzer showing everyone just how drunk she was. She got a couple recruits to join in her fun to “get the highest BAC” but for the most part, we were all pretty WTF about her behavior. She got a stern talking to the next day at work and then went around to anyone who would listen about how unfair it was.

  52. TotesMaGoats*

    I’d totally forgotten about this story.

    What was a leadership meeting cum holiday party at SVP’s house (her hubby was a 4 star general, which is unrelated but fun fact). It’s all decorated for the holiday. It’s time for lunch and some of us are at the dining room table eating. Long taper candles are lit but stick up above the globe. Coworker CATCHES HER HAIR ON FIRE. Thankfully there was very little damage to her hair but it was mortifying for her. After the fact it was something very funny that we all remembered.

  53. Rayner*

    When I worked retail, I got the flu two days before our ‘New Year Meal’ (it was more inclusive, and more of the younger people who were at uni were back in the city could attend) and was told, not very nicely, that I was simply trying to avoid attending because I didn’t want to bring a party gift. Felt that bringing the flu was rather too much of a gift, tbh, though, so I still refused to go.

    Was glad I didn’t as the meal was all of half an hour before everybody wandered off to the club/bar next door.

    I was seventeen. As were four of my co-workers. So kind of them to remember that.

  54. ooh*

    If your company does the stupid white elephant gift please please make sure everyone knows the rules.

    I had never heard of it until, one year a coworker, wanted to do it. It wasn’t so bad because she wanted everyone to anonymously write down 5 things they wanted, then you had to randomly purchase gifts off the list–then the day of the gift exchange the white elephant game would take place. Needless to say I didn’t “get it”, I thought it would be really rude to have my gift I wanted possibly taken by someone else. wth… I didn’t participate.

    1. Kethryvis*

      That’s not really a white elephant. That’s a crazy mixture of Secret Santa and white elephant. Gah. That lady had no idea what she was doing :/

  55. Sherm*

    This isn’t the craziest story here (Wouldn’t that be hard to manage!) but more of a cautionary tale. Every year at my place’s holiday party, with about 150 people attending, there has been an optional White Elephant exchange. Typically, only 7 or so people participate, and it was fun for the rest of us to watch them steal each other’s gifts. It was over and done with quickly. One year, the number of participants doubled. It was obvious that a supervisor had “asked” all her underlings to participate. This time, the gift exchange went on and on and on and on, much of it humorlessly. Everyone else was just sat there and watched the boring spectacle. Gradually, most people left the party. Pretty awkward!

    1. HR Manager*

      Hmm….so does everyone else call this a white elephant gift exchange? In my land, they’re called yankee swaps, and I had to look up what a white elephant gift exchange was because I’ve never heard of it!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I think it’s regional. I’ve heard both and my understanding is that the terms are synonymous.

        1. Anlyn*

          Depending on region, I think it can be two different things. We always called it “Dirty Santa”, not Yankee Swap, and it’s for nice gifts. White Elephant is for gag/junk gifts.

          1. HR Manager*

            In our version of Yankee Swap, it could be either. My more relaxed companies had more gag gifts, while the formal ones usually had more decent gifts. Usually you end up with a mix of both, so there was always a lemon or two in the bunch that no one wanted.

  56. Renee*

    I very briefly worked at a not so great law firm a few years ago and my short time there included the holidays. A couple of weeks before Christmas, we all (about fifteen employees) received a card with a prepaid Visa inside (about $25). The front of the card was a professional photograph of the Managing Partner with his wife and three children, standing in front of their enormous house out of state. One of the employees was his son from his prior marriage, who I am sure appreciated the beautiful photo of dad’s new family that did not include him.

  57. Labratnomore*

    I have one, it’s not as crazy as some of these, but it was a little awkward for me. My Boss and I had worked in the same department within our company for about 10 years. In that group they always bought a gift for the bosses ($5-10 for supervisors, $5 more for the manger and another $5 for the director type of thing). She was a supervisor for about 2 years in that group and always got a nice gift from her 12 employees. The there was a re-org and my boss along with me and 2 other employees got moved to a new department, and she got 2 people from that department reporting to her as well. I have always been of the same mind as Alison on gifts for the boss, and I was now the highest paid employee in her group, by far. In the previous department I was probably the highest paid but everyone but the 2 that came with is in the move were in the same range as me. I knew she expected a gift (since that is what she was used to, not out of greed), but I certainly was not going to bring it up to those who made much less than me. Well it never got brought up and the day before Christmas break when she gave us all gifts (nice ones paid for out of her pocket), she seemed to be waiting for something. Lucky for me I am the only one that has a desk near her, so I got to hear the disappointment in her voice all day, especially when the supervisors from the other group, still seated near us got their gifts. She even when so far as saying something along the lines of “I guess I am not as appreciated as those supervisors”. I finally just told her that being significantly more paid then everyone else it wasn’t my place to ask for money for a gift, and that may people don’t believe in giving gifts up in the workplace. She said that it was fine and that she understood, but every Christmas I can see (and hear in some passive-aggressive comments) the disappointment that she doesn’t get anything. The other day we were talking about how we both had most of our shopping done, and she said “I even have all my gifts for my employees”; I can’t help but think she was hinting at something.

    1. AMT*

      Seems petty that she keeps hinting. I mean, you don’t ASK for a gift, especially not from your subordinates!

    2. Artemesia*

      I am a firm believer that gifts ‘up’ should be outright banned in the workplace, but in this workplace, a plate of brownies would be a kindness. For some people it really isn’t the gift but the acknowledgement — even a nice note/card would go a long way to make people including the boss feel good. I always got my staff modest gifts (they served 20 or so of us, not just ‘my staff’ and I wasn’t their supervisor) but I think what they appreciated most was a personal note about how much their work meant to me.

  58. BananaPants*

    I’m an engineer working for a large multinational. We have a rather mediocre holiday party put on by the company in our cafeteria after work – no guests allowed; most show up to put in the expected appearance and then bail early. Prior to the Great Recession it was also customary for engineering managers to take their individual teams out for an informal holiday lunch, as a way to thank everyone for a year of hard work.

    A number of years ago we had a manager who should never have been promoted out of a technical role into a management position – he was a technical whiz who completely lacked soft skills, and his attempts to develop them were cringe-inducing and awful. As the year wound down, a fellow manager reminded him that he ought to take us out, so on one Friday right before our end of year shutdown, he had the six of us meet him at a local restaurant for pizza and beer at lunch time.

    Midway through the lunch his wife showed up at the restaurant wearing a tacky Christmas sweater. He explained that he wanted her to join us for the lunch, since she worked so hard as a stay-at-home mom to their teenagers and wouldn’t get a holiday lunch there (um, so take her out yourself?). After she helped herself to our pizza and beer, the pleasant conversation of the group came to a screeching halt as the two of them spent a solid 15 minutes reviewing their family’s upcoming social calendar and errands for us. We sat awkwardly as the two of them prattled on about scheduling a grooming appointment for the dog, taking Junior to ski club, and making sure that Aunt Maude’s jelly-of-the-month club was purchased before Christmas.

    When we left the restaurant the two of them felt the need to tell us that he wouldn’t be back to the office that afternoon because their kids were at school and they wanted to take advantage of the empty house for “grownup fun” (with a wink and a nod so we all knew EXACTLY what they were referring to). They walked out arm in arm and we carpooled back to the office, absolutely gobsmacked that he’d just told his direct reports that he was heading home for a little afternoon delight.

    1. AMT*

      “I’m married with kids, so I’m very proud of my once-a-month sex date, which I conveniently sandwiched between Junior’s ski lesson and our annual holiday jelly-buying!”

  59. Liz in a Library*

    Ugh…I was the terrible gift giver in the office Secret Santa one year. In my defense, I was super young, but I’m still embarrassed about it.

    I missed the e-mail about the third exchange. I realized my mistake about 30 seconds before we were all supposed to meet for the exchange. I didn’t have any money with me (or credit card or anything), so I had to borrow $$ from my boss and have her purchase a one-month Netflix certificate for me. This was when Netflix was new, so it was kind of cool and unexpected, but it was ages before streaming and I was borrowing money, so I only got the one disc (with a limit of 3 a month, I think) for my giftee… To make matters worse, as I quickly printed out the certificate, I realized we had no appropriate wrapping materials. My giftee got a shitty $10 Netflix obligation in a used inter-office envelope. I got a fancy overnight bag that I still use full of chocolate and fancy toiletries. Cringe.

    I realize this is super minor compared to most other stories, but man was it embarrassing at the time. Luckily, my giftee never was able to get my name right even though we worked together for 7 years, so I don’t think she ever realized it was from me.

  60. Toothless*

    I had a coworker who was known for his colorful speech, and very proud of it. (Example: “Well, Tooth, they can kill us, but they can’t eat us.”)

    One year for the white elephant Christmas exchange, another coworker put together a very professional-looking dictionary of Colorful’s sayings. Our boss drew it first, but everyone competed for it, and with much maneuvering Colorful took it home himself. It hung in his office for years and he was very proud of it.

    1. cuppa*

      I once worked somewhere where there was a company quote book (featuring contributions from nearly all the staff) “published” at the end of the year. It was a big deal and we would read highlights out of it. So much fun.

  61. Juni*

    Right now, and for the last two or three jobs, I’ve been the only Jewish person in my office. Just a coincidence of my field, the places I tend to work, and my location. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked how “my people” celebrate Christmas or something equally awkward.

    1. Artemesia*

      Oh I would be so tempted —- but you could set back intercultural relations by years if you took the bait.

  62. Gem*

    This is timely. We’re having a Christmas do on Friday (optional, company has rented out a room in a pub/restaurant and providing food/drinks), and we’re doing Secret Santa (once again optional). I’ve only been here a month, and I didn’t actually know the person I got, so I’ve got generic stuff. I’ve known people who’ve been there for a few years and no ones complained about the festivities, but I’m interested/excited by it. May report back if I’ve anything to report!

  63. Lee*

    Wow! There a a LOT of comments here!
    I once worked in an office that had employees of multiple religions — one of the “Christians” took it upon herself to tell people of other religions that they were not welcome at the party. Yikes, did that cause hurt feelings!
    I give everyone the same thing: I make a donation to a charity (my choice is Heifer), give everyone a happy winter card, and tell them that I have made a donation in their name. Many charities will send an email acknowledgement to each person on your gift list, so it can be verified, and they can claim it for tax purposes if they want.

    1. Sadsack*

      That sounds nice, but unless you are giving to the charity of your friends’ choice, you aren’t really giving any gift at all to them.

      1. AMT*

        I’m not too keen on charity gifts, especially if they’re for charities I don’t personally know much about or whose causes I don’t support. Heifer International is actually pretty controversial. I’m sure Lee is coming from a place of generosity and is just trying to give gifts that will please everyone, but don’t they have those charity gift cards that let the recipient choose the charity?

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree — it is fine to say ‘we have decided to cut back on gift giving and send money to Heifer International instead. We bought a goat for a Kenyan family this year. But don’t pretend this is a gift to me when you do it. And who wants to be on a mailing list to be dunned all year for money as part of their gift?

        1. Formica Dinette*

          Oh, the mailing lists! Before I give to a charity on behalf of someone, I contact the organization to make sure the giftee won’t end up on the mailing list.

  64. Amanda*

    I used to work for an organization that was dysfunctional in the extreme. Each Christmas, one particular program director, who thought he was an Artist, would write a skit for some staff to perform. The first two years I was in his department, so I was forced to participate. There were choreographed dances, original songs, and worst of all, the entire skit was meant to be a parody of a particular issue that had come up in the past year. In the right hands and with enthusiastic participation this might have worked, but believe me when I say that all of the jokes and plot points were in the worst possible taste – mocked people, brought up sore points in a condescending way, made those acting in the skit the butt of jokes about themselves, made off-color jokes about senior staff members. It. was. excruciating.

  65. German Chick*

    My coworker’s mother decided it was a good idea to join us for drinks at our holidays party. She the proceeded to tell me how long it took her son to find a job, how it was not what he wanted to do or was good at, and how his lack of self confidence was due to the way his father treated him for most of his life. I wished I would have heard what she later on told our CEO.

  66. Alleira*

    My former law firm had an annual Christmas luncheon at a nice restaurant. Our tradition was to then adjourn to a total dive bar (lawyers, paralegals, assistants, and office staff) and drink/play pool/socialize throughout the afternoon. We had an HR manager (yes! seriously!) whom I’ll call Jane.

    Jane was a terrible HR manager. She would talk about employees’ medical issues, gossip about employees, and played clear favorites. She also had a very odd home life, which frequently affected her at the office. She was an older woman (late 50s) and quite overweight, and she regularly wore very revealing clothing, especially as it pertains to cleavage.

    We’re at the luncheon. Jane has been drinking since she arrived at the restaurant, which was about 30 minutes before anyone else arrived. We’re all sitting together at a long table when someone mentions something about cleavage as a joke. Jane picks up one of those thick, squat Christmas candles (unlit), squeezes her elbows to her boots, places the candle between them, and cries out, “Cleavage?! You want to see some cleavage?” We all kind of ignore this, and lunch continues.

    Later we’re at the dive bar post-luncheon. We’re not drunk, but we’re not exactly sober either. I’m talking to another attorney about a trial we had just won. Jane comes over and insinuates herself between us, puts her arm around both of us, pulls us in close, and says, “[Other attorney], you know that Alleira and I are in love with you, right? Maybe we could share you as a Christmas gift.” The other attorney and I share a look of abject horror, and I just walk away and let him deal with it.

    She wasn’t terminated until about two years later, which just goes to show how totally dysfunctional that law firm was!

  67. Chriama*

    Can I just say that I hate white elephant gift swaps at work? We’re doing one now that’s “optional” (participation strongly encouraged) and I’m feeling really uncomfortable. The budget is $25 which sounds like a serious amount, but then I hear some people saying it’s ok to be silly or bring something worth $15-20. We have a lot of people from other countries who don’t know how this works, and I’ve been drafted into the organizing committee so I have to go around and explain it to them and “encourage” them to participate. I don’t want to participate because I don’t want to bring a $25 gift card or box of chocolate and get a bottle of wine (I don’t drink) or a jumbo pack of bubble gum, and I don’t want to cajole other people to participate since it’s also a potluck so people will be out like $40 overall (including the cost of ingredients/store-bought food) for a work Christmas party. It’s ironic that planning this holiday event is making me feel less than cheery :'(

  68. Drewby*

    At a previous job, we had our Christmas party at a nearby Italian restaurant that was to be buffet style. We knew the restaurant’s reputation and were looking forward to going. However, the owner of my company is the type that could never be satisfied at any restaurant he goes to. He had a reputation for sending plates of food back several times (I’ve seen this happen on business trips) and there were rumors in our company that he has been banned from several restaurants for being a general pain in the ass because of this.

    So anyway, during our Christmas dinner, the trays were being brought out by the waitstaff and placed on warmers. The owner was the first to get up and examine all the food and immediately threw a hissy-fit because he didn’t think the quality was up to par. The restaurant manager and head server had the “pleasure” of dealing with him while he berated the quality of the food that the rest of us felt was fine. Embarrassing as this was for us to watch, we thought they were going to return the trays to the kitchen and bring us a fresh batch of food. Nope. Instead, he complained about the food and then demanded they make HIM a special plate that he could eat. So not only does he embarrass his employees by throwing a tantrum about what he thinks is poor-quality, he demands that he gets a specially-prepared meal for himself because what we’re being served is good enough for us rank-and-file.

    Towards the end of the night, I apologized to the head waitress for having to put up with him. Her response, “Hey, I can deal with him, or I can deal with children. Right now, both are neck and neck.”

    1. Chriama*

      Does he realise that they probably spit in his food when he sends it back so many times? I don’t condone the practice (also I’m not sure if it’s only urban legend), but I feel like if your aim is to have food of a certain “standard” you should be a little more polite to the people who are preparing it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Any of us who has worked in a restaurant know that you don’t want to be the asshat if you want food that is not sabotaged. Restaurant workers are poorly paid and retaliation is one of their few pleasures.

      2. Karowen*

        Definitely not an urban legend. (I’ve never done it, but had coworkers who have.) Also, remember to be nice to the people on the intercom at your favorite drive-thru.

  69. Cath in Canada*

    There were several famous Christmas party stories at the place where I worked in Scotland lo these many years ago. My favourite happened before my time: the senior Professor who no-one had seen for a while was located riding the stair lift up and down the stairs to the library, drinking beer and giggling like a maniac. The craziest thing I saw myself was when I walked into the ladies’ bathroom to find that one of the two stalls was being used for a romantic interlude. I ran straight back out and tried again about half an hour later; same story (luckily there were other loos upstairs).

  70. Purr purr purr*

    My office a few years back was a seismic boat. One day we went into port and found that the town had an ice rink in the central square so naturally, after consuming a few alcoholic holiday drinks, we decided that the ice rink would be a good idea. It ended with a colleague attempting a half-pipe stunt and knocking himself out cold and then being carted off to hospital. It wasn’t funny at the time but once he was back on the boat and totally OK, we had a good laugh about how stupid he was.

  71. Definitely Anonymous*

    My female boss’s husband brought a blow up doll (yes, *that* kind of blow up doll) to our office Christmas party gift exchange.

    She thought it was funny – isn’t he just a hoot?

  72. S from CO*

    In the 1990’s, I worked at a “BIG 6” accounting firm. At the holiday party (which was held in the ballroom of a very nice hotel) after dinner was over, I saw an entry level employee who was very drunk, threw-up and then proceeded to crawl under the table!

  73. pucksmuse*

    Oh so many over the years,

    – the older woman who had worked at the office for more than twenty years and pouted/threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, “FIX!” or “CHEAT!” or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, “I DESERVE this,” and walked away with it. And management never said anything to her, because she was “old and couldn’t help the way she was.”

    -same office, same annual dinner – uber boss would do a big end of the year speech praising and thanking one department to the skies, talking about how the company couldn’t function without them. But did not say one word about any other department, including mine. Didn’t even acknowledge that we were in the room. I attended two years, hoping that maybe the first year was an oversight, but after the repeated “one department is super awesome and essential, no one else exists” speech, I gave up and declined all future Christmas dinners….

    … which meant I missed the dinner where a department head A took umbrage with another department head B’s assessment of A’s performance that year and knocked B into a table full of desserts. Uber boss tried to discipline A, but A insisted B tripped, muddling the process.

    -different office, wine gets served at the fancy holiday dinner held at the boss’s house. Coworkers husband takes it upon himself to get rip snorting drunk and tell the boss off for all the wrongs done to coworker. The problem? None of those things actually happened. Apparently, coworker would go home and tell her husband a bunch of sob stories about fictional incidents at the office, to get sympathy about her horrible day. She quit soon after.

    -boss at another job was basically a megalomaniacal super villain for the whole year, and then would turn super-nice and generous around Christmas. For the entire month of December, we were showered with gifts and bonuses and catered meals and cookie trays in the break room. It felt like a little kid giving you a card drawn in crayon that said, “I’m sowwy I was a jerk all year.”

    1. Jaye*

      #1 is hilarious then #4.

      I’ve declined the offer to attend my office holiday party that is next week. I am too much of an introvert to spend more than the required 40 hours with coworkers than what’s already required.

  74. Anon for this*

    During my year in AmeriCorps, the org my friend and I were placed at gave us the option to work at the holiday party instead of attending. We felt like we had to, and we spent the entire evening clearing dishes, setting up/breaking down tables + chairs, and I got to deliver water to someone (an employee, didn’t know who it was) who was barfing in the ladies room because she was wasted. We were paid something like $50-75, which was a ton of money, because AmeriCorps pays $7.35/hr.

    1. CTO*

      That sucks. The swankiest holiday party I’ve ever been to was during my AmeriCorps year! It’s not like the organization misused money on ridiculously fancy things, but they did believe in having a nice holiday party (dinner at a restaurant, drink tickets, and everyone got to bring a guest) to thank their employees.

  75. Avalonian*

    I missed last year’s company party at a swanky restaurant (I had a previous commitment), but am planning to go this year. The party is usually at a restaurant/bar within walking distance……..but they haven’t announced the location yet. I don’t think the boss has picked a place. The party is in two weeks and I have a feeling we’re going to end up having it in a conference room.

  76. Lio*

    A few months into a retail job, I was invited to join in a secret santa party that a few mangers were planning for their staff. The staff were spread out over various locations, and since I was new, I hadn’t met most of them and vice versa, but I knew of them from talking to my co-workers for worked in the same location as me since a lot of the staff were friends.

    Anyway the day of the party, I got the feeling something was going down with my secret santa, people were behaving weirdly around me and someone who wasn’t going told me not to be shocked when I get my present. So my mind immediately jumps to ‘uh-oh getting a sex toy’ but alright, whatever, and I was all ready to laugh it off when I opened it.

    Come present exchanging time, it’s my turn to receive the gift and everybody is watching. My secret santa presents me the gift and it’s this tiny ass package that most definitely not a dildo unless it’s one of a micro penis and now I’m really wondering what on earth my gift is. I tear off the wrapping and it’s a jewelry box. Oh my God. I remember what my co-worker tells me earlier and when I open the box to reveal a diamond necklace, my first thought is: Thank god it’s not a ring.

    My second thought is: Oh my god that costs a hundred bucks. And I know, because there was an advertisement for the very same necklace on the front page of the newspaper that morning. And I’m freaking out because what the hell? This is the very first time I’ve met the dude, why is he giving me a diamond necklace? We’re in our early 20s and making not a lot of cash, and he spent $100+ on me! (Secret santa limit was $20) Does he have a weird crush on me? What’s going on here?

    Anyway sometime later I got the whole story. Turns out my secret santa actually did want to get me a sex toy, but a manager talked him out of it, pointing out it’d be in bad taste. And I think some people may have guilt tripped him into buying me something expensive to make up for his shitty decision. All in all though, I think I’d have preferred the dildo.

  77. Pat*

    Ooo some of the comments above reminded me of the time my boss wanted to do a small christmas dinner at a restaurant for the full time staff. Then he decided to invite the part-timers for the dinner too. Thing is, a bunch of our part-timers are Muslim, and one of them is very strict about only eating at halal certified restaurants.

    I bring that up with my boss and he’s alright with this, and tells me to come up with suggestions on places to go. I talk with that part-timer, we come up with a list of places and when I talk to my boss again, well I guess he didn’t like it since he canceled the dinner and I heard from the other employees that he was complaining about how troublesome it was to do a nice thing.

    He was a dick when it came to gifts anyway. One Chinese New Year (it’s still a weird holiday story I promise!), he presented me with an ang pow/red packet and inside was a voucher for one free admission to a movie theater. The movie theater where his spouse worked at in a high ranking management position. And it was expired to boot.

    Now, I don’t expect management to give out ang pows, it’s nice and appreciated but I’m not going to think badly of management if they don’t give any. But his ‘ang pow’ really left me stunned and it was made worse by the fact that my former boss would give his staff $50-100 (I was still in the same company, I just switched departments) and a random customer had popped in earlier and given all the staff working that day an ang pow.

    A bit later he came back and gave me a proper ang pow and said he’d been joking earlier of course, thanks to another of his employees who told him what a horrible thing it was to do.

    1. Anon in Texas*

      I thought the whole point of red envelopes was that whatever inside the envelope was brand new! (like crisp bills, things like that). Not an expired movie ticket….

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Back when I got hongbao (my family gives it at Chinese New Year until you’re married), the bills were sometimes crisp, sometimes used. It never occurred to me to care :)

  78. Alex*

    Last year was ridiculous. My office is a small, sales start-up, relatively young, and things have always been pretty crazy at Xmas parties. People get sex toys, gag gifts, etc. and it is all in good fun (I got thongs last year, for example…)

    To give a bit of background, last year we got a new, young, cute receptionist. Unfortunately, soon after she joined it became obvious that she was incapable of the job and a lot of people wanted her gone. Then, all of the sudden, one of the managers started protecting her a bit…eventually it came out that they were dating. (This manager is a notorious horndog and has apparently done this at many previous firms). Of course, they kept it “secret.” By which I mean- everyone knew. Because they would arrive together, leave together, she would walk by his desk and flirt with him, and you’d catch them out at lunch together. That in particular was always awkward, because they would see you and freeze like a deer in the headlights, jump apart, and avoid looking at one another.

    About 6 months of this go by, and it is such an open secret that I think everyone started to assume they meant it to be open.
    For the Secret Santa, the receptionist opens up her present and it was a Thai Cookbook. The manager had lived in Thailand, so it was obvious what it was referencing. It was meant as sort of a nudge-nudge, we all know, you can be open about it!
    She burst into tears and hid in the bathroom for the rest of the night.

    She then gave her notice, because she decided that she was madly in love and they were getting married and it was not worth the office romance drama.

    A couple weeks after that he cheated on her and they broke up… Poor thing.

  79. kacey*

    One of my jobs used to have a nice Christmas party, always on a Friday. Initially we would go to a restaurant for 1pm lunch. It was 1-3, there were some games, prizes, and an OK gift (sometimes it was bad like once we got a picture frame with the company logo, but other times we got a mug or hot cocoa or something). THE BEST GIFT? We got to go home at 3! Then they started having it in our event room at the office. This was still nice, it was catered and again, WE GOT TO GO HOME AT 3.

    Then we got a new CEO and they were like ugh this Christmas party is lame and changed it to Friday night at a hotel. I don’t mean to be a B, but I don’t want to give up my Friday to spend it with co-workers. I actually had someone say to me “Well I guess free booze and food means more to me than it does to you.” Um, yes. Particularly since this was in the burbs with no public transit. I wasn’t about to drink a lot, and also I prefer to drink with my own friends, not my co-workers (some of whom were and are friends, but I don’t want to get wasted at a company party and drive home, sorry).

    I never went and was chastised, labeled not a team player, and eventually fired.

    I still long for the days when we could just go home at 3 after a nice lunch :(

    My mom is a nurse and every December their Christmas party is an entire weekend in the city we live in. They take them out to nice stuff, but ugh an entire weekend with co-workers in a hotel where you share rooms AND BEDS? I’d hate it. They all hate it! I’d rather have the thousands spent on that weekend as a bonus!

  80. anonintheuk*

    My boss and I spent an evening trying to sober up Colleague A. Colleague A had had an eye for Colleague B all year, and had seemingly not noticed that Colleague B was of an incompatible sexual orientation. When Colleague B did the ‘I’m flattered but…’ speech, Colleague A burst into tears.

  81. Lisa*

    Last year’s Secret Santa exchange became a middle school flashback nightmare. One of our employees, who was very strapped for cash, put together a cookbook for her recipient, who loves to cook. She took pictures, asked some employees who also love to cook for recipes, made a cute binder with blank pages to add to it. Great idea, everyone loved it. Except her manager, who said all year she hated to cook and never brought in a homemade item. This manager lost her mind- called each person into her office to cry and scream about how she was left deliberately left out, no one likes her, she does so much for her staff. By the end of the day everyone was in tears- the recipient, the gift giver, the other co-workers who were angry & upset.

    On the up side this was the last straw with that manager and she was let go two weeks later.

        1. Lisa*

          Exactly to both questions. The manager was over the top that she was not asked to for a recipe, but of 30 people in the office only 7 or 8 were, and those were the ones who love to cook and always bring some yummy homemade food.

  82. SeekingNewJobASAP*

    My (temporary, thank god) job has an annual White Elephant gift exchange. I felt neutral-to-positive about this until permanent employees started reminiscing about past gifts, which included fuzzy handcuffs, a blow-up doll, and bottles of liquor (?!?!). Here I was planning to buy a goofy as-seen-on-TV contraption or a jumbo sticker book. I’m almost never absent, but I’ll be calling in sick on gift exchange day.

  83. chump with a degree*

    This is so mild in comparison, but more than 30 years ago, I had moved out on my own to a nasty little apartment. I was very happy. I lost weight due to having to do all the cooking for myself-and I was especially fond of Noodles Romanoff or Mixed veg for dinner.

    At our gift swap, a friend of mine gave me a frozen steak, nicely wrapped, and explained to the office that she thought I had not been eating enough meat.

    I will never forget that present, and it was a great steak.

  84. Blue Anne*

    I’ve recently started a new job, which has an opt-in Secret Santa. Fine by me! But…

    Apparently one of the women a few years ahead of me once received a box of chocolate penises as her secret santa present.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      My mum once got a box of jelly penises. People were taking their presents for Christmas Day instead of opening them there and then, but Mum didn’t dare open hers in front of my very conservative grandad as she suspected someone might have pulled something like that.

  85. Mixed chic*

    Seems I always end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to office gift exchanges/secret santa.

    Last years (secret santa) Govt office: The limit was $20 and each employee was to list 4 items he/she wanted (person buying could select one of the items off the list) . We were not allowed to ask for gift cards: So this is my list 1. Hand cream/lotion 2. Candle 3. Bottle of wine 4. compact umbrella.
    Well my secret santa decides not to purchase anything I listed on my wish list. She gave me a torn bag, crumpled tissue paper with a faded/crumpled box of caress soap and body wash that looked as it was given to her and she re-gifted it. The problem was each participant was to open his/her gift in front of everyone. Everyone was happy with there gifts including my secret santa. When I opened my gift I was like is this a joke?…..Everyone was laughing at me about the soap and even till this day they laugh at me. Well I was offended and said this