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.

              Busted.

              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…..no 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*

          Really.

          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*

          A BIG CAUTION ON THE VISA CARDS.

          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 FredAndFriends.com.

    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 amazon.com 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.