tell us your strangest office holiday stories

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

In the spirit of the season, I want to hear about office holiday-related debacles. Did a coworker throw a tantrum when she didn’t win a raffle? Has your party planning meeting ended in tears multiple years in a row? Were you given a nude, spray-painted gold Barbie? 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. And to get us started, here are some of my favorites that people have contributed in years past:

“A woman who had worked at our office for more than twenty years pouted and threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, ‘FIX!”’ or ‘CHEAT!’ or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, ‘I DESERVE this,’ and walked away with it.”

“The CEO threw an evening holiday party at his house. The A/P director drank too much and threw up shrimp cocktail on the white shag carpet. The plant manager got into a screaming fight with his wife in the driveway. The chemist was found making out with the loading dock supervisor, who was about 30 years her senior and more importantly not her husband. And I accidentally walked in on the sales director peeing in the unlocked hallway bathroom (which I thought was the coat closet; we were both surprised). The president himself got completely hammered and went around telling people totally inappropriate stories, gave me a giant bear hug that lasted a little too long, and broke the sliding door to his patio.”

“A young coworker overindulged in alcohol and somehow managed to miss that the company was offering a car service to help folks get home safely. He proceeded to wander drunkenly through the city trying to make it home, but ended up running into some bad sorts trying to accost him. In trying to escape, he got completely banged up – cuts, bruises, blood, and filthy, torn clothing. At this point, he was so disoriented that he wasn’t not sure how to get home, so he decided to lay down in back of pickup truck parked on the street (this was December, so it was probably 40 degrees outside). An hour or two later, the truck owner spotted him and chased him off. He forgot his bag, which had his MetroCard, so he decided to go back to work and sleep it off under his desk. Meanwhile, the truck owner sees the nice bag left behind and thinks it was stolen, so he calls the cops, who then go to the address…where the young coworker lives with a now panic-stricken mother. The panic doesn’t abate when no one at work has seen him for hours…until he stumbles out from his desk around 11 a.m.”

“Our Christmas party planning (once again) ended in tears over an argument about whether body-part-shaped gummy candy was an appropriate table decoration. It was apparently Halloween candy (think bloody zombie arms and legs).

For reasons which I dare not know, there is a small contingent of people in my department who all have strong personalities, strong opinions, and no chill. Everyone hates each other, but they all must be on the various party planning committees. Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.”

{ 1,240 comments… read them below }

  1. SpiderLadyCEO*

    My favorite will always be the teetotaling boss who got so drunk she flashed the city, and froze her boobs to the railing in the process.

        1. Spooky*

          I had completely forgotten about that. It’s actually kind of sad in context. :(

          But last year’s “what are we going to do about my situation?” will always be a classic.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

        My thought as well. My mom’s in the program, and it would be devastating to her to lose her sobriety.

      2. Anon druggie*

        It IS kinda sad but in recovery, you really have to have a sense of humor and laugh at this kind of stuff. Anything that makes for a good story is always relished. Levity makes for good sobriety and now she has a fantastic story to tell when she goes back to meetings.

        1. SallytooShort*

          I totally agree with you. Being able to accept that sometimes you slip and see the humor in it rather than as a total failure of your whole recover process is absolutely important. But, sadly, from the rest of the letter it seemed like she took her recovery very, very seriously and probably doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about it. :/ (Seriously as in in a serious manner. Not that she cares about it more or it’s more important to her than those who can see the humor.)

          1. Artemesia*

            But two of her female colleagues came to her rescue and did their best to ‘shield her modesty’ — which was kind of nice.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            “I need to stop drinking because last time I drank I froze my boob to a handrail” seems pretty compelling to me, but my sense of humor is known to be dark.

      1. Annony for this*

        My kid got his tongue stuck (a la Christmas Story and Dum and Dumber) at a ski gondola scenic overlook thing and it was a nasty mess to look at. I am talking blood folks, it was gross.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      I remember that one. I shared it with some of my coworkers.

      “Seeing her two (female!) HR admins blowing on her boob to release it whilst shielding her modesty with scarves is a sight that will never leave me.”


      1. NorthernSoutherner*

        Wouldn’t hot water release them? Or would that just cause more ice? I’m seriously asking…

  2. Margarete*

    Several years ago my (now former) employer had open seating at the holiday dinner and dance: sit wherever you like. One of the interns and her plus one picked a table close to the front, by the podium, and wasn’t too familiar with any of the other people seated at the table, but she and her guest were still friendly and chatting with everyone. Eventually, when the event got underway, the emcee announced that the CEO would be giving a few words. The intern mentioned to her guest that she wasn’t sure what the CEO even looked like – it was a big company, and as an intern, she knew the name but hadn’t interacted with any C-levels to know them by face.

    Then the guy seated next to her stood up and walked towards the podium.

    After that the CEO started inviting all the interns out at the beginning of their work terms for lunch, to get to know them.

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      That ended a lot better than I thought it was going to! I’d still be mortified as the intern, but it looks like it turned out okay.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Heck, this is downright inspiring as an example of “Just be polite to everyone and don’t trashtalk people to strangers” as the baseline for life events.

    2. Leatherwings*

      Aww that’s exactly the sort of innocent and understandable mistake I would’ve made as an intern. And good on the CEO for making changes afterwards!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exactly–that was really smart of him. I can see how this would happen in a big company; you often don’t have any interaction with executives at the lower level.

        1. Margarete*

          Something similar happened earlier in that semester with another intern asking a C-Level named Fergus if he was Fergus, and the guy said no, as a joke – I think between the two cases, although both interns handled the situations quite well (though they were, understandably, mortified), it made it clear that there was a big disconnect. In addition, I noticed a number of interns really struggled to talk to higher level staff because they were intimidated, so getting to know them over a relaxed lunch really helped them learn how to talk to people much higher up the food chain.

      2. Midge*

        Agreed! I had a weird experience with my non-profit’s director when I first joined and he did not take it as a cue to change his behavior at all. I was staffing an event where our constituent attendees got to have a cool interactive experience. Some high level staff members were attending as well. I had been working there about a month. I knew who the director was, and had been impressed at how he seemed to know everyone’s names during the Q and A at the staff meetings.

        So when he walked by my station, I put on a big smile and asked if he wanted to do the interactive experience. He gave me this puzzled look and said, “I work here.” I could have died of embarrassment! I think I actually replied, “Yes, I know.”

        Anyway, he never learned my name in the three years I worked there. Even though I filled in for one of the executive assistants on a key function whenever she was out on vacation. Turns out only the heavy hitters asked questions at the staff meetings, so it was never really the case that he knew everyone’s name.

        1. Minister of Snark*

          A few jobs ago, I happened to look a lot like another lady in a different department who had worked for the company for a few years. (Same body shape, same hair color and length, somewhat similar facial features.) I got mistaken for her often for the first few months, but eventually most of our coworkers figured out who was who.

          A week into my employment, the “Big Boss” came up to me to ask me a question related to this other lady’s work. I said, “I’m sorry, sir, I’m not assigned that particularly case. Similar Looking Coworker is handling that. I’m My Name. I’ve worked for Completely Different Department for about a week.” He looked sort of perturbed, but didn’t apologize for his mistake and sort of stalked off like he was pissed I didn’t just memorize Similar Looking Coworker’s caseload just in case he asked.

          I thought, well, he’ll probably remember my name from here out. NOPE. He made this mistake several more times throughout the course of my employment. And each time, looked super annoyed that I politely corrected him instead of just being Similar Looking Coworker. He actually sent out an email about how annoying it was that the staff had an attitude of “That’s not my job” instead of just being willing to work on assignments not specifically given to them.

          Or, you know, the Boss could take the time to learn people’s names.

          1. 2 Cents*

            My friend had a similar name to someone else on staff at her job. The Big Boss came around one day to ask her to do something. He called her by Other Woman’s name. She said she’d do what he asked as soon as he learned her name. (They’d been working in a small office for about 5 years at that point, so there was no reason he shouldn’t have known her name.)

          2. I See Real People*

            This reminds me of a doctor’s wife from years ago who would say “It’s nice to meet you” every.single.time. she met one of us from the department. I worked there for three years. We saw her four or five times per year. She was a fairly young woman too, so no chance of organic memory failing.

              1. Bagpuss*

                Thank you. I have moderate face-blindness.

                It takes me around 6 months of working with someone on a daily basis before I can recognise them out-of-context (e.g. meeting them in the street / while shopping) and even then, something like a change of hair style can throw me completely. Someone I saw 4 or 5 times a year? There is virtually no chance whatsoever I would be able to recognise them.

                (I once failed to recognise my own sister, when I went to meet her at the station, and she hadn’t mentioned to me that she’d dyed her hair)

                I do make a point of letting new employees know and specifically telling them that if I appear to ignore them it’s not intentional and I apologise in advance, but there isn’t anything I can actually do to change it.

                1. Misc*

                  > I once failed to recognise my own sister, when I went to meet her at the station, and she hadn’t mentioned to me that she’d dyed her hair

                  I frequently fail to recognise my brother when he does whacky things like grow a beard or shave a beard or get a haircut. Flatmates have also freaked me out by getting a trim. My dad left me with a traumatic/confused memory as a child by shaving his beard and leaving me wondering for years who the random stranger who walked downstairs and said hi like he knew me was. Fortunately context helps a lot and I’m really good at faking being friendly, but I always feel like I’m talking to a stranger…

              2. Bobbin Uffgood*

                I literally read an article once about a woman who was face blind whose husband was a doctor

              3. Misc*

                One of my favourite things about library jobs was how everyone had to give me their ID cards if they wanted help :D I just don’t recognise people on sight (probably ADHD related, I have zero recall so take a while to dredge up context clues). Hypocritically, I refused to wear a name badge… (I was so used to not knowing who people were I just felt to weird and vulnerable having people both a) able to recognise ME and b) knowing my name. I would just be totally confused when they used my name and spent the first half of the conversation trying to figure out how I knew them. If EVERYONE has a name badge, I am fine with that).

                In fact I once mixed up our neighbouring department’s local manager (worked on site, different organisation entirely) with my Boss of Bosses in charge of my entire department (who normally worked elsewhere but I encountered occasionally over the years). So when he walked up and asked for my manager I was all non-respectful* and matter of fact and didn’t jump up immediately to escort him over because I had actual customers to deal with, and I could tell he was kind of put off but figured he was just in a hurry or something… until I mentioned ‘so and so’ was here to a coworker and they went ‘uh… actually that was Boss’.

                I think that’s one reason he didn’t like me much, although HE apparently went around telling people I was a (implied overpaid) unqualified casual worker when I had two degrees, was permanent staff who had been there longer than him, and was working on postgrad. After 3 years on the job and my qualifications listed online in the staff database. So I don’t feel bad about not recognising him – it probably would have lost me my job eventually (there was a lot of Restructuring going on) but I got a way better job offer and moved on.

                *in the ‘respect my Authority’ way of older white men who jumped into their positions based on being white business men hired to Save Money And Modernize rather than having actually having any experience in working in libraries at all.

                1. Polaris*

                  Dammit every single time someone mentions a problem they have as a result of ADHD I find myself going “hey, that sounds like me”.

              4. Let the Hotties Hit the Floor*

                I always thought it would be a great explanation for Lois Lane not recognizing Clark Kent as Superman because she has face blindness, and the glasses are part of how she knows who he is

            1. Specialk9*

              Sadly, many of us young whipper snappers have terrible memories too. I often flounder to remember the names of period I know, really like, and have given professional recommendations to. I also struggle with the names of appliances. Lots of reasons for not remembering your names other than being a stone cold arse.

            2. Little Twelvetoes*

              Conan O’Brien always says, “Good to see you.” so that it won’t sound weird if he forgot that he has met them before.

    3. Grad student*

      I had a similar (but milder) experience at a conference! In the opening session, the presenter asked us all to turn to a person we ideally didn’t know and discuss various prompts (what brought you here, what’s your favorite part of this type of advocacy, etc.–it was a regional conference for a national lobbying organization). To my right was the person hosting me at this conference whom I’d met the previous night, so I turned to my left to the last person in the row. She was kind and confident and we had a lovely discussion! At the end of the session, after the presenter did some wrap-up and went through the agenda for the day, including a keynote speech in the afternoon, the woman and I exchanged “nice to meet you”s, and since we hadn’t yet exchanged names, I introduced myself and asked hers. She replied by saying she was the keynote speaker!

      1. Artemesia*

        I have been a keynoter speaker many times and usually attend the lunch or other activities and interact with the participants as it gives me a few points of contact for the speech. If I want to use local examples, I have picked up a few by the time of the speech by chatting to the participants.

        1. Grad student*

          To be clear, I think it’s wonderful that she did, too (and I was grateful for the opportunity to chat with her)! I was the one left a little embarrassed by my obliviousness.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Not as embarrassing as the one that went around Twitter recently, where a guy tried to pick up a woman at a conference by saying he could introduce her to the keynote speaker.

            She was the keynote speaker.

    4. Murphy*

      I don’t blame the intern for that at all! (Not saying that you’re doing so either.) Obviously I would be mortified if I were her, but that’s such an understandable thing!

    5. Snark*

      Dear Santa:

      I’ve been a very good girl this year and all I want is a hole to crawl into forever. I love you!


    6. CatCat*

      I’m sure it felt awkward for the intern at the time (I would have wanted to melt into the floor!), but the outcome is so nice.

    7. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I did something similar in college. I worked in the college bookstore, which gave out a discount to all employees. I was ringing up a gentleman and asked if he worked at the college. He said yes with a puzzled look, I finished the transaction, and he walked away. My coworker who was hovering near by had to tell me it was the college president. I remarked that since I had been there for 4 years and it was a small college, maybe he needed to mingle with the students more.

      1. Brett*

        Back in the early 90’s, I was at the University of Chicago where our president was one of the faculty members, Hanna Gray. One winter day while walking through the quads with another first-year, we heard a very brusk “Hello!” right behind me. Whoever it was had snuck up behind us and said hello that way on purpose.

        It was Hanna Gray! She just smiled and kept walking past us. We then watched us she walked up behind another pair of students and did the same thing. Turns out that was just her silly thing, to sneak up on students on the quad and say hello to them.

      2. Christmas Carol*

        At my college the majority of students wouldn’t have recognized the president if they ran over them with their bicycle, but if you didn’t recognize the football coach……….

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          This reminds me of when I worked a large university (I think it’s the other one in I think the same state). I had a secretarial job straight out of college, because hey, job. My biggest nightmare work task is answering the phones, but there I was, in the Dean’s office. So I was extra careful taking messages, “can you spell that name please?” A second of silence and the caller carefully spelled out the name of her boss and I carefully wrote it down and repeated it back. Later, I handed the note to the Dean who said, “I wonder why the president is calling me.”
          Yup. No idea.

      3. Tad Cooper*

        My high school was the same way. Most would not know what the principal looked like until their junior or senior year. He was later fired (years after I graduated) for having porn on his school computer…so I guess that explains why no one ever saw him.

        1. MerelyMe*

          The principal in office when I was in high school (in New England) was never seen once the weather got cold. We decided he spent the winter hibernating in his office. The year after I graduated, there was a new principal who seems to have dragged the school kicking and screaming into the 20th century, which is only fair because it was the 20th century at the time.

        2. As Close As Breakfast*

          My senior year of high school we got a new principal. I couldn’t come up with an accurate description of the principal for my first 3 years, even for one million dollars. But I’ll never forget the new one. Because she looked EXACTLY like the principal on the TV show Daria. (This was in the late 90’s, so totally relevant) It was like someone brought the animated character to life with the same glasses, haircut, wardrobe, etc. and dropped her down in the middle of my high school.

          1. Julia*

            My high school principal looked oddly similar to the one in Gilmore Girls, which is weird because I’m from a different continent.

      4. Presidential Suite*

        Yeah, our president is like that. He seems to be under the impression that he’s a really great communicator and has a real rapport with the staff and students.

        No. No one has a clue. I recognise him because I make it my business to remember this stuff, but I doubt the students could pick him out of a line up and half his staff find it hard because he’s never around.

        In fact his entire leadership team is like a line up. “Which of the old gray white men mugged you for your tuition, freshman?”

    8. selina kyle*

      The stress I felt expecting this to end in bad second-hand embarrassment was a lot. I’m glad it seems to have ended well! And what a sweet initiative for the CEO to take on afterwards.

    9. Bea*

      I’m so happy the CEO took that as “I need to be visible to everyone”! Embarrassing for the moment but not anything to want to die over, especially when you’re an intern.

    10. Mary*

      Sixth week of my new job, someone came into our office and I said, “sorry, I’m Mary, and you are…?” She looked very surprised as said, “I’m Janet,” and fortunately that’s when I realised she was the CEO.

    11. Nic*

      Had something similar with a new hire class when I worked for Big Video Game Company. BVGC was very relaxed, and even the higher ups wore casual clothes basically all the time.

      One day a trainee is at the door, and someone tries to piggyback on her badge swipe. She stops him, tells him that she doesn’t know him, and so cannot allow him in. It was the President. He pulled out an ID and thanked her for being so cautious. It was awesome!

    1. Cookie D'Oh*

      Same! My office is so boring. We have not holiday celebrations at all so I’m fascinated by these stories.

      1. Robin*

        My worst Holiday Party – I was Ms. Claus to Santa. Someone thought it would be nice if Ms. Claus was the gift to go around. Santa was not pleased. The person who thought of this was a lech. I was 19 years old to his approx 50 year old lech. He was stoned or drunk (can’t recall which) and thought a hot babe would make a good office party gift. This was a government holiday party in the 1980s (1980 to be specific)

        1. Lissa*

          So….I hesitate to even ask this…but what did he mean for you to DO as the “office party gift”? Strip? Give lapdances? Was everyone else male? I have so many questions I don’t think I want the answers to…

        2. Specialk9*

          I don’t understand this story. I mean, I get that it’s hugely skeevy, but what does being a gift to an office mean?

          1. Sarah M*

            Robin would have to clarify here,but in my experience that would have been an attempt at a double-entendre at my expense, for the enjoyment of the male employees, as in : “Hee, Hee, Sarah M is now going to perform sexual favors for you all!” Wink wink, nudge nudge. Ha ha, indeed.

            1. Specialk9*

              So the gift is to make skeevy comments about a young woman. Wow.

              I often reflect on that picture of grown men and women screaming at tiny little Ruby Bridges, over segregation. Many of those people are still around. It makes a lot of things make sense.

              1. Specialk9*

                Uh, sorry, mind skipped some steps. People in the old days did horrible stuff that they thought was normal. Like dehumanizing women because of a power imbalance that they relished, and like terrifying a tiny little girl because of having terrible hearts. I’m so glad I live today, even as awful as today is.

                1. Sarah M*

                  Yeah, and you had to smile (grimace) and go along with it, or else you’d be labeled –
                  best case scenario – “humorless” and “difficult to work with”. And that was literally the best case scenario.

  3. Myrin*

    For some reason, the part that I find funniest of all of these is #2’s “(which I thought was the coat closet; we were both surprised)” – the delivery is spot-on somehow.

      1. Grad student*

        Somehow I read it too fast and thought the sales director was peeing in a closet! Glad that wasn’t the case–and agreed the delivery was perfect despite my misinterpretation.

        1. Anon non non*

          A friend of mine did that when she was younger. She had gone out with a friend, gotten so drunk that she ended up on her friends couch, and in the middle of the night got up to use the bathroom. She did her business and went back to bed. The next morning her friend got up and discovered a laundry basket of freshly launderered and folded towels had been used as a toilet. They have never discussed the “incident” since that date .

          1. many bells down*

            In college once, I woke up to the sound of someone thrashing around in my closet. I said “What are you doing?!” and a female voice said “Where’s the toilet???” “You’re in my CLOSET!”

            My roommates had been having a little party and one of the guests got drunk enough that she walked PAST the bathroom and somehow ended up in my closet.

            1. Alli525*

              Once upon a time, I had an ensuite bathroom in my apartment, and the other bathroom was on the other end of the apartment and not an ensuite. I once woke up and discovered that my roommate’s guests from the night before had not only wandered into my bedroom (instead of the other bathroom), but they’d turned the wrong direction in my bedroom… so instead of puking in the ensuite bathroom, they puked next to my bed. In an oddly perfect circle. And then covered it up with an empty box and left.

              Needless to say, I gave a talking-to to my roommate about leaving strange dudes unattended in our apartment.

            2. MashaKasha*

              If we are talking college, we once invited three guys to our all-night holiday party that we’d just met a few days ago, and barely knew. They all got drunk beyond belief. One turned out to be an angry drunk. While we were all trying to get him to calm down, his friend, unnoticed by everyone, walked into the bathroom, locked the door, and fell asleep on the toilet. It was a suite, so he locked us out of the only bathroom, for several hours. We had no idea who was in there. Finally had someone kick the door down and found him, still on the toilet, sleeping like a baby.

            3. Merula*

              I am so relieved that other people have similar stories.

              In college during a study abroad, I lived in an apartment with three other women. The bedrooms were all along one side of the hallway (two singles and then a shared room), with the bathroom across the hall from the shared room.

              One morning, one of the women who had the shared room was freaking out because she found poop in a bin she was using to store her purses. What she was convinced happened is that some neighbor kid had snuck in past the doorman, up the stairs, picked the lock to the apartment, walked past the other bedrooms, picked the lock on her room, pooped in her purses, left everything else exactly as it was, picked the locks on the way out to lock them and left.

              She went everywhere with this story. Our RA, the program director, the local police, her parents. And I don’t think a single person believed that was the more likely scenario than “she got drunk and mistook her bin for a toilet”.

              I can’t remember her name. I think of her as “Poops in Purses”.

              Side note: on the last day of the program, the one roommate who was a local made a call to order us taxis. Poops in Purses was like “Are you speaking [local language]?” Seriously. She lived in a place for FOUR MONTHS, attended a program with a language requirement, and couldn’t identify the local language when she heard it.

          2. Arjay*

            On Anna Faris’s podcast, she had a caller whose boyfriend’s sister peed ON her in the middle of the night. They weren’t sleeping in the same bed. Eek!

            1. MashaKasha*

              I am simultaneously dying to know, and really not wanting to know, how that is physically possible for a woman. Did the sister somehow squat on the bed?

            2. Mishakal*

              My best friend had her computer peed on by a drunk guy friend of her roommate. Thankfully the computer still worked since my friend had a computer programming midterm due the following week and it was on her computer.

              1. Rainy*

                I had a friend who destroyed a Macbook Air by going to bed drunk with the macbook open next to the bed. He woke in the middle of the night, rolled over to vomit off the side of the bed (like you do, I guess? ugh, I don’t get that drunk) and vomited straight into the keyboard, killing it instantly.

                Luckily his dissertation was backed up elsewhere, but SERIOUSLY.

                1. Tiny Soprano*

                  My grandmother has a delightful story about my father coming home very drunk as a teenager and mistaking the bamboo pattern wallpaper in the bathroom for actual bamboo. As he held onto it for mid-vom support he managed to rip half of it off the wall.

              2. Nic*

                Reminds me of a party at my exes house in college.

                DrunkDude: *starts to pee on the stove*
                MyEx: Dude WTF are you doing?!?!
                DrunkDude: Naw man, it’s okay. I’ll buy you a new one.

            3. anon for boyfriend's sake*

              My boyfriend once sleepwalked and peed on the kitchen floor. (This was maybe a year ago, and there was some alcohol involved, but he wasn’t drunk at all.) I heard him get up at about 3am and he said he was going to the bathroom but went into the kitchen. I heard what I thought was the faucet running…and then realized it wasn’t the faucet. I ran in and turned on the light and he said “hey, I’m going to the bathroom!” I told him he was in the wrong room and directed him into the bathroom to finish. He had peed in the cat’s water and food bowls so I had to clean it up right away, and I think I cried a little because I was so exhausted and it was so absurd. I told him about it the next morning, and he was mortified and had no recollection of it.

          3. MidwestRoads*

            There’s an oft-told story in my family about how the first time my newly-married parents vacationed with my mom’s family on Cape Cod, my dad went out with my uncles and apparently got rip-roaring drunk. My mom woke up to the sound of my dad peeing in the closet in their room.

          4. Not Australian*

            I shared a room at a media convention with a good friend of mine. Since we were organising the thing, the hotel gave us a very nice suite on the top floor with two bathrooms … and yes, my friend got stupidly drunk, fell out of bed at 2 a.m. and piddled on the floor. End of the friendship, I’m afraid.

          5. Skii*

            When my daughter was 4, she had a bathroom in her room that she didn’t like to use at night (monsters in there, naturally). So she would stumble across the hall to the bathroom in my room. She frequently back feel asleep on the toilet after peeing, so I would listen for her to finish, and then I would go guide her back to her bed. Well, one night, I discovered that she never made it to the toilet. She had just sat on the laundry basket of clean clothes on the floor at the foot of my bed and peed in it. She was snoring with her pants around her ankles when I found her. I woke my husband to tell him what she’d done, but he’s a deep sleeper, and didn’t quite understand. Then he tells me the next day that he dreamed she had peed in the laundry basket. The look on his face when I told him it actually happened was priceless.

          6. Caitlin*

            When my brother was in college, he and some friends lived in an off-campus apartment. One night, they had a party and a friend of theirs slept it off on the couch. When he woke up, he realized he peed on it. He was so embarrassed, he brought over cleaning supplies to help clean up.

    1. Language Student*

      For some reason, #2 reads like a telling of the events during some kind of murder mystery game. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but it’s hilarious.

      1. LizzE*

        Number 2 has always been a favorite of mine due to the eclectic cast of characters involved. This scenario certainly does render itself perfect a murder mystery.

      2. HumbleOnion*

        It reminds me of the 30Rock episode where everyone goes to Kenneth’s party & Kenneth gives them a stern talking to about their behavior the next day.

        1. OriginalYup*

          I’m the one who submitted this story (ages ago), and I can confirm that the actuality of the party was very much like Kenneth’s epic 30 Rock bash. Right down to the “ugh, I don’t wanna go, it’s gonna be so boring” whining beforehand, and Jack Donaghy’s f-ed up hair at the shaming meeting afterwards.

  4. Archie Goodwin*

    Should I be looking forward to the day when I have something to share in one of these threads? Or should I be grateful that I work with sane people?

    Just wondering.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Be grateful. Like ready to run around shouting how grateful you are. Or stop just short of that. :)

    2. Bea*

      I’m grateful to never have these stories! My worst one was taking shots with my supervisor and then playing arcade games with his and the owner’s teenage daughters. They thought it was great since I’m so quiet usually at the office. Nothing crazy just lots of laughter and a good way to wrap up my time there.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Don’t make dares with fate.

      Sure, you think they’re all sane, but next year you’ll be telling how it was all Gladys who melded the flakes of insanity into a capable whole, and she left and now there will NEVER BE PRETZELS AGAIN.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          I…I don’t want to talk about it.

          But my therapist thinks it’s why I developed a fear of llamas, Plexiglass, and string cheese.

    4. Goya*

      Ditto! I’m grateful, yet I feel like I haven’t really lived until I am able to experience something like this in the workplace.

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yeah, I’m sad that the worst office holiday stuff I’ve experienced seems to be the HR woman who had a totally panicked look on her face when the ED led us all in a rousing rendition of jingle bells after lunch was over and we were about to leave for the university winter break. That’s it. Crisis over.

    6. bridget*

      The most awkward thing that happens at my work holiday party is that I’m never sure if I should hug people hello (just that sort of side hug, nothing too personal) even though I see them every freaking day and do not hug them hello. My natural inclination would be no hug, but then people go in for the hug after I do the handshake or vice versa and it’s the worst. (By virtue of this thread existing, it is objectively not the worst).

      The hug or not to hug or handshake or not to handshake dilemma is the bane of my social existence. I don’t have strong feelings either way, I just want the rules to be clear!

      1. Sarah M*

        Hmmmm…. Needs a creepy guy in a trench coat lurking in an underground parking garage. Oh, with a creepy porn name as I.D.

      1. LizzE*

        I am thinking of a Saturday Night Massacre-style game: you start at the top of the org chart, going down the pecking order, asking employees if they are willing to do something unethical and possibly illegal. Winner is the first person who can get an employee to say yes.

    1. Natalie*

      Alone in your office drinking and taking barbiturates, drunk dialing your staff and eating dog biscuits until you pass out.

      [This would be the mid-Watergate scandal version]

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Everyone is white and male except for one extremely limber woman.

      And the centerpiece is a reel-to-reel dictaphone.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Random people announce that this is their “last party” and that the company won’t have Fergus Ferguson to kick around anymore.

        Then show up as usual the next workday.

  5. ChemistryChick*

    My company always does a White Elephant (or whatever your region calls it) exchange at our holiday party. You know, the thing were you pick a number, grab a gift and then people can steal or choose another gift. Nothing too fancy, we have a $10 limit and people stick to that. Usually there’s Starbucks gift cards, candles, lotion, things like that.

    A few years ago, we hired a new employee and this happened at her very first holiday party with us. She chose to pick a gift instead of stealing, so she grabbed one and unwrapped it. Ya’ll, I kid you not, inside this box was a pet rock, a Family Guy iron on patch, and something that looked like a stick you’d put rock candy on. The mood in that room dropped like a lead brick. It was awful. She played it off fairly well, but you could tell she was a little disappointed. If I hadn’t already taken my turn, I would have taken that box from her so she could choose another gift.

        1. Anon non non*

          I remember going to a large family party as a child where this was done. Everyone had brought silly gifts and there was a lot of laughing. One person had brought these beer mugs with some pictures on them (pictures that I now know were of an adult nature, but I was like 8 and had no idea at the time!). My mom let me take her turn and it was a bald cap complete with hair on the side and around the back. I traded it for the mugs and the laughter erupted in the room. I remember thinking “what are they laughing for? The mugs can be used, none of this other stuff can!” It was all joke-y type stuff that I didn’t understand. I brought those mugs home, was really excited to use them the next day and was devastated when my mom told me that we’d been robbed during the night and that she’d only scared them off after they had stolen my mugs.
          So…long story short – silly Yankee Swaps (White Elephants, etc) can be done as long as EVERYONE is in the spirit to be silly.

          1. Lala*

            “we’d been robbed during the night and that she’d only scared them off after they had stolen my mugs.”

            This cracks me up so much.

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              Aww, me too! It’s a charming story, and just reminds me of how innocent we all used to be!

            2. Specialk9*

              I’ve got tears in my eyes from quiet-snerking. That poor mom. A very odd and discriminating robber.

          2. kible*

            wow if my mom had told me we’d been robbed, no matter what was stolen, i’d be super paranoid about ever getting stuff i liked again!

          3. Woman of a Certain Age*

            I wonder if there was something about the mugs that might have been inappropriate, like some kind of vulgar joke that a child might not understand. As a child I remember finding a cigarette case that had a “naughty” limerick printed on it. The case was hidden in the back of her china cabinet.

            1. Specialk9*

              “One person had brought these beer mugs with some pictures on them (pictures that I now know were of an adult nature, but I was like 8 and had no idea at the time!).”

              Yup, dirty pix.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          One place I worked all the gifts had to be a dessert. It was probably the only one I’ve been to where no one was terribly disappointed

        3. Susanne*

          +1. Only if the rules are CLEARLY explained – is this “spend no more than $10 on a gift that could be enjoyed / useful” (such as a Starbucks gift card, mug, candle, etc.) or is this “bring some random piece of junk from your home wrapped gaily, maybe an odd wedding gift that you scratch your head at, the more absurd the merrier.” Don’t mix the two concepts!

          1. Jessica*

            My department mixes the two concepts, but it actually winds up being fun. The expectation is that the presents will be odd, but the occasional actually legit item makes it more fun for the people who don’t really have an interest in silly stuff.

          2. Stone Satellite*

            This was not clearly explained the one time my office did this at OldJob. But it turns out the traffic cone was the absolute most popular gift in the exchange.

        4. dirty santa revenge*

          I despise Dirty Santa exchanges but one of my favorite stories of revenge comes from a mutual friend’s family Christmas. They did Dirty Santa but one of the aunts was especially competitive and made it her mission to steal a gift from one of the nephews in particular, and over years, she went out of her way to constantly target and harass him because it was “so funny” to see him upset when she would take his gift from him. When he tried to sit out, she would call him a sore loser and heckle him more. (She was a very unpleasant woman, I met her once and hated her on sight.)

          So one Christmas, he had enough. They were out on a farm, and like most farms in the area, they had a large array of barn cats. One had passed away and he set the body aside somewhere cold to keep. When time came, he wrapped it up in a box and put it into the exchange, making sure to pick his own box so some innocent didn’t accidentally get it. The aunt couldn’t resist the bait and took it, and of course she mocked him, just like usual. He just waited it out, and after her horror when she opened the box and found the now defrosted dead cat, he told her to never take his goddamn gifts again. Unfortunately, I can’t confirm if she learned anything, or if she was back at it next year.

          1. Former Employee*

            The only thing I hate more than passive/aggressive types who use practical jokes/pranks as a way to “get” other people and then make the victim into some kind of party pooper as in “Can’t you take a joke?” is someone who does that to a kid or anyone in a subordinate role to them.

          2. Candi*

            I am laughing so, so hard at this. Like doubled-over laughing. Well done kid!

            A moment of pity for anyone who ever had to work with this woman, let alone anyone who was related to her.

        5. MRK*

          I was in a Secret Santa once ($15 limit I think) for a school club. I received an American flag puzzle, still in the plastic Walgreens bag. 12 year old me was pretty devastated. I know it isn’t the worst gift, but it screamed “I don’t care!”

          1. Julianne*

            We did Secret Santa in my English class my freshman year of high school. The guy who picked my name immediately announced it to the whole room. Over the week of Secret Santa, he gave me the drawstring from a hoodie, a tin of Altoids with only two Altoids remaining, and – finally – a pack of Starburst.

            In the intervening 17 years,I have never once participated in Secret Santa. Around the holidays, I sometimes idly wonder what became of that guy.

          2. Candi*

            But-but-but Walgreens sells gift bags!!

            My apologies, but that was the first thing I thought of. The still-in-the-plastic-bag just adds to the terrible of the cheap gift.

        1. Specialk9*

          Sometimes actively pursuing the worst gift is the secret joy. It’s so unlikely to get the best.

          1. Specialk9*

            I would love that gift! As would apparently 9/10 of the commentariat, as evidenced by that thread sponsored by PooPourri.

            (It wasn’t actually, but how funny that Alison had to clarify that.)

        2. Mishsmom*

          In defense of shitty gifts, some of us are just shitty gift givers. :) I can’t count the times I thought something would be a cute or fun gift and it fell flat. I am a shitty gift giver. Over the years I have learned to ask others but I get how it can happen. It took years to realize it I kid you not :)

      1. Dlique*

        It’s really a matter of everyone being on the same page. My extended family did this when I was growing up, and it was understood to be entirely silly because most of my family didn’t have money for nice things. Sometimes someone would bring a gift that was actually pretty cool, but it always went over without any drama because nobody took it super seriously. If you ended up with a gift you could actually use, you were lucky – then again, if you ended up with the Disney Pocahontas towel that made it to this exchange every year, you were still kinda lucky.

        But I have come to understand that not everyone is capable of enjoying such a low-brow gift exchange. I got my office to agree to do a White Elephant/Yankee Swap starting last year. (Previously we’d done Secret Santa, but it could be awkward when some of the work study students pulled names of other students who they’d literally never worked with, and also since they’re students, I felt it would be better for everyone if we lowered the bar a little bit and made it more of a game.) One of my full-time colleagues still doesn’t seem to have warmed up to this. Last year she took me aside and tried to convince me to back her up in telling our other colleague we should raise the maximum to $30 per gift, because “you can’t get anything good with $20 anymore.” Thankfully I convinced her not to do that, but then this year she sent out the reminder email and ‘accidentally’ (?) wrote “Please keep in mind that gifts should be more than $20.” When asked, she said it was a typo but it was already the morning of the exchange so she didn’t feel the need to send a correction. “If folks were smart they would’ve bought something on Black Friday and then they wouldn’t have spent more than $20 on it anyway,” she said. Shopping on Black Friday?? For an office Yankee Swap??? To me this is taking things way too seriously!

        1. Candi*

          …someone likes expensive-ish gifts, and is being a passive-aggressive brat about it. Even though the workplace is NOT the place for that!

    1. Snark*

      In some fairness, White Elephant exchanges are generally of some kind of offbeat, weird item. That was a lame white elephant gift, but it wasn’t totally off base.

      1. Amadeo*

        Yeah, around here we tend to call it ‘Dirty Santa’. Most of the time when I’ve played the gifts have been all right, but trend toward things that have come from or will go into a regift box. We go to my brother’s place for Christmas dinner and since everyone’s already exchanged gifts, we play Dirty Santa. I’ll admit I tend to just go buy something *I* want and if someone else unwraps it before I do, I’ll steal it. We still usually do geegaws though. Kitchen towels, kitschy cheap lamps, my bro’s mother in law brought a cash box last year (although since I do craft fairs and cons now with my crafting, it’s come in handy) and there was one of those laser light projectors. My brother tends to buy McAlister’s gift cards and then steals those if they get unwrapped before he pulls from the pile.

        So, you know.

        1. Lala*

          My family started doing this a couple of years ago, and my brother probably enjoys it more than anyone I know. Half our family roots for one sports team, the other half roots for the rival. The first year, he got a really nice *his team* gift, and wrapped it in *rival team*’s themed gift wrap. A too-trusting, rival team cousin picked it and of course was less than pleasantly surprised, but it was hilarious (and a fan of his team later stole it from the cousin so no one ended up with something they couldn’t enjoy).

          Last year, his gift was a professionally framed portrait of him (with a gift card tucked behind the photo). This year, he’s apparently getting a cardboard cut out of himself made.

          1. Say what, now?*

            I love the photo with the giftcard tucked behind it. That’s a good practical joke where you’re the butt and the victim gets recompense.

          2. MasterOfBears*

            When my brother-in-law first joined us for Christmas, he and I didn’t know each other very well, so we both defaulted to ye old Amazon Gift Card fall back. To make it a little less lame, we both tried to spice up the presentation: his to me was in a giant economic textbook, mine to him was inside a lovingly wrapped shoebox punched full of airholes.

            We know eachother well enough to personalize gifts now, but the weird wrapping arms race continues unchecked. I’m excited for this year – my new job involves disease research, so I now have access to biohazard stickers

          3. nonymous*

            My sister tried to introduce this tradition to cut down on xmas shopping (her kids were getting completely drowned in moderately priced gifts they didn’t want). Our Dad was super frugal and, frankly, not very imaginative. So he insisted that all our contributions (his, mine and my Mom’s) come from the ready-for-goodwill pile. Yah know, where all the broken household goods retire to? And then it turned out that the grandmas (including Dad’s ex) – who were also mightily confused about the whole point of a yankee exchange – just ended up buying their normal amounts of gifts anyways.

      2. an infinite number of monkeys*

        When I’ve played them, white elephant exchanges are a mix of gags and nice inexpensive items. It adds an element of Let’s Make a Deal to the game: do I steal something I’d be okay with getting, or do I risk it all on curtain #2?

        At one office white elephant exchange many years ago, I ended up with a CD of Liberace Christmas music – not only steeped in a glorious amount of smarm, but also badly remixed, so the pitch is wavery and wobbly throughout. To this day it’s one of my most prized possessions.

      3. ggg*

        Where I come from, White Elephant means you bring a goofy joke gift.

        Unfortunately, the last time I was at a White Elephant party, everyone brought “nice” gifts, and I brought some thrifted 60’s-era Gallery of Regrettable Food-level recipe books, which nobody liked or even thought were funny.

        Come on, people. Aspics are always funny.

        1. Footiepjs*

          Aspics ARE always funny. I was cleaning my grandma’s china hutch years ago and she gave me a jell-o cookbook and that was when I learned that they used to make vegetable gelatins.

      4. White Ephelant*

        My brother in law is very straight-laced, with this vein of puckish humor. One year for the White Elephant, he brought a wooden briefcase, that opened up to be a lifelike rubber human head, mounted on a plaque. Turns out it was a dentist mannequin, and so utterly freaky. My sister was a good sport about ending up with it. Next Christmas, out comes her actual real gift to him – a heavy wooden briefcase. It’s continued thusly ever since. An odd, good natured family joke.

        But seriously, it’s freaky looking.

    2. k*

      I’m guessing the gift-giver was confused and thought they were supposed to be gag gifts. There’s so many different names for gift exchanges, it’s easy to misunderstand.

      1. ChemistryChick*

        We think this is what happened. There were a couple people who participated that year who didn’t in years previous.

        1. Tuna*

          We did a gift exchange at work one year where the theme was “Something you already own”. Most of us used it as an excuse to re-gift. There were lots of dishtowels, coffee mugs and scented candles passed around. Everyone had a good time until one of the ladies opened a gift to find a dented rusty gas can. I guess one of my co-workers took the theme too literally.

        1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

          Same here. Dirty Santa and Yankee Swap are basically the same thing, but White Elephant is different — gag gifts, not things anybody would want for real.

        2. White Ephelant*

          Where I’m from, white elephant is gag gifts that you steal. Preferably with lots of booze and that one person who gets weirdly attached to something awful they could buy for a dollar.

      2. Samiratou*

        I agree, most likely the gifter didn’t realize it wasn’t the funny version. Such things really need to have the rules laid out (preferably with examples or, if it’s the funny version, pics of previous gift collections).

      3. Allison*

        Yep. Where I’m from, a Yankee Swap is where you put in good gifts like gift cards, bottles of wine, etc. (and you unwrap, then steal if you want, it’s not either/or) and White Elephant is a variation of that where the gifts are kind of silly, like a Squatty Potty or a Grumpy Cat snow globe.

          1. Oranges*

            And this is the beautiful thing about White Elephant swaps. I actually heard about one where everyone brings something they don’t like but someone else might. AKA your typical regifts and then everyone tries to barter for something they want. It can get silly.

            Example: If I swap Person #1 PresentA for PresentB then I can swap Person#2 PresentB with Present C and then… and after figuring out a chain someone comes along and ruins it. And you react with pretend outrage since it’s just a silly bunny hat that was your aim.

            1. AMPG*

              At my old office, my team got a lot of mementos from international clients, so we’d always have good stuff for the White Elephant. One year, a 6-inch-tall bust of Lenin was the hot item. I still have the miniature beer keg from Moldova that I got that year, and a chip-and-dip set shaped like Hawaiian shirts from another year. And I contributed things like the double CD set of Turkish folk music and the embroidered vest from somewhere in South Asia (I forget which country).

            2. Pickles*

              Yeah, we had a small group people conspiring for a Frozen-themed waffle maker a few years ago. I just wanted a waffle maker since mine had recently broken, but the level of intensity over Olaf was strange. I stole it from one person in the group, who then glared and muttered until someone else’s name was called from the group and they promptly stole it back while I was in the restroom. Then there were trades worked out, apparently. It was just strange. I could have stolen it back later, but it wasn’t worth the animosity. They were someone’s family, but sat off to themselves the whole time and I remember wondering why they’d bothered to attend.

              That was a mix of nice and weird stuff at that one – I had a bottle of chocolate wine stolen also, the woman who ended up with the set of toilet golf toys (?) actually wanted them (?!?!), and wound up with this awesome giant bobblehead owl. I walked around hugging it on my hip and have it displayed in the library with my fancy cardboard school trunk of Harry Potter books. Win!

        1. Specialk9*

          Where I’m from, White Elephant is terrible gifts, that people steal. Preferably with lots of booze, and one person who gets weirdly attached to something they could buy for a dollar.

    3. Murphy*

      I find with these things that people need to define what they mean. “White Elephant” typically refers to hilariously bad gifts, but it’s often used for any kind of grab bag/swap thing, and unless it’s clarified, people often have widely different ideas of what constitutes a “White Elephant” gift.

      (My friends and I do one, and it’s evolved from the former to the latter and I’m not sure how or why. People who attended the party for the first time but weren’t participating said that when they saw the exchange they were glad they didn’t, because they didn’t expect “good” gifts and would have brought “bad” ones.)

      1. CatCat*

        Yeah… I always thought White Elephant exchanges were supposed to involve funny or odd gifts. I’m taking something that I think is really funny next week to our office exchange. Maybe I’ll end up with a debacle story!

        1. Adlib*

          Ours is next week too, but we always get pretty good gifts and still call it “White Elephant”. I was so proud of what I brought last year then kinda disappointed when it was unwrapped almost last so I didn’t really get to see anyone steal it. I still need to find one for this year!

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Our White Elephant gift exchange is tomorrow, and I’ve only been here since late August, so it’s my first here. My co-worker who’s been here for twelve years says that there are a few gag gifts that have been in circulation for several years, and the rest of the exchange is a hodge podge of whatever anyone wants to bring for $10 or less. She says there’s usually several gifts of wine or spirits. She brought a tape dispenser that looks like someone sitting on a toilet. I’m bringing two Bean Boozled games, because earlier this week we went around and cajoled various professors, grad students, and staff into playing Bean Boozled, and many of them asked where they could get the game for their grandkids’ stockings, so I think someone will like it.

      2. Trig*

        Hm. I’m pretty sure at my church growing up they called the charity gift collection “white elephant”! You were supposed to buy a thing for a needy family, wrap it in white wrapping paper, and put a label on saying the age range/gender. I think the needy families had a specific night they could come pick out some things, or they were distributed somehow, I don’t know. But definitely not gag gifts!

          1. Trig*

            Oh, possibly I’m remembering it wrong! It would be like child-me, to get the two mixed up. Both involve a secret gift and the word white!

      3. Kaybee*

        Yes, defined and disseminated rules are critical. I’ve seen White Elephant exchanges be for gag gifts, getting rid of unwanted gifts, and as substitutes for the “secret santa” concept where gifts are usable but beneath a certain price point.

        Personally, I really only the like the last one because I usually get a gift card or something that I can actually use. In general, I try to practice minimalism to fight the hoarding tendency the runs so strongly in my family, so I don’t have gag gifts sitting around and I tend to re-gift unwanted presents immediately, which means that I have to go out and buy a gag gift or “unwanted gift” for the event and come home with something that I immediately have to dispose of.

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, my family has done this every year for ages; our variation leans toward “useful but goofy” for the most party. There’s a lot of “As seen on TV” items, but they’re never things that are just disappointing.

        (For example: last year, my contribution was a set of travel + regular mugs with a picture of a crab and “don’t talk to me, I’m crabby!” on them)

      5. DecorativeCacti*

        Tell me about it. I brought a playable toilet mat piano thing to my last White Elephant exchange only to have people start opening bottles of wine and warm, fuzzy blankets. Whoops.

      6. T3k*

        My family calls it White Elephant, but that’s because they didn’t like the way Dirty Santa sounded. So we basically have a mix of both good and bad gifts along with the rule that you can steal.

      7. Oranges*

        Also, any one else call it “The Dice Game”?

        Set Up: You have a pile of gifts and there’s two dice in a pie tin that go around the circle.
        First Round: You grab a wrapped gift once you get doubles. You drop out of rolling the dice once you get a gift.

        Second Round: Everyone then unwraps their gifts and you steal/swap gifts once you get doubles.

        1. Candi*

          Never heard of that version, but it sounds amazing. And the randomness would help with the people who think “fair” applies to everyone kowtowing so they get exactly what they want.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, we did our first office white elephant last year and it was a mix of fun gag gifts (like… a farting animals coloring book versus a stick and a rock) and like… random crap people were obviously just trying to get rid of (a spray bottle of “urine off” carpet cleaner, a really old looking candle holder, etc.). We hopefully hammered out the details this year. We’ll see ;)

      1. CMDRBNA*

        I’m kind of souring on white elephant/dirty Santa games, because inevitably a few people ruin it by contributing crappy stuff, and it sucks to have gotten something you actually wanted and then have it get stolen. I went to a dirty Santa recently that had over 20 people participating, and I ended up with a single theater box of candy and a dust-covered candle, because some attendees had clearly just grabbed shit from their garages to contribute (of course, they went home with the fancy hot chocolate gift box or wine because other people actually contributed good gifts).

        1. Bleeborp*

          Does it really suck though? And isn’t it a little petty to worry about who brought and got what? It’s a game! I guess I always thought that the way to approach these things is to assume what you get isn’t going to be that great -either very goofy, useless, not your style, etc.- and that the gift you get isn’t the point, it’s the fun of the surprise and the stealing and all that. While of course I would like a Starbucks gift card because it’s useful, I’d think it’s super boring if that’s the kind of gift everyone brings. I’ve gotten “good gifts” and “random junk” gifts (and I’ve brought both) and it’s always entertaining.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            Uhhh…yes, it does suck? I mean, I’m not butthurt that someone stole a gift I liked or whatever. Those are the rules of the game. It sucks when you that handful of people who bring literal junk instead of a goofy gift. Dick soap (just soap in a ring shape)? Fun gift! Broken trash from your garage? Not a fun gift!

          2. Candi*

            Yes, it absolutely sucks. Under NO circumstances should anyone ever gift actual junk, trash, or garbage to anyone. It’s RUDE.

            Hiding it behind “well, it’s just a game” is in the same vein as “it was just a joke” or “can’t you take a compliment”.

            For instance, of stuff I might regift for a white elephant-gag-gift that I’m looking at right now: Maybe the “joy” necklace or the egg timer, or one of the goofy little figurines. Not the lovely little water fountain -my mother gave it to me broken years ago (for my birthday!). Not the “Time for Laundry” coin bank I got when living in my apartment -it’s old enough for the pattern to be wearing off. Not the broken earrings -they’re lovely, but the only way I’d give them to anyone is to break them down into a “treasure chest” for a kids’ present -and I have never found a suitably-shaped box.

            Just because it’s a secret gift thing is no license to give trash. Like the peanut SHELLS mentioned in one holiday thread 3 or 4 years ago.

        2. Specialk9*

          The only way to win at these things is to deliberately seek the worst possible gift. Any other approach ends in tears or bad feelings.

    5. Master Bean Counter*

      The gifts that got stolen at my former’s office’s white elephant were either chocolate, booze related, or funny hats. Except one year, I brought a singing and dancing Bill Clinton doll to the party. He was the hottest item that year.
      I usually scoped out the bottle of wine and tried to keep that as my gift.

        1. Brett*

          Bass Pro’s “Giant Stuffed Fish for Kids” are amazing exchange presents regardless of the type of exchange. Totally weird gift that for some reason grows on everyone and normally ends up with someone who realizes they have no idea what to do with it. And you can get them for $15 or $10 at the right time of year.

          1. Doctor Director*

            HA! Now I know where my uncle got that giant stuffed fish! It was his Christmas gift to me about ten years ago. It’s currently at my parents’ river house, sitting on the fireplace mantle. His name is Boris, and he’s become a family icon.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            My kids brought a stuffed trout that they got at a yard sale to Christmas at their grandparents’ one year, and all the cousins spent all week long playing “Stair Trout”, a game of keep-away played on the staircase with the trout. One kid at the bottom of the stairs, one kid at the top of the stairs, and all the remaining cousins in the middle of the staircase trying to catch the trout. That’s been several years ago, but we still have the stuffed trout, and we still call it the stair trout.

            1. Whimsy and Forest Fires*

              A lot of the fun there is presumably the fact that the participants find themselves saying things like “Oh, awesome, I got Ebola!” or “My turn! Fergus, give me your gonorrhea!” :)

              (I have several giant microbes. They’re pretty adorable.)

              1. Candi*

                There was a subthread about those in the “weirdly dramatic responses to mundane office changes” thread a bit back.

                It started when Apollo Warbucks mentioned his coworkers were not happy about no longer receiving free (fake) meerkats.

                …they were cute meerkats. There were links posted.

                But someone mentioned that there is a Valentine Day’s plushie STD microbe pack. (This is even funnier if you remember VD was the predecessor to STD.)

    6. Q*

      I have a friend whose parents do it at their annual friends/family, but they make all the presents for the game themselves so no one can be disappointed.

      That said, when I went as a teenager, all their middle aged friends stole like, the vinaigrette and stuff from me because they felt bad for me having it.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        My husband’s extended family does it this way, each year a different part of the family provides gifts. One year it was all coloring books and candy….that was a fun year, no small children yet so a bunch of adults, drunk, high on sugar and coloring.

      2. Crochet Touché*

        My former office did Dorty Santa. Gifts were mostly booze and gift cards. The biggest draw were the people who brought $25 worth of scratch off lottery tickets. I’d never thought of it before, but I think scratchers will be my go-to office gift exchange gift going forward.

        1. Q*

          I’d be wary of that because a lot of people would consider that gambling which they don’t do for some reason.

          1. Orange*

            As a non-gambler because of religious reasons, if I ended up with scratch offs I’d have no problem with it. It’s not my money, therefore I have gambled nothing. I actually had a boss give them to our team one year as holiday present, I think I won 5 bucks…

            That said, I’m a bit less orthodox and I can *totally* see some fellow members of my faith being super offended (but nice about it, because my people are notoriously nice).

    7. it_guy*

      My old company did a white elephant exchange for lunch one Christmas, and one of the very, very lucky recipients was a candy dish/statue of a seated monkey with a bowl sitting between his legs. It was THE MOST ugly thing I have ever seen. Once we got back to our desks, the new dish owner sat down at his desk and a few minutes screamed “WOOHOO!”. He had just checked the dish on E-Bay and it was worth several hundred dollars.

      Made it the best one ever.

    8. RabbitRabbit*

      Yeah, one of our department admins gave one of the “box full of crap” choices this year, when everyone else went with “cute or odd but maybe at least useful to someone.” I kept saying that the e-mail announcing the game should have pretty clear instructions.

    9. Christmas Carol*

      My friend’s family adds a rule that the gifts can’t be unwrapped until the very end of the game, you have to evaluate the packages based on size, shape, weight, response to shaking, quality of wrapping, x-ray vision, whatever. This happened long long, ago, when prices were much, much lower. There was then a $2.00 limit on the gift exchange. Everyone kept stealing and re-stealing the largest package, which was also the lightest in weight. At the end of the game, the recipient unwrapped a package of 20 empty beer and pop cans. Note: Our state had just instituted a 10-cent deposit on drink containers = two dollars cash

    10. Kaboobie*

      We call it a Yankee Swap in these parts (New England). I used to work for a large department that did this at our holiday lunch and it would take FOREVER. Bottles of wine and lottery tickets were always the most popular gifts, and over the years the percentage of those items increased until very little else was included.

      1. Kaboobie*

        I forgot to mention, one year my husband came across a flyer for a Yankee Swap at his workplace (different department) and it emphasized, “This year, we will be exchanging NICE gifts”. We laughed a lot imagining what kind of gifts had been given in the past.

    11. Mary*

      It’s so important with these for everyone to be clear on what the tone will be. I had a job at a very small company where we did a white elephant at the holiday party. There was a very strict $20 limit, which everyone obeyed, except, it turned out, the CEO. His contribution was several expensive gifts (think high-end electronics) as a “surprise,” which totally threw off the balance of the game. He meant it as a nice gesture, but it turned the whole thing unpleasantly high-stakes.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Like that episode of The Office where Michael (1) turned the Secret Santa into a Yankee Swap because he didn’t like the knitted potholders that Phyllis gave him, and (2) threw an expensive iPod into the mix because that’s what he’d brought to a ~$10 gift exchange.

    12. Goya*

      White Elephant where I come from means “gag gift” (someone got a pair of slippers made out of feminine napkins once) so that would fit in perfectly. I wonder if someone wasn’t in the know about that? We call what you described a Yankee Swap or Gift Exchange

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Around here it’s called White Elephant whether it’s gag gifts or nice gifts, so we have to specify which kind of White Elephant event it is. Kind of like how we call all soft drinks “coke” and then you have to specify what kind of coke you want: Sprite, orange soda, actual Coke, etc.

    13. Wendy Darling*

      True story: I quit my extended family’s White Elephant after they 1. decided to let small children (under 5) participate with the adults, and 2. my cousin stole a big thing of candy from HIS OWN 4 YEAR OLD and stuck him with a scented candle. The kid was inconsolable. I ended up stealing his candle so he could have my scratch-off cards because… wtf that was mean.

    14. Xam August*

      We do a white elephant every year with my large extended family. One year I ended up with a multimeter voltage meter thingy (I don’t do electrical) from my multi-millionaire Uncle, which I received because he stole my gift of a Best Buy gift card. No problem, I returned it to the store the next week, and it turns out he bought it using the stores rewards problem and I could get a refund of … 12 cents. I took the money and did shook my head all the way home.

    15. Totally Minnie*

      This is why I only allow white elephant exchanges at the work party if there’s a theme. One year we all brought Christmas ornaments, the next year everyone brought a mug, this year it’s books. That way we’re all on mostly equal footing and nobody’s stuck with a garbage present.

  6. mrs__peel*

    “Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.”

    Please send help, I am dying…

    1. Hope*

      I’m just…I can understand sports jersey and Halloween, but…Richard Nixon as a potluck theme? What?

      1. Former HR person*

        I’m imagining foods that were popular in the 1970’s….though a nice gate with some water may have also been a part of the decor.

        1. pope suburban*

          I’m not sure if 1970s food would fall under the auspices of the Nixon theme, or the Halloween one. There were many crimes against gelatin in that era. As well as pates, mousses, fruits, and tinned anything. I’d be pretty scared to try any of it.

  7. Snark*

    A few years ago, we all went out for a pre-Christmas happy hour at the local outpost of a national chain pub. All of us placed orders for beers, some time passed, and the waitress came back with a massive tray loaded with 12-15 full, sloshing pints of beer.

    And tripped.

    Angels wept as beer in many shades of amber, gold, and chocolate arced through the air, accompanied by the festive tinkling and glitter of exploding glasses and the wailing of those showered in the malty goodness. Except for one full pint glass which landed on the table at such a precise angle as to remain wobbly but upright, sliding and teetering gently to a halt….neatly before the person who had, in fact, ordered it.

    Merry was the laughter as all the people partook of a sip of the Beer of God, for it was blessed, and all were in amazement.

      1. Snark*

        I didn’t want to interrupt my Biblical flow with too much detail, but it was truly amazing. She tripped right next to the table, and somehow one just ended up landing base-first with a little sideways momentum, and it just….didn’t fall over. And it was right in front of the guy who ordered it, who ended up wearing my beer. I mean, no laws of physics were broken, but it was amazing.

    1. ChemistryChick*

      I always love reading your stories, Snark. You’ve got a way with words.

      I’m picturing the beer shower in slow motion…almost like the scene in Spongebob when Squidward dramatically trips into a pole.

      1. Snark*

        I was – naurally – telling a story at the time, and so I actually didn’t really see it. I was just wet and smelling distinctly of hops all of a sudden, and I had no idea why.

        1. Mananana*

          1) Thank you for sharing that story, you are a natural story-teller. And,

          2) This “I was just wet and smelling distinctly of hops all of a sudden, and I had no idea why” describes my entire time in under-grad.

    2. Pam*

      Mine isn’t as good as that, but I did end up wearing a tray of chocolate mousse once when a waiter stumbled. I, naturally, was wearing a white sweater.

        1. Artemesia*

          Two bad you were not wearing the white tank and shirt that Meg Ryan wore in ‘French Kiss’ — you know the one that she slept in for days, had chocolate mousse spilled on and just rinsed out in the sink and looked pristine. I so wanted that blouse for travel; mine have grungy cuffs, neck and a couple of spots after about 6 hours.

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          I remember a waitress tipping a plate of spaghetti on my head when I was about 4 or 5, just before I went to go see Santa. I was NOT a happy camper that day!

        2. Midge*

          I once gesticulated into a server carrying a tray with a single mimosa. The mimosa fell, the glass broke and it splashed all over me. This was the moment that someone started giving a speech, so I tried desperately to play it cool while the horrified server kept coming over with more and more napkins.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        In college, I was working on a group project and we decided to meet during happy hour at a local bar (oh, college). We were seated at a high top and the happy hour special was 22oz beers, so we had a round of tall beer glasses on the table. Someone jostled the table and knocked five tall beers over on to me and the two girls next to me. We had actually been working on the group project, so my notebook was drenched and my bookbag dripped when I fished it out of a puddle on the floor (luckily this was back in the day, so no cell phone or laptops were harmed).

        1. JD*

          A first date with a great guy, he ordered a pitcher of beer. Before one was even poured he knocked it over and poured the entire thing on my shirt, chest down. The bar tender gave me a t shirt and I went to the bathroom. We happened to be going to a fair later so I had brought jeans to change into just in case the weather changed. So I went out to my car and changed from my skirt into jeans. When I walked back into the bar the whole place cheered and bought us drinks all night. All were happy I came back rather than leave him. We of course never made it to the fair as I smelled like a brewery even after changing.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        OMG! A waitress once spilled a glass of red wine on my SIL who was OF COURSE wearing a brand new white silk blouse.

        This is why I could never be a server, I am way too clumsy.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I read the story but didn’t see the user name first, and I said to myself, I bet this is Snark. You have a way with words!

    4. SunshineOH*

      Come for Alison’s genius and practical work advice. Stay for the amazing comments and stories from our friend Snark.


        1. OhNo*

          Better start planning ahead for the holiday party this year, then, so you can replenish your supply. ;)

        2. Teapot Librarian*

          You can make anything into a delightful ambrosia of words. Unlike me, if this comment is any indication :-)

    5. Julia*

      I recently knocked a glass of water off my desk, and it flew, turned in the air once, and managed to lodge itself into my tiny handbag face up. I just stood there laughing for minutes.

  8. Anon non non*

    One of my co-workers makes candy as a gift for all of the people in my branch. She also makes a small tray for the holiday party. Last year a small fight (verbal, not physical) broke out over the last piece. Apparently the woman who took the last piece hadn’t actually opened or eaten the pieces given to her as a gift and the woman who had already eaten hers didn’t think it was fair that she couldn’t have the last piece because of that. The first woman was actually planning to give her gift to her husband who had expressed a love for the homemade candy as well…and she had only taken one piece the entire day which just so happened to be the last piece. It was quite ridiculous. The second woman still harbors a lot of resentment over it and has actually told the candy-maker to “make sure there’s enough for everyone this year!” There was enough last year…but apparently not for her. And the candy? It’s okay…but not so great that it should start a fight.

    1. YpsiGuy*

      Ohhh, no. As soon as the sentence “make sure there’s enough for everyone this year” is uttered, that would be the end of my candy-making days.

      1. Amber T*

        As the office homemade candy/chocolate maker around the holidays – if it ever got rude like this, I’d shut it down ridiculously quickly. I gift small individual packages to my immediate peers (just a few) and bring in large trays to leave in the lunch room. Candy and chocolate is supposed to bring happiness, and if you’re going to try to use my creations to be an asshat, you’re going to get shot down.

    2. Libby*

      If someone told me to “make sure there’s enough for everyone this year!” I would stop bringing in any at all.

      1. Snark*

        Yep. I’d bring in a Costco-size bag of Christmas Hershey’s Kisses, dump it on a table, proclaim “See! Enough for everyone this year!” and go drink in a corner.

        1. Beancounter Eric*

          Forget Hershey’s…..find the cheapest, no-name, “candy-substitute”….marzipan joy-joy’s mit iodine come to mind!!

          1. Natalie*

            Those tiny boxes of raisins, but only if they are really, really old and have been stored improperly.

        2. As Close As Breakfast*

          I would definitely bring some of my homemade candy to eat while drinking in that corner. The whole time just dead eye staring straight at Miss make-sure-there’s-enough-for-everyone-this-year.

    3. Amadeo*

      I brought handmade bath and body stuff for everyone last year (and probably will again this year). Fortunately no one fought over it, thank heavens, but there’s one coworker who, whenever I bring any, including reject bars (ugly, don’t smell/scent faded, whatever) will help herself to one, and then later on tells me how pretty they are decorating her bathroom.

      I expect the same thing to happen to whatever she gets this year and I really wish she wouldn’t tell me about it! Obviously I can’t skip her, she’s a very lovely individual, but I bring this stuff for people to enjoy in its use, not as pretty baubles for the bathroom counter (that may last years, but will eventually lose their scent after a prolonged amount of time, or start to look different or any other number of things, they’re not meant to be decorative). Either stop telling me that it’s too pretty to use so it’s decorating your bathroom like a Pier One purchase or stop taking them please and thank you!

      1. CM*

        I get what you’re saying — as a home baker/candy maker, I’ve also been pained to see a festively wrapped bag of treats decorating somebody’s desk months after it should have been eaten.

        But if she’s using it (albeit not in the way you intended), enjoying it, and expressing her appreciation, that sounds great to me.

      2. Cherries in the Snow*

        This seems—not a very charitable spirit. Gifts are to be used however the recipient most enjoys them. I too make handmade bath products; if someone only wanted to display them until they go off—fine! They’re enjoying the gift, that’s all that matters. I wouldn’t get all judgmental and huffy about it; I’d be glad they enjoy my handiwork.

        1. Amadeo*

          Oh, I get that it’s a pretty petty thing to be annoyed about and I’ll openly admit that! I’ve never told anyone but my mother that it bothers me a bit, so it’s not getting back to anyone at work and she’ll get her bar of soap again this year.

        2. JD*

          Ya, this is a bit odd to me. She loves the items. I have some nicer looking products in my bathroom I display. It is a great compliment frankly.

      3. viva*

        I get it. I was gifted a big bunch of homemade soap by a family friend because she was overjoyed when she learned I actually used (and loved!) the soap she had handed out the previous year as party favors. When I complimented her on the soap – seriously, it’s marvelous stuff for dry skin – she gave me a big bag full because she was thrilled that I would used it.

      4. ket*

        I know what you mean… I have to say sometimes I make a different version of a gift like that for people I know don’t use it (like no scent, or skipping the ingredients that make it great but also make it go bad). It’s fine if they don’t use it for the purpose it’s intended, but it feels like throwing food away or something similarly wasteful.

    4. Artemesia*

      If someone told me I needed to make more of a gift I brought to the office, that would be the end of candy trays in the break room from me.

      1. Pickles*

        That happened to me once. “Oh, you didn’t bring paper plates and utensils along with that homemade cheesecake? Well, we’re just not going to eat it and sit here complaining.”

        Well, then I’m just going to not bake for you anymore. And delighted my new office shortly thereafter with a constant stream of baked goods.

  9. Elvira*

    This isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but my first job out of college was as a staff assistant for a small nonprofit. My first year there, a coworker and I planned the whole Christmas party, and it went very well! That is until the CEO announced at the end of the party that they were giving out bonuses, but only to people who had worked there at least a year. The organization had hired a lot of new people that year (I had only been there 8-9 months at that point) so naturally quite a few people were upset by this. Like, I guess that’s the organization’s prerogative, but why announce it like that, especially when you know it’s going to hurt people? I didn’t throw a fit over it or anything, but I personally would rather have thought no one was getting a bonus than that some people were and others weren’t.

    Anyway, I guess someone complained, because they ended up giving the rest of us prorated bonuses, as well.

      1. Artemesia*

        Merry Christmas, many of you are not getting bonuses this year! What was he thinking. It reminds me of the high school principal who wrote a fulsome Christmas letter in which he featured many of the 100 of so teachers in the school; it was very long and here was an anecdote about JV and another one about Bob, then remember how much Martha and JoAnn contributed to the special edition of the paper and Coach Roberts won the big game and on and on. He mentioned about 80 of the 100 people and of course everyone happily read it looking for THEIR star moment. And then it was done and Merry Christmas and no mention of me (and a couple of dozen others). Yeah I was new, but I had also really done some great work, but I was also new and thus insecure and to discover that I was of such little significance that the principal couldn’t grub up some nice thing to say, even ‘we were happy to welcome new colleagues, Artemesia, Fred, Fergus, and Bambi’, was totally crushing. I felt that horrible drop in the pit of my stomach of total loserdom. And he was a GREAT boss who later was very supportive, but he really blew that one. It is like birthday parties — invite the whole class or a handful but not almost everyone but not quite.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It’s the kind of thing that I don’t understand why some people don’t see it until it’s pointed out to them. It seems obvious that saying nice things about nearly everyone will make the few people not included feel bad.

    1. Laura*

      A past job the owner announced everyone seated in the room would receive a $250 bonus for the quarter. Several weeks later, another woman and I found out not us because we started during the quarter. No problem but the company was growing and he never fixed his speech so I’m sure many more people have had an unpleasant surprise.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          My first software job, at a very small company – no more than 20 people – the boss encouraged us to put up pictures of what we’d get with our holiday bonus. I don’t remember if he said how much it was or just dropped major hints, but we were expecting something around $500.

          Holiday comes and goes, no bonus, no explanation, but shortly after that the boss took his family on a nice vacation.

      1. Coalea*

        At my first job out of college I received a small Christmas bonus the first year. My boss told me she knew that it was small, but to hang in there because once I’d completed a full year of service (ie, the following Christmas), I would received a significantly larger bonus (like, more than 5x greater). The following year I got the same small bonus and when I expressed my gratitude tempered with disappointment, my boss claimed she never said anything about a larger bonus after 1 year. This was so typical of her, so I was delighted to be able to turn in my notice shortly thereafter.

    2. BlueWolf*

      I started at my company in November of last year and I still got a Christmas bonus. I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t know if it was the same as everyone else’s or not, since I didn’t discuss specific numbers with anyone else.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        This happened to me at my previous employer. I started two weeks before Thanksgiving and didn’t expect to get a bonus, but I was given $50. Then the next year I got the full bonus which was $250. I thought it was great of them to pro-rate the bonus and not just skip the new employees entirely.

      2. Former Hoosier*

        I once started in November and it is a long story, but I was kind of forced onto a manager until a different job was available for me. Anyway, he gave me $100 as a personal gift and it meant so much to me. Not just because it was a large personal gift but because I hadn’t been there long and his manager was the one who hired me. I bought something I had really been wanting with the money and have thought of him every time I use it.

    3. MsMaryMary*

      It’s not quite the same, but at OldJob only certain roles were bonus eligible. There was a complicated bonus formula where you could receive a certain percentage of salary based on your individual performance and the performance of your business unit. The first year I was in a bonus eligible role, I was really excited about it. My business unit had done well and my performance review had been stellar – I just gotten promoted based on how well I’d been doing. Then I learned bonuses were pro-rated for the amount of time you’d been in a bonus eligible role. Bonuses were paid at the end of December and I’d been promoted in October. After taxes, my bonus was about $80.

      1. Mabel*

        This especially sucks if admins (or IT techs, etc.) aren’t eligible, even though they make it possible for the eligible people to actually do their work.

    4. JD*

      This happened to me as well. The best was my “bonus” the next year. A $25 Costco gift card. When I finally went to Costco I happened to buy tampons with it as let’s face it, their price is good there for them and I needed them. So my bonus was tampons. I was always a bit salty about that.

  10. Daphne B.*

    My first year at the last company I worked for, my boss (who oversaw a department of about 70 people) got so drunk during the Christmas party that he got kicked out of the venue. He snuck in a full bottle of bourbon – not a flask, a full bottle – and proceeded to drink most of it. He got so rowdy that the staff at the hotel came in and told him he had to leave. He went and passed out in his truck while his partner stayed through the party.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m gonna out myself as the anon who posted last year about an employee who bitched about how Yankee Swap was not being played by her rules, and then when she drew a gift card as her gift, she stuffed it down her bra and tried to walk out of the room so no one else could take it from her.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        hahahaha, your username is perfect for this story.

        My favorite part was when one of my indirect reports, who was super quiet and docile, got her turn, and told the loud, exact-opposite-of-docile lady who’d put the gift card in her cleavage that that was the gift she wanted.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          hahaha — “I’ll be taking the gift card from within the depths of your ample bosom.”

        2. Clever Name*

          That’s amazing. That’s exactly what I would want to do if I were there, but I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do it.

        3. Specialk9*

          And then what? She tried to walk out, card in cleavage. Did someone stop her? Surely she didn’t feel shame, if she had just pulled shenanigans. How did it get retrieved?

  12. Umvue*

    I love that fall potluck horror story. Someone should have dressed up as Zombie Richard Nixon in an LA Dodgers jersey.

  13. MrsJ*

    My first job out college was working for a small startup tech firm. We had 10 employees. The company owner told us we were required to attend the company holiday party in order to get our holiday bonus. The party was hosted at his mansion-like home complete with catering and a bartender… and 50 of his closest friends. He made the party a requirement for us to get our bonuses so that we would show up, which allowed him to justify it as a company event and write it off as a business expense. We had to stay a requisite amount of time before he would hand out the bonuses, and he made a big show of it when he finally felt we had “enjoyed his hospitality” enough. We had to stand up in front of everyone and were cajoled to drink a toast with him to the success of the company in the coming year. By this time he was pretty well drunk and would try to kiss the women. Then finally he would hand over the check.

    This continued for several years with various amusing incidents. Perhaps the funniest one involved us realizing this guy had a picture of himself in every room of the house. Imagine walking into the bathroom and seeing your boss’s framed, smiling face watching you use the toilet!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This continued for several years with various amusing incidents. Perhaps the funniest one involved us realizing this guy had a picture of himself in every room of the house. Imagine walking into the bathroom and seeing your boss’s framed, smiling face watching you use the toilet!

      There are no words

    2. karou*

      “Perhaps the funniest one involved us realizing this guy had a picture of himself in every room of the house. Imagine walking into the bathroom and seeing your boss’s framed, smiling face watching you use the toilet!”

      Was your boss Peter Gallagher’s character in While You Were Sleeping?

    3. Amber T*

      I’m very curious about these kinds of parties where they hold bonus checks hostage like this. First of all, no judgement at all because I certainly wouldn’t want to chance it, but if you didn’t show up, what would they do with your check? Would they shred it? From a budgeting perspective – accounting sets aside $X for year end bonuses, so if 5 people don’t show up and that totals $Y in bonuses, what happens to that money? And if you have direct deposit, do they still do checks for bonuses? (My bonuses have been deposited alongside my paychecks on the last business day of December.)

      Curiouser and curiouser…

      1. Natalie*

        For whatever reason, a lot of places give the bonuses out as live checks even if they normally do direct deposit. I’ve always assumed it’s so your boss can sit down with you and have a little “year in review” chat and then hand you the check.

        If someone didn’t show up to this boss’s party I bet 1 million dollars he’d have that check reissued to himself.

      2. Former Hoosier*

        My husband used to work for a very large company that gave out very large performance based bonuses each year. The company would tell you your bonus the day of the Christmas party. If you didn’t show up that night to the Christmas party, it was assumed that your bonus was low. Everyone watched. You didn’t have to come to the party to get the bonus, it was just assumed you didn’t if you didn’t get one or yours was low.

      3. AnonymousCrank*

        Yeah, holding bonuses hostage in order to get people to show up is a dick move. At my last workplace, morale was SO bad that the boss scheduled the Xmas party on payday, because it was the only way they could get some of the employees to attend. They also held the party during business hours (this was a retail store, open to the public) so as a result, any customers coming in got to feel extra-awkward about interrupting what was already a gloomy party, and the staff couldn’t relax and enjoy themselves due to customers needing help. Needless to say, I quit shortly after that!

      4. MrsJ*

        In this case, we could still get our bonus, but the charade played out in reverse. Bossman would give you your check at the office, but you had to explain in front of your coworkers why you felt you had something more important to do than coming to his party and basking in his hospitality. The December after I got married, I dragged my poor sick husband to the party just so we could show our faces; he was running a 101 degree temperature with a raging ear infection/sore throat. I wonder who infected, but oh well. He claimed the whiskey was medicinal, and we left right after my check was in hand.

        1. Candi*

          So did your husband spend a lot of time hanging around the boss, in his space, breathing on him…? Please?

  14. Zoe Karvounopsina*

    Last year, for reasons that escape me, our chief executive decided to attend dressed as a Native American, and give herself a Native American name (which I now cannot remember, as that was when I started drinking in earnest.)

    As I put it later, the theme was Christmas number ones, not casual racism!

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        We’re in the UK.

        This year the theme is myths and legends. There’s already been one lightsaber seen wandering the halls.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            Our team are going as gods and goddesses. I have a wreath in my inbox, and the colleague next to me is working around a winged helmet.

      2. Violet Rose*

        And *this* is what finally set off my giggling fit. Good thing I work from home!

        Christmas Number Ones makes me think of Riker in a santa hat.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Wait, I lie, it was the President, not the chief executive, and the president of the allied organisation whose attics we rent.

      None of that helped.

        1. Not Australian*

          Except that the correct term is ’roundheads’. And nobody would give a toss, honestly.

      1. Oranges*

        I… looked it up and I still don’t understand the chain from Native American to Cromwell’s Ironhead. Could you explain please?

        1. paul*

          They’re a group of people that’ll cause offense (presumably) in a large segment of the UK’s population is all; admittedly for very different reasons, but I don’t have a huge knowledge of the UK’s history pre-WWI and my store of “things from that time period you shouldn’t dress as” was pretty low.

          1. fortunatelyjenkins*

            They honestly wouldn’t cause any offense. There are things that could – comedy Irishman, traveller – but no one in the UK is that invested in the 1600s.

  15. RabbitRabbit*

    At an old workplace (a department in a medical center), we always had a holiday party in our office – closed down a little early, brought in caterers to put out a spread of food (mixed appetizers and desserts), and had an open bar with beer, wine, and cocktails. Doctors, residents, med students, nurses, techs, office staff, everyone mingled and had fun.

    One year, it got a little out of control. A couple of the guys decided that starting early and a free open bar wasn’t good enough. They went to a nearby restaurant/bar and had a couple (?) drinks, then started in on our party. The catering was good and plentiful, but it was still a lot of finger food and thus harder to fill up on than if you had a full meal set out for you.

    By the end of the night, we had some seriously drunk people – not doctors/nurses – and at least one of the guys who threw up in an office wastebasket (his own, at least, but it was in a shared office with 3 other people’s desks). The next day involved major hangovers. And apparently some very serious discussions from managers to those who had misbehaved.

    They cut down the open bar to ‘two drink tickets’ after that.

    I just can’t understand why you’d do the opposite of “pre-gaming” (having a drink or two at home to get loosened up and not have to buy as much at a bar) – paying to drink before you get free drinks.

    1. Natalie*

      Finger food is always high risk. A few years ago, my entire office including myself got completely hammered sort of by accident. We had received tons of gift cards to an upscale steak house (from vendors and stuff) so we all went there for our holiday dinner. Since no one made a reservation we couldn’t get a table and sat in the lounge instead. They had champagne half price because it was snowing, it took forever for our food to get there, and of course we didn’t have an actual table so no one ordered a real meal or ate close to enough. I ended up getting in the wrong Uber – free ride! – and my colleagues apparently all decided to share an Uber so I got an expense report with the most ridiculous map on the receipt.

      I think our total bill for fewer than 10 people was close to a grand.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      People in advertising do this all the time. It’s like once they say “party” everyone is like “what do you meeeeeeeean the drinking doesn’t start until 6?”

      So they head out to a dive bar at 2. And that’s that.

    3. Anonicat*

      I’ve heard stories of crazy hospital Christmas parties in the 80s, where many of the staff ended the night by hooking each other up to drips to mitigate the next day’s hangover.

    4. mscate*

      yeah when i was vegan for a while while working at a university, we had christmas lunch. All vegetarians and vegans got the same three course meal- vegetable salad, pasta with tomato sauce and fruit salad. We all got super drunk as there was no protein and fats.

    1. LawPancake*

      Oh god, I used to work in a hotel that would host impersonators and I’ll never forget the night I had to go down to the sound guy’s van to get a a very stoned Tom Jones, Elvis, and Neil Diamond out of the back to get ready for their second act.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I used to work with an Elvis impersonator–he would bust it out for Christmas and retirement parties, but without his sparkly suit, because it was at his mom’s house in St. Louis and he didn’t want to risk it getting lost in the mail. He is now at seminary to become a youth pastor, and I am quite happy to think of some group of teens now experiencing the joy of Pastor Jake’s Elvis Spectacular!

  16. Anon for this*

    We have a departmental secretary, who is incredibly kind and generous if not somewhat overenthusiastic. She supports close to 50 people in our department with very little complaint, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised the year she ROASTED all of us at the mid-day (no alcohol) holiday party. She emceed the gift exchange and some of the raffles and games and spared no one. When it was my boss’s turn to participate in the gift exchange, she gave her a Snickers bar, because she “always looked so cranky and stressed” (which was not even a little bit true). She made fun of people for being skinny, for being shy…it was AWKWARD. She no longer “emcees” the party.

    1. Snark*

      I was thinking at first that she was like, “I see you, Fergus. I see you not refilling the copier tray when you use it all.” But getting too personal would make that awkward real fast.

      1. Samiratou*

        Yeah, if she’d gone with mild riffs on people’s annoying office habits that could be quite entertaining but it’s really hard to do right, particularly for 50 people.

        1. Anon for this*

          It started that way! But then she got super carried away and she is privy to some personal information as she books many people’s travel. That day I learned that one person we work with always arranges to put the mini bar on a separate tab, because he empties it every night…

      2. selina kyle*

        Yeah I thought petty office complaints or jokes that everyone would sort of know about and wouldn’t cut deep could be very fun. Not this!

    2. Lissa*

      Thank you for a story that proves that “I’m punching up!” does not automatically make this type of thing ok. :)

      Also, eeeeesh.

  17. paul*

    Mine is years ago, first year on the job. I was hired in the late fall, so fairly new.

    We were at our Communications Director’s house for a party; I’m feeling fine, all is well, I’m pleasantly chatting over some snacky thingies.

    And with about 5-10 seconds warning, I projective vomit. over my plate, her floor, our finance director, etc. Run to the bathroom and continue to puke for a solid 10-15 minutes.

    A coworker drives me home because I was in no shape to drive.

    0 alcohol involved; I was fine the next day too. No idea WTF happened. My stomach just said “nope!” and decided an emergency evacuation was in order I guess. Hadn’t even had much to eat.

    1. Lunch Meat*

      My headcanon is that the finance director was a spy and was trying to poison you and you sensed it subconsciously.

      1. paul*

        Actually, he and I are still friends; he’s the ED of a fairly major local non profit now. Nice guy.

        That I sprayed with a hose of puke while trying to get to a trash can or bathroom or ANYTHING.

    2. Adlib*

      The human body is weird. I once had chills & a fever that lasted like 2 hours, and I woke up the next morning feeling fine. So bizarre. (Good thing too as I was out of town on business.)

    3. As Close As Breakfast*

      I had a projectile vomiting ‘incident’ that still haunts me to this day when I was doing my very first summer internship. It was my first week and I was innocently walking down the long empty hallway one floor above the labs I worked in, when I was suddenly struck with the same 5-10 second warning you experienced. I had just enough time to hang a quick right and run directly into the bathroom. And by ‘just enough time’ I mean that I turned, opened the door and projectile vomited all over the room. Being a young and unsure woman at the time, I started sobbing and trying to clean up the mess. So as I’m down on my knees trying desperately to wipe up the mess while crying uncontrollably, the door opens and in walks… a gentleman. Because OF COURSE I had run into and vomited all over the MEN’S RESTROOM. I still don’t know which one of us was more shocked in that particular moment. It turned out that for some unknown reason, while the two floors were identical in every other way, the restroom locations were switched. If I had been on my own dang floor at least I would have covered the women’s restroom in vomit. I still cringe.

    4. Cassandra*

      Oh gosh I thought the denouement here would be a kidney stone, which can (as I learned the hard way — not at a party, though!) cause a sudden unstoppable attack of the barfs.

      Awful thing to happen, but I’m glad it wasn’t worse.

      1. Candi*

        It might have been. I’ve had kidney stones a couple times, and I felt miserable even though they passed (feeling every inch). Increasing fluid intake put a stop to that. (Almost nothing makes me actually vomit, though. Pregnancy and very bad stomach bug have been the only culprits.)

        My other thought was bad food, sea or otherwise, and the body reacted with a prompt eviction notice when it detected that. The thing on the Osmosis Jones movie, with the oyster and the father getting real sick real fast? Is a thing.

  18. AnnaleighUK*

    One of my co-workers at OldJob got so wasted at a party that he walked over eight miles home in the snow with no jacket because he’d given it to someone who had said he was cold. That was the worst we ever had, we were far too well behaved. I find out what CurrentJob parties are like tomorrow night so maybe next year I’ll have something better to share!

      1. whingedrinking*

        I mean, “in the snow” can mean different things – it could be slightly above freezing, or it could be forty below – and if it’s more the former than the latter, and you’re walking briskly enough, you’d probably not lose any fingers.
        Still sounds unpleasant. Yikes.

        1. Jessica*

          8 miles at or below 32 degrees with no coat, when you’re drunk…that’s a good 3 hours or so. Zoinks. That would really suck.

          1. Candi*

            Bus stop is a mile from my house. Today was fog, fog, fog… was that a bit of clearing? Nope, more fog. This is very weird. Usually fog burns off by midmorning, even in winter.

            So, I, thinking that the fog would burn off, wore a light coat designed more for keeping the rain off and a long sleeved shirt.

            FREAKING COLD walking home. Fortunately, walking did keep me warm enough so I was okay.

            Temperature didn’t get above 40 F today.

            So I so, so feel for this guy. Especially since the alcohol would have made him feel warmer than he was through vessel dilation, and he would have temperature misreading and heat loss going on with the loss of judgement and discernment.

  19. Hmmmmm*

    My strangest holiday party work story: I try to explain to my boss that most people will not attend unless they feel like they have to or unless a lot of money was spent or both. I try to cushion it in budget and time investment concerns, but that backfires. He tells me to schedule it during the lunch break and not serve alcohol for cost concerns. Most of our employees were young creatives, part-timers or contract work based with a variety of other gigs, scheduled based on need an union agreements, so we can’t make it mandatory and there is nothing to be gained by “face time.” I send out invites to the entire org and no one RSVPs. I get a few emails asking if this is mandatory and/or if alcohol will be served. I show them to my boss, he neither wants to upscale or downscale. Over a period of a month or two, he sends me emails of random of things he wants to make sure I include, such as using giftwrap to cover the tables instead of table cloths etc etc. Cut to the day of the party: I spend 4 hours setting up, coordinating the catering deliveries, setting up a speaker system, giftwrapping 8ft tables, sending out reminder emails through various channels every hour or so. I call department admins to remind them to encourage people to attend the party. The room looks gorgeous and I did a really good job considering I had a budget of like $300. The only people who show up take a plate of food and immediately leave. Including my boss.

    My best holiday party story: The next year my boss closes the office half day instead of throwing a party. Everyone participated in that.

    1. Hallway Feline*

      Sounds like you did an awesome job though! So while it sucks the way it turned out, I’m going to applaud your effort. You are a true RA in spirit (or maybe you were one?)

      1. Hmmmmm*

        It was fine. If anyone ever leaves these things up to me, forever and ever I will do a “holiday office closure” instead of a holiday party. I am 100% convinced the best gift you can give someone in 2017 is a weekday afternoon off.

        1. Kelsi*

          How about both? My office does a (non-mandatory) holiday lunch at a fancyish restaurant, with some fun events like an auction where senior level staff has donated time/skills (for instance, last year I won a line-dancing lesson from a manager that line dances competitively and a pie of my choice from one of our department heads). Once lunch is over, we get the rest of the afternoon off.

          (We have a large enough staff that this works…some people choose not to go to lunch and instead take the time off, but the majority do come!)

  20. Snark*

    “at least one of the guys who threw up in an office wastebasket (his own, at least, but it was in a shared office with 3 other people’s desks).”

    There was a guy in college who was so hammered he was sitting on the floor, hugging a trash can on his lap, and barfing into it periodically. It was a mesh trash can. Good times.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Yikes. At least in my example, they were solid plastic with thin trash bags inside – basically the thickness of a disposable shopping bag, enough to keep a trash container from getting messy from small spills but not very sturdy.

      On reflection, he should have grabbed one of the biohazardous waste cans in the procedure room…

    2. MashaKasha*

      I will admit to sleeping on the floor next to a toilet for the entire night once; for the sole reason that I did not trust myself to be away from it. I’d periodically wake up, throw up into the toilet, and go back to sleep. We were at an all-inclusive resort, then-husband and I had a massive fight, and I got the bright idea to go to an (all-inclusive) bar to help me get it off my mind; and get it off my mind I did! Wish I could say it was “the one time in college”, but no, we were in our 40s and had two teenage children.

  21. cherrytomato*

    re: spray-painted gold barbies – I wouldn’t want one, but do you think the person who did that was going for “knock-off Oscar”?

      1. Candi*

        Someone mentioned in the original gold barbies thread that their church did Ken dolls. In bright patterned shorts.

    1. spock*

      That’s what I’ve always assumed. I still think it’s funny but it doesn’t seem outrageous (though the execution could make all the difference of course).

    2. Goya*

      That was my assumption. Ken doll would have been better as an option for that, but the selection might not has been as plentiful if they were raiding toy bins or thrift shops.

      1. Candi*

        Part of the issue in the original thread was that it looked like the woman made NO effort to tidy them up. Just “spritz” with the paint.

  22. MrsJ*

    There was the year a new-to-us VP (relocated from Corporate) forbid our Secret Santa activity, because he didn’t believe in Santa. Under the same guy’s direction, our holiday lunch did not have any food fit for vegetarians beside the salad and the cookies, because – you guessed it – he didn’t believe in vegetarianism. When confronted about it, he pointed out “there isn’t much chicken in the pasta dish” and suggested the non-meat eaters try that dish. It got even better! We had team building activities at the event which consisted of cheap kids’ games at each table. We were invited to play them as part of the entertainment, and then we found out the games were the door prizes. Fun times!

    1. Susanne*

      This is so odd! Vegetarianism is so common and has been for years – whether it’s moral qualms about eating meat or health-related reasons. It’s just sort of been the norm for years that you offer both meat and non-meat options in any kind of public catering setting, IMO.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        You’d think so, but some people take weird offence. My father-in-law once slipped meat broth into my food. My stomach figured it out. (He called to gloat after we got home from dinner. My husband yelled that he should come over and hold my hair back.)

        1. Alli525*

          This is a fairly common occurrence over at Reddit’s JustNoMIL (mother-in-law) page – so many crazies trying to poison their child’s spouse!!

        2. HaHaChaCha*

          I’m super lactose-intolerant (and also super, super anxious about making things difficult for hosts if I’m the odd one out) and if someone did this to me, I’d really want to try and vomit on them. It’s so rude!!

        3. The Bimmer Guy*

          That’s really effing cruel. Where do people get off, trying to slip meat to vegetarians / vegans?

        4. Properlike*

          My BIL – who is a certified asshole – slipped veal into his sister’s meal after she told him she didn’t want to eat veal at his wedding. Then he self-importantly told her just after the meal finished. He’s still an asshole. I have a list.

      2. MrsJ*

        The truly odd thing was that he was imported from the corporate office in Portland, OR, which is pretty crunchy. I guess his disbelief in vegetarianism was one of the reasons he was unhappy there.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m sorry, this guy sounds so terrible, but lordy he’s making me giggle. I’m just imagining trying to keep it together when a grown man announces belligerently that he doesn’t believe in Santa. Or vegetarians. But mostly freaking Santa.

    2. MrsJ*

      That VP was a prize human being all around. We used to refer to him as “Lord Farquaad” from Shrek behind his back.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Sooo applying the same logic in a different way, you guys could have banded together and told him that you all don’t believe in VPs.

    4. FD*

      He doesn’t believe in…All I can think of here is, “In my church, we don’t believe in Mormons.” /obscure reference/

    5. Candi*

      Sooooooooo did he listen when/if someone pointed out to him that he was risking running into some huge ADA/religious issues with that anti-vegetarian crap?

      Also, how do you not believe in something that objectively exists? This guy sounds like he’s a few dice short of a D&D set.

      There’s science behind why people who don’t eat meat get sick when exposed -so jerkarses, QUIT with the SNEAKING. Ditto for allergies and sensitivities.

  23. Broadcastlady*

    The family owned media companyi work for used to have parties with lots of wine. One Christmas about 12 years ago, an employee’s wife got trashed, and as they got ready to leave my boss said, “Are you sure you don’t want anymore wine?” He shouldn’t have, but he did. She replied with “Why don’t you eat my ass?” Havent had alcohol at a party since.

    1. Broadcastlady*

      I should add, this still gets talked about at every Christmas party. That employee has long moved on (left on great terms).

    2. DeeC*

      (it’s totally the ‘it’ thing to do anymore…..we just watched CHIPS this past weekend and this line KILLED every.single.time)

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I’m not sure if she meant that as a retort or as a come-on, both scenarios have me laughing at my desk!

  24. Nicki Name*

    Not funny, but will sound weird to most of you…

    At a past job, the annual Christmas charity drive consisted of buying presents for kids attending a local school that catered to the homeless. The wish list was in a “giving tree” format– a Christmas tree would be set up in HR hung with tags listing kids’ names, ages, clothing sizes, and what they wanted.

    This company operated in a heavily unionized industry, but was not unionized itself. One year, there was an attempt to unionize the workers on the factory floor, with a vote in January, so the campaign period was happening over the holidays. The charity drive stil happened, but there was no Christmas tree– because apparently it qualified as a company-provided “informational display”, which meant the union could set up a display of similar size/reach, and management felt it was more important to prevent that than have the festive giving tree! Instead, the tags were put in an envelope that was circulated furtively among department admins.

    1. Samiratou*

      And there management goes, demonstrating why people might perhaps have wanted to unionize. Whodathunkit?

    2. Candi*

      Assuming that there was a lawyer available who knew the field…

      1) They had an overly-cautious lawyer.

      2) They didn’t consult a lawyer and ran bad searches on the net.

      3) There was much jumping to conclusions and no one did any research.

  25. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    Last year the company owner delayed picking a restaurant to have our holiday dinner, so we ended up going to one that is very popular among tourists. When we got a table the waitress locked our bags to our chairs, so we couldn’t leave until we payed the bill. I had to stay until 3 a.m., and my manager drove me home because it was too late to get a bus.

    1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      According to the restaurant staff, it’s a “security measure” to protect bags a purses from being stolen, but I didn’t believe them.

      1. Turkletina*

        I presume because her bag was locked to the chair until the bill was paid, and the bill wasn’t paid until 3am.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I still have so many things to say about this and all of them begin with “But why…”

      1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Or bring a big nail clipper to break the plastic they used to, eh… “secure” my belongings. Seriously.

          1. Candi*

            I have a friend who carries a box cutter in her purse. Again, not what she carries it for

            Although I would want front-row seats if someone DID try this on her.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That is weird. And no one knew that before they sat down? I don’t get how the place stays in business.

      1. Nanani*

        If they mainly serve tourists maybe they have a high enough proportion of people being like “WELP I guess that’s just how they roll here” and not question it because they don’t know better?

  26. Chris*

    The large metro public library I worked at didn’t have a staff part per se, but instead held a volunteer appreciation party at Christmas, that was also effectively our party. They never, ever (to my memory) gave us any kind of Christmas bonus or gift. The overall director came to each branch and gave his little speech, and EVERY year, they would come and make a fuss about how many volunteer hours we had. “This year, volunteers put in the hours of 2 full-time staff!” they would say, brightly. This while also speaking to their staff, almost all of whom were part-time, and were constantly fighting for even tiny wage or hour increases.

    Volunteers deserve appreciation, absolutely, but perhaps don’t phrase it as “and we don’t have to give any more cash to THESE jerkwads!” while doing it.

    1. zora*

      I LOVE this mentality.
      I have worked for one nonprofit where one leader would routinely talk about exactly how much she had ‘spent on staff’ on weekly staff calls, as if we were selfishly taking money away from the cause. And interviewed for another leader of an organization who kept talking about his vision for the future: “Won’t it be great when we have volunteers to do all of our work, and we don’t have to pay anyone at all?” …. Um, but I am interviewing for this job because I actually need to get paid… so…..

      Oy, some people…

      1. Tuna*

        Years ago, I interviewed for a job at a non-profit, where I was told that I would get paid for 25 hours a week, but be expected to work 40+ hours a week, or ‘whatever was needed to get the job done’. They would log the difference a ‘volunteer hours’. A week later, the interviewer called to offer me the job and I declined the position.

          1. Tuna*

            I know that now. But then I was very young and had other job offers, so I moved on. The person who interviewed me was actually the one I would have replaced had I taken the job. I remember wondering why she would put up with a schedule like that.

          2. Candi*

            It’s been discussed on this site before. It’s as illegal as printing your own money. There’s laws on volunteer vs paid hours in NPOs in place precisely because some jerks can’t be trusted not to exploit the naive and desperate.

      2. mscate*

        i once interviewed for a part time job which was to train unpaid volunteers to take over my position. I decided not to take the position once I found this out

  27. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    I’m doing my best to avoid being a story here. Tomorrow is my last day. The holiday party is today. And I’m not a happy camper for a variety of reasons.

    I think I’ll be passing on the wine tonight.

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Yep. I have a new job lined up, etc, so I’m fine. But if I start drinking, I’ll either start crying uncontrollably or start saying some uncomfortable truths. Neither is a good plan.

  28. JanetM*

    I’m not sure this belongs here, but probably the worst holiday office thing that happened to me was the year the company announced, somewhere around December 15, “By the way, to save money, we’re closing for two weeks from December 21-January 3. You’ll all be on unpaid leave. No, you can’t use vacation time.”

    This company had many other employee-unfriendly policies, but that was the final straw. I finished my spring semester of college, got my AA degree, resigned in May, and moved to Tennessee to live with my now-husband.

    1. Language Student*

      Jeez. Bad enough to try that at all, but to only tell everyone halfway through the month in which you find out that you aren’t getting a full months’ pay?

      1. Alli525*

        Especially a month where people are generally spending more money than usual due to travel and gifts! Geez.

    2. Turtlewings*

      That’s the kind of thing that could be seen as at least a double-edged kind of gift — bummer that it’s unpaid, but everyone gets over a week off for Christmas! — but not with only six days’ warning. Not cool.

      1. Kelsi*

        Only a double edged gift if you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.

        I’m doing okay, but finding out I was going to be out two weeks of pay with a week’s notice would have me sobbing on the floor in a panic. I like vacation and all but my bills don’t take Christmas holidays.

    3. Former Hoosier*

      I worked somewhere where this was standard. We considered it a layoff and filed for unemployment.

      1. JanetM*

        This may vary from state to state (and it may have changed in the last 30 years), but when I called the Unemployment office on behalf of my group of four, I was told that since there was a defined return-to-work date, it wasn’t a layoff and we wouldn’t qualify for unemployment.

        Fortunately, I had enough savings to cover my December bills, but I was NOT a happy camper.

        1. Candi*

          Laws have changed in several states. In many, it would now be considered a temporary involuntary layoff, kind of like construction workers often get, and at least a week would be eligible for unemployment.

          Those bosses were arses. How many workers did they hemorrhage after that stunt?

  29. EddieSherbert*

    A couple years ago, my company bought a plot of land with an old house on it next door that we planned on tearing down so we could expand. Then someone decided it’d be fun to host our holiday party at that house before it was demolished (I don’t know why? Celebrating the expansion? Saying goodbye to this random house none of us had ever been in before?).

    Anyways, lots of drinking and then someone pointed out how the house was being demolished next week… and utter chaos started. I have no one idea where or how it spread. Like literally, I was just chatting with a couple coworkers while hovering over the pigs-in-a-blanket, and then suddenly realized people were screaming and ripping down the banister to use the poles to stab holes in the walls.

    It comes up once in a while and always amazes me how calm everyone else seems to be about it – like “haha, wow, that got out of hand.”


    1. EddieSherbert*

      There’s a reason I call that place ToxicJob and I’m not there anymore (still have friends there though). A lot of house-destruction-level pent up anger. Hahaha

    2. Hophornbeam*

      This actually made me laugh out loud. That almost never happens when I read stuff. (Actually, I had a coworker who I worked with closely for several years who said he had never heard me laugh out loud, period.)

      1. Alli525*

        When the college I work at decided to demolish the old library to build a new one, apparently there was a big ol’ graffiti party that everyone was invited to – basically it was “if you help us move a couple boxes of books/etc, you get spray paint.” That was before my time but the pictures look like a lot of fun.

    3. Tina*

      A friend of mine was living in a house with a bunch of roommates until one year the landlord announced that when the lease was up he and his family were going to move back in after making some extensive renovations. My friend asked if it would be ok if they drew on the walls before they moved out and he said yes, so she threw a huge party for all our friends who were mostly 20-somethings with somewhat juvenile senses of humor. So when the landlord and his family (including his young child) came by the house with an appraiser after everybody had moved out, they were all treated to many and varied depictions of male genitalia in literally EVERY room.

    4. Phlox*

      My high school math teacher was told that her portable classroom was getting demolished/major renovation (forgetting which) my sophomore year, so she let us draw on the totally beat up carpets. Which we proceeded to see for the rest of my time there (we had the same teacher and classroom all four years). Sadly no major much needed renovations…

  30. bumbletea*

    At my first company Christmas party in my first full-time role, we played Dirty Santa, and I’d brought one of the large crystal ornaments that were really popular at the time because I figured it would be a nice, safe gift, and I knew the location manager was a teetotaler. Well, that was a HUGE mistake. Everyone else, with the exception of the manager, brought some form of alcohol. And we’re talking mostly hard liquor with lots of raunchy jokes from folks I’d never heard even curse before (and for someone raised by sailors, even I was shocked by some of the stories told).

    When my gift was unwrapped, people were making fun of how “quaint” it was and “who would even bring that?” off and on. My direct supervisor said it was “literally the stupidest gift she’d ever seen.” I was mortified.

    Thank goodness none of my other organizations ever played this game (except for my current one – where it was a surprise and all of the gifts were provided for us by our CEO and his wife). I think I’m still traumatized… And I will never give anyone an ornament for Christmas again.

    1. Trig*

      What IS it about anonymous gifts that makes people COMPLETELY forget that the person who brought that gift is right there, hearing everything they say? Like, surely they wouldn’t say that if there was a ‘from bumbletea’ note on it!

    2. As Close As Breakfast*

      I’m intrigued by the game where the CEO and his wife provided all of the gifts! We’ve talked about doing a White Elephant (silly, fun, stupid gift version) at my current company but have always decided not to. We always come to the conclusion that it would be ridiculous and thoughtless to have even an optional version when many of the employee’s are making $10-$14 an hour. I mean really, what do you say? “Please work for 1-2 hours this week so you can then go buy a gift you don’t really have the money for to play a game you might not even want to play but still will because even though we aren’t pressuring you at all you don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t do it?” But maybe one year we could swing a company/owner sponsored version? I’m going to have to suggest that!

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        I worked in an office where the office provided all of the gifts for one of these. I can’t remember what it was for…maybe Secretary’s Day. For the holidays, you got a bonus and any staff you supported typically gave you a present- if you didn’t support specific staff, the office gave you a gift. Nothing crazy but I remember getting a present one year themed for a local sports team that included an official hat with your last name on the back, which I thought was nice. (Though admittedly if you disliked it you really couldn’t re-gift it unless to another family member)

    3. StrikingFalcon*

      That sounds like an excellent and thoughtful gift! I’m sorry your coworkers were such jerks.

    4. Candi*

      Unless it was one of those with fifty million two-inch spikes, I would have been fine with it.

      As for why no spikes, well, spiked ornaments are worse than legos. Yes, personal experience talking.

  31. Crashboom*

    First time commenting here. This happened about ten years ago, but the email I received from our boss was so epic I preserved it.

    Context: The second year I worked at this company, our holiday party was held on a dinner cruise boat. Our boss footed the bill for dinner and an open bar, and a few other companies also hosted their own parties on the boat at the same time. Since I was underage at the time, I did not drink, and actually left early with my date. Everything was fine when I left. The Monday after, I rolled into the office– the first person there– and was greeted with this email from our boss [identifying details removed]:

    *Good morning to all. I hope all of you had time to recuperate and reflect about the unusual chain of events and circumstances at this year’s Christmas party. Some of you went home early and did not take in the full range of events.

    Unfortunately, some of our staff got out of hand, including the spouses. Things were said, and things were done, that quite frankly were very inappropriate. Also, we had people from the adjoining group that decided to take advantage of our open bar and co-mingle with our group.

    In regards to the inappropriate behavior, I am not going to go into all of the details, but let be said that the root cause was probably due to the open bar. Some of our staff decided that the open bar meant that the drinking could be unlimited, not only in how much, but how they drank. As a result, some our staff and spouses decided that shots were OK. Shots were ordered for some who do not even drink. Shots are not OK at a company Christmas party. Other staff and spouses got multiple drinks at once for themselves and for people not even in our group. Others decided it was OK to get openly drunk and beligerent, to the point of making racial slurs. I, myself, am guilty of attacking someone from the other group after he decided to retaliate by groping my wife.

    Having thought about the circumstances and the fact that we have to work together as a firm and team, some of you need to apologize for your behavior and/or for the behavior of your spouse. We specifically implimented a no fraternization policy and some of you could get fired on that alone, while other staff exercised no restraint over their spouse for their drunken condition. It is not OK for a spouse to misbehave, just because he or she is not an employee. Many careers have been destroyed, and people get fired, due to the conduct of their spouse. You are expected to excercise constraint over your spouse, or take them home. And if that cannot be done, then you should not bring your spouse.

    In regards to the Firm’s policy on drinking, there will be no more open bars. Unfortunately, some of you and your spouses excercise extremely poor judgment. Because of this poor judgment, it puts the Firm at risk. Given the poor road conditions that night, some of you could have ended up dead. It is also unfortunate that a few have to ruin it for the whole group.

    I would like to start the apologies by stating I am sorry for not handling the situation that I was confronted with in a different manner. I feel embarrassed, and it was not conduct befitting of the firm’s president. I also felt betrayed by some of you for patronizing the one individual from the adjoining group, who’s behavior was lewd and offensive, not to mention the outright theft by running up our bar tab.

    I invite others to make some form of apology, either by email or in person for what they did or said, or what their spouse did or said. You can do this voluntarily, and you know who you are, or I will confront you by Wednesday of this week. I do not intend to ignore what happened. If I have to confront you, you could lose your job. I will be available Monday and Tuesday late afternoon, or you can email me and/or others. Let’s not let this one incidence stop us from being [#1 company in field]. We have a lot going for ourselves and let’s keep it going.*

    I was dying reading this email. The secretary finally showed up, and since it was the two of us I of course cornered her and demanded the details. Apparently after I left, everyone got rowdier, one of my coworkers knew someone from another group on the boat and was giving him drinks, that other guy groped our boss’s wife on the dance floor leading boss to try to physically fight him, a co-worker’s spouse called the boss’s son-in-law (a black man) the N-word, and basically it was a total shit show. Thankfully since I had left before the disaster started I did not have to apologize. Apologies were made (privately and via company-wide email) and nobody ended up fired. No more open bars at parties from then on, though.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My jaw dropped reading that email. I think I would have been equal parts relieved and disappointed that I wasn’t there to witness all the chaos.

    2. Meagan*

      For some reason, this line is getting me: “Given the poor road conditions that night, some of you could have ended up dead. It is also unfortunate that a few have to ruin it for the whole group.” I feel as though the ‘some of you could have died’ bit should probably have come *after* the bit about a few ruining the party for everyone. The asymmetry is glorious.

      1. a*

        With the level of shitstorm in this email, I legitimately half-expected it to say “It is unfortunate some of you did not [end up dead due to the poor road conditions].” OMG.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      I… did two rounds of shots at a work holiday party. It was also my first week on the job. In my defense, I can hold my liquor AND I had been working with that department for about a decade before joining, so it didn’t reflect badly on me.

      And there were no day-after e-mails, no fights, no groping, no racism, etc. So there’s that.

      The drinks bill did turn our future parties into “buy your own booze,” though.

      1. Tina*

        I’ve definitely done shots at a company holiday party and managed to not make an ass of myself. I think that’s kind of a silly proclamation to make. If you’re going to have an open bar, people might have shots. The drunkest I’ve been at an office party was when there was an open bar but no food and I just drank too much wine on an empty stomach (luckily everybody else was in the same boat so we were all drunk together, and nobody did anything horrifying).

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            I mean, I guess it depends on the office’s general atmosphere – sipping cocktails vs beer pong, that kind of thing. Maybe in light of what happened (shots for non-drinkers, general chaos), instituting a “we do not do shots at our parties” rule was best for that workplace.

            1. Not really a lurker anymore*

              I recently attended a work conference in Vegas. There was copious amounts of alcohol at the evening “dinners”. I asked for tequila shots and the bartender said he wasn’t permitted to do shots. But he cheerfully poured tequila into cups with a single ice cube in them for me.

              1. Still annoyed at the guy who told him*

                We had an after party after a work event and we had so many drink tickets left over that it was basically an open bar. A group of us went over to get shots and the bartender wasn’t allowed to serve them. He then proceeded to serve at least 10 “neat” drinks in a row before asking someone why we all changed our drink orders all of a sudden.

      2. Sterling*

        I’ve done shots at a company event WITH my direct supervisor. Not a party but a conference we went to. We are in academia and as I have discovered this is an industry where people drink when off campus lol

    4. Merci Dee*

      Dear (Firm’s president) —

      I’m sorry . . . . that I didn’t stick around to see all this!


      Early Party Leaver

      1. Crashboom*

        I know, right? I HATED our holiday parties, though. I was always badgered about why I wasn’t bringing a date (I roped some guy I didn’t even like into coming to this one), and the boss and his wife (who worked for the company in a bullshit “marketing” capacity) would take it as a personal offense if I did not attend. This also extended to post-work happy hours, which, again– I was underage, yet still expected to tag along sipping on a water for an hour with colleagues much older than me.

        Oh, and the first Christmas party I experienced there? Christmas bonuses were distributed via a handheld game of Deal or No Deal. No joke. It was a nightmare.

    5. Lissa*

      I knew this was gonna be amazing from the first line of your post. Any company-wide email after a holiday party that gets preserved has gotta be fantastic.

    6. Jam Today*

      “the unusual chain of events” is so genteel. I derive enormous satisfaction from that soft understatement.

    7. Triangle Pose*

      Wait, how do you leave a dinner cruise early? Once the cruise ship leaves the dock, aren’t you stuck?

      1. Crashboom*

        What makes it more hilarious is that he was maybe in his early 60s and a TINY guy. Like barely over five feet. I know he had been in the military at one point, but he was not some tall or jacked looking guy… very troll looking. The wife was definitely a “trophy wife” type. To make it even funnier, I’m 99% sure the guy who “groped” the wife (which from what I recall was more just grinding and I don’t think the wife was objecting to it) was gay.

      2. Crashboom*

        To paint more of a picture for you, my boss was in his early 60s, and barely cleared five feet. I know he’d spent time in the military when he was young but was certainly not some jacked or tall guy. He was short and wiry and sort of looked like a troll. Oh, and I’m also 99% sure that the guy who groped (i.e. grinded against while dancing) his trophy wife was gay.

      3. Maolin*

        I’m still stuck on the circular logic of that whole line!

        “I, myself, am guilty of attacking someone from the other group after he decided to retaliate by groping my wife.”

        It’s like an MC Escher staircase! The other Dude retaliated with groping before Boss attacked the Dude for the retaliatory grope. *mind blown”

      1. Crashboom*

        I explained above, but it actually only “cruised” for about an hour or so before it came back to the dock.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Dear Alison, I am a company CEO. I threw an employee’s Christmas party and there was an unusual chain of events….”

      Dear CEO, When alcohol is free-flowing there is no such thing as UNUSUAL.

    9. 653-CXK*

      When I began with my current company 20+ years ago, we used to have our parties at a local hotel, with lavish food and desserts, live music, plus a cash bar.

      This tradition ended after people skipped the food and desserts and went straight for the booze – and at one point, it got out of hand. Managers were lecturing underlings not to drink, but made a bee-line for the bar once they got there. There were more than a few arguments and/or disagreements, and inappropriate behavior.

      These days, the company party is a lunchtime holiday buffet, served by the C and VP suites. Everyone comes down in shifts to avoid a free for all, and there are only soft drinks served during the party (as it’s during business hours).

    10. Candi*

      You know, I like this boss for two reasons:

      Fessing up to his own shenanigans, in written, preservable form, yet.

      Continuous use of the word spouse. It doesn’t cover as much as “partner”, but it’s gender neutral, keeping the focus on the behavior. I don’t know why, but this sits very well with me.

      1. rldk*

        The slur-user was a spouse. If I were that CEO, I’d want more than an apology to not at the least ban both the employee and racist spouse from any and all future work parties, if not fire the employee for letting their spouse do that at a work party

    11. Rondack*

      The guy who groped women definitely deserved a punch to the face, though.

      As did the racial slur lady.

      I won’t lie, I’d seriously consider firing any employee who tried to defend the groper and the spouse of the racial slur lady.

    12. Brigitha*

      Is anyone else kinda disturbed by the language about “controlling your spouse”? I mean, the whole thing is bananas, but that part gave me some heebies.

      1. Lance*

        Given the context, not really, since I just see it as saying ‘your spouse can reflect on you, so make certain they’re on good behavior’.

        1. Candi*

          I’d be more concerned if he was saying husbands should control their wives, or wives should control their husbands. That’s beyond problematic straight into -ist territory.

          Hopefully what he meant was “Have a long hard talk with them about how it is still a work event and their behavior reflects on you” and “Do Not Bring Them Again if they double down.” (Although judging by the comment above, the second probably won’t happen.)

      2. Anon anon anon*

        It’s a creepy way to phrase it, but I think the idea was, “Keep and eye on your spouse, encourage them to behave responsibly, and say something if things start to get out of hand.” But it isn’t realistic. Maybe the spouse just started a new medication and isn’t prepared for the way it interacts with alcohol. Or something like that. You can’t control another person. You can just do your best to advise them and have an influence.

  32. Odyssea*

    White Elephant at my workplace has very strict rules to prevent some of the issues that arose at the very first one, when someone got what appeared to be a brand new candle warmer, took it home and discovered that it reeked of cigarette smoke when it got warm. Ugh.

    While the gifts are better, White Elephant is very cutthroat! Two years ago, someone brought a very nice blender (unused and a regift), and there were some hard feelings for the stealers. Nothing outrageous, but some very pointed comments. Luckily, we get two weeks off, so everyone was over it by the time we got back.

      1. Turtlewings*

        A candle warmer is sort of like a little hot plate that melts the candle from below, so you get the scent without any open flame. It’s a lot safer in that way. I know at my college dorm we were allowed candle warmers but no open flame.

      2. HR Bee*

        It allows you to have the smell of scented candles without fire danger or smoke, in case that’s a thing you’re concerned about.

    1. Fiennes*

      The only White Elephant exchange I ever took part in was at my old knitting/crochet group. We met one night a week for a few hours, so having a little party seemed appropriate; I decided to take part even though I was really new. I drew a great prize–a skein of gorgeous wool yarn–which had the added benefit of being something I could make full use of as a newbie. Someone took it from me and gave me a pack of knitting needles in return…knowing full well that I didn’t knit, only crocheted. So I wound up with something useless, and feeling alienated in the group that seemed to think this was all great fun. So I really don’t get the appeal.

      I found a new crochet group shortly thereafter.

      1. viva*

        Ugh, I feel for you. I’m mainly a knitter but it pisses me off when crocheters are treated like crap by knitters. Having been part of various knitting/quilting/embroidery groups over the years – I’m over it. It’s like high school all over again. No thanks.

      2. Red 5*

        This is actually exactly why I’m not really a fan of White Elephant in general.

        The husband’s office used to do it (before the company got too big for it to be manageable) and for the most part everybody understood that the gifts were meant to be a bit silly, so the whole thing was just a bit silly. And it was voluntary, so we only did it I think the first two years and after that just watched because we always ended up with stuff we didn’t want or need because that’s mostly all there was (since that was kind of the point).

        I’ve just seen way too many White Elephants end up with people being really snitty and rude about the “stealing” either because what they wanted was stolen, or because they stole something to intentionally take a thing from somebody who really liked it. It just brings out a weird rudeness that I’m not a fan of.

    2. Kittyfish 76*

      It very well could have been new. My in laws smoke like chimneys and EVERYTHING from their house smells, new or not.

    3. AliceBD*

      My previous company played White Elephant and had a $10 limit. Some presents were better than others for individuals, and alcohol was always some of the options, but until my last year everything was adult and appropriate. Bottle of wine or 6 pack of beer, kitchen towels with funny sayings, scratch off tickets, candles, as seen on tv kitchen gadgets, etc. Nothing scandalous.

      My last year there was a box of condoms as a gift. I felt so bad for the person who got them as he is under appreciated and not super outgoing and was absolutely morified. The person who put them in is definitely the most inappropriate person in the office but not usually in that way.

    4. a*

      At a previous we did a Yankee Swap/White Elephant at a time when I was very new to the company (I had joined about a month before). Because I was so new I was a safe target, so I got stolen from like nine times in a row. It definitely got into “this isn’t fun anymore” territory for me after a while. This actually turned out to be a canary in the coalmine where company culture was concerned…

      Current Awesome Job established a rule that a gift could only be stolen three times AND the same person could only be stolen from three times. It kept things appropriately fun.

      1. JustaTech*

        At CurrentJob we made up and printed out a set of rules for the White Elephant to try and moderate some of the un-fun bits, like people constantly getting stolen from. Each gift or person can only be stolen/stolen from once.

        One year someone’s gift was a gift bag full of old swag from the company, including a framed photo of our 2-previous CEO. And a $10 Starbucks card, so there was actually a prize. That one was fun for everyone when it was opened.

      2. Candi*

        One of the former holiday story threads had a tale of a guy who worked in a lawyers’ office. As you can likely imagine, they had their YS/WE rules locked down. Including a two-steal limit on each gift.

        Commentator was a Star Wars fan, but there was already a SW fan when he started, so that guy was the Office Star Wars Fan.

        Come office party time, a coworker who is buddies with OSWF puts a present in the YS exchange which turns out to be a really nice SW lunchbox. So one person gets it, OSWF steals it, and buddy and OSWF are all smug about their strategem.

        Commentator steals the box on his turn. Two steal limit on gifts, remember. Other guys are furious.

        Ending comments include not putting personal gifts in the freaking swap, and lawyer dudes, you just got schooled by the IT guy.

    5. Sterling*

      We do a different variation where everyone brings a wrapped gift and there is a complicated game of passing left and right and when it ends you get whatever you are holding and no one can steal anything. People sometimes will trade though after things are unwrapped. We also have a $10 limit.

      My niece just had her work party and they did the white elephant with stealing and someone got a cruise gift certificate and had it stolen. That would be upsetting.

      1. Shandon*

        We did this at my work today. Every year the supervisors of a couple of departments that work together have a holiday luncheon for us, where they bring in food (usually something catered from a restaurant) and bring in some games and such, and we all basically just hang out in a conference room and eat and play games and talk for a couple of hours and it’s nice (even though I wouldn’t go if I could avoid it, not because I don’t have fun because I usually do, or don’t like my coworkers because they are a pretty great group, but these sorts of gatherings just aren’t my thing). This year though, they organized a game like this. Only they provided all the gifts and we all chose one to start out with, then rolled dice for the swapping etc. It was more fun than I’d anticipated and the gifts, though small, were generally nice little things. Travel tumblers, mugs, candles, etc. That’s about the extent of the work related holiday festiveness I can deal with.

  33. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I was a working student at a chair at a German university. So I was invited to the holiday party.

    It was at a local restaurant. And as we were in Bavaria beer flowed freely.

    One of the grad students was fairly deep into her cups when she encountered some fruit she hadn’t seen before.

    They’re called ‘physalis’, little yellow things with a papery covering. Tasty.

    We were treated to a fairly long loop of this:

    Grad student: ‘What are these things called again?!’
    Someone else: ‘Physalis.’
    Grad Student: ‘Er… syphilis?!’

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh, wow, I had read about these (though never tasted one) and I thought that was a geographical name based on where they grew. Thanks for the info!

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            I’ve seen them called ground cherries in the States. I don’t think I realized that they were the same thing as gooseberries.

            Either way, they are delicious…the green markets in NYC have them in the summer.

            1. Candi*

              The first name I ever learned for them was Chinese lanterns. >.<

              I am so, so glad I learned they were ground cherries, then gooseberries, before I talked about them to anyone else.

            2. SarahTheEntwife*

              They’re the same thing as cape gooseberries, but regular non-cape gooseberries are a totally different fruit that kind of look like small stripey grapes.

  34. einahpets*

    We are still having our holiday party next weekend, despite layoffs of 15% of the workforce being announced and the first round of those effected be notified next week. The executives were apologetic about it (the party had already been paid for prior to the events leading to this layoff), but I am still not sure how this will go well at all. :(

    But I am looking forward to some more amusing stories here!

    1. Trig*

      Yeeeaaahhh we had two big layoffs this year, and lost a lot of our office/my team. Losses in my location included the (female) manager who usually spearheaded holiday party plans.

      There has been no talk of a holiday party or potluck or anything. I imagine by the time the male managers started saying “oh… we should do that..” it was too late. And also would be depressingly small. Meanwhile our “so long to those just laid off” parties have higher and higher turnouts.

      I got an end-of-year bonus for the first time in my five years here, but I can’t help but feel it’s ‘blood money’ from the extra cash in the budget from the laid-off people’s salaries.

    2. JustaTech*

      Oh lordy that will be an awkward party. We had a big blowout party the year we went bankrupt, and alcohol + a whole lot of people losing their jobs, yeah, it was really uncomfortable.

  35. HR Lady*

    At a part-time job when I was in uni I worked in a clothes shop. We were a small and closeknit team, and we’d got the best results in the area, so they company gave us an extra £10 to stick towards our Christmas party. We had already all paid for a meal out (that included half a bottle of wine a head), and also put £10 in the drinks kitty. This was a lot of money per head, in a Scottish uni town in the mid-noughties. Plus, not having a staff room, we sat on the floor on the shop and pre-gamed vodka. This was the whole team, including management!

    So out we went and we had a great meal but we drank GALLONS of wine. We then headed out to a bar. Now, my memory goes fuzzy at this point but I do remember decided to go home as I was quite drunk. The shop manager (Patricia), the shop supervisor (Jo) and a couple of others stayed out. A few days later I asked how the rest of the evening had gone, and everyone looked ashen. Eventually, over a later between-Christmas-and-new-year drink with Jo (who I got on very well with), she confessed that Patricia and Jo had nipped out of the bar for a cigarette, as you can’t smoke indoors in the UK. The bouncer then refused to let them back in, on the excellent basis that they were too drunk. Patricia objected, as she wanted to get her coat and bag back, she was happy to be escorted in, but the bouncer still said no.

    Patricia, being a cross Scottish lady, kicked out in rage at what she thought was the air and instead was a plate glass door, which shattered. She was then arrested. Failing to remember her own address, she announced she was in charge of ShopName and all bills should be sent there. She had to slink back the next day to the bar and request that they did not, in fact, send the repair bill to the head office of the chain.

    Anyway, I now keep an eye on my drinking at the work Christmas party, so thanks Patricia! (Who was also a very nice lady but HOO BOY could not handle wine.)

    1. Cassie*

      Kicking a drunk woman out of a bar while also refusing to let her collect her belongings? Swell idea! Let’s have drunk women wandering the streets, unable to get home safely! There’s no way that could end badly for her, OR the bar!

      1. Collarbone High*

        Yeah, I’m Team Patricia here. I once got kicked out of a club in Denver, in February, wearing a tank top. The bouncer wouldn’t allow to get my coat or purse, or tell my friends I’d been kicked out. Luckily there was another club nearby with no cover, so I hung out there until last call, and came out to find my friends had called the police because they thought I’d been abducted.

      2. Say what, now?*

        Yes, this is what I was thinking too! If she left her phone in her pocket she couldn’t call a cab, let alone pay for one if she managed to flag one down… irresponsible asshat.

      3. HR Lady*

        It’s fairly common in the UK, alas – they don’t kick you out but you DO need to wait outside until the bar closes then they let you back in.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Honest question: how do bars expect someone to get home without their belongings? I understand it would be messy to retrieve the belongings but how can it be legal to refuse to let someone have their own personal items?

      1. HR Lady*

        You have to wait outside until the bar closes then they let you back in to get your stuff; if they let someone too drunk into the bar then under UK law the bar would lose its license if the police did a spot check.

        I mean, the bouncer was being a total arse, don’t get me wrong!

        1. Rondack*

          And there is so much shit that could go wrong to a woman out in the cold with no phone or money or coat

  36. michelenyc*

    The company I worked for about 20+ years ago. The VP I reported to was always cheating on his wife with different ladies in the office. It got to the point that the president of the company told him he couldn’t close his office door anymore. It was a fairly small, family run business run by somewhat religious Jews. We all laughed about it because you would hear the president yell constantly throughout the day for Paul to open his door especially when he was with Annie. The holiday party was at a very nice Italian restaurant in midtown. We had all arrived at the designated time with the exception of Paul & Annie. They finally rolled in about an hour and a half later completely disheveled. We had all started drinking pretty early in the day so by that time we were all on the drunk side. I walked up to them and in front of everyone asked “Where have you two been?” In a lighthearted accusatory voice. The only person not laughing was the president of the company. It was the office joke the entire 2 years I was there.

        1. Candi*

          Forced buyout time, then.

          (Happened to my uncle back in the 1990s. He objected to the converyor belt methods of the other three; they were doctors.)

          (Guess who still had a practice ten years later?)

  37. DanaScully*

    I’m lucky enough to not have any outrageous experiences (yet). The only thing I can think of is my grandboss getting hammered at the pub on our last day before the Christmas break.

    She is a very stoic, stiff upper lipped woman with a glass half empty outlook. That night, however, she got totally soppy and told me how great I am, how much she likes me and how I have so much potential to go far within the company.

    It was very sweet and I still look back on it fondly when she is being difficult!

    1. Kelsi*

      Haha I had a similar experience with a coworker in another department–for years, I thought she hated me. She has a bit of an RBF, plus a very terse tone in written communication, and we’d had some professional disagreements about how to handle things over the years (not nasty or anything, just…informed by the very different and sometimes opposing needs of our respective departments).

      Then one year at our annual fundraising event, she got pretty drunk and spent a good twenty minutes how much she admired me and thought I was an inspiring person.

      It certainly improved our working relationship from then on! I have no idea whether she even remembers the conversation, but it made it much easier for me to assume positive intent afterwards.

    2. Laughing mom*

      This is only very tangentially related to company parties, but your story reminded me. When my second oldest was a college student, she had a roommate who, on the day they moved in, said “What the hell? I asked for another Asian roommate!” in response to my white daughter introducing herself. It was the last time her roommate spoke to her all semester!
      Until….sullen disappointed roommate was carried home passed out drunk by some coworkers after they’d gone out drinking to celebrate the end of finals and the start of Christmas break.
      And that night sullen disappointed roommate rambled on all night long about how my daughter was the BEST roommate, and she really loved sharing a room with her, and she wished she’d never started this stupid not talking thing, and please don’t switch rooms at the break!
      She totally switched.

      1. Enough*

        Had mother of first college roommate tell me her daughter wanted a new roommate on the day we moved in. Apparently daughter had run into a girl she had gone to high school with 2 or 3 years earlier and wanted her as a roommate. They didn’t get along. (Big surprise)

  38. AKchic*

    I had a boss who was socially inept. He was older, and generally a nice guy, but if he wanted something he could be a manipulative jerk, but when it came to social stuff and jokes, he didn’t always understand double meanings, suggestive meanings, puns, or just jokes in general. It made for some awkwardly funny incidents once in a while.

    Non-Commercialmas incident, just to highlight his ineptness: he called my cell phone (not an unusual occurrence) while I was off the clock (that was unusual). I answered it in case there was an issue (I lived two streets away and could see the admin building from my bedroom window and once in a while the managers locked themselves out, or an alarm would get triggered and I’d be the first on scene to assess whether it was real or not). I could hear idle chit-chat and laughing. A pocket-dial. No biggie. I hang-up. The next day, I jokingly tell him he must have butt-dialed me. He is confused. I explain what a butt-dial is. Innocently, he says “but I keep my phone in my front pocket…” not even aware of what *that* could have suggested.

    So – annual holiday party. We have about 100 staffers on-hand. He is the 3rd in command for our company. We did a “goofy gift exchange” (Pretty much a White Elephant Exchange). Maximum $10 could be spent on the gift in question. Someone gave away a vibrating gag toy (looked like some kind of cat toy). He had selected it and was trying to entice others to take it off his hands, and I kid you not, as a way to advertise it, he says “come on, women love vibrating toys”. Silence. The company is mostly women. You could have heard a pin drop. CEO and HR talk to him. He was horrified once it was explained to him. He wanted to send out this company-wide email apologizing. He had to be talked out of it.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      My jaw dropped on your second paragraph, and dropped further on your third. Good lord.

      1. AKchic*

        One of our board members was bragging about her new (and first) grandchild and was showing pictures. The baby, admittedly, had a very cute outfit on in one of the pictures. He commented on it saying “oh! Those look just like AKchic’s pajamas!”. Cue the weird looks as to why this Director of Operations would know what the senior administrative assistant/records clerk/HIS assistant’s pajamas looked like. *headdesk* Because he locked himself out of the admin building after hours a few times and I lived so close that I could see the building from my bedroom window, so he would call me to let him back in, and I wouldn’t bother changing out of my fleece rubber ducky pajamas to come let him back in. I just never thought he’d remember them 4-5 years later, or make mention of them!

          1. AKchic*

            Surprisingly – none. That company was somewhat gossipy, but I am weird enough, that *that* kind of gossip, and with *him* would have been so out of the realm of “plausible” that it wouldn’t have worked. Add in the fact that he was minimum 40 years my senior that even if someone had tried to start the rumor, it wouldn’t have gotten far at all. We’re talking a Santa Claus-looking 60-something with someone under 30.
            I left the company a year ago and am still friends with the majority of the C-suite and some of the board. If only non-profit work could have paid better.

        1. Ali*

          Not party related but reminds me of a meeting I was in where a co-worker apologised to the group for being tired saying “Ali was moving around so much in my bed I didn’t get much sleep” and everyone looked at me with “that’s news” looks. I just sit there and the first person realises what she said and clarified “My daughter, my daughter’s name is Ali”

  39. The Principal of the Thing*

    We had a teaching assistant who would count all of the gifts from parents which we put in the cubbies we used in place of lockers. She would brag to anybody with less gifts than her that the parents liked her more than them, over the whole two weeks leading up to our last day of the year, and then complain that anybody with more gifts than her should share, ‘because obviously that gift was for everybody’.

    With the gifts which parents gave as collective ones for all of us, we put numbered tickets on all of them, and drew tickets out at random, with a rule that you had to swap if somebody chose something they couldn’t have, like nuts or wine or so on.

    Annoyed that I had an individual gift from a parent she wanted, (a cute candle lamp which you could pick up for maybe $15), she took the gifts I got in the raffle out of my cubby to keep for herself, and left the ones she didn’t want. A box of nut chocolates and a jar of peanuts.

    I’m allergic to nuts.

          1. The Principal of the Thing*

            She’d received a warning earlier in the year (which I hadn’t known about) for ‘joking’ that since there was no such thing as allergies she would add ground nuts to a meal at our winter pot luck to prove I wasn’t allergic, so when I complained I was advised that due to the seriousness of the incident and her previous warning, I should report her to the police for attempted murder, and then they did nothing else because I wouldn’t make a police report.

            1. SKA*

              Oh GOODNESS!

              I have a mild/non-fatal nut allergy and I would’ve been tempted to hold eye contact with her while taking a big ol’ bite and proceeding to vomit in front of her.

              1. The Principal of the Thing*

                I hadn’t known about it at the time – HR felt that could create a hostile work environment. Which uh… obviously already existed.

                Although to be as fair as possible: I don’t think she wanted to give me an allergic reaction when taking my bottle of wine and gingerbread, I think she wanted to leave me with something I couldn’t eat to punish me for getting that cable lamp.

            2. LSP*

              Um, wow. What a terrible HR department. Why is the onus on you to launch a full police investigation (that’s tenuous at best) rather than firing her ass?

              1. The Principal of the Thing*

                She was well known in the local community for being a litigious beast. And to be fair, when she was later fired for gross misconduct, she lived up to that reputation.

  40. Anon (for reasons)*

    I once worked for a family run plumbing shop. Holiday time rolled around, and I received an invite to the annual holiday party. But my co-workers were constantly muttering and complaining about it, so I did a little asking around trying to figure out the problem (so I could figure out how to extricate myself if it was going to be awful).

    Technically, the boss invited all the employees, SOs, and plus ones, because it was a small business, and he was usually pretty gracious. But his wife wasn’t interested in party planning, and she wasn’t part of the business, so he just wrote the bonus checks and paid the bill. The office manager handled the invitations, scheduling, reservations, etc. And she was mad with power. If she was upset with you, no extra invite for your spouse/partner/etc. If she didn’t like your partner, also no invite. If she wanted to go to a restaurant that wouldn’t take a reservation big enough for everyone, she’d cut people. She also revoke invites she’d already issued right up until people were walking in the door. (Apparently, one year it was at a very nice restaurant, and one of the service techs showed up with his wife, who was drop dead gorgeous and wearing the same dress as the office manager. His wife was refused entrance to the party.)

    But most importantly, two years earlier, someone got upset about all the nonsense (and the fact that his wife was never allowed to come) and flat out told the boss what was going on and that he (the employee) was no longer attending any of the parties. The boss asked around, found out the extent of the problem, and office manager was reprimanded big time and lost part of her bonus. She retaliated by framing the reporting employee for time theft. He was fired, and she resumed her nonsense the next year, uninviting three people after the boss sent invites himself. No one complained because they didn’t want to get framed and fired. Thus, the year I worked there, only ten people attended (the boss, his wife, the office manager, her husband, her two adult kids, our two salesmen, one service tech, and me). It was grim and silent, and the boss was pretty angry. Finally, I got tired of being stuck at a table where everyone was glaring and making cutting comments, so I dragged the service tech off to the dance floor for a pine. Then we moved to the bar. And I repeated this with both salesmen. Then the boss and his wife joined us at the bar. We salvaged a lovely hour or so, had drinks and dessert, and left her alone at the table with her family. She then waged a hate campaign against me until I left, but since she was the only participant, it didn’t take.

    (Years later, after attending many more years of school, I was a finalist for a fabulous, important, building block to big places job, that insisted on contacting all prior employers for ethics/security reasons. They were intercepted by the office manager each time they tried to reach my former boss at this place. Finally, since she always said the boss was too “busy” to be a reference for me, they asked her if she remembered anything about my work. Even though I’d left to go to grad school, she said I was fired and nearly arrested for theft, but the boss had let me off the hook due to a “special relationship.” I lost the job offer, and only found out years later why. Some people are too awful.)

    Ever since, I’ve avoided work holiday parties like the plague.

      1. Anon (for reasons)*

        It was a family business. She was related to his wife (cousin? SIL? I don’t remember exactly how anymore).

    1. Samiratou*

      “I lost the job offer, and only found out years later why”

      Damn, I assume enough years had gone by that the statute of limitations had run out on defamation? How horrible.

      1. Anon (for reasons)*

        Well past. But it did lead to an interesting round of story time when the hiring manager for that job eventually realized there was no possible way that story could be true based on what he know knew of me (it’s not that big an industry). And I learned the story so I could sufficiently CYA for all future job offers.

  41. Lumen*

    During the white elephant portion of one holiday party, someone had brought a set of cookbooks as a gift. One was for cooking with breastmilk. The other was for cooking with semen.

    I worked at a preschool.

    Teachers are insane.

    1. Snark*

      “……someone had brought a set of cookbooks as a gift.”

      Me: well, that seems reasonab-

      “One was for cooking with breastmilk. The other was for cooking with semen.”

      Me: There it is.

          1. Anion*

            They didn’t. They’re self-published (I’m familiar with them from years ago when they made the internet rounds).

          2. Foreign Octopus*

            Well know, allow me to introduce you to this little gem.

            The Jewish-Japanese Sex and Cookbook and How to Raise Wolves by Jack Douglas.

            I really want to know where old Jack has been and what he’s seen to write such a book.

            1. O'Bunny*

              Um, I have a copy of that book. It’s actually (as I recall, not having read it in years) pretty funny, dealing with a mixed-race marriage and personal social upheaval. He also wrote “Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes”; both books (and a few of his others) are about living on a fairly remote Canadian island.

        1. Lumen*

          I try to warn people. Teachers are the hardest-drinking, filthiest-joking coworkers I have ever had. And the younger the age group they work with, the more they will make your eyes bug out when they finally let loose.

          The funniest part is that these are also some of the best role models and gentlest nurturers I ever met. Really great teachers, wonderful parents, but hooooooooooooooo boy. When they party, watch out.

          1. starsaphire*

            I wonder if it’s a similar phenomenon to health-care-provider gallows humor. Nurses, doctors, EMTs, and even cops and firemen… all of the ones I’ve known tell the most shocking stories and jokes, possibly as a form of self-preservation.

            * Pro tip: Never, ever, EVER eat lunch at the table next to the table full of EMTs. Just, don’t do it.

            1. Naptime Enthusiast*

              Engaged to a Firefighter/EMT. Can confirm, don’t start work talk if you are easily offended and/or grossed out.

            2. Lumen*

              It absolutely is. You spend so much time and so much energy on the children you work with, and in most places (especially preschools) there is low pay, crappy benefits, lots of out-of-pocket expense, and sometimes outright abusive behavior from administrators, parents. It’s very emotionally exhausting work even on good days, not to mention the endless things kids say or do that you can’t laugh at in the moment.

              So then someone pours you wine. And it allll pours out. It’s physiological release, bonding, and yes absolutely: survival.

            3. Annie Mouse*

              That was my thought as well!
              I work in EMS and it really is a coping strategy. We see some really dark, horrible things and the dark humour and conversations that would be inappropriate in your average workplace keep that at bay. Most of the time.

              And yes, the conversations between a group of EMS workers can be… interesting. Sorry! When you regularly go from dealing with a patient with a stomach bug, or a major bleed, to lunchtime, your level of what is too gross to talk about over food changes rapidly.

            4. Anonicat*

              We (biologists) went out for dinner at a conference once and found out that the servers were referring to us as “the weird table.” As I recall, one of the topics discussed was how to get a semen sample from a bat.

            5. Candi*

              I learned this at my first First Aid/CPR class.

              The teacher was a firefighter/EMT who was very good at instructing. We were a collection of students and students-to-be going into nursing, paramedics, and various hospital positions. (Every position had to know this stuff, even if all you dealth with was paperwork.)

              Oh, the stories.

              After the one about poor Shishka Bob (18 wheeler, driver, accident, long thing pipe, impalement injury) he said words I’ve never forgotten about why they tell the stories and make the jokes:

              “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”

            6. another Liz*

              I’m married to a police officer, his best friend is a paramedic. I once had to kick them both under the table at a nice restaurant because they were trying to figure out which profession saw worse things. People were staring.

          2. tigerlily*

            As someone who works at preschool, I can absolutely attest to this fact. After a long day of telling tiny humans to use their words, you just have to let out some of the crazy.

      1. Candi*

        Okay, the advice to not eat or drink anything while reading AAM, or at least look away while actually consuming food and drink?

        DOUBLE for anything Snark posts. What a talent. So few words, so much amusement.

      1. many bells down*

        That’s a … very niche cuisine, right? And how much more so if you’re giving it as a gift?

        I have some very inappropriate friends and yet I cannot imagine a single one of them that would think a semen cookbook was hilarious. …Actually, no, I can think of one guy. I don’t particularly like him but he’s an old friend of my spouse’s. He’d probably be amused.

        1. Lumen*

          I think it was definitely picked up as a ‘gag’ gift, but… yeah. It was ACTUALLY making me gag.

        2. Incantanto*

          Somebody donated the Anne summers cocktail book to a library I worked at. I was 15 and sorting the books when I found it. Naked woman one page, cocktail the other. There are some strange books out there

    2. This Daydreamer*

      I’m glad I didn’t see this before our holiday party.

      I just got home, with a pair of crazy cat socks, a snowman figurine, a chain craft store gift card, and an unexpected small bonus check. Scooooooorrrrrreeeeeee

  42. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    At my previous job, my boss loved to go all out. We’d have the restaurant next door cater and he would bring in whatever alcohol for the cocktail he picked (we were a specialty food type store and he was a former chef). However, we were also encouraged to bring in our own alcohol of choice. This was not the wisest of decisions.

    Why? One year everyone, except for me and another coworker, got falling down drunk.

    As the party was wrapping up, it became increasingly obvious that nobody could drive apart from me and SoberCoworker.

    I had to drive my boss’s car to a fellow coworker’s house (because his daughter was watching the boss’s kids) to pick them up in order to get them home…while SoberCoworker drove the boss and his wife home first because neither of them could drive. (I don’t remember WHY this was the solution………just that it was.)

    SoberCoworker and I also had to split up our coworkers and drive them home. Fortunately, we all lived within 10 minutes of the store so it wasn’t a huge hassle. Before getting my crew in the car, one coworker knocked his Christmas present onto the floor of the store. Which was a bottle of bourbon. He shrieked that Christmas was ruined and then dove to the ground to drink what had puddled there. This was our first inkling that he had a problem…and the LAST time we were allowed to bring our own alcohol.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Wow, that sounds exhausting. It seems like banning alcohol was a good decision for that group!

  43. sub rosa for this*

    This isn’t a terrible story, just an annoying one, but here goes.

    I didn’t attend LastJob’s holiday party the first year I was there, because everyone was talking about “playing Bingo.” I loathe Bingo, for lots of childhood-related reasons I won’t go into here – but I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to waste a December Friday night in the City to sit around and play Bingo.

    I found out the next year what the Bingo game was all about. You see, apparently the company didn’t give holiday bonuses. So rather than give us each $100, which we could have used, and send us home early, which we would have enjoyed…

    …the company spent a huge pile of money renting an expensive venue in the City, plus deejay and catering and alcohol… and then bought a bunch of electronic gadgets, for which we were expected to compete. And the owners would sit back and watch us as we competed for these prizes.

    Yes, the Bingo game was for Kindles and iPads and vacations. Which, sure, sounds pretty awesome. I mean, it’s an evening out with drinks and you might win a prize…

    …but then again, you might not. And how awful is it, if you worked super hard all year long, to go home with nothing but indigestion, while your slacker co-worker gets a new iPhone and a cruise for his holiday bonus?

    You can guess how many times I went to that holiday party…

    1. Lumen*

      Ugh. I do not get the impulse to ‘make it fun!’ while ignoring what would actually make people feel valued and happy. Work event first, social event second.

    2. Kittyfish 76*

      Oldjob was kind of like this. There would be some stupid game and you picked a gift bag. Ranging from $25 gift cards to $100 cash. The one girl who worked so hard, at the party and at work, and could really use the money, got a $25 gift card to some place she couldn’t use, while some guy who made $100 an hour doing part time IT as a side job for us got the cash. Plus he was a jerk. Nice.

    3. stitchinthyme*

      A company I worked at did a raffle for various electronic gadgets and other goodies at our holiday party; they handed out the tickets as you walked in and then had drawings for the winners. So my husband and I (who both worked there and naturally arrived together) were handed tickets with consecutive numbers, which makes sense. And *of course*, the number just before and the number just after our two both won prizes. We did not.

    4. I was a Jimless Pam*

      I know I’m super late with this but I am totally getting flashbacks to the time I worked as a receptionist at a corporate law firm… at the holiday party, which was held in the middle of the day (and some people couldn’t handle the wine flowing from the managing partner’s sister’s catering company, but that’s not the story here), we played Dirty Santa with prizes the firm bought. These prizes ranged from the totally sweet—Visa gift cards worth hundreds of dollars, TVs, iPads—to the not so sweet. And the lawyers and partners all tumbled ON TOP of each other competing for the good prizes, leaving the support staff who literally made one-tenth their salary with mugs and bottles of Yellow Tail wine. It was brutal, and I was in my early twenties and was too worried about not having to move back in with my parents to let my developing class consciousness get too riled up. Now I work in arts in culture where no one makes any money and am so much happier for it.

  44. Kim*

    I was visibly pregnant for our white elephant exchange one year, and the present I opened in front of everyone was an assorted box of 40s (40-oz bottles of malt liquor beer). I’m not usually a teetotaler, but that was a disappointing gift since I had intentionally avoided the obvious bottles of $10 wine. Gifts of alcohol have been banned ever since, and the gift exchange has gone way downhill.

    1. Lumen*

      That’s a bummer. At last year’s gift exchange there were bottles of mead and wine and so on, but when pregnant coworkers got those, the person running it would just immediately offer to let them pick something else if they wanted to, and the people with bottles of booze wouldn’t then try to steal from them, forcing them to take alcohol. And sometimes the pregnant coworkers wanted to take bottles home anyway, to spouses or for after they gave birth. No ban necessary, just thoughtfulness.

  45. Toodles*

    One year the telecom that I worked for held a luncheon outside of the office for the first time in the three years I’d been there. There was nice food, and everyone was enjoying themselves until the CEO stood up to make a speech. It was your typical “Thank you for your hard work” spiel, with a heavy emphasis on belt-tightening. Our party favor was a leather-bound portfolio, the type you use for your resume when interviewing. I took the cue and found a new job that April.

  46. Happy Hollandaise*

    The CEO of our wholly owned subsidiary had a Christmas party at his house for upper management. The first year I attended (as a plus 1) he took some of us on a tour of his mansion. The first stop was a large guest bedroom, about which he said (and I am NOT making this up): “It sleeps three and f***s six.” I dropped out of the house tour at that point.

  47. NW Mossy*

    About 5 years ago, my department decided to have a company holiday event at a local bar/billiards club. Which would have been fine but for the teammate who caged an excessive number of drink tickets, proceeded to shoot pool while very drunk, and ended up bouncing the cue ball straight off the felt and into my shin. His “apology” took the form of making a clumsy pass at my visibly pregnant self.

    Needless to say he doesn’t work here anymore, as he was fired for repeatedly calling in “sick” the day he was due to return from scheduled PTO.

  48. Temperance*

    I shared this last year, but one of Booth’s former coworkers brought an escort as his date to the company holiday party. She worked as a stripper for her day job and was kind of dating said coworker. She wore her work clothes, including a pair of giant Lucite heels, to the party.

    She walked into the room and it was like someone deflated a balloon, because this was a very conservative company. We found out later that they had apparently gotten into a huge fight during the day, and as payback for whatever he did, she decided to put on stripper wear for a corporate holiday party. I now find it hilarious.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I remember that story.

      Did they meet at the party? Cause I think if I went to pick up my date and they were dressed like that, I would have come to the party solo.

      1. Temperance*

        They did not! He actually brought her dressed like that.

        He is an incredibly … strange dude, so before we knew more about the situation, we honestly thought that he bought her services for the night.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Follow up question – is he a former coworker because of this incident or because Booth left that company?

          1. Temperance*

            It’s actually because Booth moved on! Mark is still there, and apparently, last year, he brought his friend as well as a few other strippers (dressed in stripper gear). I’m actually kind of impressed, ot be totally honest!

  49. LKW*

    This won’t be in the top stories but after college I shared an apartment with a friend. Friend turned out to be my worst (and last) roommate. She would tell me how she was failing all of her classes but she was making the right contacts so she would be getting a very important job after she graduated. Didn’t clean up after herself, ate my leftovers, wouldn’t clean up after her cat. Would disappear leaving me to deal with said cat. The normal bad roommate stories. I would regal my office mates with my frustrations.

    Lease was up, we went our separate ways. Later that year at the Christmas party I am moving through the buffet line and I look up and there is the roommate, serving chicken at my office holiday party. I said hello and she stammered out that she was there helping out her friend, the caterer, who didn’t have enough servers and needed a favor. I said that these things happen and took my plate back to my table where I just said “Remember crazy cat roommate – she served your chicken.” And all of my table mates were gawking and going “oooooooh!!!! no way!!!!” It was quite obvious. I did not care. No one finished their chicken.

    1. Candi*

      I believe that it has been discussed here on occasion that when a mutual contact puts you in line for a job, the hiring manager wants you to, you know, be able to DO the job.

  50. Ramona Flowers*

    Haven’t read the others yet but suspect these are tame in comparison.

    In my first media job someone bought the boss a pair of nose hair trimmers. He wasn’t happy. Nobody was brave enough to own up to that one.

    Junior staffer was fired close to Christmas for very good reasons (nasty sexual comments, terrible at his job) but allowed to still attend the Christmas party – where he smashed a glass against the wall and yelled: “You’re all w*#kers”. He had two days left to work and came in the next day with no recollection of what he had said. He had been horrible to me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reminding him.

    At one well known UK magazine company two men got into a fight over a woman that ended up with someone being fired for glassing the other in the face.

      1. Candi*

        Eh, a lot of the stories so far aren’t funny.

        But they’re still incredible, and a good warning.

  51. the work fairy*

    My husband works on cargo ships as a mate, and a few years back his company decided to have the Christmas party on some local antique boat that would be driven around on Lake Union for the duration on the party. Very nice boat that is (I believe) run by volunteers, perfect place for a company party. It was super neat until it was time to go back, and the person driving the boat rammed it into the company dock, with such force that a lot of people fell over, there was a large dent in the hull of the ship and the dock was damaged.
    There is nothing quite like having a bunch of professional (drunk) merchant mariners commenting very loudly about how inept the volunteers were… i felt bad for them but it was pretty funny.

  52. DeeShyOne*

    This event happened at my husband’s Christmas work party 26 years ago on our first official date. The company in question is a large automotive group, and every level of employee was there from the Owner, sales people, mechanics and support staff.
    One of the high performing sales guys showed up with a woman about a decade younger than himself and wasn’t his wife. Pretty Woman was a popular movie at the time, and what this young lady wore was an ode to the main character. People were already buzzing about his appearance with Pretty Woman and the amount of brass balls he had to do so in a work setting, as most of his immediate coworkers knew his wife.
    Both Sales and Pretty Woman started at the open bar and walked away with two drinks each, and frequently went back. When dinner was served, Pretty Woman flirted with the server which resulted in Sales snarling at the poor guy to “Watch himself around my woman”. Pretty Woman was not interested in her food and started throwing it around to others at their table and surrounding tables. Sales laughed.
    Shortly after, Owner approached the table and buzzed something in Sales ear. Sales stopped laughing and quietly said something to Pretty Woman. She spent the rest of the dinner quiet, pouting and drinking wine like water while shooting dirty looks to the owner.
    We forgot to observe these goings on when dinner was done and the dancing started. The room moved onto the Christmas festivities and everybody appeared to be having a good time. When the evening was winding down, Sales and Pretty Woman got into a fight. Pretty Woman had Sales backed into a corner, screaming at him about how he wouldn’t want people to find out about “All of his extra money, Mr. Nose Candy!”, or “How you like it up the ass, you f*cking perv!” and a few other potentially incriminating statements. Sales was looking around in a panic and saw the Owner was waiting with his wife, watching this whole dynamic play out.
    We didn’t see how it ended, our cab was there and we were leaving.
    My husband advised Sales didn’t return to work the following week, and it was announced shortly thereafter he wasn’t returning at all.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*


      Okay, so I have to ask – how did you and husband end up going to his work holiday party as your first official date? That sounds SO incredibly awkward.

      But at least it was entertaining?

      1. DeeShyOne*

        I ended up going with him because of degrees of separation…my friend was dating his friend. We really hit it off and have been together since. And yes…it was awkward and entertaining. I just asked my husband if he remembered and he started laughing. :)

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Wow! I wouldn’t have returned either- how could he have?

      What a scene that all must have been.

    3. Anonicat*

      I like how he has no problem flaunting his side piece to workmates who knew his wife, but God forbid the mistress be indiscreet.

  53. Teapot Jeffries*

    A few years ago back at my toxic job, morale was fairly low, but we got an email for an all-hands afternoon meeting. Said email looked like an invite, had festive red and green, was in a invitational-type font, so we all assumed it was a holiday get-together. Nope. It was a meeting to determine why morale was so low, with managers basically sitting there and asking us to start telling them the problems. Since most of the problems were due to horrible management, everyone just sat there in awkward silence until management begrudgingly left the room. So then we spent a couple hours that we thought would involve snacks and socializing detailing all our issues with management, workflow, etc. Good times. It became known as “The Christmas Party That Wasn’t.”

  54. Construction Safety*

    Circa 2003 held a fall meeting where all the staff would come in from the sites & we’d have some group training and then an awards/holiday dinner. We had a good year, everyone was festive. After dinner the party moved to the bar, where after copious alcohol & some encouragement, one of the wives put on a striptease on one of the tables.

    The next year, same venue, same group, one wive slept in the hall b/c she was too drunk to get in the room & her hubby wouldn’t let her in (they divorced later that year) and the above referenced couple were later charged for their bedding.

      1. Construction Safety*

        Well, I don’t know.

        In a strange twist of fate I took the call from the hotel when I got back to the jobsite. It’s the only reason I know what little I know.

  55. Decima Dewey*

    Some of my holiday workplace stories:

    *The Cluster Meeting in which the second half was a Christmas party. And people couldn’t leave until their branch staff had pictures taken with Santa. Staff present included Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists.

    *Last year my boss asked me if I could eat ghee, because she wanted to give me something homemade. Her gift turned out to be a lump of ghee that she had made herself. I thanked her and disposed of it. If I want ghee, I’m buying it at the Indian grocery or the health food store.

    *At a previous branch, one year a coworker gave me a gift and wished me a Happy Hanukkah. As it happened, Hanukkah was over a couple of weeks before. I thanked her and asked why she wished me a Happy Hanukkah. “Fergus said you were Jewish.” Fergus chimed in “No, I said she *might* be Jewish.” I have no idea how he came to that conclusion!

      1. spock*

        I mean, unless he based it off of “she sure lines money, huh?” I don’t think it’s a big deal to wonder if someone is Jewish assuming he’s not basing all his interactions with the maybe-Jew on that assumption. Maybe Decima shares a last name with some Jews he knows or has expressed a dislike of shellfish in the past, idk. As a Jewish person, I don’t have any issues with people taking the time to consider that some people might be Jewish.

      2. Marthooh*

        I assume it went something like–
        Coworker: I’m a get Decima a Christmas present!
        Fergus: You don’t know, she might be Jewish.
        Coworker: Oh, okay then…

    1. Manager Mary*

      99% of the people I encounter each year assume it makes sense to wish me “merry Christmas” and none of them bother asking anyone else first. I think you should be grateful to have coworkers thoughtful enough to consider everyone’s culture, even if they got yours wrong! :)

    2. Candi*

      That first one -what is it with people who don’t realize they’re messing with protected class, and that can bite HARD?

    3. Betty*

      “The Cluster Meeting in which the second half was a Christmas party. And people couldn’t leave until their branch staff had pictures taken with Santa. Staff present included Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists.”

      …and Christians? Commerical Santa is really NOT part of Christian Christmas, and possibly even more offensive to Christians if you really think about it because now “Christmas” is all about Santa and not about the baby Jesus. At least for other religions, Santa isn’t overshadowing something more important about Christmas.


  56. floyd*

    Within an office at a small religious institution there was secret santa party one afternoon. Limit – $10. Many years ago. A young staff person bought for their chosen person a holiday ornament with the institition’s logo on it from the gift shop.

    Surely safe, non-personal, this was a religious institution. Lunchtime, in the office, no alcohol involved.

    An older staff person (who I always thought was the sweetest kind lady) opens it and loudly exclaims in front of everybody:

    “What the h*ll am I going to do with this!”

      1. Candi*

        Write “Be polite when receiving gifts” on it. Hang it somewhere where it will be seen every day, preferably multiple times. And APOLOGIZE.

  57. Susanne*

    Several years ago, I attended an office party at a restaurant. Our group had a private room so we had to walk through the restaurant to get there. Normal, expected, festive holiday venue.

    We couldn’t help but see a man, sitting in a banquette next to a mannequin. She was dressed with fairly heavy makeup and a revealing, dressy outfit. He had his arm around her and was caressing her face. The waitress serving us said she knew all about him. He was a regular and he and “Jackie” show up at least once a week. He would say to the waitress, oh, Jackie’s not eating tonight, and then just order his own food. They’ve been “married” for 10 years. He travels with her. He brings her in to the restaurant in a wheelchair. When he left briefly (presumably to use the men’s room) she tipped over a bit.

    We later did some sleuthing and realized that this guy had been on one of the sleaze talk shows (I think Jerry Springer) with “Jackie” and demonstrated how he cared for her, cleaned her (I don’t want to think about it), and how he would dress her for the day and prop her up as if she were doing a crossword puzzle or whatever and then leave for the day. There was also YouTube footage of him taking her out and about to the zoo, buying her a stuffed animal. It was funny – but also very, very sad. Aside from this – which is a pretty big aside – he came across as a regular guy with a steady job.

    So Alison – what do you do if your employee wants to bring his partner to the company holiday party – you’re all so excited to meet Jackie, you’ve heard she’s amazing at crossword puzzles — and she turns out to be a mannequin?

      1. No Parking or Waiting*

        So I started this at the bottom and am reading up. I can’t help but skim the comments first. I saw yours and knew I had to read this. Feeling that kind of second piece of chocolate cake or stayed up to finish that book kind of regret, where I’m just disappointed in myself after reading it, because I cannot help but think of this very disturbed man as WTF, dude? Just WTF?

    1. Snark*

      “Aside from this – which is a pretty big aside – he came across as a regular guy with a steady job.”

      This strikes me as a “But how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln” -level aside.

    2. Anion*

      OMG was it Davecat?

      He’s done several of those “Men and their RealGirl Dolls” shows. He seems like a sweet man and has a bit of a sense of humor about the whole thing, and eh, he’s not hurting anybody. If that’s his thing and he’s happy, good for him.

      He and “Jackie” both have Twitter accounts, too.

      Wow, you saw Davecat IRL!

  58. Rosie*

    Some years ago I had a weekend job in a men’s accessories store. I did not like any of my colleagues, but when the owner insisted I had to go to the Christmas party, I said what the hell, free drinks, how bad can it be.

    It was held, for reasons I have never been able to fathom, in the private dining room of an very exclusive restaurant in the gay part of town. The owner brought his wife, who clearly hated everyone in the room. The gift I got in the secret santa was racist. And it turned out all the other employees were old school friends of the owner who had never liked his wife, that I had been hired because the owner fancied me, and his wife knew it.

    After the owner and his wife left, the tension went out of the room – but unfortunately so did we. Five of us ended up having an argument in the street about where to go for one final drink – which was made difficult by one of the colleagues being in literal tears because we were in the gay part of town and since he was so handsome he was sure to be raped. We finally convinced him that my feminine presence would scare away all the lurking gay rapists and went into a bar.

    Where I learned that the bloke I’d worked every weekend with for six months had a partner of six years, who he did not ‘allow’ to be seen in public with him, not since she had, five and a half years previously, touched the leg of one of his friends once in front of him. “I can’t allow a slut like that around other men, who knows what she will get up to.” The detail with which he recounted this sin of hers was horrifying – literally all she had done was slap the dude’s knee after hearing a funny story.

    I handed in my notice on my next shift.

    1. Nant*

      This story is just like a car crash you can’t stop watching D: I hope that last guy’s partner got the hell away from him!

    2. DeeC*

      ….’which was made difficult by one of the colleagues being in literal tears because we were in the gay part of town and since he was so handsome he was sure to be raped’…this is GREAT. Isn’t it sad for one to be so handsome or beautiful that one will surely be raped by all the gays?!

      Sweet Peter.

    3. DeeShyOne*

      Omg…”lurking gay rapists”

      Luckily, their kryptonite is the female presence! You’re a hero!

      1. Candi*

        Well, there’s a story on one of the previous holiday threads…

        Wait, you might want a cushion for your jaw.

        So the commentator had gotten a new job at a reasonably-sized company, and as the holidays approached, asked if they did any kind of Secret Santa or whatnot.

        People got very, very quiet when asked this.

        She finally learned that Secret Santa was banned, nope, not happening, scorched earth never again approach.

        Apparently in her department a few years before, there had been exactly one black person in the department. At the Secret Santa that year, his gifter had given him… a children’s Black Sambo book.

        Secret Santa and all gift swaps were banned forever answer.

        (To those who may not have heard of Black Sambo: It is incredibly racist. I can’t even express how racist. All the bullpie cowsh.t. Giving a child’s book to an adult for his present is part of the problem with the package, as well.)

  59. someone101*

    I worked for an independent family business with 10 members of staff including the big boss lady. Normally we would all have an informal get together in the evening with lots of alcohol, music and food. However last year boss decides we are not having out christmas party because she doesn’t like one member of staff and ‘I don’t want to spend the night looking at that ugly pig’. Anywho she told everyone the reason why there would be no party so we all decide to go to a bar anyway without her. When she found out we were going out she was furious, called us all ungrateful fucks and kept all the tips to herself that day. She also decided to show up at the bar and tell us how boring our party was when in actual fact she killed the party vibe by sitting there making horrible remarks about the member of staff she didn’t like so she could hear. She wasn’t drunk when any of this happened, she just thinks she’s a ‘realist’. That was the final nail in the coffin and after Christmas there was a mass walkout.

      1. someone101*

        Honestly I would never work for a small family business again! The bad always outweighs any good!

    1. ss*

      Would have been a nice christmas present to file charges for wage theft for that day that she stole your tips.

      1. someone101*

        In the country I’m in tips are not compulsory they are discretionary. So we make minimum wage and any tips made are a bonus. However although it’s not law it’s considered good practise that wait staff keep their tips or divide them evenly at the end of the night. Bosses are not supposed to receive a share. Kind of like gifts flow downwards etiquette. However boss lady would dip her hand into the jar throughout service and take notes and when they were divided out at the end of the day for every 1 we got she gave herself 3. So technically we didn’t lose wages although from our point of view its a real kick in the teeth as we had a brilliant customer sevice reputation and made a lot of tips in a country that generally doesn’t tip well, if at all.

  60. Mortified*

    Mine is more of a cautionary tale, and I’ve learned my lesson the hard way: don’t drink too much at your partner’s holiday party.

    My partner works in the private sector, and their holiday party is a huge affair; it includes a reception, a sit-down 4-course meal at the heritage hotel in the city, wine on the table, music, dancing, door prizes, and taxi chits for anyone at the end of the night. I’ve attended this party for at least 5 years, and always have a great time.

    One year, I arranged for everyone at our table to be picked up by limousine, and driven to the party (using a Groupon). I also brought sparking wine into the limo, so everyone could have a small drink while driving around. Then, when we got to the party, I had a cocktail or 2 at the reception. Then, I had wine at dinner. Then, I had more cocktails while dancing. I seriously overdid it, and didn’t really realize how much I had been drinking – and neither did my partner. When I finally stood up from our table at the end of the night, I couldn’t walk in a straight line, I kind of stumbled diagonally through the hotel. Apparently, I still didn’t realize how bad it was, I thought I was walking straight. I found out the next day that I had been completely smashed. My partner said the whole table kind of went “Oh” as they saw me.

    I was mortified, and still cringe when I think of it. At our table were my partner’s coworkers, and their manager was nearby, not to mention the executives. I didn’t know these people super well, but I hate to think of the impression I left.

    1. Samiratou*

      I would say if nobody knew you were smashed until you stood up, that’s not too bad. Embarrassing, sure, but note that nobody is here sharing a story of a coworker’s wife who got up wobbly from the table after the party… I’m sure none of them even remember!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This happened to me once. The company held the party at a local amusement park and fortunately, I wasn’t drinking before we rode the roller coaster. Unfortunately, I had a glass of champagne before having anything to eat. I can still remember the feeling of horror that crept over me as I realized I was slowly becoming intoxicated. Never again.

  61. Nervous Accountant*


    I got notoriously drunk at my last xmas party.

    Yet somehow I made it in to work the next day in time and energetic (or partied always held on a week night).

  62. PaperSnowGhost*

    Many years ago at a holiday party, it was revealed that one my coworkers (Ross) had been sleeping with another (Rachel). We all found out about it when Ross brought his new girlfriend Julie to the holiday party and Rachel got really drunk and threw her shoe at him during dinner.

    1. Murphy*

      Just laughed out loud. I don’t know what I expected at the end of that sentence, but not “threw her shoe.”

  63. RussianInTexas*

    We are having a Christmas lunch on a Friday, in a Chinese buffet (my company is cheap). Families of employees are welcome. One coworker sent a “reply all” email saying his wife is asking about dress code.
    Chinese buffet. On Friday.

    1. Murphy*

      Actually, I have a theory on that. Wife probably asked her husband in passing “How should I dress for this?” given the occasion/setting and he said “I’ll find out.” She probably thought he was going to just ask someone what was typical.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, if I were the spouse, I would ask my husband what the dress code was. Since it’s technically a work event, I wouldn’t feel comfortable assuming that I could dress the way I would if I were going to a buffet on a Friday with friends.

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          Oh crap! That’s going to be an awesome conversation.
          “Hye, my work christmas dinner thing is Friday Dec. X. Spouses included.”
          “ok. What kind of thing? What do I wear?”
          “I’ll find out.”
          “oh, that christmas dinner thing is at some chinese place.”
          Hopefully he just sends her one of his multiple responses to his massive forward, reply all insanity.

          1. Emi.*

            “some Chinese place”

            That doesn’t help! What kind of Chinese place? Do I wear jeans, or do I put my hair up and drag out my heirloom cheongsam?

            1. FD*

              Do I wear jeans, or do I put my hair up and drag out my heirloom cheongsam?

              Bwahahaha, that’s hilarious.

      2. Anion*

        I just had this very conversation with my husband regarding his office Xmas do next week! His old workplace had formal parties–like, I wore a ballgown. But at a new place? Do I wear a party dress? A regular casual-type dress? Jeans?

        And he asked them.23 I wouldn’t be surprised if it he did it by sending exactly this type of email.

        It’s at a Dave and Buster’s, so I’m going with cigarette pants and a nice button-down shirt.

  64. Hook a duck*

    Years ago I worked for a family run company (never again, but that’s a different story!) and there was one sales lady (I’ll call her Holly) who had suffered a stroke in the past and had a limp because of it, she had also broken her foot about 6 months previously but she never made a big deal of it, as far as she was concerned she wasn’t going to let anything hold her back.

    Well we’re all sitting in a fancy restaurant for the company meal and start doing the Secret Santa and everyone’s got nice presents that have obviously been chosen well, until Holly opens hers and it’s about 3 dirty vegetables and a tiny bit of rolled up bandage that’s obviously been taken from a first aid kit and the card said ‘to the most accident prone person in the company’. It had clearly cost way below the limit and was really upsetting.

    The whole room became silent and the owner of the company was the only one laughing, it was from her. She said the vegetables, (I’m not sure what they were but they were covered in dirt) were because Holly liked cooking. It was really really weird! And the owner never thought that it was strange or insulting.

      1. Hook a duck*

        In my experience family run business owners are on another planet to the rest of us. This same owner got really upset one day and demanded to know why none of the employees had taken it upon themselves to come in early and clear the leaves from the parking lot. We were all office staff, why would it even cross our minds to do that?

    1. Artemesia*

      Now see, it could have been a shiny new home first aid kit and everyone would have laughed and the recipient would have a nice shiny new first aid kit. What a maroon.

  65. Murphy*

    We had a holiday sweater contest (I don’t think it was specifically “ugly” sweater.) In the end, it came down to a long time employee who had decorated her own sweater with lights, etc. and a guy in his 20s wearing a “World’s Best Grandpa” sweater. It was a tie and they somehow had to split a gift card.

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      We had a holiday breakfast for our production staff where some folks decided to have an “ugly Christmas sweater” contest. An employee made a comment to one of the older managers about how great her ugly sweater was. But of course the older manager had no idea there was a contest. O.O

  66. Akcipitrokulo*

    I’m on the social committee, and had worked really hard on the christmas party which, for various reasons, looked like it was going to be a flop. Knowing there wouldn’t be many people there, my manager made sure he attended to give moral support; I found out later he did this instead of going to see Rogue One on its release date!

  67. Menacia*

    Last year, an email came out from the Director of our department that no one could buy gift cards for our Yankee Swap….um, why the hell not? I don’t think anyone listened to him because we pretty much never do, he makes no sense, ever.

  68. Manufacturer*

    These stories are so nutty! I can’t believe companies still do these over-the-top parties. Our Christmas party comes in shifts, where we each get 35 minutes to eat a free lunch and seating is assigned. It’s silly how regimented it is, but at least no one’s making a fool of themselves at the chocolate fountain.

    1. H.C.*

      I’ve had the Christmas party/lunch in shifts too (no assigned seating, however); probably not the most jolly way to go about celebrating but I def appreciated that setup as a former caterer (as opposed to dealing with a stampede of people at the start of party, and doing the calculus of whether you have enough food to serve the latecomers when the early birds are already asking for seconds.)

  69. selina kyle*

    I probably AM someone’s story. A couple years ago, my then-boyfriend and I broke up right before Christmas. His work had a holiday party with RSVPs and he had said he’d bring a plus-one. So even though we were split, I ended up going (it was an amicable enough split, we’re still friends now).
    So as he introduced me to coworkers at the dinner, he would say “and this is my ex-girlfriend, Selina”.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      Oh My. Was there an open bar at least? I’m thinking Alcohol would be necessary for a night like that.

  70. Lynca*

    My mother once brought home a small blown-glass pickle ornament from work one year. Apparently people had brought in small items for as a White Elephant gift exchange. The thing was passed around and ridiculed by so many people apparently. So my mom took it, commented on how much she liked it, and that’s how we ended up with a pickle for a beloved Christmas ornament.

    1. Archi*

      The pickle ornament is an old german tradition. You hide the pickle in the tree and whoever finds it gets a prize/treat/etc.

      1. Goya*

        My mom has 4 of them of all colors/sizes (the smallest is from an old swizzle stick, so it’s as big as a fingernail). It’s a big deal in our household – and we’re not German ;)

      2. Mockingjay*

        Yep! I hide it in our tree late Christmas Eve. Whoever finds it gets to open the first present.

      3. NB*

        I don’t know why that is supposed to be a German tradition. Nobody in Germany does this and most people have no idea what you are even talking about if you mention it.

        1. Goya*

          From Wikipedia:

          “There are a number of different origin stories attributed to the tradition, including an origination in Germany. This theory has since been discounted, and it is now thought to be an American tradition created in the late 19th century.”

          Like I said, we’re not German, we just adopted it because it was fun for us. But I too believed the Germanic history story.

        2. Izzy*

          In the German pavilion at Epcot in Disney World, there is a Christmas shop. They have a whole bin of pickle ornaments. This is why I also thought it had German origins. I guess I should not expect authenticity from Disney, but the pavilions at Epcot are staffed by people from those nations. Next time I’m there, I’m going to ask them about it.

        3. Susan Calvin*

          I like to imagine it as an “I tried to bullshit my way out of an awkward situation*, and it was a bit too successful” kind of thing that got WAY out of hand.

          *a pickle, you might even say

    2. Christine Candelaria*