the terrible date at the Christmas party, and other tales of office holiday mayhem

It’s the holiday episode of the podcast! This week’s show has questions from people about holidays at work, including a party Not Meant for vegetarians and a question about kissing balls (which I didn’t even know were a thing), as well as some really funny stories from people about ways that office holiday celebrations went terribly wrong, including someone who brought a very questionable date.

The show is 32 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, the iHeartRadio app, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen above.

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Akcipitrokulo*

    Reading the intro, I realised I’ve basically been Pavloved into thinking “Hanukah?” at the word balls…

  2. Hailrobonia*

    Hearing the story of the woman who couldn’t display Hanukkah decorations while her coworker cried oppression while displaying Christmas decorations and Christian messages made my blood boil. Does anyone have a time machine I can use to go back in time and shake some sense into that jerk and his posse of idiot HR folks?

    1. BRR*

      I was fuming. How in the world was the coworker allowed to basically do the same things that he was complaining about. (One guess is that he complained louder).

    2. Aggretsuko*

      This made me RAGE!!!!!!!!!!

      This is such religious bigotry I wish suing could have happened, except it probably would ruin the LW’s life and nothing would happen.

  3. Antilles*

    The part that irritated me is when she came back to the desk with a Christmas gift (‘mug with Christian symbols’) on it. There’s a part of me that would have wanted to pick that gift up carry it IMMEDIATELY to HR’s desk and handed it to them.

    1. Drew*

      My thought involved “accidentally” dropping the mug onto cement somewhere, and then I started wondering if it wouldn’t be easier just to take it back to co-worker and drop it in his trash can.

      And then I thought, “What if you put my dreidel supplies IN the super-Christian mug” and giggled the rest of the way to work.

    2. kittymommy*

      Honest to god, I would have lost my effing mind. I would probably have gone nuclear. I want to call EEOC now for the caller…for a 10 year old event. I don’t particularly like the religious aspects my office gets in to and I am a (born-again) christian with a Master’s in Divinity. I don’t think it has a place in a non-religious based office.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    *head explodes*

    Wonder if this was another situation like the spicy food thief where the complainer had a personal relationship with HR.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I have no other explanation for this. Maybe not in a romantic way, maybe more in a “they belonged to the same church” sort of way, but something was definitely off. It was like he was doing these things on purpose, to assert dominance over the caller and her religion – I cannot think of a single place I’ve worked where this wouldn’t have resulted in a talk with HR *for him* – yet he was getting away with it.

  5. High Score!*

    My friend who works for a government contractor for told to take down her Christmas decor while the Muslim in the next cube is still allowed to display all her religious decor all year. Happens all the time.

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

        +1 What is Muslim decor? I’m sure I’m a bit ignorant on this, but I think of Islam as a religion that eschews iconography in general. There may be some decor that is culturally specific to a region or group of people but it’s not really connected to the religion.

        As for the comparison to Christmas, there are no Ramadan decorations that I’ve ever seen.

        1. High Score!*

          Granted my friend could have mistaken cultural decor for religious decor. That’s a good point.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Christmas = specific holiday
      Muslim = general religion

      If your friend was told to take down general Christian decor while someone was allowed to have overtly Muslim decor, that would be comparable.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        While I have the same question fposte has, another way to look at it is:
        specific holiday = displayed for a limited time
        general religion = displayed all the time

        I don’t think it’s invalid to compare the two.

      2. JSPA*

        Yep. Someone with a postcard of Notre Dame (the church, not the school…but heck, even the school) or Mont Saint Michel is not likely to be treated as “making a display of Catholicism.” The religious aspects–which would seem fairly central to an outsider!–are glossed over.

        Trade in a famous, historical mosque of equal world-heritage status, or a school with ties / history / architectural affinities to islam, and people in the US are very quick to read them as being religious.

        Wedding pictures are similarly “equal things too often treated unequally.” Ditto (say) a red cross mug…and a red crescent mug. Or fundraising for a christian vs a muslim “save the children” food aid fund.

    2. Stop appropriating my holidays*

      Sucks to be a member of the dominant form of religious oppression in this country, doesn’t it /sarc

      1. Ew*

        Yes because all Christians oppress people all of the time and are Christian at people 24/7

        /sarcasm in case that wasn’t clear

      2. OfOtherWorlds*

        Once again, American civil rights law works on the basis of “everyone is equal”, not on the basis of “liberating the opressed”. Giving Musulims preferential treatment over Christians is as illegal as the reverse. It’s certainly possible that this is not preferential treatment, because you can certainly treat seasonal decor and year round record differently. But if it is preferential treatment then it’s illegal.

  6. ThursdaysGeek*

    One reason there are such bad HR people out there is because half of them are below average. Just like computer geeks. I’m pretty sure our local traffic engineers graduated at the bottom of their class. The degree is supposed to indicated a level of competence, but that level is often pretty low. It is still frustrating to hear about such incompetence.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Well, technically, half of them are below the median, not the average, ;-) but yeah. I think HR is one of those areas where people who are bad at it really stand out for some reason. Maybe because the stakes are so high.

  7. Bunny Girl*

    I worked at a company where the boss gave everyone turkeys for the holidays. He found out I was a vegetarian and gave me a huge box full of vegetables and fruit instead. It was the most generous thing. I honestly ate for about two weeks because of that box of goodies.

    1. BadWolf*

      That sounds great! I was afraid it was going to be a tofurkey. I like tofu, but making weird meat replacements with it is not my bag.

  8. CatCat*

    I feel you, vegetarian employee. Second year in a row where there was no vegetarian option for main dish so I just had salad and a piece of bread. Next year, I’m bringing in my own vegetarian option.

    1. Maeve*

      My workplace holiday party was today. I’m vegan and we live in one of the most vegan-friendly places in the US. There are other vegetarians on staff, and also people who are lactose intolerant. There was no vegetarian entree, just sides. Literally the only vegan thing served was Lays. There was a salad covered in cheese and a fruit salad with some kind of creamy sauce. And my workplace has its own restaurant so it’s not like they were dealing with the whims of a random caterer!

    2. Nerfmobile*

      That’s rough. I feel fortunate that my workplace is sensitive to these issues. They bring in lunch every other Tuesday for the whole office (about 200 people), and try to have enough options for all. About every 6 months or so they send out a quick survey to count how many omnivore/vegetarian/vegan/lactose intolerant people we have. And still regularly have to put up signs asking the omnivores to not take the vegetarian options until everyone has had a pass through the line because we often run out. I’m an omnivore but on the last survey identified as a vegetarian to help bump the numbers up there.

      1. BadWolf*

        I’m a not-much-meat eater and so I’m inclined to take a vegie only option if it looks good…so they definitely need signs if there is reserved food. I don’t want to unwittingly take someone’s food.

  9. Sally*

    Regarding the anti-vegetarian meal: When I heard that they had an entire cooked pig in the eating area, I literally gasped out loud at how awful that would be. I would be really upset, and I would probably have to leave right away.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Commenting late but…yeah, I know several otherwise happy carnivores who have an aversion to rotisserie and whole-roast anything.

  10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I chuckled at “don’t give all your employees ham as gift”, because I worked at a place where the owner did exactly that! (Gift certificates to Honeybaked Ham.) He was Jewish himself, and practicing, so I am not sure that he himself partook of the ham. That was in 1998 though, when people did not think these things through.

    1. Nancy*

      In all fairness they do sell turkeys and and cakes and pies, although anyone keeping Kosher would still be SOL unless their line of condiments that they sell (mustard, bbq sauce, mayo etc) are Kosher.

  11. FancyNancy*

    The wife buying/cooking a turkey reminded me of a situation a few years ago. I worked from home full time and it was somehow decided that I could be the one to heat up the (precooked) turkeys that they bought for my husband’s company thanksgiving potluck.

    No one (most of all my husband) seemed to grasp that if someone should take on this responsibility, even if the effort required was minimal, that it should be one of their employees. My husband ended up driving home to put them in the oven, going back to work, and then coming home to pack them up so we could travel to the party together.

    Either way, this should fall on the company or an employee. Not a spouse!

  12. Piano Girl*

    Many, many years ago, I worked for a non-profit. We decided to have a turkey dinner that would include the “clients”. I offered to do a turkey, as did my boss. Unfortunately, she undercooked her turkey, so I had a run home, grab my countertop roaster, and finish it for her. I still get irritated thinking about it!

  13. BadWolf*

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m not a big meat eater. I would be annoyed that everything had meat in it. A couple years ago, I was at a dinner/lecture related to a hobby and the buffet had some sort of pork in nearly everything (my personal least favorite meat). Bacon bits pre-added (!!) to the salad, ham bits in the potato salad, the chicken dish with ham stuffed in the middle, fish. I don’t know what happened there. I left a comment on the survey after the event Fortunately the next year, the buffet was swapped back to a “build your own salad” and meat just in the main course options (and an option to request some alternate meal options ahead of time).

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