share your funniest office holiday stories

We have once again entered the season of forced workplace merriment, inappropriate gifts, holiday party disasters, and other seasonal delights! Will there be fewer amusing debacles this year since so many of us are remote? Or will human nature triumph and bring us nude, spray-painted gold Barbiestantrums over holiday raffles, and Hanukkah balls? I have faith that it will.

In the spirit of the season, I want to hear about office holiday-related debacles, either past or current. Has your party planning meeting ended in tears multiple years in a row? Did your CEO make everyone at the company holiday party watch two carousels worth of slides from his recent trip to Yosemite, and then sing a song about a bear?  Did your manager provide you with a three-page document of “party procedures”? These are all real stories that we’ve heard here in the past. Now you must top them.

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

{ 797 comments… read them below }

  1. Ana Gram*

    My last supervisor gave us each (7 people) a really lovely note about how the past year had been. It was so thoughtful and I really appreciated it. So did my coworker. She even called her husband and read him the note over the phone. Imagine my surprise when it was the same as mine. Word for word. We checked with the others and, yep, all verbatim. Merry Christmas, I guess…

    1. Nethwen*

      That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry.

      I occasionally write cards to my staff, but I do personalize them. I also prefer to handwrite them because it’s more personal and I have good handwriting and printing on anything other than standard-sized paper is challenging for me.

      The problem is, I have good handwriting when I write in cursive, but my printing has spacing problems that make individual words hard to decipher (it’s a hand muscle control thing). We’re a small enough group that I’ve been able to ascertain that everyone can read cursive.

      My dread is that one day, I won’t have had the opportunity to find out if someone can read cursive and I’ll give them a handwritten card and they won’t be able to read it. Or if I play it safe and use print instead of cursive and they find out that everyone else got cards in cursive, they’ll be insulted that theirs was different.

      I guess the solution is to use the computer to print cards.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          It is a special skill that’s not a standard part of the US curriculum any more. My 12yo did not learn it in school and struggles to read it. Capitals are the worst (F, G), but small f, r, and s are all pretty far from the print versions.

        2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          This is objectively not true. There is less and less reason to teach cursive in school, and fewer and fewer examples where cursive is used in everyday life. With a ballpoint pen cursive letters bear no particular resemblance to the letters in print, so they can be hard to decipher if you’re not familiar with them. It’s not like it’s cuneiform or anything, but it’s considerate that Nethwen is thinking about that.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            You’d have to learn how to read the old style of writing, just as researchers today learn to read old writing styles. It’s called palaeography, and it’s a thing that people often have to study even for documents that are relatively recent because writing styles change over time.

    2. TootsNYC*

      When I had to write a big load of wedding-gift thank-you notes to my ILs’ big family, I made it a point to write something different in each note. Well, OK, if I could tell that the people didn’t know one another that well, I might have used the same wording, but I was careful to write something different to parents and adult children, or adult siblings, etc. Most of them gave us money, so that made it a little tricky–but I told them we’d spend it on the left/right arm of the sofa, or the back, or the middle seat cushion, or some other thing altogether. (Made it up, mostly–they certainly weren’t going to check.)

      And my MIL called me THE DAY AFTER I mailed them to tell me that everyone was so impressed that I’d written something different to all of them.

      Yes, the first thing the women in the family had done when they got the notes in the mail (USPS was quick!) was to call one another and read them to each other. And then when they discovered that their adult kid’s note had something different, they then called everyone else they knew who had been at the wedding to see what THEIR note said.

      I hadn’t envisioned that (though I’d guessed that they might read their immediate family’s notes at some point).

      I coasted on that PR triumph through two baby showers!

    3. Folklorist*

      Wooof. Sorry if this is too off-topic (not holiday-related), but this just made me flashback to one of those defining childhood moments so hard that my eye started twitching….
      So in our schools, going into 6th grade middle school, everyone realized that it was a time of massive change for a kid and hard on both parents and kids alike. So at the beginning of the year, the teachers had the parents write personal letters about how much they loved each kid and sealed them. We got to read them at the end of the year. It was a great way to keep a connection between parents and tweens in tumultuous hormone-ridden times. I got sweet and loving letters from both my parents and saved them both.

      Then, a year or two later, my brother (three years older than me) somehow got on the topic of those letters. He had saved his too! We got them out and read each other’s. Mine from my dad was the same as my brother’s, word-for-word, with my name substituted in where necessary and a couple of adjectives changed. I was so hurt. My dad stumbled upon us reading the letters and got really upset, stuttering excuses about how he had run out of time to write his and couldn’t think of anything to write and he wanted me to have something and I wasn’t supposed to find out.

      He still says that was the most embarrassing moment of his life. Like, great. Glad you were embarrassed that you got caught. But he never apologized for having hurt me or tried to make it up or explained why he couldn’t think of one nice thing to write about me. If there was ever a single instance that encapsulated all of the problems that I’ve ever had with my dad, it was this one.

      Long story short–if you’re going to write anything that’s supposed to be personal to anyone, actually PERSONALIZE it!

      1. Ana Gram*

        Oh jeez, that’s painful. My boss was kind of a doof so it was mostly funny rather than hurtful but from a parent…man, that stinks!

  2. LongTimeReader*

    In the mid 2010s, my nonprofit hosted a large holiday party for 500+ staff and guests at an elegant ball room. There were drink tickets (2 per), small snacks, and a DJ. Our CEO was a determined, energetic woman. When the dance floor got quiet, she started roaming the ball room and verbally demanding people to “Get out there and dance!” When that didn’t work, she grabbed the mic and shouted “COME ON EVERYONE! I know you know this dance!” It was the Macarena. It was 2014. My husband still has flash backs whenever he hears the Macarena. It’s now an intimidating song in our household.

          1. LongTimeReader*

            Oh she lead the Electric Slide – and screamed at more folks to join in on that one too!

      1. Jackalope*

        Given that the Macarena has a sexualized meaning and some slightly racy moves, I personally would 100x rather do the Chicken Dance or YMCA or something else like that. Especially at a work function.

        1. pancakes*

          I would’ve said the reverse. It would never have occurred to me to consider the Macarena racy, having grown up at just the right age to recall the entire 1996 DNC dancing to it in a stadium, and so many elderly people at weddings. The YMCA, on the other hand, is a song about “hang[ing] out with all the boys” and “do[ing] what ever you feel.”

      2. Katrinka*

        I graduated HS in 1981. The Chicken Dance and the Macarena are played at every reunion. I’m looking forward to reunions past our 50th, when people start throwing their hips and knees out doing them. LOL

    1. TurtleIScream*

      The last really big party my husband’s office had, they played The Macarena. One of my coworkers (married to one of his coworkers) swaggered over to me, draped his arm around me, and slurred, “I may be drunk, but I’m not THAT drunk!” It was hilarious!

    2. Lizzo*

      For some reason I’m imagining your CEO on the dance floor, alone, throwing down dance moves like Elaine Benes, all the white shouting for people to come join her…

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      If she wanted people to dance the Macarena she should have given out a lot more drink tickets.

    4. QuinleyThorne*

      How you gonna demand people dance the Macarena when the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble are right there?

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            As a Brit who lived in the US for 17 years, I can verify that neither of those songs made it. Come On Eileen did, though. *shudder*

            1. Jan*

              Hearing, or even thinking of, “Come On Eileen” still makes me do a Beavis- like “Heh, heh-heh”. I was well into adulthood when it was popular, but come on…! (See what I did there?)

          2. JSPA*

            Checking youtube, the birdie song appears to be the Chicken Dance, done by people in costumes that look like Big Bird, and costumes that look like (that are) blackface.

            If you’re nostalgic, you can pull up the Chicken Dance to get the same tune (dating to Switzerland, 1950, and circling the globe several times over, since then) without the “Oh, no, no, that’s not OK” visuals.

          3. Sc@rlettNZ*

            The birdie song made it to New Zealand. My ex boss once split his pants doing it at a wedding :-)

          4. Ada Doom*

            Thank you for reminding me about Agadoo. When attending my English in-laws’ wedding I realized I had not been drinking enough when the dancing to Agadoo started. I simply stood, mouth agape, while my husband laughed himself sick. Now I just watched part of the video and feel like I need a drink again.

            1. Ada Doom*

              And the best part was various people saying “of course you know it,” and then drunkenly singing the first line at me. Nope, still don’t know it, but I’m getting the first line super good.

    5. Scrooge McDunk*

      The “let’s drag everyone up to the dance floor” song during Christmas parties at my old job was Old Dirty Bastard’s Got Your Money. Which, looking back on it, is pretty weird.

  3. Concerned Academic Librarian*

    This happened a good long time ago. It was a recession and we had budget issues. Our administrators were telling us to turn out lights to save electricity, not to be profligate with office supplies, and the like. Admin decided we should still have a holiday party. They budgeted a pitiful amount toward refreshments and insisted that because they understood the finances, that they would do the ordering rather than have the staff figure that out as we normally did. We had dip without chips or bread, soda without cups, and a couple of cookie trays. It was a memorable experience.

            1. Phony Genius*

              To a Previous Popular Letter Writer Who May Be Reading This:

              This is one time that I recommend that you NOT order extra guacamole!

    1. em*

      I’ve had multiple occasions where students brought ice cream for a class party but no dishes or utensils. The first time I ended up scooping it onto paper towels with a plastic spoon and they basically tried to eat a handful of ice cream before the paper got soggy. Second time we really leveled up and used paper cups!

      1. Ada Doom*

        One time in my college days, a club advisor brought in a homemade chocolate cake because it was their birthday. Yummy, delicious, homemade chocolate cake to college students. They brought plates and a big knife, but no utensils. “How are we supposed to eat this without a fork?” came drifting across the room from some ungrateful fart, and from behind me I heard a quiet voice say “How do little piggies eat? Whooooo’s mommy’s little piggy?”* I snarfed chocolate cake out of my nose, and met one of my best college friends at the same time.

        *From The Christmas Story

        1. Vanellope*

          That’s awesome! People who get your dumb jokes are the best…I’m glad you guys found each other!!

    2. Totally Minnie*

      We had a similar Christmas party a few years ago. I work for an organization that has offices all over the county and I was working on a committee that had a representative from each office location. The managers were throwing a Christmas party for my committee to thank us for our work. My office was pretty far away from the location where the party was being held, we were pretty short handed that week, and I was coming down with my annual Christmas cold, so I asked if I could be excused from attending the party. My boss told me that the managers had been working really hard to plan this party to reward us for our work and it would hurt their feelings if I didn’t go, so I went.

      I drove across town in rush hour traffic (which took over an hour), arrived at the main office where the party was being held, and went to the conference room. There was a dollar store plastic Christmas tablecloth, a tray of grocery store donuts cut in half, an extremely wilted fruit tray, and no beverages. And the reward gifts they said they wanted to give us? Homemade buttons where the images were all crooked and off center. There was nothing else planned and the party was supposed to last for two and a half hours.

      1. Indignant on your Behalf*

        This is painful. And to think that your managers had been “working really hard” on it too. If only one could give performance appraisals for events such as this.

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        It really grates me when you do good work, and then are forced to accept an unwanted reward because the people who organised said reward will have hurt feelings otherwise. It’s like an anti-reward.

  4. Longtime Lurker*

    In 2008 the head office cancelled the company-wide party and so we held an office party at a local bar that had three floors. We started on the top floor and got drunker as we worked our way downstairs. The next morning I had the following conversation with a co-worker:
    Me: “Man I can’t believe you did all those shots last night”
    him: “I did shots?”
    Me: ‘Yeah, when we went downstairs>”
    Him: “We went downstairs?!?”

    It was a hell of a party. Hooked up with a (different) co-worker. We’ve been married for 7 years now.

    1. Mitford*

      Some day you’ll be telling this story to your grandchildren when they ask how their grandparents met.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I met my husband at a local to us gaming convention (think games like RPGs – Dungeons and Dragons, etc.; board games; card games, etc.). At the time I was working as an admin at an accounting firm…and it took a great deal of willpower, when coworkers asked how I’d met him, not to reply “Oh, he picked me up at a convention.”

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Ha. Not a work story, but I met my husband and his brother at a Christmas party. I was new to the area, there were a million people there and while I don’t drink, I was in a food coma. For 2 whole months, I thought he and his brother were the same person. I’d speak to one and mention conversations I had with the other, accidentally flirt with them both, stuff like that. They’re not twins, they don’t even look much alike; and neither of them corrected me because both still think it was hysterical. On the bright side, my mild face blindness was finally diagnosed through acute mortification.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My husband and I (and actually our housemate too) all met at GenCon. At a vampire LARP. I’m very judicious about how I tell that story.

        3. Camellia*

          My husband met at a Border’s book signing for Laurel K Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Executioner series. We’ve been married seventeen years this February.

        4. Tupac Coachella*

          My husband and I spent several years on the horror con, comicon, and pop culture con circuit. I learned really quickly to enunciate when I tell someone I went to a horr-or convention.

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    It’s not *funny* exactly, but there was the very high-ranking, very married creative director making out with the very junior account executive in full view of everyone. So much for drink tickets as a way to prevent drunkenness and retain healthy workplace inhibitions!

    1. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

      At past Christmas parties, we’ve all been issued drink tickets (3), but you can pay for more after that point. I’ve seen way too many of my coworkers drunk at this point…

        1. Workerbee*

          Add in having more than one person wandering around distributing the tickets at the party and no verification if the person already received their allotment… :D

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          I drink, but my limit on social occasions is two. A work party is not a social occasion.

          1. Ramona Q*

            Richard, what an odd comment. A work party can absolutely be a social occasion! Do you not have friends among your colleagues?

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Sure, I have friends among my colleagues. And we might go out for drinks. I have a friend group from a job nearly twenty years ago that still meets occasionally. This is quite unlike a work party.

            2. Jo*

              I absolutely get what Richard meant and agree. If I’m at a “social” event somehow related to work – I typically drink one alcoholic beverage and then switch to club soda and lime.

              For instance, we attend conferences with evening hospitality sessions or even informal bar gatherings. There are always some who get hammered, often with legendary stories told later. Sure people are off the clock, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be repercussions for less-than-professional behavior, even if just embarrassment or loss of credibility.

              1. Liz*

                Same. I will be social, but i’ll limit myself to one drink when its work-related, where I might have several when out with friends, as they are a bit more “forgiving” if I get a little silly.

              2. AnonEMoose*

                Me, too. It might be a party, but it involves your coworkers and bosses, and I keep that very much in mind. I do have a very few coworkers I consider friends, but mostly…my friends are my friends, and my coworkers are my coworkers, and while I have cordial/friendly relationships with my coworkers…the boundaries are different.

                So when it comes to work parties, I’ll nurse a single glass of wine for awhile, have a few snacks, make small talk, and then my introverted self will gratefully leave after an hour…maybe two if there are a lot of people I feel I should at least talk to.

              3. Artemesia*

                Early in my work life one of my peers got hammered at a retreat like event and was hammering on our hotel room at 2 am and that was indelible enough that the one drink/switch to tonic/lime after that became my rule from then on out.

            3. Anon4This*

              Not odd at all – my very gregarious, extroverted boss with tons of friends feels the same way. A work party is a work party, not a social event – adjust your behavior accordingly. Doesn’t mean don’t have fun, but you have to be more mindful of your drinking and behavior amongst coworkers than social friends.

          2. Dasein9*

            Wise, Richard. Colleagues are not good people to be drunk with.

            I have found it useful on occasion to be sober and listen to colleagues who are drunk, though.
            In vino veritas, indeed.

          3. Admin Always*

            I operate the same way And I don’t drink alcohol at work functions. It’s still work and half the time I’m obligated to be there. I can have friendly chit chat and be social but I also want to get in my car and leave once I’ve paid the vendors, taken the photo booth photo, and said hello to my boss and the higher ups that I need to get face time with. I’m the one drinking a virgin rum and coke and hearing about the things other people have done…like crash another holiday party, dip their junk in the dip, say embarrassing things into a hot mic, get the underaged new hire wasted and try to molest her while avoiding his wife (he was my boss’ husband at the time and I drove the new hire home because she clearly couldn’t consent. She wasn’t even lucid enough to give me her address but could give me her phone to call her boyfriend.)

            1. Aphrodite*

              “dip their junk in the dip”

              Please tell me that what I fear this means is not really what it means. Please.

          4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My limit is two as well. I like my vehicles equipped with a very sophisticated anti-drunk device that involves the use of all four limbs and the mind to operate.

            The skill is going the way of cursive, sadly.

            1. bleh*

              Yup. I had to go to automatic transmission because hybrids and EVs don’t have standard. I miss it so much!

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          This is totally what happened at the party in question. Plus a higher-up had a fistful of extras so I don’t understand what the point was of having them at all!

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Presumably they had been issued against a prepayment. Tickets are given out so everyone gets a fair go at the bar before the prepayment runs out.

            Following the first party after I left $OldOldJob, the partners there had to send round an all-staff email stating that rounds of absinthe shots were not appropriate orders at the holiday party bar.

      1. Sleepytime Tea*

        Before work parties like this, I would hit up the people at work that I knew didn’t drink or didn’t drink at work events and ask for their tickets. I would then collect at the beginning of the event, then I’d distribute them amongst my friends (I’m a lightweight, I really can’t even drink that much). Called dibs on those potential extra tickets early and made sure we all had as many drinks as we wanted, and then usually had a few extra later on so if people were wandering around looking for extra tickets I had some.

      2. sally*

        I pre-gamed before my office party last year, since I didn’t think they’d provide drinks at all. It’s a pretty stodgy place, usually. Point is, there’s no way to fully prevent drunkenness at these things.

        (In my case, it turned out that we had an open bar! Score one for stodgy old workplace, sorry I doubted you. And I naturally ended up drunker than I’d intended due to the pre-gaming. In the days after, I was a little regretful! Though the only embarrassing thing I really did was leave without saying goodbye to anyone. I just kind of wandered out and got a Lyft. Still, I didn’t want to be drunk with co-workers and I was madly annoyed at myself for doing it. But, now that it’s been almost a year since I’ve been to any kind of party, I’m just glad I enjoyed myself when I had the chance.)

        1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

          “Point is, there’s no way to fully prevent drunkenness at these things.”

          But there absolutely is – by not over drinking.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            Yes, but one person almost always does overdrink when an open bar is involved. And from these stories apparently even when one is not.

          2. sally*

            Okay, try this phrasing instead: “there is no way to prevent other people from becoming drunk.”

            You can obviously prevent your own drunkenness. But you can’t control other people and the choices they make, despite whatever drink ticket system you set up.

    2. midwest katie*

      I used to work in Residence life at a small college. Our Christmas party was at the Dean’s house and I had been recruited to make peppermintinis since I used to be a bartender. For every martini I made, the little extra that was in the shaker went into my glass. Needless to say I sang “Baby Got Back” karaoke with the Dean and don’t remember much of the end of the party. Thankfully no one cared and they wanted me to come back and be their bartender even after I left!

        1. sally*

          “I have the most boring job in the office, so why wouldn’t I have the most boring job on beach day?”

  6. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    At former workplace: On a Wednesday, my direct supervisor told me that she was buying lunch for me and her other direct reports as a holiday party. Okay, sounds good! Then she tells me it’s a secret and if anyone asks, to say it’s a meeting. Okaaaay, little weird, but whatevs- free food.

    Thursday, as planned, we all go to her office. There’s food, but we’re all crammed into her office, the door is closed and she mentions that her boss doesn’t know that we’re having this party and she doesn’t want him to find out. Errr, okay? She tells us that we’re doing a great job (yay!) no matter what anyone else might say (wait, what?) and to eat and enjoy. It’s awkward.

    At one point, there’s a knock on the door and my boss sidles up to the door and sticks her head out. It’s the person who handles payroll and she is clearly confused why she can’t come in the office, but nevertheless she tells boss that she has processed the paperwork  for the raises and just needs my boss to sign off on them. So now we’re all wondering who is getting a raise. (Spoiler: It wasn’t me!) My boss is clearly regretting trying to hold stealth meeting/party and more or less kicks us all out after that.

    Nice thought, poor execution!

    1. Lynnerd*

      I felt all the awkwardness as if I were actually crammed into that office with you. Good lord, and good writing.

      1. Sunrise Ruby*

        Indeed! I actually started scrunching up my shoulders as if I also needed to make sure I didn’t take up too much space in the room!

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      Wait, what? Is the best moment of this story. Such a high (yay!) followed by such a halting…errr…

    3. bookends*

      ahhhh. If you’re going to do a secret lunch for your staff, it’s probably best to sneak *out* of the building instead of hiding them in your office.

  7. AnonInTheCity*

    This is going to be pretty identifying but I don’t work there anymore so it’s fine. Holiday party at small-ish (100 person) startup. One employee brought her sister as her plus-one. The sister ended up hooking up with the photographer who had been hired for the party in the back room. Unrelated, the following week the CEO had to review the security camera footage from the back room to see who had left a door open and set off an alarm. The rumor was that when he paid the photographer, he wrote, “We have cameras in the back room” on the memo line of the check.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      The short-lived UK dramedy “Love, Lies, and Records” kicks off a subplot with a scenario like this… It’s streaming on Acorn TV if you care to relive!

    2. Bop Girl Goes Calypso*

      During the height of the dot-com boom, I worked for a similarly-sized tech startup. At the office Xmas party, held in a well-known San Francisco music venue, the CEO’s date wore a full-length, see-through mesh slipdress with nothing but a thong underneath, and they spent the entire night in the middle of the dance floor. Virtually nobody else danced. They mostly just stood around the edges trying not to stare… including my date.

      It was memorable.

  8. EmilyAnn*

    Part of this story took place before my time. The office had a Secret Santa Gift exchange at the annual holiday party. Not everyone participated which was fine.

    One year, Steven didn’t buy a gift, but put an IOU in a box or something and called it a gift. He received a very nice gift in the exchange. The IOU gift was picked up by one of the most outspoken and most ornery individuals. He was from the Bronx and he had the accent. He never, ever forgot this miscarriage of fairness. The next year was my first in the office. I heard the story, but leading up to the annual holiday party he would loudly proclaim that he had never received his IOU gift, that Steven better never do it again, that he better have a good and decent gift this year, on and on. Steven delivered that year, with some nice wine as his gift. We were an office with lots of natural turnover as 1/3 of the staff was on military assignments and another third were contractors. If you were new, every year you’d hear the legend of Steven and the IOU gift.

      1. A*

        At every Secret Santa I’ve done, the secret is revealed during the gift exchange…is that not usual?

    1. Sharrbe*

      It’s amazing how some people can’t just let something like that go. It’s not middle school. Secret Santa gifts are forgotten two days after you get them. Ugh.

      1. 14 years*

        Not true. Last year I got a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my favorite scent as part of my gift, and that sucker is still in my car for when I have to go out in public! Never been so grateful to be part of a secret santa exchange in my life.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        I mean, I know it’s petty, but if I spent upwards of $25 (I’m assuming at least $25 since Steven’s gift the next year was “nice wine”) and got a worthless piece of paper in return, I’d bring it up again too.

        1. KatieHR*

          Each Christmas we do a white elephant. The limit is $25 and we are told to get a nice gift or a gift card. I spent $25 on a nice gift for our gift exchange and in return got a cheap fan that you plug into your USB on you computer. I refused to do the exchange ever again. The person who got the fan it tried to play it off but I know he got it from 5 Below. He left shortly after that but I still have to tell the story as to why I don’t want to participate every single year. Thankfully this year all parties are cancelled because of Covid.

      3. Jackalope*

        I mean, it’s still kind of a lousy thing to do to someone. And I didn’t get angry but I remember specifically getting a lousy white elephant gift one year and deciding based on that not to participate again. Not that it wrecked my life or anything, but it left a sour taste in my mouth and I’d rather just not get anything and not have to worry about being involved.

        1. it's-a-me*

          On the other side of things, I participated and gave a thoughtful sterling silver gift to my secret giftee, and they traded it for felt reindeer antlers.
          I have not participated again.

      4. Yorick*

        Not if you don’t get one! I’d be annoyed if it were my gift, and I would think a little less of Steven if I heard the story.

      5. cmcinnyc*

        I get Gyped Bronx Guy though. You do not pull that in the Bronx. You will be called out for the next 365 days, your manhood questioned, your skills denigrated, until you come through. Which is exactly what happened.

        (While the midwesterners are uncomfortable and wonder why Bronx Guy has to call out Stephen every. single. time. he. sees. him.)

        1. Quinalla*

          Eh I’m from the Midwest and this is fine by me. I wouldn’t call the person out every time I see them, but I handle it my own way. A friend of my brother’s “borrowed” something from me when we were in high school. He never gave it back and ended up losing it and never apologized, not even once, or made any effort to fix the situation. I still to this day am cool to him, polite, but that is all. He noticed it twice and asked me once and I told him that he didn’t return the thing he borrowed and didn’t apologize, so I have kept my distance since. He asked my brother once too and he told him the same thing. He had the attitude that it wasn’t a big deal so he shouldn’t have to apologize or reimburse me in some fashion, but I’m not going to trust someone or try to be friendly with someone who was so careless and rude to me, especially being told TWICE how he could make it up. My brother and I are very close, but I’ve never understood that friendship and they are still very close friends to this day :)

        2. Avasarala*

          (Just to let you know, “gypped” refers to “gypsies” in a derogatory way, it’s a term that can make people (including me) uncomfortable)

          1. BookMom*

            Different people define “White Elephant” differently. To me, “White Elephant” is supposed to be funny/tacky/kitschy. I gave a singing toilet paper roller to a friend for her office White Elephant. Turns out other people contributed really nice stuff like signed sports memorabilia. She was so upset. If it’s just the game of stealing a gift from someone else or unwrapping a new one, that’s “Dirty Santa” or “Yankee Swap.”

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          All Stephen has to do for this to no longer happen is stump up with a superb gift (the superb to make up for the tardiness).

      6. Gumby*

        I remember the hand-cut roll-out cookies (in our company logo) I got one year because of the sheer effort that had gone into them. And still have and listen to a CD of dance music (swing, waltz, etc.) I got another year from someone who was part of the same broader social dance scene I was and knew I’d be into it.

      7. Nacho*

        I don’t know. We have a relatively high SS gift limit in my office compared to how much we make, so I know I’d be pretty pissed if I gave something and got nothing in return. Even more so if the guy who gave me nothing ended up getting a nice gift in exchange for giving me nothing. That’s basically stealing from me.

      8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You’re such a badass, not caring about such little things and whatever. People can be upset when they’re left out of something that they paid to be apart of and someone flaked on in the end. It has nothing to do with age, good grief.

  9. Sorry For Party Rockin*

    This happened before I started, but occasionally our group of around 20 people will rent a bus and just drive around Big City USA drinking for a few hours, stopping at holiday-themed bars every now and then. Things can get really rowdy and the drinking culture is heavy, although there are a few who don’t drink in the group and always seem to have fun anyway. Rumor has it that one year, a new-ish staff member had a bit too much to drink and spent some time throwing up into someone else’s purse in front of everyone while the admin assistant stroked her hair and sang an adlibbed song about how beautiful she was. Neither the admin nor staff member still work in our group and this tale is now told at every staff outing, sometimes more than once.

      1. Sorry For Party Rockin*

        You’re so right! I can see Meredith in the back chugging a full bottle and calling the staff member the p-word.

  10. Stacy*

    At a school district I used to work, our new director announced she was hosting a holiday breakfast for us. She was an all-around horrible person to work with so we were a little surprised and flattered by this nice gesture. Until the details of the party were sent out. Instead of throwing the party at the building we worked she insisted we drive to her office for the party. We also had to come in early for the party as not to miss any work time. We were all required to bring a dish. She told us she would be supplying the plates and cutlery. When we arrived, it was clear she had just grabbed whatever leftover cutlery and plates were laying around in their office. We had plates but no napkins. The only cutlery was knives so we had to eat all these breakfast casseroles, fruit salad, etc with our hands. Then she passed out an agenda for us. It was actually a meeting that she was holding under the guise of a party. On the agenda, we were allotted 15 minutes of socializing. After we made our plates and sat down she instructed us to begin our designated socializing. We all say in silence for the full fifteen minutes.

      1. Stacy*

        Another great story: my colleagues and I would buy a cake for each other’s birthday. When the supervisor found out, she told us she expected a cake for her birthday as well. So she forced us to buy her a cake and have a “party” for her because that’s what we all did for each other. During her party she kept waving people in and saying “look at how much they love me! They bought me a cake for my birthday!”

        We once again sat there and ate in silence.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          Years ago my employer arranged a holiday party at a local catering hall, the party would start right at 5pm . When we got there, we found out our health insurance rep was going to speak first, telling us all about our awful new health coverage (as the old coverage was now too expensive.) After that we all sat in stunned silence, went to the buffet and returned to our tables, and ate in total quiet. Worst “party” ever.

          1. Sharrbe*

            “Sorry, you’re deductible has doubled, your copays have tripled, and we no longer cover prescriptions. Here’s some cake!”

        2. Safety First*

          I feel like this is a missed opportunity to buy a cake that is clearly not a birthday cake and awkwardly ‘decorate’ it, e.g. with a piece of printer paper drawn on with black whiteboard marker that says “Huppy Birthday”.

          Not sure I would actually do this in real life (It’s better to be kind than to reciprocate meanness), but it is fun to think about.

        3. The Scarlet Letter*

          Oh god, flashback. A couple of months into a new job, my nightmare boss started casually mentioning that her birthday was “this month,” “next Thursday,” “a couple of days from now on xx/xx,” “…and I’m not even taking the day off, I just do SO much around here, SIGH.” You get the idea. My teammate informs me that we need to split the cost of a cake from a specific (expensive) bakery. On the day, nightmare boss squealed in feigned surprise and made sure everyone on the floor knew “my reports got me cake! And it’s from (Fancy Bakery), they totally splurged!” Then the both of them made me stand in the kitchen and cut and serve the cake.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      she instructed us to begin our designated socializing. We all say in silence for the full fifteen minutes.

      LOL! LOL! LOL! I love the deadpan delivery in this story.

      1. Stacy*

        I’ll never forget the image of us silently eating while trying to use knives as forks and spoons. It was the best worst work party I’ve ever experienced.

      1. Stacy*

        I can’t remember if anyone thanked her. Even if someone did it was so clearly apparent that we all were miserable.

    2. Stacy*

      Should also add: the reason it was a meeting under the guise of a party was her way of holding a meeting outside our contracted work hours without having to pay us because it was a voluntary “party”

      1. animaniactoo*

        Hmmm. Sounds like somebody could have filed a DOL complaint over that one. Like, okay, the 15 minutes is your time, but parties don’t have “agendas” tyvm.

        1. Stacy*

          There were so many issues with her. The higher ups ended up barring her from overseeing our dept the next year due to even more egregious things than this incident. The year after that she left the district completely.

            1. Stacy*

              She outright bullied a very talented and experienced colleague to the point that the colleague had to take personal time to deal with the mental health issues that developed as a result of the bullying. Whenever we had a meeting with parents of students, she wanted to be there. We were not allowed to start any discussion without her, and she would often be 45 minutes to an hour late with no notice. She would often roll in late to those meetings with Starbucks or McDonald’s drink in her hand. She once insulted me so much in a meeting with a parent that the parent filed a complaint with the district because they were horrified at how she acted. Also some issues with doing things that were not in line with education regulations/laws.

            2. Stacy*

              Oh also- a coworker was assaulted by a student. I’ll call her Leslie.

              Leslie had a student in her class who had been very aggressive towards her all year. Leslie kept asking the supervisor for additional support, but supervisor was very dismissive. Then Leslie was assaulted by the student and seriously injured. Supervisor tried to cover the incident up by falsifying an incident report saying it had been an accident.

    3. Karaoke anyone?*

      I’m just curious as to what a breakfast casserole is? I like a hearty, savoury breakfast, and wish to be inducted into your ways.

      1. pancakes*

        There are lots & lots of recipes online, usually involving a combination of eggs, cheese, and potatoes. They’re also called breakfast strata.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Breakfast casserole is one of my favorite dishes ever to exist! I like mine with layers of egg, sausage, and hashbrown-cut potatoes with cheese. But just egg, onion, and sausage will do me fine! :)

        Some people put pancakes or french toast with syrup as the top layer, if sweet + savory floats your boat.

  11. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Picture the scene; mid 2000s, we in the IT department had done the impossible and got all the company computers upgraded to the next version of Windows. Before the project deadline.

    So, we kinda expected a nice Xmas dinner or bonus that year. Nope. Got told that we’d have to do everything in our own time and our own money. Oh and btw, no drinks after work because we might need to call all you in if an app crashes.

    Cue the revolution, IT style. Basically we set up the mother of all LAN parties in the office (IT dept was in the basement and had a code locked door) because we sure as heck were going to take advantage of our shiny new network! So while the rest of the company was asleep in their beds I was busy shooting my manager with rockets in unreal tournament.

    Still the best time I’ve had at work over the xmas season :) Boss was laughing fit to burst when we ordered pizza at midnight and he paid for it…and we gave him an extra 2 minutes grace period before we shot him again.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      I could never get the rockets to do the twisty thing in that game.

      Damn that party sounds amazing.

    2. Bichqween_Twitch*

      EPIC story (and username, btw)! I miss LAN parties as well. Doom, Quake, and pizza FTW in my book! Oh, and now that I’m almost twice the legal drinking age, let’s throw in some beer!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I used to sign for backup tape deliveries as my username. Formed number 24 of ‘things Keymaster is no longer allowed to do at work’.

        (Number 22 was ‘must not construct replicas of Stonehenge out of server cases. 23 was ‘must not conduct rituals in it either’)

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    The Event Planning team at one job tried their best, but they had a tight budget for the year, so the Christmas party food was canapes, and as soon as fresh platters were brought out, there was a stampede.

    1. EPLawyer*

      God this reminds me of my law school annual Christmas party for alums. Every year they have it right after work so 6 ish. And they only serve DESSERTS. Everything is so sweet, with nothing to balance it. Cash bar, of course. I once asked the person who organized it why we can’t have at least cheese trays or something. “Oh I thought desserts would be so nice for everyone. It’s something special.”

    2. zebra*

      That’s why you’ve got to park yourself by the back door or wherever the servers emerge from with the full trays. Much less effort than running around after them once they’re already circulating.

      (This is also why we specify that there will be zero passed apps at our client events, because people tend to stampede. Stationary food tables only!)

    3. The New Wanderer*

      This reminds me of a retirement dinner and drinks party for a senior colleague. About 50 of us paid $20 to attend and in exchange got 1-2 hors d’ouvres per person. Like, a shrimp puff and a mini taco, definitely nothing substantial. And this was only after we all figured out there was only one tray circulating at a time, so people were staked out near the kitchen waiting for the next tray. Cash bar. I have no idea what happened with the money, I mean the venue was nice but I long suspected the two hostesses may have paid themselves a hosting bonus.

  13. Anon (and on and on)*

    I’ll borrow a story from my Dad from when he was the head of HR at a women’s clothing retailer back in the 80s. They were having their annual Christmas party when someone came in dressed as Santa and began interacting with people at the party. The problem was that he hadn’t been hired as entertainment, but was a random, drunk guy dressed as Santa that had stumbled in off the street! Everyone was having a great time but my Dad watched as he got more and more inappropriate. When he started inviting female employees to sit on his lap, my Dad had enough and frog-marched him out of the party. Everyone in the company booed him as he escorted Drunk Santa out the door.

  14. Anonymous at a University*

    I work with someone who is always asking for money for something: charities she works with, the pets she can’t afford to take care of, gifts she wants to give to family members, etc. At last year’s “holiday party” (which was really just good food served in a conference room during finals week, but a lot of people came because it was nice to get a break from grading for an hour), this person stood up in front of the conference room and made a 10-minute speech about how people should donate to [her preferred charity] instead of the charities that they had talked about donating to, because “Otherwise it’s like keeping Rudolph from playing any reindeer games.”

    She went on ON AND ON about Rudolph and the reindeer games, including that we were trying to “injure Rudolph’s hooves.” She didn’t seem to understand the way people were staring at her. She sat down after the speech and gave this satisfied little look around the room, like, “There, now everyone understands how committed I am.”

    It was cringey and awkward as hell at the time, but now- especially since I don’t face the prospect of her doing it again this year- I can also laugh.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        This person is pretty out there. I doubt it would be tolerated in any space but academia, but, well, academia.

        At one point she also asked for money to make a wooden carving of her dog who had just died, and when someone asked for what (this was all by e-mail), she replied that she wanted to burn the carving in her dog’s Viking funeral. She got no takers.

        One of my other colleagues did come to my office after that and said, “…Viking funeral?” in a horrified voice, which was probably the funniest part of the whole thing.

          1. Anonymous at a University*

            She didn’t mention size, or I don’t recall if she did, but she wanted $3000.

            Sometimes, I wish I had her invincible self-confidence.

              1. Anonymous At a University*

                Well, see, it was going to get hand-carved by an “authentic local artisan,” so it was going to be expensive!

                Nothing but the best for Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral.

                1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

                  Like sorry, but that is mine now.
                  I am burning Karma in virtual effigy and will henceforth be known as Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral.

                2. Lady Meyneth*

                  @Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral: But are you commissioning a hand-carved effigy of karma to burn? Can’t just let a username go unsung at their viking funeral, ya know!

            1. Me (I think)*

              $3000 for a carving of her deceased pooch? And she wanted her colleagues to pay for it?

              “Invincible self confidence” is a lovely alternate way of saying sociopathic narcissism.

            2. SMH*

              My sister just ended a friendship over someone wanting to borrow money. They asked for money and then proceeds to tell her it’s for a dog they want to buy. Not really an emergency. Sister said no and they started yelling and calling her selfish and greedy.

    1. nerdgal*

      I will repeat “the squirrel was by invitation only” to myself whenever I need to lift my spirits this holiday season.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      There is a British comedian called Catherine Tate (Whovians will recognise her as Donna) who had a recurring character who did exactly this. Every episode would see her scrounging for donations to her charity du jour and becoming increasingly aggressive with people who didn’t donate as much as she thought right. If I can find a clip, I’ll post it as a reply.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        The charity she likes is a children’s charity, so she said that since children are the foundation of the future, it was like we were “injuring Rudolph’s hooves,” i.e., his ability to walk, by “refusing to donate to children.” Never mind that some other people had talked about donating to children’s charities, just not that particular one. It had to be hers or it was useless, apparently. And hoof-injuring.

        1. Artemesia*

          The primary goal of many many ‘save the children’ type charities is to provide 6 figure incomes for the people who run them — I never give to anything I haven’t vetted and have had co-workers who insist that ‘you must not like children’ or whatever if I don’t hand over money to their thing. We give big bucks to a handful of carefully chosen organizations that I know deliver goods and services to people in need.

        2. Sarah Waldock*

          heh when people start hassling me for children’s charities, I always say “oh, goodness, no, I never donate to children the little blighters grow up to be adults and I can’t stand adults.”

  15. Anonymous Elephant*

    My spouse worked for a small local government agency. The leadership for this agency were all males of a specific religious group that doesn’t allow drinking or dancing. When it came time for the Christmas party, the director had a traditional sit-down dinner in a local event center with brief speeches and a raffle of some quality prizes. Then he retired and his replacement was a bit more fundamental. New boss decided he wouldn’t allow the Christmas party to be held in a location that served alcohol on the premises. The only location they could find was a church reception hall, but it wasn’t the same denomination so New Boss was disappointed. The next year he agreed to a regular event center, but he required that no alcohol be available on-site. Apparently the event center had holiday music playing and he didn’t like that, so the next year he chose a different location with no alcohol and no music. By this time, attendance had gone from 80% to 25%. He listened to feedback and decided that since people wanted music, but he didn’t want dancing, he would have two televisions brought in to show a Christmas movie during the party. It was straight out of elementary school with two box TVs on the tall wheeled carts with cables running between them. He showed “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Finally, at the last party, he continued his TV setup with the exact same movie but agreed to have the party at a hotel ballroom… what he did not factor in was that the hotel had a restaurant with a bar. It was quite a fun night and there really weren’t crazy shenanigans, but it was unacceptable for him. For the last ten years, he has hosted a potluck at the office instead of a holiday party.

    1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      The fact that this was something he thought about from year, the effort spent to make the event worse, it is a freaking mission.

    2. Three Flowers*

      This is not a work story, but related: my grandmother belonged to a similar teetotaling religious group (she wasn’t from the no-secular-music/no-dancing branch, but disapproved of anyone drinking in her presence). My family comes from a different denomination that is known (jokingly) for its attachment to cocktails and wine at social events. We used to go to her house for Christmas, accompany her to her church, etc.

      Several years before she moved to a senior community, we discovered that there was a tiny church of our denomination in her town, so small (because of the overwhelming numbers of the teetotaling group in that area) that they’d had to merge with another similarly permissive denomination’s church. And they had a midnight Christmas Eve service followed by cheese and wine (!!!).

      We were literally only in town one week a year and because we have a relatively unusual physical feature, that church knew us as the people from [OtherState] who come to Christmas Eve services and stay for the entire wine-and-cheese hour. We loved them. They were absolutely wonderful and our Christmas saviors.

      1. Hi there*

        I suspect we are in the same denomination. We have two kinds of punch (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) at our Christmas Eve receptions. They are both pretty good.

      2. Ralph the wonder llama*

        I too suspect we are the same denomination. Post midnight Christmas Eve service: recipe from an 80ish year old parishioner: bought eggnog plus nearly melted Breyers vanilla ice cream plus a lot of bourbon, whisked together and served in red solo cups. Best eggnog ever.

    3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Awww, I kind of feel sorry for the guy! Showing ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ as an attempt to liven things up is especially cring (yikes). I’m glad they finally settled on an office potluck but honestly, it would have made a lot more sense to just start with that.

    4. Coffee Bean*

      So the boss that didn’t want to have a party at a venue that serves alcohol showed a movie with several scenes that feature people . . . drinking alcohol.

    5. 1234*

      You would think the boss would know to ask the hotel if they had a restaurant or bar area before booking the ballroom if he didn’t want people drinking…

    6. Pushy Broad*

      Until COVID, our company had a family oriented holiday party every year in the large common area of our building. They’d fill the loading dock with man made snow for sledding, have a cookie decorating station, and of course … Santa would make an appearance.

      One year, Santa showed up a little late. He was a bit disheveled but was very jolly, maybe a bit too jolly, since his eyes and his suit were about the same color. He was great with the kids, so no one said anything until he started walking around, asking all the moms what they wanted for Christmas. Cue some awkward laughter and comments about Santa getting arrested for flying while intoxicated until there was a stifled shout, a sudden flurry of activity and the next thing we all know, security was rapidly but discretely escorting Santa out. Seems he got a little handsy with the posterior of last lady he spoke with and her husband took umbrage. Considering her husband is our CEO and was the one funding the party, Santa put himself on the wrong naughty list.

  16. Person from the Resume*

    she instructed us to begin our designated socializing. We all say in silence for the full fifteen minutes.

    LOL! LOL! LOL! I love the deadpan delivery in this story.

  17. Anon booze cruise*

    OOOOO I think it’s time to tell the tale of the booze cruise attempted drowning.

    Husband’s xmas party ~10 years ago, San Francisco bay dinner cruise. Lots and lots of wine and beer, our company group was one of many on the ship. At one point later on in the evening, the captain told us all to go outside to see alcatraz or the golden gate bridge or something. So we scrambled up to a deck, as did many other people, and allegedly many of us somehow picked the Wrong Deck. Large ship, apparently each party had its own deck and there was this ONE GUY who was wildly looking around, out of his mind that randos from other parties dared to wander to whichever company rented out that deck that night.

    He started loudly telling us all we should move back to our own decks but we were all too mesmerized by whatever the landmark in the bay was. So he marched up to a couple of people, PUT HIS HANDS ON A WOMAN AND STARTED STEERING HER TOWARD THE EDGE OF THE BOAT. Husband saw this, slammed his wineglass right down on the deck to startle the dude, and then immediately put him in a chokehold. Woman was released and was fine, husband released the guy who was coughing but also fine, and security promptly threw that psycho in the actual brig for the rest of the booze cruise. Husband was given a new wineglass.

      1. Anon booze cruise*

        It’s probably just a room where they ziptie you to a chair, but yes! The company CFO wandered around the staff areas with his own wineglass, chatting them up to find out what happened to Angry Deck Guy who was hauled away. He was so happy to announce to us all that yes indeed, the guy was in the brig. The cops took him away when we docked.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          The image of a dinner cruise crew ziptying someone to a chair has sent me into FITS. Thank you.

      2. allathian*

        At least big cruise ships do. My uncle worked in security on one such ship, and he actually caught a Most Wanted criminal once and put him in the brig. When the ship got to port, the crook was taken away by the cops.

      3. pancakes*

        I stayed at a boat-hotel a few years ago (a boatel!) and there was a note for guests in each vessel: “If you drunkenly fall between the boats you will be fished out and sent to bed early. No exceptions.” I didn’t test it.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        My first thought was everyone went to one side of the boat and it would start leaning. The actual events were so much better/worse. Great story!

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            You DID make the username change! Happy holidays from Germany this makes me laugh so much!

      2. Not Australian*

        Naval vessels still carry a ‘Neil Robertson’ stretcher, which is a cross between a stretcher and a straitjacket – very useful for confining an individual so that he can’t hurt himself or anyone else, in either rescue or confinement scenarios.

    1. mean green mother*

      Wait wait “steering her towards the edge of the boat” like he was going to throw her overboard?!

      1. Kali*

        This is my question! Steering a woman around against her consent? That’s assault (or battery, depending on your state). Throwing her overboard is… above and beyond that. O.o

    2. No Sleep Till Hippo*

      I think we’ve found the “other group” mentioned in the “I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” letter!!

  18. Anonymous Elephant*

    In the mid-2000s, I was a receptionist for the C-level suite. For some reason, the exec who was in charge of holiday gifts for staff that year decided I needed to help them instead of their assistant. I was directed to make bootleg copies of Josh Groban’s Christmas album, complete with a custom sticker on the CD and CD case with our company logo and “Happy Holidays!” on it for every one of our employees. I created the sticker and case artwork and sent it over to exec for approval. They decided they wanted to make their own… using WordArt and such. It was awful.

    1. rambler*

      I feel this so hard. I’m an in-house graphic designer, with literally part of my job description to support the president. But every year they “don’t want to bother me” and they make the most terrible word document/holiday party invite. And it gets sent straight from the president to every single employee. I’m literally here to make sure that office has professional materials. SMH.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I’m an in-house graphic designer too…one year my grandboss wanted me to make an example of “what not to do” to the university logo as a visual aid for all of the people who kept customizing it. I collaged ALL of the various bullshit I’ve seen done to the logo and presented him with a frankendesign: distorting it, removing bits of it, changing the colors and fonts (hobo and comic sans were prominently featured), added a photo of him, background clipped, leaning on the logo, and included a totally odd-ball inspirational quote about baseball as a tagline underneath it all (because PEOPLE HAVE DONE THAT HERE). It was so gloriously hideous he had it framed on his wall — which I think may have sort of defeated the intent of “don’t do this” but it was cathartic in a way.

        1. 1234*

          It really amazes me what people think they should be doing to company logos…that “what not to do” guide sounds so epic and I’m not even a graphic designer.

        2. Anonymous Elephant*

          I see a lot of this as well at my university job. The constant “this is our brand so STOP CHANGING IT!” conversations are exhausting. Especially since we have an old logo from the 70s that we internally call the Rabies mascot, since it looks like our mascot on rabies, that somehow keeps popping up on letterheads and t-shirts even though the mascot changed THIRTY YEARS AGO.

  19. Cafe au Lait*

    Not a holiday story but a request: please please please (!!!) post the Christmas party story of the ‘going as friends–ooops, it’s actually a date!’ Oh, and I’ll entertain you with my bad magic tricks while the poster got drunker and drunker from her tablemate’s drink tickets.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Gosh, I’d missed this. How could this have been missing from my life? Thank you, thank you!

    1. Cheesehead*

      I think a link to that one was actually posted within the last few weeks in a compilation of the best holiday stories. I know I read it recently.

      1. samecoin*

        the update to this even better. one of the commentariat either was at that party or knows someone who was at that party and posted it from their perspective…it was amazing

  20. Dr. Clara Mandrake*

    I worked for a small company in my first office job- there were maybe 10 of us in our office, including the owner of the company. We had a Secret Santa each year that people inevitably went over the top over- little surprises at people’s desk in the week leading up to it, fancy wrapping, etc.- especially if you were the one who drew the owner’s name.

    One year my turn came to open my present, and it was a rolling pin in a gift bag (no tissue or anything, just there). We all just sort of look at it, puzzled. The owner proudly stands up and says he heard that my back hurt sometimes and that rolling pins were helpful for people with sciatica. We continue to stare. He demonstrates how to roll it up and down the back of your legs.

    I suppose it was thoughtful in theory. Just very awkward.

      1. Retired Lady*

        I am now looking for my rolling pin for my disability level bad back. It’s gotta be here somewhere!

        1. Artemesia*

          They are good for the IT band but not seeing it for the back. It also hurts like hell if you are doing it right.

  21. Not A Girl Boss*

    I worked in a mess of a frat party type workplace. The Christmas Eve midnight shift was just us two interns, and a big boss. Myself and the other intern were working in the warehouse and Big Boss was holding down the main office. The other intern was “secretly” dating the big boss (but told me, so I assume she also told everyone else). In the middle of our shift she changed into a sexy elf outfit to go surprise the boss in the office with his Christmas present (ick). She came back shortly in tears. Apparently, the third intern had had the same idea (came in on her night off to surprise him), and FirstIntern had caught ThirdIntern in a compromising position with Big Boss.

    For the Christmas midnight shift the next day, it was me and FirstIntern but the boss was off. She decided to go give boss “coal” for Christmas. She gathered up all the sharpies she could find and spent the entire day coloring his desk, chair, computer monitor, safety glasses, safety boots, EVERYTHING in sharpie.

    Of course Big Boss couldn’t admit what he’d done, so he pretended he had no idea who would do such a thing to his desk, and no one ever got in trouble.

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      Thanks for posting this! Imagining Big Boss being questioned about the Sharpie and staring at the wall while saying, “Nope, no idea, no idea whatsoever” is making me laugh.

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      I feel like its also relevant to share that I was entirely baffled that not one, but two gorgeous college interns would fight over this man. He was 40ish, a balding ginger, and around the warehouse we called him “Pants Guy” because he had outgrown his skinny chinos from his college days but still wore them. They were so tight he couldn’t button them, he just put his belt over the button and hoped for the best. And you could see everything in his pocket like it was vacuum sealed. He walked around with his work cell in one back pocket and his personal cell in the other and he basically looked like Spongebob Squarepants if he ever got butt implants.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Between this description of human SpongeBob as a ginger and the first sharpie coal story, I think you are this season’s winner!!!!!

  22. Campfire Raccoon*

    This is about a missed party. I was temping for a company that was trying to go public. The owners (brothers in their early 30s) missed the Christmas party but their wives attended, representing the family. Supposedly, they were in out of state working on the IPO. The party was uneventful and as I was only a temp, I skedaddled early.

    A few weeks later I was doing the bank and CC recs, and there were ODD multiple charges on the owners’ credit cards. The charges were crazily high: all were between $3,500 and $14,000 and had been made on the weekend while the owners were gone. I googled the charging company, the charges were from a well-known strip club and brothel. There were also charges to the nearby hotel, where the owners had been staying. Flights, rental cars, gas, parking. The cards had not been stolen. I brought it to the attention of the CFO, who told me to code the charges so they’d be “hidden”. I waited for him to leave my cubie, set the recs aside, logged off, and went home. I didn’t go back.

    The company never went public.

        1. All the cats 4 me*

          Yes, yes!

          It has been a while since I last did any bookkeeping, but if I remember correctly, an account that has activity can never be deleted? Bwa ha ha ha ha

  23. Squirrel Girl*

    I’m from the Midwest and an avid hunter. I moved to the east coast for a job, and at the first holiday potluck, I thought I would share my Midwest heritage by bringing in a crock pot full of squirrel. But it occurred to me that if I did that, I might be going home… with a crockpot full of squirrel. So I sent a program-wide email out asking people to tell me if they were interested.

    There were so many takers that I actually had to go out and hunt more squirrels! I ended up with something like 25 people wanting to eat my squirrel. On the day of the event, I had to keep the crock pot in my office, with a list of the folks who signed up, and the squirrel was by invitation only until about 1:30pm when I gave up on a couple folks who didn’t show up. I then sent out another email saying there were a couple pieces left first come first serve, and they were all taken within 10 minutes of my email.

    It was legendary. “The year we had squirrel” was a holiday story for years to come, and when I finally left that program years later, at least three people made references to squirrel when they signed my goodbye poster.

    For the record, everyone who tried it liked it, even the squeamish ones who pushed themselves. :)

    And yes…. it tastes like chicken.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Oooh, I’ve never had crock pot squirrel, only grilled. Does it make it super juicy and tender, like pulled pork or shredded chicken? I’d bet your old office still talks about this!

      1. Squirrel Girl*

        Yeah squirrel is very tough, so it does best in a crock pot or pressure cooker. I gave out squirrel quarters so there were still bones and people could 100% verify it was squirrel. It was tender and juicy, and the sauce was delicious. :)

        1. Raven*

          Now you’re making me hungry.

          I’ve only had fried, by the way. It tastes like squirrel. I keep eyeing up the one that raids my bird feeers and reminding him (very visibly a “him”) that he is a member of an edible species.

        2. Duckers*

          One day a co-worker brought in a crock pot beaver stew, bones and all. It looked like beef stew, he didn’t hide what it was…I still had a hard time trying it. I wanted to but it was a mental block. I kept picturing cute beaver videos.
          He also regularly eats porcupine…I guess it depends on how you were raised and what you are used to…

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      “I ended up with something like 25 people wanting to eat my squirrel.” This is a holiday gift all in itself.

        1. Nea*

          Yeah, but you’re not alone.

          In times to come, I think “Seeing the phrase ‘people wanting to eat my squirrel’ show up on a professional advice blog” is going to shine as one of the odder moments of 2020.

          (That said, we have got squirrels and a crock pot, so I’m totally up for that recipe.)

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          OH GOD, I was laughing so hard I literally couldn’t breathe for a few moments there!

          I feel like I should change the word “Cat” in my handle to “Kitten, ” because I am evidently also a child!

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        Do you happen to be a chubby middle aged ginger with Sponge Bob butt implants and a belt doing double duty as a button?
        Asking for a friend.

        1. Sponge Bob Butt Implants*

          Since you beat me to Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral, I am adopting Sponge Bob Butt Implants.

    3. Cafe au Lait*

      The line “…I had to hunt more squirrel!” has me in stitches. The college campus I work on is overrun with squirrels. In my mind’s eye I see you out on the common green, targeting a squirrel through your sight glass, and — BANG~ — there’s another squirrel for the crockpot.

      1. Me (I think)*

        I knew a guy in college who hunted squirrels on campus with a sling shot. He would put a dab of peanut butter on the toe of his shoe. He was remarkably successful, and there were so many squirrels he didn’t make a dent in their population.

        1. Xenia*

          Given how many squirrels my campus has this would not be a terrible way to thin the population just a tad.

          1. JustaTech*

            When I worked for an Ivy League school the main campus had a large population of very well fed squirrels. So well fed that they couldn’t run very fast. The summer I worked there a pair of hawks moved in, and pretty much every morning one of them would catch a squirrel.

            One day a hawk did so in magnificent right in front of some VIPs, and then took the squirrel to the peak of the roof of the School of Theology to eat it, raining squirrel fur down upon the white marble steps and very concerned theology students.

    4. Elenna*

      Ooh I would be SO EXCITED if someone said they were bringing in squirrel. I love trying unusual foods! Probably comes of being Asian and routinely eating stuff like fish heads and chicken feet…

    5. ThatGirl*

      I mean, I’ve lived in the Midwest most of my life and never had squirrel offered to me, so I’m not sure that’s really a Midwest thing… but I’m glad your coworkers liked it.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I’m from the south and it’s definitely a redneck thing :) verified by the 4 inch tall copied KFC buckets my sister would make for the fried squirrel drumsticks my brother would fill them with. Also, and no joke, his name is Forrest and he is proud of his secret spices.

        1. Three Flowers*

          As a southerner who lived in the midwest, I can definitely testify that there are a lot of things people think are country southern that are perhaps *even more prevalent* in parts of the midwest, at least its southern end. (Some of these, unfortunately, are Not Nice and involve large amounts of Confederate iconography, but some are just like huh, I thought that was a North Carolina/Georgia/whatever thing.) I personally was never offered squirrel in either region, but I’m not surprised. And I LOVE the image of the mini KFC squirrel drumsticks!

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            I swear we all forget that the “Midwest” stretches pretty far from north to south when you actually look at it, along with the fact that its huge from east to west!

            Never have eaten squirrel. Haven’t actually hunted it, either. Perhaps have threatened it from the back porch.

            1. Eat My Squirrel*

              I mean… Ok… I’m from Indiana. My husband (sorry Teekanne’s brother) is from Wisconsin. I didn’t grow up hunting, I learned it from his family, and a lot of his Indiana-born friends.

              Perhaps I should have said my redneck/country/rural heritage, but I figure people can understand that every region has urban areas and rural areas and experiences will differ.

              1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

                My brother says, “I don’t blame her for marrying one of those near-Canadian lumberjacks because they get to learn how to trap in the snow”

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              No limits to location. .. my New England farm-boy husband loves squirrel, along with deer & rabbit. He shakes his head sadly at the fat ones in suburbia–not safe when they’re been eating trash, even if ‘you’ (not me honey!) could trap them without getting someone’s off-leash pet in the have a heart instead…

          2. irene adler*

            Just want to comment:

            Brunswick stew. This was originally prepared with squirrel.

            And places like Brunswick, Georgia and Brunswick County, Virginia both claim the stew originated there.

      2. Dingbat*

        Same. I’ve always lived in the Midwest, and I have never eaten squirrel or been given that option. Still, it’s nice that everyone enjoyed it.

    6. Okumura Haru*

      I’ve always thought that your screen name was a reference to the Marvel super hero. This paints it in a VERY different light.

      1. Squirrel Girl*

        I might have accidentally stolen it if someone else here uses it already… oops! Sorry to the actual Squirrel Girl if that’s the case. There was a coworker who was into the superhero who called me that for a while after this event…

    7. CatCat*

      “I moved to the east coast for a job, and at the first holiday potluck, I thought I would share my Midwest heritage by bringing in a crock pot full of squirrel.”

      I feel like this should be the opening line for your memoir, which I now want to read.

    8. Environmental Compliance*

      I brought venison chili to a work potluck once, and had it Obviously Labeled as venison. A lot of people really enjoyed the chance to try something new (to them, I grew up on venison and other game). It was fun!

      And then there were a couple who apparently didn’t read any of the food labels (or pay attention to the sign up sheets either) and were offended that I brought in not-beef chili and dared feed it to them.

      Am also from the Midwest – and this was in a midwestern state as well, just not the very hunter-heavy state of which I came from.

      1. Sabina*

        And now I’m imaging a parenthetical “Bambi” next to “venison ” since it was Obviously Labeled…

        1. SarahKay*

          Some years ago my (British) parents were visiting friends in Italy, and were served a delicious stew. They asked what was in it, but didn’t recognise the Italian word used to describe it; their friends couldn’t remember the English word, and my parents didn’t have their Italian/English dictionary with them.
          Suddenly the daughter of their friends had an inspiration for an alternative description and said excitedly “I know – it’s Bambi!”
          It’s now a family joke to refer to venison stew as Bambi stew.

    9. NotSoFunnyAfterAll*

      OK, this is my second favorite story. And the line “I had 25 people wanting to eat my squirrel” better go down in ATM history!

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        I think I deserve to adopt this as my permanent user name… especially if there was already a Squirrel Girl.

    10. Josie*

      I brought Porcupine Meatballs to a department treat day once and no one touched them until I told them that they were made with hamburger and rice. It was just a cute name and there was no porcupine in them.

      1. Katrinka*

        I love those! I was just telling my kids I needed to make them “porkypines”, which is how my little sister used to say it. The horrified looks on their faces were fantastic.

        1. Artemesia*

          My kids loved those. We also have a standard dish called ‘melted meatballs in molasses’ — which is just hamburger stroganoff but one of the kids named it after a ridiculous story on a Sesame Street record and it stuck. So 35 years later that dish is still ‘melted meatballs in molasses’ (and not there is no sugar of any kind in it)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            There’s a medieval dish called ‘hedgehogs” that is very similar — slivered almonds make the meatballs really cute.

    11. Memories*

      This brought back an old story I heard from my dad. When he was in the army (WW2) his mom sent him home-canned squirrel in gravy. He was a midwest kid who grew up hunting and eating squirrel, rabbit, and pigeon.

    12. MsMaryMary*

      I recently learned a coworker is banned from all office potlucks/cooking competitions because he once fed our regional President squirrel without his consent.

      Coworker is an avid hunter and the President always makes fun of him for his barbaric hobby (we live in the midwest. Duck and deer hunting is very common but squirrel is a little more unusual). I guess one year Coworker saw an opportunity for revenge and took it in the form if a squirrel casserole. There’s a group of guys, including these two, who have worked together for over 30 years. I’m sure we only hear a fraction of the stories about their past office hijinks.

    13. Shelix*

      Midwesterner here! (Specifically a Yooper.) I love squirrel!

      Also, Squirrel by Invitation Only is my new band name. Post-punk, i think, with strong satirical overtones.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        I am glad a couple of people enjoyed the invitation only bit. I personally thought that was my funniest part. I was so innocent until a few hours ago… lol.

        1. Eat My Squirrel*

          PS people who were not on the list came to my office throughout the day asking for squirrel, and I seriously responded with “the squirrel is by invitation only, and you are not on the list.”

          A couple of times, I returned to my office after a trip to the restroom, printer, coworker’s desk, etc, and had to chase away people who were hovered over the crock pot about to serve themselves.

          I really did not expect it to be so well received. It was a blast.

    14. Skittles*

      Slightly off-topic question from a clueless Australian – when you say you had to hunt more squirrels does that mean you went out and caught them yourself? And if yes, what does that entail? Do you just go to a local park? What do you catch/kill them with?
      Just asking as it’s such a foreign concept to me!

      1. tanklizard*

        Most likely Squirrel Girl went out in the woods during squirrel season and shot them with a low power rifle, probably 22 LR (there’s not much squirrel left when you use a high power rifle.) Hunting in a local park (a small park in an urban area with buildings close by if that’s what you’re referring to) with a firearm is generally unsafe.

        I grew up in Pennsylvania and I remember the Walton side of the family ate squirrel and groundhog and occasionally possum and coon. When I tell the city folk I work with this they kind of turn their nose up but the thing is my family didn’t always eat it because they liked the taste, they ate it because they were hungry and a 22 LR shell cost alot less then ground beef.

        1. Skittles*

          As an Australian I delight in telling friends from overseas that we regularly eat kangaroo and I have eaten emu on occasion too. As these are the two animals on our country’s coat of arms, and kangaroos are considered quite cute, they are often a bit shocked by that.
          If anyone’s curious, kangaroo is very lean and gamey and I find it delicious! Considering we often need to cull them to control the population and protect native grassland from overgrazing I’m glad we can make use of the meat instead of wasting it.
          Given the opportunity I would definitely eat squirrel, groundhog and possum!

          1. it's-a-me*

            Fellow Aussie here. When I was younger, in high school, I somehow ended up chatting with another girl from the USA, who mentioned she was coming to Australia soon, and was excited they were going to visit a crocodile farm. I mentioned how much I like crocodile meat and recommended she try it satayed.

            She… did not realise what a crocodile farm was for until that point. I think she thought they were farmed for release into the wild or something. She was a little bit horrified (we also got to talking about crocodile skin boots/bags/leather and she was horrified again, she’d thought it was just what the pattern was called).

          2. Eat My Squirrel*

            I always assumed hunting kangaroo in Australia was like hunting deer in the US. They’re just deer that hop around in their back legs. :) At some point I would love to try kangaroo and see how it compares!

        2. Penny Parker*

          This part of the conversation is making be howl with laughter. I once had someone from Australia go totally off on me because I defended the midwest hunting culture. It was all too foreign for her to understand, at all, and she said I was personally responsible for school shootings because I defended hunting and the right to keep a rifle in my home. Our system really is hard for those to understand who do not live in a country which has such access to rifles.

          But I must add… as a midwest rural woman who has eaten wild game many a time, it is truism that possum tastes best in the dead of winter.

          (possum tastes horrid but if it is all one has then it is worth eating)

          1. it's-a-me*

            Whut? As an Australian, hunting is about the only legitimate use for guns I can think of. She must have been a city sheila.

      2. Eat My Squirrel*

        Ha! There is a forest close to my house where public hunting is allowed. There are a lot of rules for what you can use to hunt with and where, and when, and it varies by state. (The earlier comment about the guy who hunted with a slingshot on campus… that was all very illegal.) I would typically take my .22 rifle to the woods to hunt, although I did manage to hit a couple with my bow and arrows in my back yard. My back yard backs up to a woods with a steep uphill, so it is safe and legal for me to use my bow here, as if I miss, my arrow just gets buried in the hillside (if it doesn’t break on a rock or tree).

  24. Archie Goodwin*

    None of the holiday parties I’ve attended over the years has been particularly notable, honestly. I do, however, feel compelled to offer up my traditional seasonal greeting, honed by working as a federal contractor all of these years. (I break it out about the time the wreaths start going up on the federal buildings.)

    So: happy federally-mandated season of cheer to you all.

  25. Leeloo*

    At our annual Christmas dinner every person gets randomly called forward to receive a gift – it’s usually a mug or box full of treats but also contains a gift card. You have to, in front of everyone, open the gift card and read the dollar amount (they are all random amounts, mostly $25 but a handful of $50 & $100 and one LARGE “grand prize” one) so everyone can clap for you or something?
    Well one year the person in charge determined that to get your FREE GIFT you had to sing a line from a Christmas song. It was mortifying for everyoooone involved. No one wanted to do it, not even the good singers, but it was like a weird hostage situation. So we all had to endure the bad singing and some even rapping their songs for over 100 employees.

    The big bosses got a ton of complaints and it went back to normal the following year and the organizer pouted about how we all hated having fun.

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      This is when being a choral geek comes in handy.

      You want a Christmas song? How about “Shiloh”, by William Billings?

      “Methinks I see an heavenly Host
      Of angels on the wing;
      Methinks I hear their cheerful notes,
      So merrily they sing.”

      (I did sing a bit of it the one year someone at the Christmas party asked me to sing. In my defense, I was caught off-guard and it was the first thing that came to mind, as we were singing it in our concert that year.)

        1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

          Courtney Cox, I love you
          you’re so hot.
          on that show.

          or something else from South park…

          1. Mella*

            I heard there is no Christmas
            In the silly Middle East
            No trees, no snow, no Santa Claus
            They have different religious beliefs

            1. Penny Parker*

              God rest ye Unitarians
              Let nothing you dismay
              Remember there’s no evidence
              There was a Christmas day.
              When Christ was born tis just not known
              No matter what they say,
              Glad tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact
              Glad tidings of reason and fact.

              (there is actually 3 verses to this UU filked tune)

        2. Chinook*

          Ditto (though I might also have gone with “He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch.”. I am beginning to think that there is something about being Catholic that makes us inherently anti forced Christianity in public.

        3. c-*

          I’d be tempted to bust either the Latin hymns or the super depressing Christmas songs that speak about the inescapable fleetness of life and the fact that we’re all bound to die (my childhood choral group had an… interesting repertoire).

          1. Lucien Nova*

            Coventry Carol.

            My chorale group refuses to sing that one when we do caroling – it’s too darn depressing.

        4. M*

          I feel Tom Lehrer would be a good alternative:

          Relations, sparing no expense’ll
          Send some useless old utensil,
          Or a matching pen and pencil.
          “just the thing I need! how nice!”
          It doesn’t matter how sincere it
          Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
          Sentiment will not endear it,
          What’s important is the price.

      1. Forget What Name I Used Before*

        Saaaaaaame. I’m an atheist/agnostic UU but I love older Christmas music, which of course happens to be super-religious. How about the Wexford Carol? Or Star in the East?

        “Hail the blessed morn, see the Great Mediator
        Down from the regions of glory descend…”

    2. OrigCassandra*

      I mean, I CAN reach all the notes of “O Holy Night” in C major, but trust me, nooooooobody wants me to do this…

      1. Leeloo*

        Let me assure you that pretty much no one at my company can carry a tune. It was so so so so bad and went on for so so so so long, literally the better part of 2 hours of tone deaf singing all so I could have a $25 gift card!!!

        1. The Other Katie*

          I can sing just fine, read music and all of the above (a high school chorus and vocal career assured me of it), but when forced to sing in any kind of mandatory fun situation I mysteriously can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I am not here for your amusement, mandatory fun organiser!

      2. EPLawyer*

        that’s what i would do. Really, me trying to hit high notes should be considered a crime against humanity (hubby just turned up the radio in the car when I start singing along). Let me go first and NO ONE will want it to continue.

      1. LPUK*

        I would have done ‘Grandma got run over by a reindeer’ . I think it actually helps if you can’t sing for that one

    3. Bear Shark*

      I hope if I’m ever in that situation that I am planning ahead enough to sing Weird Al’s “The Night Santa Went Crazy”

      “Down in the workshop all the elves were making toys
      For the good Gentile girls and the good Gentile boys
      When the boss busted in, nearly scared ’em half to death
      Had a rifle in his hands and cheap whiskey on his breath
      From his beard to his boots he was covered with ammo
      Like a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo
      And he smiled as he said, with a twinkle in his eye,
      ‘Merry Christmas to all, now you’re all gonna die!'”

      1. Pikachu*

        I had COMPLETELY forgotten about this song! Thank you for instantly transporting me back to the 90s. Fantastic.

    4. Coffee Bean*

      I would be tempted to say – not sing “Fa la la la la la la la la” in a very deadpan tone of voice.

    5. Hadespuppy*

      Oh no! My husband’s company one year had people come up and sing so that their table could go next in the buffet line, but at least that was voluntary. His manager loves singing, but he still let a few other people go up first with their off-key versions of Rudolph or whatever before we convinced him that we were hungry and he should step up to the mic.

      He gets up there, looking like your typical overweight IT guy, stands a good few feet back, and just BELTS out, fully operatic, our church choir don’t need no sound system style, Ave Maria. We got to eat, but no one wanted to follow him up, so the rest of the tables just waited until their numbers were drawn.

  26. mimi Me*

    My husband works for a company that gives holiday parties for employees and their spouses. Nothing fancy – dinner and drinks at a moderately nice restaurant with a private room. The first year we attended we were last to arrive and ended up sitting at a small table with only one other couple – a newer employee (“D”) and his much, much older wife. I initially assumed this was his mother but then they started being “affectionate” with one another at which point “D” clocked our expressions and introduced his wife. My husband has a completely different position than “D” and had literally never even been in the same room with him until this point, so there wasn’t a lot of camaraderie or work talk one would expect at a work holiday party. Instead it was two very different couples sitting awkwardly trying to find something to talk about during the sit down dinner. D’s wife decided alcohol would be how she’d get through the dinner and she proceeded to order easily over $100 worth of drinks that she wanted to try based solely on their names. Basically, she’d order something, taste it, decide if she liked it and if she didn’t she’d give it to her husband. He was ordering his own booze as well. Then, the owner got up and made the rounds, thanking everyone for their hard work. She then drunkenly explained to the owner how his business model worked…repeatedly. For 20 minutes that poor man stood there waiting to be rescued. D was too busy staring besottedly at his wife to stop her. My husband ended up abruptly interrupting, claiming his legs were cramping and that he needed to walk it off. The boss used that as his out.
    The following year my husband and I made sure we were there early and found seats far away from D and his wife. There was also a new limit for which drinks could be ordered and how many. The owner actually started the party thanking everyone for their hard work and sternly warned the group that over imbibing at the party would not be acceptable, even if it was on the employees own dime. The only people with drinks that were not on the approved list were D and his wife, who was already well on to her way to being drunk.

    1. yokozbornak*

      I think I sat by this couple at a wedding once. I almost asked how they were related until they started the PDA.

  27. Vodka luge mistakes have been made*

    Worst Christmas party disaster was from a former employer’s big annual bash. Big venue, free-flowing booze, ice vodka luges, chocolate fountains, close-up magic, full early 2000s energy. And all on worktime, starting around lunch! Festive feeling ran high. A previous year one colleague had got so drunk on the 30 minute transport to the venue, she’d been refused entry and had to sleep it off in the first aid room until her father came to collect her, so there was a definite track record of alcohol fuelled judgement errors.
    But this one, particularly unfortunate year, two women got into an argument around mid-afternoon. It became physical. A judo throw was used. And the unfortunate woman who was thrown fell down a small flight of stairs. Small, but enough for her leg to break.
    As soon as they were back in the office they were both immediately fired.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Judo throw-er needs to be cast as a female Dwight Schritte. This was epic from start to finish!

    2. OhNo*

      Good lord! I don’t know what I would expect at a booze-fueled holiday party, but someone getting judo-thrown down a flight of stairs definitely would NOT be on the list.

      1. Katrinka*

        It’s an ice sculpture with a track carved in, in which one pours room temperature vodka at the top and it ends up completely chilled in a glass at the bottom. They’re kind of cool, but they were EVERYWHERE in the early 2000s. Especially expensive weddings and corporate events (having the company logo embedded in the sculpture was very popular).

  28. Gaia Madre*

    In the late 80’s, my first ‘real’ job out of college, we had a mild, in-office holiday party with light snacks, drinks, and a little music. I was a very fit 23 year old young woman, and I was really feeling my youthful vigor.
    I decided to have some fun by rigging up a pair of deely-bobbers (google it if you aren’t sure) with Mistletoe, so that no matter where I went, “Hey look! I’m standing under the Mistletoe! Who’s gonna kiss me?!”
    I got a few good-natured, light pecks on the cheek and everyone had a good laugh.

    Four years later, working for the Federal Govt (oh to be a Fed in the 90’s!) the office holiday parties were much more wild – without involving me or kissing coworkers, thankyouverymuch. Over that decade of office parties, I witnessed: the head of IT (married) making out with an intern in a utility closet; a well-respected engineer passed out under the Christmas tree; and a jealous husband showing up to the party wondering where his wife was (hint: she was not where she was supposed to be!)

    It’ll be quiet this year, but I have my memories!

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I’m googling Deely Bobbers but the only thing coming up is missing persons reports and nothing that makes sense in context. What are they?

      1. Littorally*

        I’ve only ever heard it used as a stand-in term, akin to “thingamajig” or “whatchamacallit.” It sounds like in this case it’s meant to be a specific object? Very confused.

        1. curly sue*

          Deely-boppers are the plastic headbands with some kind of tchotchke attached on springs. You see them for kids’ alien and bug costumes on Hallowe’en, and things like four-leaf clovers at party stores for St. Patrick’s Day.

          1. tanklizard*

            Those silly things. One year’s holiday party I got a set with floppy deer antlers as a white elephant gift. Of course everyone was all over me to wear them, felt like a fool. Luckily it was a family party and my coworker drew the next gift and his young daughter wanted the antlers. I was never so happy to have a white elephant gift taken from me.

            We also used to play a game where everyone sat in a circle and a present wrapped in a couple inches of duct tape was passed around. You had 10 seconds to pull off as much tape as you could then you had to pass it to the next person. The winner was the one that finally unwrapped the present. The disqualified me when I got my sawzall out, party poopers :<

      2. Maxie's Mommy*

        Deeply Boppers are headbands decorated with googly eyes, stars, anything festive. They’re most often mounted en–tremblant so the eyes bounce and jiggle.

      3. SunnySideUp*

        A sort of headband adorned with jiggly antennae at the ends of which would be something ornamental like sparkly styrofoam balls.

      4. Nynaeve*

        They’re headbands with springy antennae – usually fluffy balls or other decorative items on the ends of stiff springs that bounce around when you move.

      5. Yvette*

        A plastic headband that has two long springs attached (where horns would be). Attached to the end of each spring is an object which bops when your head moves

      6. Me*

        Weird for me googles first resutls was this from Wikipedia:

        A deely bobber is a novelty item of headgear comprising a headband to which are affixed two springy protrusions resembling the antennae of insects….

      7. JSPA*

        Wikipedia has them as deely bobbers, aka deeley bobber, deeley bopper. I thought they were deedly boppers or deely boobers. Sort of like springy colorful antennae or flexible wands attached to a cheap tiara.

        Think of a minimalist rabbit ears costume…worn backwards…but with floof and glitter, instead of fake long ears.

    2. Gaia Madre*

      In short: a headband to which are affixed two springy protrusions resembling the antennae of insects. I attached the Mistletoe to the springy protrusions.

  29. Fibchopkin*

    I have been waiting OVER A YEAR for this thread! Warning- it’s LONG- my org’s 2018 was insane and is, in no small part, the reason I began looking for and accepted a new position in fall 2019. It was about 6 months past my third year at this small to midsized org (~50 employees), and by Dec 1, 2018, I had a pretty good idea what was in store for me during the holiday season. Every year there’s a holiday events committee staffed with a new group of volunteers responsible for planning staff events, our org’s charitable holiday endeavors, and most importantly, the holiday staff party, which always consisted of a very nice lunch and some type of show or activity, typically at a nearby venue, followed by an early release (think 3:30 or 4:00 as opposed to normal go-home times which ranged mostly between 5:00-6:30). The admin department and COO typically set a budget and some basic guidelines in the summer, ask specific people (always different people from the year prior) if they’d be willing to serve on the holiday planning committee, and then give the planning over to said committee. One of the C-Suite who has a real passion for Christmas decorating, and is really quite skilled at putting together slick, attractive décor, always comes in on the last weekend of November with a few volunteers and puts up our holiday decorations, so when we come back to the office on the first weekday in December, the office is all dolled up for the season. Throughout December, optional fun events are made available for staff. These events usually consist of things like cookie-baking competitions, dreidel tournaments, an elf on the shelf style game, and so on. Normal holiday office stuff. But not 2018, oh no.
    First, mayhem ensued starting at 8:30 AM on December 3rd when a couple of Jewish employees arrived to the office to find that the beautiful, modern, silver menorahs that typically graced the entrance next to an equally lovely Kwanzaa table and across from a large Christmas tree were conspicuously absent. It turns out that they were simply being cleaned (polished or something?) at a local shop because the afore-mentioned C-suite exec noticed they were tarnished after pulling them out of storage; but apparently she neglected to announce this via email or any other measure, and in today’s fraught political/religious atmosphere, two of our Jewish employees thought that the menorahs were excluded deliberately, and marched into the CEO’s office to demand an explanation. The CEO, who was in the middle of a very important teleconference with outside orgs that we were collaborating with on a large project, was miffed that some of her employees had the audacity to barge into her office (without even knocking!!!), raise their voices at her while she was in a meeting with partners, and further that they immediately assumed antisemitism rather than simply sending an email asking “What happened to the menorahs?” (Not saying that I feel the employees were unjustified in their anger, just writing from the CEO’s outraged perspective, which she made abundantly clear). She kicked the employees out of her office, finished her call, and then immediately pulled in the COO, the employees’ managers, and the consultant from the outside HR firm the org contracts with. The employees who barged into her office were formally written up for entering the CEO’s office without knocking and interrupting a meeting with external partners in an unprofessional manner. (I am also told that they were informed about the menorahs’ whereabouts and offered the assurance that the workplace was inclusive of all cultural holidays, etc.) The employees responded to being written up by filing an EO complaint. All of this was supposed to be kept largely out of office day-to-day, but of course rumors flew and the whole office was divided into three camps- those on the employees’ “side”, those on the senior team’s “side”, and those who attempted valiantly to stay away from all of it.
    It is against this backdrop that the seasonal festivities and games began. The season charity, which had been decided on months before, was linked loosely to one of the committee member’s (Christian) church. It was a nondenominational domestic violence shelter, but since the idea came to the committee through the member who cheerfully took point b/c she’d initially made contact through her church, it soon was determined by the office in general that a Christian charity was deliberately chosen rather than one affiliated with a Jewish, Hindu, or Islamic charity (all of those religions had at least one follower in the org). Another employee (not one of the disciplined employees from the original incident) started an unofficial campaign to support another local charity affiliated with a specific synagogue (a well known local food bank in my city) and solicited donations via email and a large cardboard box that she posted in the kitchen along with a sign with donation instructions. The original charity point-person on the committee got upset and talked to the other employee’s manager. Cue another round of closed-door sessions with the senior team and a now more senior HR Consultant. Meanwhile, a supervisor on the team of the employee who set up the unauthorized charity pulled the employee aside and ordered her to remove the box and stop sending emails. That employee then banded together with the original two employees who filed the first EO complaint and they all three filed a new complaint together. By the time the date for the next planned activity rolled around, the atmosphere at the office was decidedly fraught.
    Unfortunately, the next activity on the agenda was a cardboard snowman decorating contest. Sounds neutral, right? I mean, there was glitter, glue, markers, and googly eyes set up in the breakroom and folks could come at pre-designated times and decorate a snowman to be judged at the end of the week. The winner was to win a $20 Starbucks gift card. Apparently, the disparate office factions were, at this point, unable to even be in the same room together with crafting supplies because, y’all, there was a straight up kindergarten brawl. Scissors were brandished, glitter was thrown, and one employee ended up with glue in her hair. One person was terminated on the spot in the aftermath and a third round of closed-door meetings yielded three more writeups, one PIP, and two new EO complaints.
    Despite the fact that any sane leader would, at this point, cancel the Annual Holiday Party, the senior team decided that, since the deposits for the venue and entertainment were already booked, we would go ahead and hold the party. I was really hoping that leadership would offer employees the opportunity to opt out of the party and just go home instead, but no. It was either go to the party, or stay at work, in the office, until regular closing time. A few folks did, actually, opt to stay in the office, but the lure of the free food and (at least on my part) a morbid sort of desire to see what would happen next, reeled in most of the staff.
    Oh. My. Lord. Y’all. I can’t even. The food was great, the venue was beautiful with these amazing menorah centerpieces, and the Committee Chair was largely pulling off an attempt to smooth things over with food and good cheer. Aaaaaaannnnnnndddddd then came the entertainment portion. It was a comedy/magician act and for his first trick? I kid you freakin’ not, he MADE THE MENORAH FROM THE CLOSEST TABLE DISAPPEAR. Oh man, everyone froze for an instant, the performer realized something was amiss, but was trying to push on with his joke and, I assume, the remainder of the trick, when one of the Jewish employees stood up and launched into a very, very angry speech about the clear antisemitism at the org. It was pandemonium. The CEO tried to stand up and order everyone to calm down, but the employee loudly declared that she refused to be further silenced and marginalized. More employees and senior team leaders stood up and joined in the fray. There was a screaming match. I and two of my table mates snuck out in the middle of it and headed down the street to the local bar.
    I went on vacation the very next day and didn’t come back until the next work day after New Year’s. I spent a lot of my holiday polishing my resume and crafting a couple killer cover letters (thanks Alison!) One of my coworkers told me when I cam back that the performer ran out of the event room and hid in the kitchen. My coworker thinks he was crying. My last 9 months at that job were like working in a warzone (but honestly, having worked in an actual warzone in my army days, this was MUCH less polite). Everyone took a side, half the office wouldn’t talk to the other half, and a blanket ban on all holiday talk was instituted and ignored.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This should be a series of training videos. No, this should be a film at Sundance. Wow!

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This should be a series of training videos. No, this should be a film at Sundance. Wow!

    3. Kvothe*

      That is completely bonkers and now all I can think of is that poor magician who inadvertently started a full on brawl in the middle of a company holiday party….like talk about crazy work stories!

      1. UKDancer*

        I feel so sorry for the magician who wound up in the middle of this. Poor guy probably was wondering what he’d walked into.

        Otherwise that definitely wins the prize for most dysfunctional office party.

    4. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      WOW. Thank you for this rollercoaster of a story! My favorite part was when you ended it by telling us that warzones were more polite than the resulting chaos from this org’s 2018 holiday season! I needed that laugh!

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        Wars are governed by the Geneva convention…holiday parties, not so much, I guess.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m painting this onto a sweatshirt next time someone invites me to a party with an ugly Christmas sweater contest. Possibly with attribution because what a punchline in that user nsme.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I literally laughed out loud so hard I almost fell off my chair reading that (hello workmen’s comp????)

    5. TechWorker*

      Wooooow. I also cannot imagine the circumstances in which I would barge into my CEOs office when they were in a meeting… that must have been quite a lot of anger.

    6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      We should collectively agree to refer to this story as “The Magician and the Menorah” or something similar for easy reference because I feel this will go down in AAM infamy.

    7. peasblossom*

      While it sounds like there was an extreme escalation here, the trend of making holiday celebrations inclusive by displaying items from non-Christian faith traditions feels tokenizing and frankly likely to encourage a sense of disconnect. Add in the christian connected charity, I can see why people would have been upset. I frankly would have been deeply uncomfortable giving to that charity, and it would have raised serious concerns for me about the judgment of those in charge. (DV shelters like this can do great work obviously, but there’s no denying that some are dangerously ideologically inflected.)

      1. knitter*

        Yeah, I had the same thought too. Also, if my memory serves me correctly, this was also during the period that a lot of Jewish cemeteries were being vandalized, or at least those incidents were in very recent memory. Many of my Jewish friends and family, along with their allys, felt the need for increased activism counteracting anti-semetism. So this on top of the already existing tokenizing of non-Christian faith traditions.

        1. HB*

          Yeah, someone below pointed out this this was very shortly after the Tree of Life shooting (I just googled it and the shooting was in late October so the timing here was… not great). There was definitely an escalation of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence (on top of other bigotry, racism, etc) since the 2016 election.

          It also seems to me that an office where everyone feels genuinely included and safe *doesn’t* typically result in two employees barging into a CEO’s office asking where certain decorations are.

          There’s a lot to this story that just feels very… sad. I hope the employees who filed the EO complaints have also moved on to better jobs.

          1. peasblossom*

            Yes–I think that’s absolutely essential context here. This fight about a menorah doesn’t feel like it’s just a fight about a menorah, and I found myself saddened by this story and (frankly) the responses to it.

            1. curly sue*

              Same. This is a story about some people made to feel very unsafe in their place of work, and becoming the butt of the joke as a result. It was written very well, but ends up turning antisemitism (conscious or otherwise) into a joke rather than a very real threat to real human beings.

      2. BubbleTea*

        The charity wasn’t Christian, as I understood it, just supported by a church. I might have misunderstood but I thought the outcry was because people ASSUMED it was Christian, not that it actually was.

          1. Absurda*

            Not necessarily. When I was growing up, my church supported UNICEF which is very much non-religious.

          2. Salyan*

            Charities get their support from all sorts of sources, and as long as they’re ethical, aren’t going to say no. It is impractical for a charity to have to worry about not accepting donations from a particularly demographic lest they offend another demographic, and may have the potential to shut it down.

          3. peasblossom*

            What both of you are describing is very different than the scenario laid out in the story. You’re talking about monetary donations occasionally given to an organization; what the story describes sounds like a much more structural (perhaps even much financially larger) level of support. The difference in influence between the two is astronomical. Just because I give a donation once a year to an organization doesn’t mean I have any say in it’s mission or how it goes about that work. Depending on how involved the church described in the story is, they could yield a huge amount of influence.

            I should also say that the subtext of my comment was that something doesn’t have to be actively evangelizing to be Christian, and it’s important to be acknowledge that.

      3. Violet Fox*

        I get the feeling that there were a lot of things already simmering under the surface before the blow-up. The tokenizing plus the Christian charity would get to me a lot too, as would all of the over the top month of Christmas. For me personally, the Christmas thing, well it’s a lot and the pervasiveness is already alienating enough as it is.

      4. Fibchopkin*

        To clear things up, the charity is not officially affiliated with any religious group. A lot of different religious institutions have partnered with them around the holidays to do a “sponsor this family with gifts” kinda thing, I think. I’m a hard and fast atheist though, so I could well be wrong and it could have religious ties, but I really don’t think so. I think the committee-head just got hooked up with them through a church sponsoring event. As I said though, I could easily be wrong. I also want to make it very clear that the employees on all sides really didn’t seem to have any animosity (that I know of) towards the committee-head herself at the outset, just that the general atmosphere at that place was simmering with so much ugliness and everyone was already hurt about national events and riled about the menorahs, that the charity thing seemed like another match on the bonfire.

      5. Xenia*

        What for you would be a good alternative? Aside from choosing a non-Christian connected charity, which would have been a wise move for this company’s situation. Given that many companies want to celebrate something around the winter holidays, what would be some good ways to include all faith traditions without moving into patronizing or tokenizing?

        1. kitryan*

          My current workplace typically has its party in late December/early February and it’s usually some sort of formal dinner with pre/post dinner drinks and mingling, often at an interesting venue. The idea is 3fold – stay out of the busy (for work and party booking) season, celebrate a hopefully successful past year for the firm (rather than a religious tinged celebration), and take advantage of the lower rates for venues and so forth at that time of year.
          Outside of that, there are also some (more typical) events in December, like an opt in white elephant exchange, a coat drive, a toys for kids charity drive, and the founder usually gives out some sort of firm wide gifts (slipper socks for two of the past 5 years and fart machines one memorable year).

    8. rambler*

      This is amazing. I would actually love to hear how Alison would advise the CEO to have handled the initial incident and avoid all that drama in the first place!

      OP, do you know if anything ever came of the EO complaints?

    9. LawLizard13*

      I’m so invested in this I wanna know what happened to all of these people and their EO complaints

    10. Regular Human Accountant*

      On the fifth day of Christmas, my old job gave to me:
      Five HR consultants
      Four pounds of glitter
      Three unauthorized charities
      Two missing menorahs

    11. Sharrbe*

      Honestly, it was funny that you mentioned war zones at the end, because all I kept thinking was “this is how standoffs and wars start”.

    12. NoviceManagerGuy*

      If you scrolled past this thinking “Holy wall of text Batman”, scroll up, it’s worth it.

    13. Elenna*

      Oh noooo the poor magician! Like, there were definitely mistakes made on multiple sides, but I just feel bad for the magician who (presumably?) had no idea this was going on and just picked the literal worst possible trick to start off with.

    14. WonderWoman*

      This whole situation sounds so intense that I wonder if there was something else going on that prompted such a strong reaction to the menorahs being removed for cleaning?

      1. curly sue*

        December 2018? That would have been less than two months after the ‘Tree of Life’ mass shooting in Pittsburgh, the deadliest (to date) massacre of Jewish people in the USA. I have no trouble understanding what was going through their minds.

        1. Fibchopkin*

          Yes- and as we live in an area with a very, very large Jewish community, this was heavily on the minds of most us then. I hope my retelling didn’t come off as flippant or harsh on the Jewish employees, I was definitely trying to be funny, but accurate. Their response was almost certainly wrapped up in the bundle of ugly antisemitism sweeping through the nation, partially a response to the Tree of Life domestic terror attack, and definitely a response to some ugly realities about the org’s leadership. That particular org liked to think of themselves as “progressive” and “inclusive” because they had a woman CEO & COO, and because they had a very ethnically diverse junior staff, but the truth is that the org was (and still is) run by wealthy, cis, white people who definitely created an atmosphere of tokenism and faux PC caring; one of the Leadership said, at least once in my hearing “COMPANY is very dedicated to inclusivity… haven’t you seen the bullpen?!!? We have one of every color!”

            1. WonderWoman*

              Ah, yeah. . . All of this is exactly what I was getting at. I’ve had my own share of racism and antisemitism in the workplace, so I had a feeling there was more to this story. . .

    15. 3DogNight*

      I laughed so hard at the he MADE THE MENORAH…DISAPPEAR! OMG, this couldn’t have been scripted better by Hollywood’s comedic best! WOW!

    16. Hmmm*

      This is a heck of a story, but I find it really hard to believe this wasn’t embellished slightly. The narrative seems too much like a movie, as opposed to something that happened in real life.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I have been in situations where people get so worked up if you put it in a movie no one would like it because there is “no way that would happen.” I totally believe this could happen, especially since the chain of events and escalations is pretty logical.

      2. Lorine*

        Yeah, I’ll actually go a step further and say that this is a creative writing exercise that’s trying to be slick about its antisemitism. It’s mainly a story about Jews being too sensitive about Christmas. Seriously.

        1. Hmmm*

          That’s exactly what’s been bothering me about this post! It reads exactly like those trolls posts designed to make a minority look bad by painting them as completely bonkers. “Oh, can you BELIEVE how my Jewish coworkers exploded over a tiny, innocent thing?”

          I’m also finding it hard to believe a party-grade stage magician would pick a giant prop from the room to ‘make disappear’. Normally magicians use small objects they can easily palm and misdirect from, and do it on stage at a distance so no one can pick up on what they’re doing. How on earth did this guy palm a whole Menorah?

          1. pancakes*

            Anyone who reads an anecdote about coworkers and decides to see the Jewish coworkers as ambassadors for all of Judaism is meeting that sort of poster half way, at least.

            Fwiw, I had a friend when I was a kid whose parents were magicians, not famous ones, just local party performers, and I don’t think this scenario is implausible. “Amazing menorah centerpieces” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gigantic.

        2. BonnieVoyage*

          I agree. (Apart from anything, there is no way some random Mike the Magician at an office holiday party could or would make an entire menorah disappear.) Normally I expect a few creative writing exercises in response to these open posts on here, but this kind of “look at all the trouble these crazy [x minority] caused over [innocuous thing]” post are ten a penny on AITA and they aren’t very funny there either.

      3. Artemesia*

        we are living in times politically right now that no one would believe if it were a movie — I am watching today’s faux ‘hearing’ as I type this and no way any novelist would write something this ridiculous. I can believe the party. And ‘The Magician and the Menorah’ it should ever be known as.

  30. Moth*

    My (large) company holds a holiday party every year that is very PG. Think holiday sweaters, milk and cookies, photos with Santa. And they give everyone a card with a small but meaningful cash bonus in it. However, to get to the card, you have to go through a reception line of the executive team first. They are all very much on board with the “we’re a family” mentality, the CEO in particular, but I didn’t realize that they took it so far that the reception line was actually a hugging line. So my first year at the company, I get into the reception line, walk up to the first person in line, the CEO, and right as he leans in to give me a big hug, I stick my hand out forcefully for a handshake. It wasn’t even intentional, I’m just really not a hugger — especially at work! He looked so taken aback, I don’t think he ever thought someone might want a handshake more than a hug. We stood there awkwardly for a few seconds, then he shook my hand and I moved down the line, wiser that this was actually a hugging line. The good news is that I think the message got through and the next year and every year since then, the default has been for handshakes rather than hugs!

      1. Moth*

        Ha, well I used to work at an event center in college and we hosted a lot of workplace holiday parties. I came to dread the open bars and hours of awkward interaction. To be honest, as cheesy as it is, I’ll take 30 minutes of eating a cookie and drinking chocolate milk while my department takes a photo with Santa any day!

        1. tanklizard*

          Yep, sometimes the simple things are best. One of my few “good” memories of basic training in the Army was the day we gave blood. We got to eat cookies and drink sugary koolaid and we didn’t have to do PT the rest of the day because we were “weak” from giving blood. It was glorious.

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      As my username might suggest… this sounds like a mf-ing nightmare. Trading hugs for a cash bonus? WTF.
      I don’t want to be touched in the workplace. You have no reason to be touching me in the workplace. Why oh why do people insist on hugs in the workplace??
      Good for you for holding your ground with the handshake!!

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        Sidenote: COVID-19 sucks and we can all agree on that, but I gotta say it’s made my life so much easier in this aspect. Oh you want to hug me hello and welcome me to the company? Haha sucker! No hug for you and HR is glaring at you for standing closer than 6 ft.

        1. Moth*

          Yes! I’m hoping this new no-hugging trend sticks around after Covid!

          I’ll be honest though that I broke down after that first awkward interaction and gave my obligatory hugs to the rest of the executives. Thank goodness they’ve moved away from that now; I don’t think I could have kept it up after I was no longer a new employee trying not to rock the boat!

        2. Sharrbe*

          And no sharing elevators, no feeling guilty for not holding the door for someone who is still 20 feet away (would still do it if they were right behind me), no feeling guilty for turning down food, no passing around birthday cards to sign and then trying to figure out who to give it to next. It’s all glorious.

  31. LuckyPurpleSocks*

    So my supervisor and his wife are known for the big annual holiday party they host at their home: great food, great booze, and lots of interesting conversations/stories/gossip (academia). For the first two years I worked with them I had missed their party to visit my inlaws for the holidays, but the third year the party was held a week early so I was able to go with my husband. Now, all of the people I work for and with are really nice to start with, so we were given a warm welcome and glass of wine as soon as we walked in the door. THEN everyone learned that it also happened to be my birthday that day, and pretty much EVERYONE decided they needed to bring me a drink or do a shot with me to celebrate. I got hammered pretty quickly. Fortunately, my husband was there to be my designated driver and keep an eye on me while I gave a passionate speech about how much I loved my job, and had one of those “You’re so amazing! No YOU’RE so amazing! I love you so much! No, girl I love YOU so much!” conversations with a similarly smashed colleague. I then discovered my supervisor’s ancient and adorable golden retriever, shouted “Somebody get me a brush for this dog!” and spent the last hour or two (?) of the evening cuddling and brushing him, telling my boss that I was going to kidnap his dog (I didn’t) and that this was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! Not gonna lie, it is still, in fact, one of my favorite birthdays :D

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This is sweet, and probably how most of us would react to a pretty goldie without being smashed!

    2. Sharrbe*

      That is awesome. Drunk you loves and brushes dogs! I was totally thinking it would go in a more embarrassing direction!

    3. The Rural Juror*

      My boss and his wife also host the annual Christmas part at their home (it’s a small company, only 5 employees). One year after dinner my boss poured a couple of glasses of some expensive scotch for himself and anyone else who wanted one. I’m not a big fan of scotch, so I stuck to the red wine. They all got pretty tipsy (and lucky had SOs to drive them home). A couple of people left to go home and relieve their babysitters, but those of us left over moved out onto their back patio where there was a fire pit going. I sat on an outdoor sofa near the fire and immediately my boss’s two dogs came over and cozied up to me. They’re not extremely hairy dogs…but they don’t have smooth coats, either…so I ended up with log white dog hair all over the dress I had worn. But I didn’t care because they were sweet and they were keeping my legs warm! So for the next hour or so we listened to my boss drunkenly tell funny stories by the fire while I cuddled with his cocker spaniels :)

    4. Xenia*

      You sound awesome and your coworkers and company also sound awesome. As boozy bashes go this one is the sweetest!

  32. martha*

    Since we can’t have a holiday party this year, our CEO said we should all order ourselves a present from a particular website and the company would reimburse us $125 after we submit a receipt. None of us had ever heard of the website, which our CEO said would have “something for everyone.” It turned out to have expensive fishing gear, $200 sweaters, $100 dog beds, and hunting-inspired home decor. I’ll probably return my fancy sweater and keep the cash.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Haha I’d find out who owns the site. Had a similar experience and it was a colleague’s brother and was basically an MLM

    2. MonkAdrianMonk*

      Unfortunately, if you return the item, credit is probably going to be applied to the original form of payment (i.e. company or CEO credit card). Is there anything on the site you can regift, or maybe even sell?

      1. AnonNurse*

        If they are getting reimbursed, I assume they’re paying up front with their own cards and then submitting the receipt. That means they could submit the receipt, get reimbursed, and then return the item for a refund. That way they end up ahead with the cash.

  33. Brain the Brian*

    The year before my arrival at my current company, money was apparently so tight that management canceled the annual in-office holiday party, the cost of which was only about $2,000 anyway — and this at an org that does of $50 million in business each year. Well, one of our board members found out, and apparently tried to gift the company $10,000 for an all-out bash at a fancy restaurant. Management refused, saying that out-of-office parties were banned under company policy — and there was no holiday party as a result, even though *someone else had literally offered to pay for it*. Unsurprising, really…

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yep! Too bad management wouldn’t take the money, as we could have established a nice precedent. Instead, years later, the annual party budget is still under $2,000… when it even exists. Sigh.

  34. K-$*

    I graduated college during the “great” recession (it was only “great” because we hadn’t seen 2020 yet!), with music and philosophy degrees. I felt fortunate to find a full-time job with benefits, even though the pay was low and the work was not aligned with any career or personal goals. The job was working in institutional advancement at a Christian seminary – I am a Jewish atheist; it was not really “my thing.” But! Desperate times, etc.

    Since I grew up Jewish, I’d never celebrated Christmas, and my coworkers really wanted to show me how great it was. Being a seminary, they naturally went all-out (or, as all-out as a financially suffering nonprofit can go) , with stockings, staff parties, baked goods, the works. In general, it was a pretty good time. Christmas seems fun!

    But then came the staff Christmas party. Since I’m a singer, my boss got it in her head that I should sing something at the party, and had the idea that I should dress up and sing “Santa Baby” to the whole staff and faculty (at the time, the president of the school looked just like Santa Claus). I tried to tell my boss I didn’t want to sing this song, that I didn’t really want to dress up for this, but she insisted and even found a pianist to accompany me. I was in my early 20s at the time and most of the staff was in their 40s-60s, so I was sort of the token “young” person on staff, and didn’t know how much I could or couldn’t push on things in the workplace.

    I ended up having to prance around our midday staff Christmas party in red stiletto boots, red tights, a short red and white dress, and Santa hat, while singing Santa baby to the *president of a Christian seminary*. A bunch of my coworkers awkwardly said things like “I… hadn’t seen that side of you before!” to me for weeks. Mortifying does not begin cover how this felt. I still cringe every time I hear that stupid song.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I feel like you could have sued for being required to dress like that and perform…eek. Religious discrimination or the fact that the young woman was the token Santa seductress. This is so so so cringey!

    2. TechWorker*

      This reminds me of the time at school our (male) music teacher thought it was a good idea to get a student (all girls school) to sing ‘Hey Big Spender’ at a school concert and encouraged her to walk around the audience and sit on someone’s lap (?!?!?!). She would have been like 12? Literally wtf. (Luckily no costume involved that I remember).

    3. Kw10*

      Oh NO, I cringe even thinking about what that must have been like!! This should go into Alison’s list as one of the worst holiday party stories ever!!

  35. Louie*

    I worked at a “childhood enrichment center” (ie overpriced art and dance classes for toddlers) in a city known for its entertainment industry. The vast vast majority of the people who “taught” there were actors and had literally no early childhood education training, company was totally just a profit machine but it was a good gig for performers and none of the kids ever got seriously injured, at least not while I was there.

    At the holiday party, and because actors are actors, not only did people get so trashed that someone threw up in the karaoke room, but walking into the bathroom you’d just here that tell tale SNNNIIIFFFFFFF of someone railing a line of cocaine. I quit two weeks later (not related to the drugs) so I have no idea if anyone got caught for it, but the idea of coked out actors tossing glitter on 2 year old’s snowman collage will never leave my mind.

    (Disclaimer: I got a degree in acting and almost went into the industry so I say the above with love. That said, no one can party like actors can party.)

    1. SunnySideUp*

      Best line: “…none of the kids ever got seriously injured, at least not while I was there.”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, the bar is so low here, it’ll be drowning in petrol… and where does one draw the line between “seriously” and “not seriously”? Doesn’t sound like OP is a trained healthcare practitioner…

  36. Safire girl*

    The company I work for typically has a lunch party on site. We have some large open rooms that are very minimally outfitted to act like a black box space. Think just overhead lights, neutral colored walls, concrete floors and no permanent fixtures. Well, they decided right at the entrance to have pictures with Santa one year complete with a backdrop, sleigh and fake snow falling. They rented the props including soap machines to blow little bubbles that mimicked the look of snow. No one thought through that soap would be falling on the polished concrete floor. Everyone was slipping, sliding and falling the whole luncheon! Luckily no alcohol was served or we would have really been in trouble.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Having slipped on a concrete floor and nearly cracked my skull open, I’ve got a sympathy headache from reading this!

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Ugh, me, too. I got a literal concussion in 1st grade when I slipped and slammed my head on a hard concrete floor. (A mild one, but still.)

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          A mild concussion, not a mild concrete floor, lolol! (It’s getting late, haha.)

  37. Anon for this*

    Every year, my department has an office holiday party. It’s pretty low key, food is catered but it’s fast food, and we have a white elephant exchange. Watching people squabble over the rum is yearly entertainment.

    One year, one of the directors had to leave for a meeting during the holiday party. When his name was called, he was still gone. So someone else volunteered to pick his gift for him. There was much holding up of different boxes asking “this one?” until she finally settled on an oddly shaped object that turned out to be a shirt with another director’s face printed on it, shoved into a santa hat and gift wrapped. The look on his face when he came back from the meeting and was presented with his gift was funny.

  38. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    I’m the one person who was always remote in my team so last year I didn’t do the division holiday party. This year though, since we are all remote, I am invited to the party next Friday. My group was discussing it yesterday and it came off a little ominous. There was a whole lot of, “Big boss wants it to be fun and interactive….whatever that means” **raised eyebrows and worried looks among those who know her better** Hopefully it will be story-worthy and not just a huge, awkward cringe-fest.

    1. rambler*

      We’re doing our big holiday party remotely this year and apparently there will be break out rooms of “zoom charades.”

      Um, no thank you.

  39. BeenThere*

    This isn’t funny, really, but it is a holiday party story that didn’t sail smoothly…
    It was the year of the Big Flood. Company had booked a holiday river cruise, and somehow, Company and cruise company decided it would be OK to go ahead and cruise.
    So we did. So, we’re on a boat, out in the middle of the flooding river, in the darkening twilight. The river is dark muddy brown, and huge logs are floating in it. And those were just the logs we could see. This river ran through logging towns, and you just knew there were also barely submerged logs, too. The river was also lined with floating homes and houses too close to the now-overflooded flood plane. So besides logs, we also saw beds and other furniture, and clothes, and miscellaneous junk. Off on the opposite bank, a refrigerator had gotten stuck in the sand on its way down river.
    We all had a drink and some snacks, but the setting was just so sad and eerie. Some of us were worried about hitting something unseen in the water. Soon, they turned the boat around and we returned to the dock, unscathed but sobered. Before this, sobered had never been the typical state of folks after one of Company’s holiday parties.
    In the next few days, the water kept rising, and soon, the mayor of the nearest major town started urging people to come down to the river to stack sandbags to keep the water out of the downtown area.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Jeepers. As someone whose house flooded multiple times in childhood, this would be… not exactly fun for me. Inclement weather is generally a good reason to cancel holiday parties anywhere outside a sturdy, physical building, IMO!

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yes, from hurricane country here and this made my eyes widen… Not quite the festivities they had planned!

    3. madge*

      Whoa. As someone who lived just across the levy from the Mississippi in 1993, this made me physically, literally, queasy. I’m so sorry you went through that.

  40. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

    (Think I might have mentioned this one before, if not, here goes).

    I don’t normally participate in the office Xmas party. It’s not that I’m a scrooge, but I don’t drink, so being surrounded by my work peers and work supervisors getting progressively inebriated has never really been my idea of fun. To save costs, the Xmas party was always held on a Thursday evening – although exactly what cost savings there actually were given how unproductive everyone was on Friday after is debatable. To partially offset this, even though we didn’t have flex-time, at your manager’s discretion, you could come in any time up to 10 am on the Friday morning (this did not extend to those of us who didn’t attend the party who still had to be up and running at 8:45).

    There’s a wonderful story-telling technique known as “Rashomon”-Style which I got to experience every year, as people came in at staggered start times (and sometimes staggering themselves) with tales of what had happened the previous evening. Being the only one not attending, this meant I got to hear the same story from multiple points of view and able to piece together some truly eventful… uh… events.

    My favourite involved a young man who was known for being so quiet and conscientious at work he flew under the radar of most people. Few people outside of his immediate team knew much about him. After one Xmas party, everyone knew his name. We’ll call him Buddy.
    Like many of the stories already listed, the office Xmas party featured a limited drinks voucher scheme and a set table seating layout. Buddy was put on a table with a coworker who didn’t drink anyway and a woman who was about four months pregnant. So they gifted Buddy their vouchers. Apparently, a few others did the same.
    He let his hair down and had a very good time, including revealing that he had a subtle and sharp sense of humour. The vouchers kept coming, and so did the stories.
    Shortly before 10 pm (the party having started at 7 pm) one of the managers realised Buddy should probably go home since he was lying *under* his table. So he was poured into a taxi – and promptly got straight out the other side and back into the party before the manager could finish giving the driver the address. This happened twice.
    The fresh air had apparently given Buddy his second wind because instead of going back to sleep under the table, he was now attempting to dance on *top* of the table.
    He was eventually taken home at 1 am by the first manager’s wife (doesn’t work at the same company and had arrived to pick up her husband).

    So, that, I thought was the end of the adventure. This was the last Friday before Xmas itself, and nobody really expected to see Buddy again until the New Year. When 10am rolled around and there was no sign of him, no one was surprised.
    Then 10:15 am ticks by and the door opens. A clean, freshly-shaven, ironed-shirted Buddy walks into the office. It’s an open-plan floor, so he made it to the second bank of desks in stunned silence. He didn’t quite make it to his own desk before the entire floor erupted in a standing ovation! A legend was born.

    1. LPUK*

      I worked for a company that had its annual sales conference/ early Xmas party as well. But because it was mostly younger people and mostly men, it was a point of honour to stay up all night, use your allocated bedroom only to shower bus and then catch the coach back to the office to be in work by 8.30… when we had events that were further afield, we managers had to have next day team meetings that a. Satisfied the ‘be at work’ policy and b. Kept all those drunken lunatics off the road until lunchtime. As a manager, the order of the day was to greet them at 8.30 with black coffee , bacon sandwiches and aspirin. The more twisted of us used to set up ‘ brainstorming’ sessions just to see the ones who partied hard try and line up their eyeballs with their sockets.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      I’ve only been to one of my office xmas parties. There was a similar legendary coworker, but not in a positive way. This was the guy who got so… unwell in the gents that they had to close it for an hour for a deep clean. The venue had to post a member of staff outside the single disabled cubicle (which was otherwise locked. I know, I know.) so the gents could use that instead.
      The ladies attending were quite smug that for once it was the *fellas* who had to queue for the facilities, while we could waltz in to our three cubicle powder room without waiting. (Didn’t stop one woman monopolising one cubicle sobbing about an unrequited coworker crush. I think. It was hard to make out individual words. It’s not an office Xmas party without someone crying in the loo!)
      I was a designated driver, and when i left with my car full of coworkers who lived close enough for a lift home, the “legend” was sitting on the kerb with his head in his hands waiting for a brave taxi driver.

    3. Dream Jobbed*

      Does Buddy have an English accent as he uses his subtle and sharp sense of humour, in anyone else’s head as they read this?

      Maybe it was the “humour” that put it in mine.

      1. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

        Oh, yes. We’re in the North West of the UK, so if you want to imagine an accent, lean towards Eric Morecambe (but at least 25 years younger!)

    4. Yessica Haircut*

      This one is my favorite!! I think Buddy is who a lot of people THINK they transform into when they drink (sharp, funny, entertaining, likeable), so it’s fun to see a story where that’s actually the case! And it’s refreshing to read an anecdote where overdoing it at the office Christmas party caused only feel-good hilarity and hijinks.

  41. Managerrrr*

    At my previous, toxic employer, the third re-org in two years’ time was rolled out in early December. Several older employees with 30+ years’ experience were offered the choice to be demoted into lower-paying roles, or retire. A few of them opted for retirement, then someone decided that the company should throw them a group retirement party. So the same directors who had, days prior, given these employees poor performance reviews and demoted them, stood in front of the entire company and raved about their many years of valuable contributions to the company, then served them cake. The awkward tension was palpable in the room. When the executive team instructed everyone to greet them and share a memory, we all took turns hugging them, telling them we were sorry and that they didn’t deserve this.

    Good times.

  42. Not a robot*

    We had a white elephant gift exchange one year. For some reason I was voluntold to be the host. I told everyone no more than $10 (thinking people would keep it work appropriate) and even got the grandkids involved. As the game starts, people are opening up used CDs, rolls of toilet paper and granboss goes up and picks his present which was an opened 12 pack of natural ice bear. The team just starts laughing their butts off
    Wee work for a company that explicitly banned alcohol on the premises. I thought for sure I was going to get fired that day.

  43. Urdnot Bakara*

    I once showed up to an ugly sweater party and my new boss and I, who had not coordinated this in any way, were wearing the exact same rainbow-striped, fuzzy unicorn sweater. Not the funniest story, but a very unlikely one!

  44. anonforthis*

    At the last place I worked, the CFO’s son worked for the company and was part of a big group of young guys who would do a lot of heavy drinking and partying, one of whom (Fergus) I was quite good friends with. We had a big Christmas party every year and a few years back the CFO – a very serious, conservative and intimidating man – and his wife left early because they were flying out of the country for their Christmas vacation. After they and the rest of the C-suite leave the party gets more and more raucous and various groups split off to go drinking elsewhere, including this big group of guys that included Fergus and the CFO’s son. (I went with a different group, to my eternal regret.)

    What Fergus told me the next time I saw him is as follows: the big group of guys went out to a bar, then another bar, then a club where several of them pick up girls, and then at closing time someone calls a bunch of Ubers to go back to someone’s house. Fergus and his new lady friend get in the Uber and they go back to this big house in the suburbs where the party continues. Fergus and his lady friend find a spare room, hook up and go to sleep. The next morning Fergus wakes up, rolls over and comes face to face with an enormous framed photograph of the CFO and his family. The person who called the Ubers was the CFO’s son and the house was the CFO’s house, which his son had the run of whenever he was out of town. The bedroom… you get the idea. For the remainder of the time I worked there, I never once saw Fergus look the CFO in the eye.

  45. Prof Ma'am*

    We’ve done a white elephant gift game that allows for gift stealing. Gifts are limited to employees but the holiday party is family friendly so often kids are sent to pick out gifts. During her turn, one of my colleagues had her ~6 year old son grab a gift. It was a sock monkey stuffed animal, super cute, and he was very excited about it. Fast forward to a few rounds later another colleague (male, no kids) used his turn to steal the sock monkey, literally taking it out of the hands of a child who (unsurprisingly) proceeded to get very upset and cry. We’re a close department so there was much ridicule and shaming but my colleague would not backdown. I have a faint memory that he eventually gave the toy back later in the night but even so, the damage was already done!

  46. Mitford*

    I’ll always remember the year a colleague’s hair caught on fire from a candle that was used as decoration on the buffet table for the office holiday potluck. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt, but the story passed into legend and candles were banned from all future celebrations.

    1. Lalaith*

      This is not a company holiday party story, but it has gone down as legend in my husband’s family. They were throwing an 8th grade graduation party for my husband’s older brother (this was some years ago, obviously), and they had rented a local hall owned by the American Legion or some such group. There were several trays of hot food on a table being kept warm by lit Sternos (you know, those cans filled with gel that you light on fire). Either the windows were open or the air conditioning was a bit too aggressive – either way, the curtains were blowing around and someone didn’t like that, so they had the bright idea to push the table against the wall to hold the curtains in place. The table… with the lit Sternos. Whoosh, curtains go up in flames. For some reason, I think the firefighters ended up throwing the food out the windows onto the lawn… it was a big mess.

      Fast forward 4 years. Husband’s older brother is now graduating high school, and they’re having another party. They rent THE SAME HALL. Under someone else’s name, because they are likely persona non grata at this particular establishment. As they’re setting up, the person in charge of the place (who clearly didn’t know/remember my father-in-law) tells them “Don’t put any hot food out here, we had a fire a few years ago caused by those burners.” My father-in-law, with a completely straight face, tells the guy “Of course not! I wouldn’t want to be known as the guy who burned down the American Legion.”

      My brother-in-law had to run out of the room so he wouldn’t die laughing in front of the guy.

  47. Red Boxes and Arrows*

    Back in the late 90’s, I worked for a sad, conservative, computer hardware reseller for the longest nine months of my life. Our winter holiday party was a potluck breakfast with signup sheets so there wouldn’t be duplicate dishes and the only people who signed up were women.

    The company didn’t want to cut into any real work hours for the party so we were all ordered to be at the office at SIX IN THE MORNING so everyone could eat, socialize, and then clean up before the official start time of 8:30 AM. There were no tables or chairs to eat at, so everyone had to stand. And stay standing for the full 2.5 hours. There was no music and the room was dim because of crappy fluorescent lighting. The carpet was the color of yellowish mud and the walls were covered in dark paneling.

    To make it worse, the owners of the company said that the people who brought food should fill up their plates first, so dozens of people stood there, quietly, watching the 8-10 women who had actually bothered to make / bring something make their way down the line of folding tables. It was super awkward.

    I don’t usually partake of potlucks anyway, so I stood off in a corner, sipping coffee, shifting from foot to foot, and trying [unsuccessfully] to hide my yawns.

    It was like an anti-party. Just think of whatever mood would be the opposite of celebratory and that was it.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      The room description took me back to first Christmas at the old job. Our “party” was in a 10 by 10 “conference room,” after work hours, where the president slapped some packages of cold cuts and a loaf of white bread on the table. So festive.

    2. 1234*

      I’m not even awake at 6am, much less hungry or festive-feeling…WTF. I really wonder where/how people come up with these “party ideas.”

  48. Hannah*

    My company’s holiday party is always pretty good, but they switched 2 years ago from dates to no dates because it was becoming difficult to find a venue big enough for everyone. It is usually in a very hip, young venue (nightclub or rooftop bar) and always open bar. This has resulted in some memorable flirtations between coworkers, some of whom are married, and some swift job departures to salvage what’s left of their professional integrity. The best was when two VPs, one married and one recently divorced, made out in full view of everyone and left together. Shockingly, neither wanted to leave, and we don’t have a no-fraternization policy so the company didn’t have any ground to stand on. A few months later they sold off part of the company and one of the VPs with it to remedy the unbearable awkwardness. The other VP left about 6 months after that – it was just impossible to live down.

  49. Harper the Other One*

    My first full-time job was at a specialist retail store selling musical instruments – originally a family business (with all the worst of what a family business can be) that had grown well beyond what the family could really handle. However, one nice thing about it was that they gave a lovely Christmas bonus in cash every year – several hundred dollars which meant a lot to people working retail wages.

    The last Christmas I worked there, what we didn’t know was the owners were preparing the business for sale to a nationwide chain, and apparently they were concerned that the outflow of cash would not be good for the sale. So they sent out an email telling staff that they were making a change and only people who didn’t get paid commission would get a bonus that year, on the rationale that commissioned staff at Christmas are really rolling in funds.

    However, the husband of the couple that owned it decided that “commission” meant anyone who got ANY sort of performance-based incentive at any point during the year, which meant that folks in my family music department, who get a small commission for correctly signing up rental contracts during the busy back to school season in September, were not getting bonuses.

    The wife felt badly about that, so she and a few of the ladies at head office decided to “do something” for the non-bonus-getters. Which meant that on Christmas Eve at closing my colleague and I were each presented with a small box containing one peanut butter ball, one chocolate chip cookie, one candy cane, and one Rice Krispie square that was a stunning one inch long.

    Sometimes doing “something” is worse than not doing anything at all…

  50. AHeyNonnyNonny*

    I’ve changed up a couple of details from this being super recognizable, but I used to work in a rare books department in a library. People who work in rare books tend to have pretty esoteric passions that lead them there, and these were always on full display at said party. My favorite selections from over the years:

    -The brand new head of the department wanted to show off a bit at his first Christmas party, give a speech… and sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with his 21-year-old, fresh out of college secretary. I was on the party planning committee and tried to veto it politely by asking an HR assistant (also on the committee) who sang part-time in a professional choir if he’d prefer to lead everyone in some secular holiday songs instead, but the secretary thought I was insulting her singing ability, angrily told me that she’d been singing since she was a little girl, and burst into tears. The meeting then awkwardly ended.

    (In the end, we printed out the lyrics to “Let It Snow” and had a very, very bad a cappella sing-along after the bar had been open for a while.)

    -Staff members made medieval hot possets based on a recipe found in a book in the library. Possets are basically cream, egg, spices, and white wine. I didn’t care for the taste since the medieval palate is very different from the modern one, but others did, and didn’t realize how much wine was in the recipe. One of the fellows I only vaguely knew by sight got extremely drunk. He broke the thermostat off the wall, looked at it confusedly, and then in what I can only describe as “a Mr. Bean-esque fashion” stuck it back on the wall. Surprisingly it held there long enough for me to fetch facilities.

    -I wasn’t here for this one, but after the posset incident, I heard about a previous party where staff members decided to make a Victorian flaming punch bowl, one where you mix of bunch of different spirits together and stick a sugar cone in it, then set the cone on fire. Fire, sugar, and the Victorian equivalent of a Long Island Iced Tea? What could go wrong?

    Quite a bit! As soon as they set the sugar cone on fire, the whole thing went up in a FWOOM of flame and the curtains behind the punchbowl caught fire. I always got different answers about what happened next– either the sprinkler system went off, or someone fetched the emergency fire extinguisher from the break room, or possibly both– but that staff party ended very early, and with no one eating or drinking anything.

    1. LCH*

      ooo i really want to try both the hot possets and the flaming punch bowl now. the second one should probably be outdoors.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I’ve had it. It’s essentially eggnog, but with wine or mead instead of whisky, so if it’s made well it can be really good. If it goes bad, though…. hooo boy.

      1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        For the flaming punch bowl, look up Feuerzangenbowle or flaming tongs punch. It’s delicious and traditionally made for Nikolaustag (December 6), so it’s right around the corner. Just remember, add rum to the flames from a metal ladle, NOT from the bottle!

        1. Artemesia*

          these are a big deal in Germany — we had them for holidays and everyone seemed to have the special equipment.

    2. A Library Person*

      As a fellow rare books person, I love the historical details in this one! At my institution, we usually just try to muddle our way through, like, 19th-century cakes. We haven’t even attempted the mortifying mid-20th century gelatin spectaculars!

  51. Mrs. Vexil*

    A couple of years ago the “Party Planning Committee” (two women who never, ever asked what people wanted for office parties) made the theme of the holiday lunch celebration “Elf,” the popular 2003 movie. There was a Elf trivia contest, Elf party favors, “name your favorite Elf scene” icebreaker, Elf hats to put on, Elf catchphrases on banners, etc. The problem was about 2/3 of our group of 20 had never seen this 15 year old movie, or had seen it once and didn’t remember much about it, or had seen it and hated it. Surprisingly the food didn’t follow the movie themes but was inexpicably, Greek salads and room temperature chicken soup. I think the “party” broke up after about 50 minutes.

    1. The Other Katie*

      That doesn’t sound amazing, but on the other hand, Elf-themed food might include 2-liters of soda and spaghetti with maple syrup on it.

  52. kimlet*

    In one of my first jobs, I was in a support-type role that usually was in charge of event planning in the office. About a month and a half out from the holiday party one year, I got put on a big project with a tight deadline and in order to do that I had to drop something and it was decided the holiday party was it. I’d already done most of the pre-planning at this point so we had a venue, theme, caterer, basic event outline and a project plan with dated milestones. The party was planned, someone just needed to follow the work plan and execute on making the party happen. My boss gave this to someone in a similar role to me but one level higher in an adjacent department and I gave the party not another thought.

    Until I received an invitation. This was not an email invitation like we normally sent, but a box full of confetti that popped out all over my desk when I opened it, candy canes, other Christmas-y trinkets, and an invitation card that played a song when I opened it. Everyone in the company received one of these! I looked at the card and saw that the location, time, theme, and even the date were now all completely different than what had been originally planned & held on people’s calendars. Curiously enough, given the fact that it was a holiday party and that the invite box was distinctly Christmas-y, the theme was now “black-tie casino”??

    About 30 minutes after we got the invites, an intern went around and left a printed-out 20 page “casino party look book” on everyone’s desk. I wish I had a copy of the letter in the front of it still – it was weirdly formal and told us all to abide by the dress standards laid out in the book, with the photos as a guide for our outfits and our props (props?!?) so the party would feel cohesive. There were pages of instructions about how formal attire should be (very formal, a major departure from the casual fun norm of every other year) and a very limited list of acceptable shades – not colors, but shades, complete with squares of the color printed in the book that we were encouraged to hold our clothes up against to make sure they matched.

    A bunch of people came asking me about it, because I was the normal party planner but I had no idea. My boss got to the office about 2 hours after the boxes landed and called me and the new party planner into her office (now covered in confetti) and was like…”what on earth is happening here???? We are not having a casino party instead of a holiday party.”

    Turns out New Party Planner decided that she was actually too busy to do the holiday party. So she told her intern to do it instead, and just let her run with it without checking in at all. She did not pass along any of the planning materials so this poor kid thought she was starting from scratch and apparently decided this was her opportunity to go all out and make a big splash at the company. Which, I mean, she certainly did. This was the same intern who had meekly passed out look books to all of us without saying a word!

    1. Raven*

      You left out one important thing:

      What happened for the party????

      Was it the original style, the casino style, or was there no party at all?

      1. kimlet*

        There was a party! Since Intern had never seen any of what I’d originally set up, none of it had been cancelled, so we reverted back to a slightly-modified version of that. After The Day Of The Look Book, my boss put me back in charge of fixing the party, with the Intern’s help. So I gave her a couple well-defined pieces of it to be in charge of that she actually did a really nice (if still somewhat over-the-top) job with. We kept a few of the better/less insane ideas from the party she had planned. Obviously we scrapped the look book, and we went back to a more general holiday/winter type theme that I don’t actually remember.

        The party itself was normal and fun and relatively unremarkable, but the look book is legendary at the company. I’m told copies of it still float around.

    2. 1234*

      Intern sounded like she was picking out bridesmaid colors with the look book. I would never think to ever do that even at the general “intern age!” even if my manager asked me to plan the company party, without checking in with the manager.

    3. Gumby*

      Ha! Look books…

      One former employer had a roaring 20’s themed party hosted in a former speakeasy. (Company anniversary party rather than holiday.) They gave employees money to rent costumes and even pointed us to a few places that could accommodate us on that front. This was possibly more fun for the women on staff than the men; men’s fashion wasn’t *that* much different, but you seldom see flapper dresses in daily life today. One co-worker solved this dilemma by showing up in 1720’s formal wear complete with wig.

  53. Dittany*

    One year, after an (I thought) perfectly normal Christmas party, we received a company-wide email stating that alcohol would now be banned at company events due to “the incident.” I asked around, and it turned out that one of the guys from another department, who everyone had assumed had just left early, had actually… not done that. Instead, his supervisor noticed that his car was still in the parking lot two hours after he’d “left”, and gotten concerned. She eventually found him passed out on the floor in the breakroom, naked.

  54. Mags*

    I think the weirdest one is when one of the servers in the Very Fancy Restaurant accused me of vomiting all over the bathroom and demanded I clean it up. She threw a dirty cloth at me and just doubled down on me being the one to puke in the bathroom.

    Except no-one at our table had drunk anything because our boss was good-living and wouldn’t pay for booze, and we were cheap and not paying for over priced liquor when the soda and mocktails were free. The OTHER table at the other end of the room was drunk off their ass tech-bros.

    I still have no idea why she decided that I looked like someone who’d puke all over the bathroom.

      1. Mags*

        I did not! I just refused to move and eventually our boss got irritated and told her I hadn’t vomited in five years (which was a bizarre flex, but I wanted the yelling to stop so I just rolled with it! :D) and told her the company would pay if we needed to but to leave us alone.

        I felt bad for her, once she’d gone. Working Christmas parties can’t be the easiest thing in the world.

    1. 1234*

      I’m confused. If she’s a waitress and you’re a guest at Fancy Restaurant, why was she asking you to clean up the puke, even if she thought you did throw up in there? I’ve never heard of that…

  55. old curmudgeon*

    I’ve never told this story to anyone other than my spouse. But given that it happened decades ago, the company no longer exists, and at least some of the participants have since passed away, at this point it’s probably safe to share.

    My first non-food-service job was working as a minimum-wage office clerk for a small privately owned retail company. The office staff was comprised of the company president, who had gotten his job because he was the founder’s son rather than because of any intellectual or other attributes, the bookkeeper, who was an elderly and very loud French woman, the advertising manager, who was a young trophy-wife kind of person with a wardrobe that reflected her husband’s status as VP of a local franchise, and me.

    The company president did not want holiday decorations or festivities to disrupt the actual office environment. However, because Marie the French bookkeeper insisted (loudly, as usual) that there be some kind of celebration, he gave in (also as usual) and told the three of us that while he would not participate, we could spend up to a specific amount of company funds on a holiday celebration off company premises. He did not, however, specify anything other than the amount we could spent – no limits on where or how the money would be spent, just that it not be more than X dollars.

    This was a grave oversight.

    Darcy the trophy-wife advertising manager suggested that the three of us go to a local nightclub for their “Holiday Ladies Night” event as our celebration. Marie loudly and excitedly endorsed the suggestion. I was fairly new in town and not familiar with the venue, but being young and wanting to go along with the other women, agreed with the plan.

    So the three of us, armed with the permitted amount of funds disbursed from petty cash, met up on the designated evening at the nightclub.

    Whereupon I discovered that “Holiday Ladies Night” was code for “Male Strippers In Santa Suits.”

    I further discovered that Marie and Darcy were the sort of enthusiastic participants who waved dollar bills at the strippers, stuffing the cash in the strippers’ holiday-themed g-strings in exchange for kisses that appeared to be opportunities for a mutual tonsil examination.

    And I also discovered that each time they’d buy a kiss, the stripper would give them one of those roach clips with feathers on it (this was in the 1970s when those were common), and as Marie and Darcy collected these silly feathered clips, they’d clip them into their hair or onto their clothes. After a dozen or so kisses each, they looked like a pair of particularly garish ostriches with neon-colored feathers hanging everywhere.

    Meanwhile, being both painfully shy and just barely old enough to drink, I was nursing a glass of wine and desperately trying to disappear under the table so as not to be accidentally tonsil-probed by one of the Santa strippers.

    And then things got interesting.

    It turned out that the mayor’s wife had decided to attend “Holiday Ladies Night.”

    It also turned out that the mayor was not entirely pleased by his wife’s decision.

    And as a result, a couple hours after we arrived, by which time Marie and Darcy were both about seventeen sheets to the wind and covered in neon-colored feathers, law enforcement descended and raided the place.

    I lucked out. This was back when smoking was permitted everywhere, and I had developed a headache from the smoke and the loud music in the nightclub, so I was outside getting some fresh air when the police showed up. I saw what was going down, hopped in my car, floored the accelerator and roared off down the street as the officers charged in the doors, nightsticks at the ready.

    The company president was Not Pleased to open his Sunday newspaper the next morning to find a photo of his bookkeeper and his advertising manager, still covered in feathers, being led out of the nightclub in handcuffs. The advertising manager’s husband wasn’t terribly thrilled about it either.

    We never had another holiday party at that company. But Marie’s collection of feathered roach clips were proudly displayed in her office until the day she retired.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      “This was a grave oversight”

      Your writing style is wonderful! I loved every feathery moment!

    2. Mockingjay*

      But Marie’s collection of feathered roach clips were proudly displayed in her office until the day she retired.

      Tears. Tears in my eyes. Best ending line!

    3. Yessica Haircut*

      You are definitely a gifted writer! What a great story.

      My question is: why did the police raid the strip club (I mean, other than being directed to by the mayor)? Are strip clubs not legal where you are? I’m perplexed by the idea that a mayor getting peevish about his wife seeing some banana hammocks could somehow lead to the arrest of some older ladies just for patronizing a strip club. Were they being drunk or disorderly, or was this some kind of underground, illegal stripping event?

  56. anon for this*

    My first ever work holiday party (for a small elementary school, at the principal’s house) was crazy. I had gone back and forth over whether or not it was appropriate to bring a bottle of wine along with our potluck contribution. I decided not to. Our admin was already drunk when we arrived. Throughout the night several people got very drunk, another teacher hit on my partner in front of everyone, and my coworker’s spouse got into a weird argument about dogs with the principal. One guest had brought a mushroom casserole, which he admitted was entirely foraged from the woods by the school- after everyone had eaten it. The highlight of the night was a preschool teacher’s husband dropping his pants to show off an almost life-size, full color tattoo of the cast of a certain Netflix original scifi 80’s show. The inebriated admin disappeared halfway through the party and from what I heard spent the night in the principal’s daughter’s bed (she was away at college). If anyone from said school is reading this, I’m sorry for spilling the beans, and I had a GREAT time :)

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        I’m such a hypochondriac I’d have given myself a seizure right then and there. Terrifying.

        1. Yessica Haircut*

          Same. My panic attacks are triggered by anxiety about possible medical catastrophes/ my imminent demise, and I would have had a VERY bad time if I was at this party. This is basically worst nightmare stuff.

      2. JSPA*

        Plenty of people, depending where this is. The fancier mushrooms people pay top dollar for at the supermarket or coop are also foraged, for that matter. Some areas (google says, MI, MN, NC, SC) now have a one or two or 7 day or online training, to be a designated forager. But a dedicated amateur with a decade of experience is way more reliable than someone who’s done a few days of anything.

        It further looks like the vast majority of the mushrooms that the certification allows one to forage and sell (to stores or the public) are decidedly unmistakable for any other, and don’t share even the faintest similarity to anything toxic.

        I mean, there are animals and animal parts that are toxic; any meat, badly handled, could give you food poisoning; and badly handled hunted meat could give you lead poisoning. But for whatever reason, people don’t respond to, “venison” or “duck” the way they do to, “foraged mushroom.”

      3. Artemesia*

        That terrified me to read. Mushroom poisoning is utterly irreversible; hard to imagine anything more vicious than feeding people foraged mushrooms without letting them know that is where they came from. A vineyard owner whom I knew slightly managed to kill himself and several others over a lovely brunch omelette — he thought he knew what he was doing when he gathered those fungi.

        1. WS*

          Yes, my boss at my first job killed himself and his wife with mushrooms, and their teenage daughter survived only because she got a liver transplant. Apparently there’s a common, edible mushroom in China that looks and tastes exactly like an extremely deadly mushroom in Australia, and pretty much every year a few people of Chinese background will die in this way.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        whoa there, it’s very much a done thing here in France, and everyone would be ecstatic about eating such prized vegetables. Just this weekend I was gorging on mushrooms foraged by our host, in a fantastic risotto.

        If you are invited to someone’s country home in France in the autumn, you’ll be invited to go for a bracing walk in the afternoon. Don’t stop to pick wildflowers, you’ll be needing those punnets for the blackberries (if you want dessert at dinner) and the mushrooms (for the main course) and no you don’t take the short cut home, the host noticed a dead tree in the neighbour’s neck of the woods, and wants you to lug half of it home (for firewood, to cook the mushrooms and blackberries of course).

  57. Totally True*

    One year, at the most toxic workplace I ever worked, we had our annual holiday party that consisted of a white elephant gift exchange and cheese and cracker trays. Everyone knew to not take the white elephant seriously and brought gag gifts, except for this one poor guy who had just started who brought in an expensive bottle of alcohol and I think he got cereal or something. Also, these holiday parties were required and held at 4:00 pm on a Friday and included my boss boasting about how great he was. He was the same boss who one time required us to bring in our own pillows so we could all listen to the ‘Mouse who Caught the Cheese’ in the conference room with the lights off.

      1. Totally True*

        He thought it would be a good way to build morale as he thought in general we were terrible staff. So we all trooped in with pilows, we did not know what was going to happen we were all just told to bring pillows. After lunch he surprised us by listening to the Mouse. We all sat in a circle at conference tables with our heads down and the lights off. When it was over he was all happy and proud of himself. It was the weirdest thing I ever sat through. Oh, and he was about 29 years old and was gifted the job of CEO by a family friend. He was eventually forced out.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          I’m Googling “The Mouse Who Caught the Cheese” but not finding it.. what is it?

            1. Artemesia*

              LOL. I remember when that was the rage — I read it standing up in an airport gift shop — it was just that substantive. AS I recall it came a few years after the idiocy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

    1. Wendy*

      At my husband’s last workplace, they did one of these white elephant gift swap things. Most of the gifts were impersonal, tasteful things – coffee mug set, candles, etc. My husband’s boss – think Ron Swanson – brought a black plastic vase with fake rhinestones that spelled out the word “PIMP.” And of course the person who opened it ended up being the only Black employee in the office.

      Both the boss and the employee thought it was hilarious. Everyone else just felt awkward :-\

  58. MonsterEnergizerBunny*

    At a past law firm job, a partner got drunk at a holiday party and started talking about how badly he wanted his wife to get pregnant. After telling a group of us that he’s never even accidentally gotten his wife pregnant, he asked me — the only female associate in the group — if I’ve ever had “a whoopsie”. I did not have any children.

  59. AnonPourCePoste*

    At an old company, during December I brought in an ugly Christmas cat statue (it was given to me as a joke, and it’s truly tacky). One night after I left work, someone rearranged the cat and other items in my cubicle.

    In the morning, I arrived to a montage where the cat was being mounted by a stuffed unicorn (also an office joke). They also moved my kleenex box and moisturizer bottle to beside the lovers, and flipped my “Mood of the Day” chart to “Flirty.” We all got a big laugh out of it… And years later I STILL don’t know which coworker is the culprit.

  60. Aaron*

    At a holiday party for a company of ~15 people, our boss treated us to a PowerPoint presentation on how he determined how much to spend on gifts for each of us. He had devised an equation based on how productive he thought each of us were.

    The slides went one-by-one through each of the employees. Some got gifts worth hundreds of dollars. Some got gifts worth less than $5. Nobody left happy.

    1. Happy Sharpie*

      I……what! What!!! I assume the boss had other eccentricities? And was this a toxic place? Did it happen again? WHY WOULD HE THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?

  61. Bee*

    My first Christmas night out with the company I worked for at the time (I was a student, it was retail, all pretty chill for context) our store manager booked us a party night at a casino. Free drink on arrival, we had a meal and there was a disco etc after. We’d won quite a few area incentives in the run up so had a decent kitty for drinks. I got a bit too drunk. Come 2 am my co-worker found me my coat and got me in a taxi and sent me home. I got in the house, had a drink of water and looked at the microwave clock and realised it was only 11.45pm. They tricked me so I wouldn’t get too messy. Or they just couldn’t be bothered dealing with me….I wasn’t offended, we all found it pretty funny.

  62. Office Grunt*

    I started OldJob the first week of December, after which two “contests” had started:

    1) Hiding the “elf on the shelf” in someone else’s work space. This was the innocent fun, mostly surrounding how you were able to find the right time that someone was away from their desk.

    2) People from different areas were drawn into groups, and given a certain area of the office to decorate. The group that included the front desk receptionist was given the front desk area, and things got…weird. Tiny liquor bottles, one elf had a spoon, crushed up candy cane “lines,” and one female elf multiple “babies.”

    This was for an org that worked closely with lawyers, and was led by three of them.

  63. Sarra N. Dipity*

    I can’t compete with Fibchopkin’s story, but I’m going to share anyhow.

    Our office is very social, and our annual holiday party is generally fantastic and raved about until the next year’s. This past year, we rented out a bar/party space that was historically an actual speakeasy, and hired a company to run a 20’s themed murder mystery party. Everyone went all-out with costuming, the food was fabulous, the acting/murder mystery troupe were great, and everyone had an amazing time. I generally don’t go to after-parties, since I don’t drink (and I have a kid at home), so I didn’t find out about what happened until the next week:

    We have some folks in another city who work remotely, and they had decided to have a “pre-party”, snagging a bunch of White Claw and beer from our office and bringing it to their hotel rooms. They showed up late to the venue. At one point in the evening, the venue staff caught them drinking stuff they’d brought in with them (more White Claw!) and found our organizer and told her that we were going to all have to leave because of breaking our contract (no outside alcohol allowed). She somehow convinced them not to kick us all out, and the party continued uninterrupted.

    We wrapped up at the speakeasy, then 5-10 people decided to go after-party at a local bar. Fine, normal. Except that our out-of-town co-workers somehow hadn’t run out of White Claw, and brought it THERE as well. They didn’t get a warning this time – they were immediately kicked out.

    I only found out about all of this the next Monday, when the rumors started flying around our (open-plan, easy to overhear people!) office.

    I’m pretty sure that our out-of-towners got a serious talking-to about nearly getting us kicked out of the (expensive! awesome!) venue.

    Still, a super fun evening. :)

  64. Jennifer Juniper*

    At my first job, our company gave us champagne to drink at work during our shift one day around Christmas. I stumbled, drink in hand, upon a step. The team lead filmed me doing so.

    A bigger oops was when an underage team member accidentally got served! Luckily, we all laughed it off.

  65. Ailsa McNonagon*

    Many years ago I worked for an organisation where the degeneracy of staff parties was the stuff of legends. One particular Christmas party (circa 2002/3, the North of England) was held in a hotel, where there were other organisations also having Christmas parties.

    Things began fairly sedately, with some peanuts being thrown by our group at the smug Building Society winners of the Christmas party quiz, but had descended into full-on Sodom and Gomorrah by about 9pm… one of the Deputy Managers had a long-standing feud with another Deputy and they started screaming at each other; D1 is getting more and more irate as D2 openly mocks her, so she takes a swing at D2 and before you know it there’s a cowboy brawl happening right in the middle of the dance floor- chairs are crashed over heads, teeth are loosened, blood is spilt, full glasses of vodka and coke are hurled in glittering arcs through the air. D1 is man-handled out of the building by another manager, kicking, screaming, spitting and cursing like a rabid cat. D2 is assisted back to her feet and her teeth are returned to her, along with several clumps of hair and a glittery stiletto.

    Unsurprisingly, the police arrive and start throwing people indiscriminately into the back of the Black Mariah. Myself and another manager sidle off and we’ve both had enough free wine that a hook-up seems like a great idea (it was not. We were rota’d to work together for months because the District Manager found our embarrassment hilarious). I later find out that there was another, smaller punch-up after we left involving D1’s husband and a friend of D2, but by that point most people had either been arrested, passed out, or got a taxi into town to go clubbing.

    I really miss those parties.

    1. Ada Doom*

      British holiday parties are a on a different level (speaking as an American, married to a Brit, did grad school in Wales). Somehow they manage to be both planned with great care well in advance (or at least booked months ahead with much stress) and also on the night they are guaranteed to be complete sh*tshows of alcohol and poor decisions. … Kind of like grad school, now that I think about it.

      1. Ailsa McNonagon*

        Oh yes. In my younger years my friends and I would easily get through a bottle of wine each and a bottle of vodka between 3-4 of us before going out and drinking until we were thrown out of the club at 2am. At Christmas drinking started somewhere around 15th December (along with mince pies for breakfast, Yule log and Toblerone for dinner and a kebab on the way home) and stopped with the New Year’s Day Hangover. Between the ages of 16 and 25 December was just a blurry expanse of tinsel, alcohol and ill-thought-out decisions :D

        After another work Christmas do which involved the Area Manager buying everyone Sambuca and trying to teach us the Macarena, I had a strange alcohol fuelled dream that I was sick in the bath and had a shower with all my clothes on. Cut to the next day and me waking up, fully clothed and dripping wet with some bathroom cleaning to do…

        I realise this sounds like I had a major alcohol problem- in the North of England during the mid/ late nineties it didn’t really seem to stand out from what everyone else did… These days I’m more or less teetotal, but I had an adventurous youth!

      2. Foxgloves*

        Isn’t it FANTASTIC?! I’m in the UK and once lost my cardigan, debit card, and dignity at a Christmas party, and that was a fairly tame year.

  66. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    At a previous employer, Corporate HQ declared there were to be “No Christmas, No Holiday, No any-other-religious-holiday Celebrations at Company!” (This declaration predated my employment at Local Branch Office (LBO) by a few years.)

    LBO Vice President simply opted for a no-decorations, no-holiday cheer apparent, “Employee Appreciation Luncheon” to be hosted the first or second Friday in December, starting at lunchtime. A private room within a large upscale facility would be rented, there was an open bar, no plus-ones because its during work hours, and in all honestly, was always a very pleasant time with coworkers, some of whom I remain friends with to this day. The most of-note thing that EVER happened was either the admin hitting a decent jackpot with the LBO VP’s money (he’d told her to go play this $20), or the second-in-command reopening the bar on his corporate CC after the LBOVP closed it after five hours.

    And then Corporate HQ decided that they needed to create a plan of succession for the LBOVP. The second-in-command had died in the aftermath of a tragic accident, there was no obvious plan in place yet, so rather than letting it ride, Corporate HQ decided they were getting involved.

    Oh. F.F.S.

    They installed a “Co-VP” in our LBO. Weasels would be insulted by comparing him to them. Anyways, the Co-VP brought along all of his 1980’s Miami Vice looking former frat boy buddies with him. They had…no experience nor qualifications for what they were doing, typically. One of the first things he did was to schedule an all-hands day long business meeting on the opening day of a sports season in a town where its basically a holiday for those in our industry. Our competitors are out smoozing customers, we’re inside a little convention center in the thick of it with the folks who came in from Corporate are wondering “what the utter?!” about the ruckus and near Mardi Gras atmosphere outside. All of us who were local were extremely annoyed as it had been a great chance for us to smooze with customers ourselves in prior years.

    Did he learn? Nope.

    The Employee Appreciation Luncheon was replaced by an evening “Buffet and Cocktails” event, to be followed by a second All-Hands Business meeting at the convention center the following morning. Buffet and Cocktails had *some* promise, however, we’re now outside of work hours, there’s still no “Plus Ones” (that had made complete sense when it was during working hours), and instead of a private room within this larger entertainment facility, its literally off the buffet and cafeteria style seating, as in, grab a 4 top here, grab an 8 top there. Cocktails were limited to beer and wine (again that’s just fine, but don’t advertise it as cocktails) and what was included was a half step above Natty-Light and MD20-20 or Boone’s Farm. Obviously we could purchase our own if we chose.

    It was noted that the Co-VP and all of his Miami-Vice wannabe corporate boys all suddenly walked out together around 8 p.m. We all kind of shrugged, said good riddance, and did a few rounds at a bar within the facility.

    Next day at the All-Hands, the Miami-Vice wannabes are all a liiiitttttle bit rough around the edges. Funny, 8 p.m. shouldn’t have done that. And there are whispers and rumors, and by the time the All-Hands meeting starts, the Head Honcho who is in from Corporate VP asks if I’d attended the outing at the Well-Known-Gentleman’s-Club-of-Questionable-Repute. Head Honcho quite obviously is NOT local and does NOT know that this is a “Gentlemen’s Club”.

    Have I mentioned that I have, at this point, decided I am not working for Co-VP, have landed a better position, turned in my notice, and this is on Wednesday of my last week? Okay, re-read as its relevant.

    I replied ever so gently and kindly, that I was absolutely certain he was mistaken that there was a company outing at that particular establishment, as that establishment is known for *this*, *this*, and *that*. But I had attended our actual outing, and though it was a bit odd, it was still enjoyed. Head Honcho’s eyes nearly distended from their sockets and he turned a very beautiful crimson shade.

    I understand that, from friends who remained working there in departments where they were privvy to the information, that the expense report for the private party for the Co-VP and his cronies at said Gentlemen’s Club was denied.

  67. Anon This Time*

    One year we had our Christmas party at a Major League Baseball stadium hospitality event space. It was a swanky affair (cocktail dresses, dinner, dancing). A bunch of us younger employees drank a bit and thought it would be fun to go out on the field. We ran the bases (again in heels and long dresses), sat in the dugouts, and took the pitchers mound. A great time was had by all….on Monday we received an email about our behavior. The stadium fined us and billed us a bunch of maintenance charges for going out there, and since this party had been employee funded through fundraisers throughout the year, there was no money to cover the extra costs and all future parties that year would be cancelled.

    I still cringe a decade later that we had no idea what a bad idea it was.

    1. zebra*

      Honestly this one seems like it’s not your fault at all. What kind of stadium rents out their space for a party and doesn’t include security to keep drunk people from running onto the field? Who would find themselves at a major league baseball stadium and NOT try to run the bases, especially after a couple of drinks? I don’t even care about sports and there should be security and probably multiple locked doors in between me and the field, because I would 100% try to run onto it.

      1. pancakes*

        Same. Have never watched more than a few minutes of a baseball game in my life but how often does a chance like that come along?

      2. Anon This Time*

        I appreciate the support- apparently someone in the group opened the emergency exit door and that’s how we got out there (I swear I did not know that part) and I guess there were big big signs on the doors saying do not exit… The contract also was very clear about bearing all responsibility to keep people in the event space, but none of us knew that.

        I can still remember admiring my glittery stiletto as it crossed home plate, although some of the other bits are hazy.

        1. 1234*

          Then that security door being opened should have triggered an alarm. I still say this isn’t your fault. At any point did security even come over and say “you can’t be here?”

      3. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

        I don’t drink and I would still attempt to go out onto the field, because that would be SO COOL.

      4. 1234*

        I wanted to make this exact comment. I’ve been to events at baseball stadiums and security was allllll over it making sure people did not go out onto the field if the event didn’t include that. (There are events here where if you purchased the “premium ticket” you were allowed out there. Pre-COVID times of course)

      5. fhqwhgads*

        I think the main error was less about having security to prevent that and more that it should’ve been made abundantly clear to the organizers, and then everyone prior to attending that under no circumstances was anyone allowed on the field or in the dugouts. Would super drunk people maybe still try? Perhaps. But if it’s very very sternly laid out up front, I think it lowers the risk a lot.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      That sounds like a setup by the stadium to me- literally everyone who rents out a stadium would want to go out on the field! If they don’t tell you it’s not allowed up front, then hit you with a bill later, that’s not cool. It’s possible whoever did the planning knew but then it’s on them to tell guests as much. Like if I rented a theater I’d expect going up on the empty stage to be included.

  68. iglwif*

    An ex workplace of mine had both office staff (1 shift) and manufacturing staff (3 shifts) in the same building. The office staff used to have a “holiday” (actually Xmas) potluck every year. The food was usually pretty good–lots of good cooks in the group, and some *really* good bakers, and most importantly, the organizers were … very good at organizing.

    And then one year, somehow, 2 of the 3 shifts of manufacturing staff were invited / invited themselves to the potluck. Together, these folks outnumbered the office staff about 3 to 1, and their entire contribution was 2 buckets of KFC. They turned up at shift change, about 15 minutes before the office staff began drifting into the lunchroom, and by the time my team and I got there, there was No. Food. Left.

  69. Xmas anon*

    I tell this every year.

    I work for a family-owned company. We used to have a lot of wine at our holiday party. One year, a co-worker’s spouse got really drunk. As they were leaving, my boss, who was also tipsy, jokingly asked her if she wanted another glass of wine, and she responded…

    ”Why don’t you eat my ass?”

    We haven’t had alcohol at our holiday parties since.

  70. I Have Been to South Park*

    I just wanted to chime in here as I am the (currently laid off) sales manager of a popular event venue for your company holiday party. I know EVERYTHING you have done. LOL

  71. Can't Sit Still*

    This one is only funny now, since it’s been a while. It was December 2008 and I worked in HR in Diversity & Inclusion. The department was having a potluck and Yankee gift exchange. Everyone was relatively happy (2008, remember) and in a good mood. After everyone sat down after filling their plates and started chatting, the VP of HR said she wanted to say a few words.

    She started with saying how much she appreciated all of our hard work in a difficult year and recognized a couple of people for going above and beyond. Then she told us that the layoffs weren’t over and not everyone in the room would be there in the following year, while looking me dead in the eye. Then she told everyone to dig in and enjoy. For a long minute, the only sound was the classical music playing softly in the background. Needless to say, it was a very subdued meal and gift exchange. I was laid off on January 5, 2009. They got rid of the Diversity & Inclusion initiative completely, saying it wasn’t needed in a recession. I mean, obviously. /s

  72. Mr Mike*

    Not really funny, but kind of tone deaf: I worked in a factory in the early 90s and after the annual cafeteria Christmas ‘party’ the CEO personally handed out one of those small canned hams to EVERYONE. Jew or vegetarian, you got one too!

  73. Midwest Manager*

    Not nearly as good as many of these, but—I started in my workplace as a temp, in October, and one of my early duties was to organize the holiday party. I was told I would have to find a new venue as there had been “issues” the prior year, but no one would tell me what. (It was several years before someone finally admitted that one of the faculty wives–who they still wouldn’t name–had gotten very drunk and physically pulled people onto the dance floor to do interpretative dance with her. “Let’s all be trees!”) Party went fine and responsibility for it fell to me from then on. There have been some moments.
    –my dept chair whispering to me “Who is THAT?” with a frozen smile. The subject: the date of one of our fellows, who was in a skin tight black leather mini dress with full length zips along each side (i.e. one quick zip and she would have been naked) and lucite spike heels (yes, actual stripper heels)
    –had a faculty wife get drunk and cry on my shoulder all night, and then announce to the group that it was so nice of my husband and I to spend the evening at the party, because Friday was our usual sex night. (it’s not. And even if it were, that’s nothing I would have ever told this woman, who I never saw socially other than the annual holiday party)
    –a staff member’s date ran across the event room (think upscale University club) and hopped his ass up on the bar. Still not sure why. The event manager and I yelled from opposite ends of the room and converged on him, demanding he get down. He told us to our faces we were being “stick in the muds.” Later in the evening, said young man was out on the dance floor, holding one leg out straight (opposite hand grasping the ankle) so he could play air guitar on his leg. He then took his shirt off. And then they were asked to leave. By me.

  74. Lizard*

    When I was a young doctor doing my medical residency my husband was a lawyer in a small law firm. The managing partner decided to have a holiday party, which was held in February to save money. The party was a 2 hour booze cruise and there was no way to leave once you were there.

    One of the guests was a medical malpractice lawyer who rented office space from the firm and once he found out I was a doctor he spent the rest of the night telling me stories about cases he’d won, none of which involved any real negligence on the part of the doctors he’d sued. I was open-mouthed in horror after the first 30 minutes and by the time the boat pulled back into the harbor I was seriously reconsidering my life choices.

  75. littlebumbletea*

    Our company usually does an annual holiday party with an open bar (no shots, as a rule after previous years before my time). The first year I went, I was coming out of one of the stalls in the ladies’ room when a woman I’d never met before comes out of her stall at the same time as me. We make eye contact, she throws her arms up and tries to hug me. I laughed and told her we should wash our hands first. Thankfully, my best work friend happened to be in there at the same time and was able to help me escort her back to her date after we talked her down from trying to steal the restroom sink; she was in dangerously high heels, and walking with her was like pushing a cart with a broken wheel. She also took pictures of our nametags (aka our chests) so she could remember us later. The guy who worked with us (her date) did not bring her back the next year.

    As we were leaving, one of our sales people got up on stage and took the mic from the live band to relive his glory days trying to make it big as a musician. That apparently happens every year. At least no one threw up in the lobby that year!

  76. Velvet Cupcake*

    Not really weird or epic, but still all about how co-workers can miss the mark. Last year my extended work group did a potluck and gift exchange, where the gift exchange had a dollar limit and a randomizing game element to it.

    Most of the gifts were either fairly safe generic gifts, some of them clearly regifts (which I think is fine, that crystal desk vase is nice and will eventually find its forever home). I forget what I brought, it was that innocuous. Candy? An ornament? Coffee mug and gift card? Whatever, it was appropriate for the venue.

    The game elements was that everyone grabbed a wrapped gift, and then a set of dice went from person to person. Roll the dice, and depending what number came up, gifts could be opened, “stolen,” passed to the right, passed to the left, etc. This continued until… I forget what triggered the end. It may have been the need to get back to work. I was participating because it was a group activity during work hours, not because I wanted to be there.

    Anyhow, one of my younger co-workers had clearly wanted to participate but either had not planned ahead, or was just being a brat. They put a two-year McDonalds Happy Meal toy, an old CD of pop Christmas covers they confessed was a re-gift, and some other miscellaneous stuff they had found in their work cabinet drawers, into a gift bag. A gift bag of trash. And this bag landed in front of me at the end of game.

    Now, I was not the only person who had a gift in front of them that was not going to be appreciated by the “winner”, so an impromptu swap of gifts started. Somehow, I managed to get a lovely animal themed desk light (which I regifted to a child in my life who loves it; I think the co-worker who gave it to me felt bad that I had gotten the obvious trash, and their gift had multiple elements), and the desk detritus found homes with other co-workers. The fact that I clearly stated I would be throwing my “gifts” in the trash probably contributed to it. I wasn’t mean about it. I didn’t berate the person for bringing trash, I simply stated I wasn’t keeping it. I didn’t trade it away – I let whomever wanted the stuff have it. I was never going to listen to the CD, I didn’t need or want those plastic toys. I have enough trash in my life I’m trying to sort through and deal with that I don’t need to accept it from other people, and I was so completely out of fucks to give that I was not going to pretend they were the best-est things ever.

    Anyhow, I’m not fond of workplace gift exchanges.

    1. Scarlet magnolia*

      My first year at my library we had the gift exchange where you could take another person’s gift etc etc. I brought in 2 battery operated hamsters in ninja clothes who sang “Kung fu fighting” and twirled their little nunchuks. You never saw anything like 2 dozen drunk librarians trying to claim the hamsters. It almost came to blows. Good times.

      1. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

        I initially read that as “2 dozen drunk libertarians” and I’m honestly not sure which version is funnier.

    2. 1234*

      …was there no way for the person who brought the bag of “trash” to sneak out of work before the party started, go to an actual store and buy an actual gift? Hell, most supermarkets or drug stores sell gift cards to other retailers like Amazon etc. Or even get an e-gift card and print it out…

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some families and groups do this kind of exchange in exactly that fashion. So this exact mixup happens far too often. Either someone doesn’t think to specify rules on the invitation, or someone doesn’t bother to read the invitation.

  77. super-duper anonymous for this...*

    …because of the high probability that I could out myself. I will preface this by emphasizing that, for better or for worse (probably both), there was zero consumption of alcohol involved.

    My undergraduate chemistry department held a Christmas/holiday/end-of-term party every year on the last day of fall-semester reading period. Faculty and staff provided cookies; and one awesome, very talented faculty member and any brave souls willing to join provided the entertainment: as the world*-renowned “Stoichiometric Singers and Dancers,” we serenaded all in attendance with chemistry-themed parodies of various songs. Our grand finale was, fittingly, a lively rendition of Tom Lehrer’s periodic table song.

    I happen to know this song by heart. I also happen to know my way around the periodic table really well. Liberated from the lyric sheet, I was able to offer up my services as a backup dancer: we had (naturally) an enormous periodic table on the wall behind where we were singing, and so as we sang, I pointed to each element in turn. I like to think that I still looked borderline elegant on slower passages like, “antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium…” and pretty damned precise on the more rapid-fire, “argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium.” But I must confess that my attempts to jump between “chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin and sodium” would have looked at best like a caffeinated moth fluttering around a light bulb.

    Everyone laughed. Myself included. But I mostly put it out of mind immediately after: I was already starting to second-guess the wisdom of what I’d just done and, frankly, I had a final the next morning. I consoled myself that I’d done far more socially-awkward things over the years and still come out okay, and managed not to kick myself too hard.

    The next morning, I went in at 8:30 for, appropriately, my organic chem exam. I was nervous about it–I needed to do well–but pretty focused as I waited in line to pick up the exam and get started. When it was finally my turn to pick up my exam, I handed my exam checkout card and student ID to our department secretary. She looked at the card, looked at the ID, looked through the box of exams, pulled mine, handed it to me, and finally made eye contact as I looked up to thank her. Suddenly, she made the connection.

    “Oh my GOSH!!!! You were SO FUNNY AT THE PARTY YESTERDAY!!!!”

    (For the record: I did well on the exam. I have also since realized that I’m really socially anxious and that parties aren’t really a great environment for me even if I’m not volunteering to be part of the entertainment. Glad I learned that lesson from something benign.)

    1. Malarkey01*

      “I happen to know my way around the periodic table” is one of the greatest brags of all time. I might start saying this.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I wish you were my high school chem teacher, I would have actually really enjoyed learning from you!

      1. super-duper anonymous for this...*

        As it turns out, I’m now a chemistry professor, and so I hope that my students enjoy learning from me. I have occasionally told classes this story. I refuse to demonstrate, though. The undergrad experience was, thankfully, well before the advent of social media…and I am grateful every day for this, for many reasons!

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Nothing inspires passion for a subject more than being taught by someone passionate about it, so I’m super pleased you are a prof now!

    3. Unladen European Swallow*

      OMG!! I’m a fellow alumna of the college! I wasn’t a Chemistry major, but my first year intro chem class was taught by the same musically-talented professor!! I’ve been to the cookie parties, though never had the nerve to sing along – just enjoyed them as a spectator. Alas, I don’t remember any backup dancers in the times I went, but I’m sure your love/enthusiasm for chemistry was appreciated by all!

  78. Sleepytime Tea*

    I worked for a company where one of their company values was “fun.” You were even rated on FUN on your annual review which would impact your raise. Basically, you were expected to enthusiastically participate in FUN activities. Our team had a FUN committee every quarter, who was responsible for planning our monthly FUN events. I, of course, got rotated onto the fun committee in 4th quarter, which is full of holidays, and nothing looks worse than not enthusiastically being a part of the fun committee come review time.

    For Christmas we had a party and we played a few games, including a stealing gift exchange. Our team was very diverse and I knew not everyone would be familiar with it, not to mention there are a number of variations, so I took great care to write out the rules we would follow for this particular exchange so everyone would be on the same page.

    Now also on the committee was… let’s call him Francois (he was from France). Francois was a nice guy, but all quarter he was basically trying to shove off his fun committee duties on me (the only girl) like I was his damn secretary (I was technically treasurer). There were problems with him on the team in general being sexist. Anyways, Francois just never followed through on his part. He also did not pay any attention in our meeting where we decided the rules of the exchange, nor read the instructions.

    Fast forward to the gift exchange. We have like 40 people and it’s going really well! It is NOT the type where you bring any type of really crappy gift. Gag gifts, wine, something nice, something silly, etc. is all fine, but not anything that’s truly junk. Francois goes pretty early, gets something, and it’s stolen from him. What he REALLY wanted was the gift that was opened before him, and he could have stolen it instead of opening one, but didn’t, and after his gift was stolen, he had a second chance, but didn’t take it, and opens a new gift and gets… a used electric can opener. He is obviously stuck with this the rest of the game.

    No one ever confessed to the junk gift. Honestly, I would’ve been annoyed except… it was Francois that got stuck with it. After the game he complained, and I asked why he hadn’t just stolen the gift he wanted in the first place (twice). He looked at me shocked and said he didn’t know he could. That’s what you get for not paying attention and not reading my memo, Francois. Justice.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      “You were even rated on FUN on your annual review which would impact your raise.”

      Oh my God, I think I just broke into a cold sweat.

  79. Toaster_strudel*

    Not my office party but as a teenager my stepdad’s office parties were family friendly every other year. That particular year we went to the Aquarium. Not strange in and of itself. But he works for a large Seafood distributor so everyone was all sitting there eating crab and salmon and stuff in front of the fish. It felt a little wrong. I stuck to chicken.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This reminds me of Sheldon and Amy’s Thanksgiving Lunch date at the aquarium and all the hagfish discussion. :D

  80. Roy G. Biv*

    My company’s holiday party has changed over the years to a company-sponsored catered luncheon, but there was a time in the distant past when it was dinner and dancing with your plus one at a nice venue on a weekend night. As the size of the company grew the elegance of the event began to dwindle. One of the last years the party was still off site, it was scaled back to an hors d’oeuvres and cocktails event, with a live jazz combo. One of my coworkers chose to treat the event as her senior prom, and arrived in a ballgown and tiara. Her work bestie arrived, just as overdressed, with a large bouffant hair style (think 1970’s country music star), and they worked the room like it was fundraiser. All the officers of the company and their spouses were in attendance.

    It gets even better. “Frank,” a guy in another department, began slow dancing with his date. Mind you, there wasn’t a designated dance floor, and no one else was dancing. “Dancing” is not really the right description. In keeping with the prom-ish theme, the dance was just the two of them pressed together full body, slightly swaying, while the date had her hands in his back pockets. It was obvious she was groping Frank’s rear end. Frank had one arm draped around his date’s neck and shoulders, in what appeared to be an effort to remain stand upright. He held the beer bottle in the hand of the arm that was draped around her neck, so he could turn his head to the side and raise the bottle just a few inches to take another drink. His other hand was on his date’s rear end. As the rest of us began to notice this classy display of frat boy moves, Frank’s supervisor arrived to guide him to a table to sit down and take a break.

    The following year was the first year drink tickets were handed out, in the vain hopes of curtailing some of the most outrageous behavior. The year after that it was the luncheon at the office.

  81. YOLOha*

    At a previous job, the holiday party was combined with the quarterly all-staff meeting. The organization had grown rapidly over the preceding few years, but the format had stayed the same. This meant that what used to take 2 hours for 200 people could now take upwards of half a day for 500+. We sat through hours of updates from various depts including individual introductions of all the new people who had joined in the past quarter, and then we got to the annual holiday tradition: the senior staff members made up gift baskets that were then raffled off to the lowly peons (you got handed a raffle ticket as you entered). With 40-50 senior staff members, some of whom contributed 2 baskets, this took a long time. At the end of the raffle, all the staff lined up by department to be solemnly handed the annual holiday bonus by your boss: a $25 gift card that the company got by cashing in corporate credit card reward points. The amount had not changed in decades.

    One year the holiday party theme was “(CEO)’s favorite things,” just like Oprah! CEO spent a good part of their speech waxing rhapsodic about their love of their vacation home in Hawaii. I knew that they rented it out when they weren’t using it, so for a few minutes I was convinced that they were going to award some lucky employee with a nice vacation! Sadly my hopes were dashed when the HR staff began tossing out plastic leis to the crowd.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      My CEO is a genuinely good person who is very popular with the staff for his warmth and consideration of us, BUT I did once overhear him enthusiastically tell a colleague of mine who was in the market for a new-to-her used car, “oh, you HAVE to get the new Tesla!” It was definitely a moment of great cringe.

  82. angrytreespirit*

    The company I used to work for holds (or held, rather) a summer pig roast for folks in our field. You can imagine how those typically go. So this one year the pig has been roasted and almost everyone is already drunk before the food hits the plates. Shortly after that another round of shots comes out and one of the attendees, a colleague of mine decides he’s done. One of the most respected experts in the field start goading him, teasing him for being a p***, calling him a f****… really bad stuff. This pisses me off. I, a small blond person get right up in the face of this large, heavy, drunk man and start telling him to back off or I’ll give him something to be sorry about. I was really mad and he backed off. I was a little mortified about it, until the next year’s party when I met a random dude at the party who worked for large, heavy drunk man (who is conspicuously avoiding me like the plague). Random dude suddenly says, with this look of awe on his face, “WHOAH, YOU’RE (angrytreespirit)? (Large heavy drunk man) told me about you! You scared the literal SHIT out of him!!” My performance is apparently notorious. I laughed for days.

  83. Aspiegirl*

    Well, I have a story, but you might be able to guess where it takes place. At least, you might guess the chain I work for. That’s a risk I am willing to take, though.

    Two years ago, we had a holiday party at the location I work at of a large chain of family entertainment center brand. One of the things our chain has been known for is our stages of animatronic versions of the band our mascot is part of. Our location has such a stage still, and it plays a prominent role in this story.

    The party was mostly your standard fare of food, games, presents, etc., but we are proudly weird, so we did some weird things, too. One of the weirdest parts of the party was doing trust falls off the stage. It was not a requirement by any means, but if we volunteered to fall off the stage, we got to pick out a fun little prize that the boss bought from the dollar store. Being the giant child that I am, I had my eye on a Lisa Frank coloring page, so I volunteered.

    When it was my turn, I warned everyone that I was tall and clumsy, just in case they hadn’t noticed. I climbed up onto the stage. Everyone behind me counted to 3, as I stood by one of my robotic pals… and on 3, I flopped down into the arms of my bosses and coworkers. Not fell. Flopped. Everyone, including me, laughed.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Lisa Frank forever!!
      Aside from having an actual AMA session, my 4 year old self MUST know, who repairs said characters when they malfunction? A mouse mechanic?? xD

      1. Aspiegirl*

        Sorta. Every location has their own tech manager, and recently our tech did some major work on our stage for repairs. It’s beautiful.

  84. JustaTech*

    Two tales of White Elephant parties, one hilarious, one completely cringe-worthy.

    Hilarious: Several years ago my building (my work has several sites) decided to do a low-key, cheap ($20) White Elephant gift exchange. One of the gifts was an elaborate gift bag – always a sign of something funky, if the wrapping is really good. This was also soon after a bunch of people had left the company (layoffs or a mass exodus, I don’t remember). My coworker and friend Beth, who had been with the company a long time, ended up with the bag. Inside were plastic coins, plastic necklaces, all in silver. There was one of every piece of the absurd swag (think CDs and coasters) given away when we launched our main product; stuff that was useless then. There was also a framed photo of our former CEO, Dr. Silver. The person who gave the bag laughed with delight as Beth opened this stuff and finally cried, “It’s a bag of silver, get it?” Beth had been around long enough to remember all the people in all the photos to actually find it funny, and at the bottom of the bag was a Starbucks gift card.
    (The framed photo of the old CEO lurked around the building for several years.)

    The cringe-worthy: Another White Elephant, and the first for our brand-new CMO, who’s a slightly awkward guy. His gift (large and nicely wrapped) was a used laptop backpack from his previous company, our competitor. Usually our White elephant gifts were things people might actually want, and were new or like new. So this bag was clearly not the thing. The guy who got the backpack starts digging through it, assuming that the real gift (like a gift card) would be inside. He finds a charging cable and the CMO says “Oh, that’s where that’s been” and grabs it back! The guy who got the backpack is *pissed*. Thankfully I’d brought an extra gift, just in case, so he managed to get something better, but his whole group was frosty to the CMO for several months afterwards.
    Oh, and the real cherry on top? The party started at like 10 to accommodate everyone’s schedule, but some people insisted on getting out the wine. Some senior folks from another site happened to come by that day and saw the wine before noon and were mad, so then all our activities before 5 had to be dry for like a year (until all those people left).

  85. Prof Cat*

    We had an annual company overnight retreat right around the holidays each year. One year a bunch of us younger folks gathered in the central lobby to play Cards Against Humanity, and one of our older and somewhat more senior (not a manager) colleagues joined us after awhile. She got very drunk, played very sexual cards in response to every question, told a highly sexualized story to a recently-onboarded colleague who squirmed in their seat, and then downed her last drink, stood up, announced ‘I’m going to find my husband so we can have sex!’ and wandered off. It was both highly inappropriate and totally epic, and I’m glad I was there to see it. Probably should have paid for junior colleague’s therapy bills though.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      To be totally honest, though, I don’t think there’s a way to do Cards Against Humanity in a way that IS appropriate for a more buttoned-up professional workspace.

  86. Veryanon*

    A company where I used to work had legendary holiday parties – they would announce the year’s financial results (which were always fantastic) and then the decadence would begin. Full, unlimited open bar, various catered food stations around the office, a photo station where employees could get their pictures taken with Santa, the works. The last year I was there, it was a cowboy-western theme, and they actually had a mechanical bull along with various carny games that you might see at a country fair (like throwing balls to knock over milk bottles, that type of thing). I’m not sure who had the brilliant idea of mixing a mechanical bull with offering an unlimited open bar, but as you might imagine, more than one person lost the battle and there were several gross puddles on the ground around the mechanical bull before the night was over. I was shocked that no one was seriously injured – that would have been quite the workers’ comp claim.

  87. narya*

    I once worked for a company that had a woman in charge of “party planning” that had no business planning parties. Think Angela from The Office, same sort of rigid, kill-joy demeanor, and the last person you’d want in charge of anything fun. This company was a sinking ship and had long stopped sponsoring any activities for its employees, so morale was already pretty low. But when this lady was put in charge of party planning, it sank to all new depths.

    One Christmas, she decided to throw some kind of Mexican food buffet-style party in the office common room. The first problem was that all employees who wanted to participate had to pay $7 “at the door” to attend. So pay for our own party. The second, and most important problem, was that she had ordered a CRAPLOAD of food with company money, well in advance, without asking for RSVPs. She had the caterers come, set it all up, where the food just sat, and sat, and sat… for hours. NOBODY CAME. She had scheduled it the day before Christmas Eve, and most of the staff had taken that entire week off. Those that *were* there (such as I) did not partake, and went about our usual business of going out to lunch or leaving early before a holiday. When the caterers came back to clean up, they had to throw it ALL away. What a waste. So, in the end, the company *did* pay. They just never recouped the cost, and the food ended up in the dumpster. Merry Christmas.

    1. 1234*

      Wow WTF. Couldn’t they have given the food away to the employees who were working that day? (Without charging them)

      I also wouldn’t partake in a “work party” where I had to pay $7 “at the door.” Like you, I would’ve gone out and gotten my lunch/went about my day. Seeing stories like this makes me want to be the person on the party planning team at these companies.

    2. PJM*

      Wow, this one actually got me mad. I hate people with no common sense like this. I hope she got in trouble for this disaster. Within the first half hour when she clearly saw nobody was willing to pay, she should have sent an e-mail around giving away the food for free so that at least it wouldn’t go to waste.

  88. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.*

    When I was still working as a RN in a NICU/Women’s Center, the director always planned the holiday party. It was usually at a hotel or event center. I never attended as I never had any interest. Plus, there was a charge for attending, usually $25 that included some appetizers and non alcoholic drinks. The last year I worked, they not only charged to attend, but did raffles at work to help pay for the event. So, people bought raffle tickets to pay for the party. then had to buy another ticket to attend the actual party. UGH.

  89. ObserverCN*

    At my first job, we had a holiday party one year at a place with a lot of decorated Christmas trees. There was a raffle to win one of the trees, and the son of one of my Jewish co-workers won. He gave the tree to another (non-Jewish) employee who enjoyed it.

  90. Ada Lovelace*

    This story makes its round through my husband’s company every year. The company is a small organization with less than 10 staff in total – one of which was his best friend. My husband had been working there for less than 6 months in 2010. Officially, the holiday party started at a bar around 3pm, while they waited for other staff to finish their day. (Unofficially, a couple of guys had a holiday lunch party to start).

    We had just started dating and he was a little self-conscious to bring me, so we texted through the day. At one point husband stopped responding to text messages. I woke up in the morning to a call “Ada, I don’t know where I am. I can’t find my shoes/coat.” Turns out he ended up at the best friend’s girlfriend’s apartment. He’d met her but never been to her house. Best friend wakes up to find husband sneaking around, looking for trash bags to wear outside.

    That wasn’t even the best part. Husband remembers nothing of the night past 9pm. At one point, they ended up in a hotel rooftop bar in NYC. CEO covers everything. They’re throwing back shots like no one’s business. They didn’t close out the bar but got pretty close. Husband found out later, best friend and other colleagues carried him out of the bar to the cab and joking around called out “Make way for Diddy.” Of course, people in the bar freaked out all trying to get pictures of “Diddy”. Husband was 25 years old (did not look like Diddy minus being Black) and wasn’t even awake. There was a blind item in the papers the next day asking “What rapper was carried out drunk of a bar…”

  91. FashionablyEvil*

    My old office had a holiday party, usually at a director’s house after work. As part of the party, we did a white elephant gift exchange with a $10 limit. We get to the gift exchange portion of the event and people are opening things like silly snow globes, a mini rock garden, that sort of things. One of my colleagues was very conservative (didn’t drink, belonged to a church that didn’t approve of dancing, you get the idea.) and she opens a package and pulls out a bottle of wine. She says, “Oh well!” and we’re about to move on when a male colleague pipes up, and says, “oh, there’s more in there!” This time she pulls out a bar of fancy chocolate. Same male colleague pipes up again, “I have it on good authority there’s something else in there!” She pulls out a 12 pack of the “extended pleasure” variety of condoms. Male colleague says, “Now you’ll have a great evening!” Female colleague looked like she wanted to die.

    The next year, we had the party in the office over lunch and all gifts had to be brought in unwrapped.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      As a super conservative person myself, this made me cackle. Inappropriate, but totally funny.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      Yeesh! That sounds like a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen! EEEEEWWWW.

      Great gifts, but the condoms are super inappropriate for the office. EEEEWWW.

  92. Ally McBeal*

    At a former job, the head of our department was an eccentric and somewhat useless person whose birthday was around the winter holidays, and she let us know early on that her birthday was her FAVORITE holiday and she always made a big deal out of it. So one year, her newly hired suck-up second-in-command threw her a surprise birthday party over our lunch break… with a drag queen as the entertainment. We worked at a university – not an ad agency or creative field – our birthday parties and happy hours were usually just a couple bottles of wine and some homemade baked goods, maybe someone turned on Pandora. Because we didn’t much care for the dept head or her lackey, we all just sat quietly and smiled politely until we could go back to our desks and gchat about it.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Oh there was a performance and everything. I have always suffered from pretty severe second-hand embarrassment (watching American Idol auditions would sometimes be almost physically painful) and I just wanted to crawl under the table even though they were a perfectly competent & talented performer.

  93. Wendy*

    My husband’s company holds an “awards ceremony” which just HAPPENS to be holiday-themed and happen in December. He’d only been working there three weeks before last year’s party, so neither of us knew anyone and it was one of those awkward things for an introvert (him) and not so bad for me (extrovert).

    Anyway, one of the awards they give was basically the “covering our a$$” award – given to someone who made the biggest bonehead move but managed to save face in the end. I remember this one vividly because a) we didn’t know anyone there, and b) the CEO of the company did the best dramatic retelling EVER and the poor guy who “won” this award kept getting redder and redder :-D

    So: the company deals with a lot of projects which require extra security measures. One of these projects couldn’t be transmitted electronically – the award “winner” and his team were supposed to burn the data onto a set of CDs and drive them to the customer across town. It took a few hours and a LOT of CDs, but they did it. And then got a call from the company they delivered the CDs to, asking for the password to decrypt them.

    Unfortunately, in a fit of whimsy, the award-winner had set the master password to “[customer’s project name]sucks” – obviously not something you want the other company to see.

    So he, alone, ended up spending several more hours at work in the middle of the night burning a whole new stack of CDs with a more generic password and managed to convince the other company there must have been an error with the first set of disks :-P As far as I know the rest of the project went by perfectly professionally, but the CEO’s dramatic retelling probably helped remind others in the company not to set passwords you’d be embarrassed to say out loud :-D

  94. Jigglypuff*

    I worked at a small, family-owned florist shop for a few years. As a part of our work, everyone carried and regularly used a knife at work – for opening boxes, cutting floral stems, etc. etc.

    My sister and I had been in a packaging war with our presents at home, so the white elephant gift I brought to the party was dutifully wrapped in colorful paper but then covered in layers of clear mailing tape.

    When the person who received my gift struggled to open it, they were immediately greeted by an entire room full of people offering them the knives they had just whipped out of their pockets.

  95. Bear Shark*

    This happened the first holiday party after I got married. I had a co-worker, Nosy, who was convinced that as a newly married, childbearing-age female who’d once admitted that husband and I were probably going to have kids someday, I must be pregnant. If I felt sick for any reason, she’d ask if I was pregnant. She’d come right out and asked me multiple times already that year and was always convinced I was expecting and just hiding it from everyone.

    Husband and I are at the holiday party chatting with a group of my coworkers, when Nosy joins us and asks what I’m drinking.
    “Vodka and cranberry,” I reply.
    “Oh, is that non-alcoholic?” I don’t know if she was trying to “out” me or call me a liar or what.
    “The vodka?” was my reply and everyone else cracked up laughing. For months whenever I had a beverage of any kind in the office, the people who’d been in the group would ask me if it was non-alcoholic vodka.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Ahh!!! I had an office with a male Nosy! It was mortifying every time he asked me if I could be pregnant, which was at least 15 times in the 6 months I was there before I finally was able to move out of state. Glad you were able to shut her down.

  96. VanLH*

    My wife used to work at a small chain of locally owned, furniture stores. We had a Maine Coon mix for a cat who was the kindest, gentlest soul on two or four legs. He also loved us so much he followed us everywhere we went. My wife would tell nonstop stories about him at work on breaks, lunch or slow periods. She is also a very good story teller. So… year the manager of her small department (5 or 6 women) were allowed to vote where they wanted the Christmas party. You guessed it. They voted for our house. My mother in law came to help and we had a great time.

  97. IrishEm*

    At my first job out of college I went to one Xmas party and didn’t like it so never went again. The following year one of the Big Top Managers left the hotel in the back of a Garda car (the police, for non-Irish peeps ;)) for flicking lit cigarettes at the patrolling Gardaí after getting rather a lot of Dutch Courage. The company got banned from that hotel for life despite it being a bit of a dive, so… yeah. That’s probably the funniest story I have.

  98. Carrie*

    In my first job out of college I worked at a less than professional company that was mostly people 30 and under. My 20 something manager took the team out for drinks and got totally drunk my first week there. I think 23 year old me sort of knew that wasn’t professional? But this was the culture. We had a holiday party that was literally all day on a Friday. The drinking started in the morning and beer and wine were free the entire party which included a restaurant lunch and a bar crawl. They started the day with warnings to pace yourself and stories of crazy past shenanigans. So more or less it was expected to be a crazy party with lots of drunkenness. This was a company in big expensive US city where I was making 30K and that was the top end of the salary range for my position. But they decided to spend money on this and fly remote workers in from all over. I digress. I’d never been a big partier/binge drinker but regularly got drinks with friends and was sure I knew my limits. I was going to have fun but be professional. The night ended (for me anyway) with me puking in the bathroom and a coworker putting me in a taxi with 10 bucks toward the fare. I was obviously in bad shape but I was NOT drunk enough to forget that there was no way I could afford a taxi home on 30K. I had the taxi drive me around the corner and drop me at the subway. I tried to console myself with that later while I was nursing a hangover and dying of embarrassment that I’d behaved that way after only a few months at the company. I got to work on Monday to realize no one except too coworkers had even noticed. I left around 10pm and another coworker had broken his foot drunkenly dancing and had to go to the emergency room. Clearly no one cared that I was quietly sick in the bathroom and went home early…

  99. Not Australian*

    Maybe not funny, but certainly a very *odd* Christmas celebration. My old boss suddenly and spontaneously decided to fly the whole firm (21 people) to Dublin from Bristol for lunch. We had a temp receptionist who stayed behind at the office and generally just took messages and made appointments, and the rest of us got up at crack of dawn and fell onto the cheapest of no-frills flights. We got to Dublin mid-morning, went by bus to the city centre, and piled into a pub where we ordered lunch at the boss’s expense – and those who enjoyed drinking made a start on their day’s efforts.

    After eating, a colleague and I wanted to take a look at the city so we went off for a walk and left everyone else drinking. We got back to the pub to find them all just about ready to hear for the airport and the flight home, but nobody had bothered to find out where we should catch the bus so they were busy trying to arrange taxis. Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication or slight cultural difference we weren’t told that the Irish taxi drivers wouldn’t come into the building but would expect people to be waiting outside – so, having called about three or four times and no taxi having arrived (as we thought) we were beginning to worry about catching our flight home. The pub staff eventually explained the problem, by which time the taxi company weren’t accepting calls from us and the traffic was building up outside … culminating in the alarming sight of a very small and frail-looking female junior partner launching herself across what I remember as five lanes of traffic to snag a taxi that was going the wrong way; some of us were able to squeeze into that, and the driver called his dispatcher and got another two vehicles sent out, and we ended up collapsing into the departure lounge just before the gate was opened for our flight. The whole thing was chaotic and mismanaged and really a few bottles of booze and a couple of plates of sandwiched in the board room would have been a better idea. Suzannah pretty much kidnapping a taxi, though, that was a sight to behold!

    1. Not Australian*

      Sigh, *head* for the airport. *Sandwiches*. I can’t even blame autocomplete, just fat fingers.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Oh my word, I was definitely expecting someone to get left behind in Ireland and no one to realize it till the next day :D

  100. MorbidKristi*

    Long ago when I was short of cash and hadn’t found a full-time job, I managed to get a gig designing web pages for colleagues and professional contacts of my boss at the place where I had a part time contract. (I did a web page for his business and he was unduly impressed by the fact that it was somewhat better than the previous very dated looking version. So I got to make some money on the side designing pages for various small accounting and legal firms with low standards and / or budgets.)
    A professional organization that most of them belonged to had a very swanky Christmas party. Boss was an executive of the organization and I think took some pride in having ‘discovered’ me and brought all these other firms into the Internet age, so he wangled me an invitation so I could meet current and potential clients in person.
    I was a very broke new graduate and this was by far the fanciest thing I’d ever been to, all white tablecloths and crystal and fancily gowned and jeweled people of my parents’ generation, and I felt very out of place, sitting there in my Walmart finery. Many of the foods were things I’d never seen, let alone eaten, before and I was not at all used to drinking alcohol, so the initial glass of wine (accompanied by a plate of scattered leaves pretending to be a salad) left me feeling odd. And then they brought out the main course.
    Vegetable fragments, a blob of some sort of garnish, and quails. Two little naked birds with pimply, pale skins flopped on my plate like fetal corpses. For some reason I just could not handle this, and I promptly threw up all over my plate, the table and my lap.
    The oddest part was that the strangers at my table, after a pause, went on talking around me and pretended not to notice that anything had happened. I slunk away to the bathroom, cleaned up as best I could, and returned (still smelling of vomit) to a cleaned seat and fresh pair of quail which I spent the rest of the dinner trying not to look at.

    1. Josie*

      Oh, no, that’s so bad! They all acted like they didn’t notice? That’s the craziest part of the story. I hope you have much nicer experiences for ever more!

  101. The holiday from hell*

    Several years ago, my boss decided what we really needed was a holiday party focused around an activity – so he decided it would have our party in a “family fun center” which was basically an arcade. It had bumper cars and tiny merry go around and a train that was meant for little children. Did I mention none of us had little children? But no matter, Boss said, everyone from your families can come. And boy, did they! One of my co-workers took the opportunity to bring their entire extended family – she was the youngest of all of them – free food! (Not free booze, because my boss did not want to be responsible for – in his words – “you running over your co-workers while drunk.” But the place did have a bar which everyone of age took full advantage…)

    My boss brought his painfully shy 14 year old son, who I got along with fairly well, as I was also painfully shy at that age. His girlfriend brought her 15 year old daughter. It was clear girlfriend’s daughter thought boss’ son was a loser, and I was already annoyed by her from the hello.

    Girlfriend’s daughter brought her around the same age boyfriend…and his slightly older (but still underage) “piece on the side” – who was midway through transition from female to male. I had a number of co-workers who did not know how to handle this admission – both the concept of being trans and also being a “piece on the side”, but it didn’t bother me. I think I had a couple of sentences of conversation with the three of them after Boss’ girlfriend admonished them to “work the room” and say hello to everyone.

    So the party progressed and I was busy playing pinball and such things and I didn’t really pay attention to where the teenagers had gone. After all, all four of them were the youngest people at the party.

    I was sitting and chatting with my boss when his son suddenly appeared at his elbow, looking very distressed, and whispered something to his father. My boss turned around with a shocked expression, “What?” and make his excuses to me.

    Boss’ son had come upon Boss’ girlfriend’s daughter, her boyfriend and his “piece on the side” who had decided to take advantage of the very beat up pool table in the dark corner and engage in what my boss termed as a threesome. His son knew enough that clothes had been removed and this was not appropriate behavior in a public place.

    Quote the boss’ girlfriend – “Well, it’s all right because she’s on birth control and his piece on the side can’t actually get her pregnant.”

    We never had another holiday party for the three years I worked there afterward.

  102. Aussie*

    I worked at a gas station and our boss was known for throwing fantastic open bar Christmas parties every year (to make up for the fact that we worked Christmas day on minimum wage). One year he got us into a fairly fancy golf club, fast forward to 2am where aghast staff are watching us basically mosh on the dance floor (we had a DJ and all) ending with my boss bringing the whole ceiling down after accidentally after one particularly vigorous air punch. Needless to say we were not welcomed back.

  103. SpurLeeLoch*

    I had just started an internship at the beginning of December and I was starting to realize that it wasn’t what they had promised me (it was an absolute bait and switch-nothing they told me in the interview process was even remotely close to my actual job. Instead of learning anything about accounting I was covering for a receptionist most days)
    They had been building up the holiday party, especially the gifts under the tree. The managers were constantly talking about how amazing the gifts would be, how excited we were going to be, etc. So we’re pretty excited-my last job had my grandboss just handing out envelopes of cash (the perfect gift if we’re being honest), so I thought it’d be cool to have actual presents. The day of our holiday party and we’re about to open the presents. The managers are literally yelling with excitement, they have the camera ready to catch our reaction, aaaaaannnndddd-
    It’s office supplies.
    They gave us business cards, they gave us pens, they gave us jackets with the company logo that were clearly from the backrooms of the other offices (they were branded with the different locations).
    And my coworkers lost their minds.
    They are flipping out, they are SO excited. One guy yells, “Oh my God!! Business cards!! This is so cool!! I’ve been needing these!”
    And I’m like, yes. That’s the point, though. We DO need these things, which is why they are supplied to us. These are not Christmas presents, these are business expenses….
    At the lunch we went to afterwards everyone wanted to wear their awful corporate branded clothes and tried to make me feel bad about not wearing mine (it’s hideous! Nope.) Then the grandboss there gave a speech about how awesome it was that they were able to reimburse tuition for employees, and when I asked her how it worked she waggled her eyebrows at me and said in a sing-song voice, “Oh, that just depends.” Wait, what? How it would it depend?? She dodged all my questions, but then I saw her cut a check for my coworker for tuition literally the next day and they both acted like it was a state secret when I asked about it. One of the main reasons I took the internship was the tuition assistance, so it was just…odd.
    I wound up leaving that job the following February- it was just so dysfunctional and toxic!! The coworker who had her school reimbursed found out that her dad’s new girlfriend was a resident at the property I used to manage, and asked me to break into my old office (!), steal the information about the girlfriend’s new house (which would have been her forwarding address for the property manager), and then drive to the new girlfriends house for a “stake out” (she couldn’t do it because she and her mom had a restraining order). WTF?! And the other coworkers were Very. Upset. that I wouldn’t “help her out”. Sorry, y’all, I don’t do felonies for wack-a-doodle coworkers.
    I left that place for a new job and I couldn’t be happier. Plus New Job gives out cash for Christmas, and I can order office supplies all year long :D

  104. Ebb*

    I used to work in hospitality, and some of those company parties were just ridiculous. Some of my best moments:

    1) A coworker got absolutely trashed drunk, and another coworker and I had to spend TWO HOURS arguing her out of driving home. At one point the owner of the company came over (while she was sitting on the ground in her white pants sobbing) and said “if you drive home tonight, you will not have a job in the morning,” which is all very well and good, but he stated it emphatically like it was a trump card that would solve the whole situation, and she was waaaaaay past the point of processing it, so were were just like “ok thanks for your help, we have to get back to wrangling her now.” The next day I had to fill in the blanks for her, which was tough.

    2) We had a party in the industrial sector of our city, in a warehouse. Once parked, to get to the venue you had to cross some train tracks. I and a clump of coworkers who all arrived at the same time were ready to cross the tracks when a slow-moving freight train came by. Knowing that it would take at least 10 minutes for the whole thing to pass, somehow everyone decided that HOPPING A MOVING TRAIN was the best solution. I was young and dumb and allowed myself to be peer pressured into it, but I think that climbing between cars on a moving train to get to a company party is the most dangerous thing I’ve done to date.

    3) At a work White Elephant, our one underage employee somehow kept opening bottles of alcohol!! Then the owner had to be like OK SOMEONE STEAL THAT and by the time she opened the FOURTH package (a bottle of Jameson) he was like “Why do I employ a bunch of alcoholics???” and we made a rule that you couldn’t give booze at the company party next year.

    4) At the same White Elephant, I gave a package of homemade hot chocolate mix, a couple tiny bottles of locally made liquor, and a small houseplant in a sparkly pot. The person who opened it downed the bottles in front of everyone, snorted the hot chocolate mix as a joke, and abandoned the plant at the front desk, where everyone got to watch it die for the next few months.

    5) Our workplace was in the bottom floor of a hotel, and the roof was an event space that we scheduled and staffed. We used the event space for our company party and were apparently so loud and toxic (and guilty of dropping things off the roof to the sidewalk below? at least that’s what I heard) that we, the tenants of the building, were banned from using our own event space in the future.

    6) A different restaurant I worked at had beehives. At a company party in our parking lot, the bees swarmed. It was a thrilling experience.

    7) In an effort to be cheap, our company party was held at a very downscale restaurant and bar. The health code rating was posted on the door — the lowest it could possibly be and still be open. Because all health code violations are public info, one employee looked it up on his phone, then entertained us all at the buffet by reciting the violations and the many times they’d been shut down. It did not endear us to the food. Also the entire entertainment appeared to be two competing karaoke machines at opposite corners of the room.

  105. TurtleIScream*

    This is tangentially related to an office holiday party. In 2008, I had lost a lot of weight, bought some new clothes, and basically looked freaking awesome and hot at my husband’s work party. We also had been struggling with infertility that year, so yes, I totally used this opportunity to embrace and flaunt my femininity.

    Seven months later, I was 7 months pregnant (yep.) I was visiting my husband at work, and ran into a man I had met at the party. He recognized my face, got a flirty look on his face, then noticed the belly. He stumbled over his words “Last time I saw you, you were…! Wow, you look great…ummmm, things sure have changed…. So, good to see you again, kbye.”

  106. Still Looking (Maybe)*

    Back in my early 20s I worked for a small company run by two brothers. For Christmas, they’d shut the office down for a couple hours and take us all to a nice restaurant, usually in a hotel, where we could order whatever we wanted. Appetizers, dessert, coffee with dessert. Even included one glass of wine or one beer or cider. And if we ordered enough to have some to take home for a second meal, they never said a word. We’d also get a card with a gift certificate or money, but it was the lunch that several of us held sacred. The food was outside of anything we could buy ourselves, our bosses were entertaining, and we got out of work for a couple hours. One of my coworkers Bev and I held onto the tradition religiously and now our actions seem ridiculous, but then it felt life or death.

    At some point we added a couple new people. At hearing our Christmas tradition, they two newbies talked one of the brothers into having a party at the office after work. When Brother 1 came into the office Bev and I shared and told us the change, we both blew a gasket. Using paper to pass notes we shred after reading (we didn’t want there to be digital tracks you know) we met after work to decide what we were going to do. The next morning we sat in our office chairs just inside our offices and did nothing but glare at people until that got boring then we read novels we had brought.. Brother 1 finally came to find out what was wrong and we told him we were on strike (I cringe about this now). He and Bev argued back and forth on the holiday party until finally, and I’ll remember this forever, Bev stands up and shouts so the whole office had to have heard “It’s us or the party, Jack!” At this point the newbies are kind of freaking out because our office was pretty chill and the party wasn’t that big of deal to them.

    The Christmas lunch was back and changing it was never discussed as long as I was there. No surprise neither newbie one stayed more than a year there.

  107. Euphony*

    Several years ago I was working in a small department of around 10 people. As we were a brand new team on a new project we had a lot of interaction with the director, so we thought it would be nice to include him in the Secret Santa and he was delighted to be included. The name he pulled belonged to the most junior trainee on the department, who appeared to be of South Asian heritage. The director therefore thought it would be a good idea to buy the trainee a pack of Kama Sutra playing cards. Unfortunately the trainee was actually Muslim (not Hindu), from a family that had fled India during Parturition, and had a strict personal prohibition against all forms of gambling (including playing cards). Then there was the cards themselves- the director hadn’t actually checked the description properly and the cards turned out to be highly NSFW with some very graphic pictures and detailed descriptions…..

      1. pancakes*

        Right, I don’t think there has ever been a SFW version in any form. Maybe as a gag, with black bars across the couples’ bits.

        1. Euphony*

          I think the director had no idea what the Kama Sutra actually was – he just knew it was “Indian” and assumed the trainee was Indian and would therefore like it.

          1. pancakes*

            Groan! “There is just one thing I know about an enormous part of the world I associate you with, and I don’t have a handle on it at all.”

  108. Catabodua*

    I’m older than dirt so my very first job out of college, the place had a tradition where each department had a signature drink. So Marketing was making daiquiris, Accounting made White Russians, Service had a keg, etc. etc. Then you wondered around all day, getting different drinks. Lots of people also brought in food or treats to share. It was surprisingly mellow and no one ever got plastered. Many folks didn’t even drink and that was fine too.

    New management a few years after I started there were HORRIFIED and put an end to it.

  109. ggg*

    Several years ago now we had a white elephant party, limit $5. I contributed $5 in Bitcoin, on a fancy paper wallet, which I thought would be appreciated by our group of nerds. I “wrapped” it in an old floppy disk case and put some candy in with it.

    Unfortunately the person who got the Bitcoin had no idea what it was and announced it as “a box of candy with a coupon.” So nobody even stole it, because who would want a lame floppy disk box full of peppermints? I couldn’t even speak up at the time because I was across the room and it was really loud.

    I did try to explain it to her later, but she was not wrapping her head around this Bitcoin thing. If she still has it, it’s probably worth around $25 right now.

    1. The Reflex*

      Imagining this was 5 years ago, $5 would have netted 0.012 bitcoin, which is now worth $217

      Best white elephant gift ever!

  110. Nelly*

    I used to work at a college as the librarian. Our boss banned all holiday gatherings, particularly Christmas or birthday parties, as she thought staff would use it as an opportunity to collude against her. We were also not allowed to have lunch with each other – or ever socialise with ex-employees (not that she could stop us), in case we attempted to plan a coup.

    1. 1234*

      Well, if she was actually a decent boss, she wouldn’t have to worry about her staff planning a coup against her.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Sounds a bit like my former boss. We never had parties either. My colleague and I were sensible folks and discussed our holiday plans together. We worked it out so we didn’t go on holiday at the same time, to make sure the work would be covered, and when my colleague told the boss we’d discussed it previously together (so he’d know I agreed to the plans), he accused us of forming a workers’ union!

  111. Usagi*

    Back when I worked for Massive Corporation, big holiday parties were a Thing. Because I live in a remote part of the world (still a big city, just remote compared to other places due to geography), we got funding to throw our own party. Most years were pretty decent, with 50-60 people all enjoying some sort of activity with food and alcohol.

    Then there was the year of “Anal Girl.”

    We had a new employee start with us right before the party. Like she was hired, had her two weeks of training/shadowing, and then party. She seemed nice enough, kind of quiet, if not kind of awkward (in an endearing kind of way). I personally arrived to the party a little late, a common symptom of I-have-kids-itis. Everyone had already had a drink or two, and while things were definitely rowdier than usual, we had a very casual work culture, and everyone was pretty responsible. Except for the new girl. I later found out that by the time I arrived, she had already had three rounds of shots. That, coupled with the fact that she’s very small (I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing 5’1? and very skinny) meant she was blasted. She was kind of sadly sitting off by herself, and as I did not know at this point how much she had to drink, not to mention what had happened until this point, I went over and sat by her; I didn’t want our new employee to feel left out of the party.

    She perked up immediately as I sat down, started telling me how she really appreciates the company, she was afraid no one liked her, she doesn’t really know anyone yet so she can’t break into any conversations, etc. I’m kind of nodding along when she suddenly (like mid-sentence) stops, whips her head at me, and says, 100% seriously, “oh my god, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

    I, of course, was not.

    She got this massive smile, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me to this like… nook? Storage area? Closet without a door? tucked behind the bar. It looked like the space where all the chairs would be stacked at closing time or something. She starts… dancing? Seductively? and at this point the mixture of shock and not being very socially adept causes my brain to short circuit and I’m deer in the headlights. She grabs me and whispers in my ear, “buy me another shot and I might be convinced to try anal.”

    That’s the slap in the face I need to snap back to reality and get the heck out. Talking to some friends/coworkers later, I found out that she used that exact line on several other people (mostly men, but also two women) over the course of the night.

    I don’t know if this is common for Massive Corporations but it was next to impossible to fire someone (HR was ridiculously over-cautious, every protected class is taken super seriously, meaning the most HR would ever do was transfer someone to another team, but because of our remote-ness, that meant nothing as we were the only team here), so she was there for 3 or 4 years. To her credit, she apologized to everyone for her behavior, then apologized one-on-one to each person she pulled those shenanigans on. She also never got drunk at a company party ever again, and went back to being the quiet, (significantly more, but still in an endearing way) awkward person. We ended up being pretty good friends too, contrary to what you might think.

    As I finish writing this I realize that many people’s reactions to this story will maybe be more “abject horror” than “haha that’s funny” but I assure you we all laugh about it now.

    1. David*

      Oh as long as nobody got hurt and the people involved are all laughing about it now, I’m definitely in camp funny! Great story.

  112. Finland*

    My boss from a job I had years ago was a very cool, laid-back guy who was very good at giving gifts. So one year at Christmastime, he gave me a three-tiered box of premier chocolates and chocolate-covered nuts. It was very beautifully wrapped and stood over a foot tall.
    I was admiring the gift and effusively thanking him for it—until he untied the ribbon, opened the first box, and started snacking on the chocolate-covered almonds right in front of me. I gave him a look and said “hey, those are mine!” He cocked his head and gave me a look right back and said “I bought ‘em!”

  113. MissAgatha*

    I worked in the office at a food distribution warehouse. We had a young lad of a forklift operator who had only worked for us for a month or so, and had only been 21 for a few days. He was a law-abiding citizen and didn’t drink before he turned 21, so the other guys in the warehouse very helpfully wanted to give him a good experience for his first bender, including taking him out to pre-game before the actual Christmas party. About 10 minutes after my husband and I left the party (thankfully because it was hard enough to get my husband to go to these parties), he projectile vomited all over the table at the country club. A year or so later, we hired a new IT guy and when he was introduced to the guy he immediately said “omg are you the one who projectile vomited at the Christmas party?!”

    1. pancakes*

      It’s pretty cruel to do that to someone who for sure doesn’t know their limits, doubly so in a work setting.

  114. kn*

    A few years back I worked at a tech startup that was starting to unravel. There had been one round of layoffs in June and another, deeper round in Sept. However the c-suite had been pretty much untouched, in spite of rumors swirling. Finally, one morning in Dec, we got an email that almost all of them, including the blowhard founder/CEO, were “moving on” for various personal and professional reasons (in other words they had all been sacked by the board). Coincidentally this was also the day of the holiday party.

    If the previous rounds of layoffs had been the tragedy this was definitely the farce. Employees arrived at the office looking dumbstruck and immediately got down to trading gossip. There was an all hands Q&A that clarified little about what was happening with the company going forward. I don’t think anyone was that sad for the execs (well, I felt bad for their assistants who got laid off as well) but there was definitely a pervasive sense of “wtf just happened?”. People started raiding the beer fridge by noon (usually it wasn’t touched until after 6pm, ahh startup life).

    After highly unproductive day, it was time for the party, which was at a nice venue with hours of unlimited open bar. There was some awkwardness over the guest list. Most of the fired execs still attended, but one of the laid off admins who was known for being volatile was specifically banned. The one exec who was being retained and promoted to CEO also attended, along with his wife, the new Mrs. CEO, decked out in a gown like it was the Met Gala or something (ridiculously overdressed in context).

    It was a messy, emotional and very boozy party, a ridiculous end to a ridiculous year pretty much. Fortunately for me, I had started applying to jobs after the previous round of layoffs and finally got an offer call the same afternoon. So, I had a great time. I bailed from the after-drinks by 1am but I think some brave souls continued on to karaoke somewhere after that. I miss my coworkers from that job a lot but am glad to be working somewhere more stable these days.

  115. Not Your Average Jo(lene)*

    I work for a government agency so the deal is you get like 2 hrs for a “party”. We played White Elephant one year and someone misunderstood the rules in place. It was supposed to be a new gift but instead she gave used bathroom items. Barrier cream was one of the items I remember. It was so awkward and I just remember laughing nervously because that was terrible for the person to receive and for her to give. I was embarrassed for her.

    1. Wendy*

      I was a part of a cringe-worthy one where nobody explained what “dirty santa” was to the newbies. Everyone was opening cutesie Christmas-themed gifts (since that was kind of the expectation for this particular exchange)… and then one of the more conservative ladies opened a gift that turned out to be an adult toy complete with suction cup for use in the shower.

      We never did figure out which newbie it was – nobody fessed up. Luckily someone else at the party was immediately like “Ooh, I’ll take that!” and stole it, freeing the conservative co-worker from having to take it home, and the lady who ended up with it thought the whole thing was hilarious.

  116. M313*

    This is more debacle than funny, probably, but it’s the best I’ve got, and it’s also a fairly textbook example of how NOT to raise staff morale during the holiday season.

    At my previous job there was a long running tradition of the holiday decorating contest. I thought it was completely asinine, since all the decorating had to be done on the employees’ own time and out of our own pockets, but most of the rest of the staff really got into it. I pretty much always opted out (my supervisor would always make a point of reminding me that I wouldn’t get to enjoy whatever the prize was, if our department won the contest, but we never did).

    Anyway, one year my supervisor, apparently sick of me being the dept Grinch, just went up to me and told me that I’d be bringing in stuff for the contest tomorrow. Specifically, because the contest theme was “winter in New York” that year, I was told to bring in stuff for a mock hot dog stand.

    Normally I would’ve refused, saying I was opting out as usual. However, the nature of our work meant that we needed to still get 5 days’ worth of work done even in a week that had been shortened by the holiday, so we’d all been working long hours to make it happen. I was tired and didn’t have the energy for that argument, so I agreed, figuring it would be easier to just go along for once.

    I was wrong. That workday was even longer and more frustrating that I would’ve expected, and when I left the office, all I wanted to do was go home, eat something, veg in front of the TV for a bit, and then sleep. Instead, I had to stop at the grocery store to pick up stuff for a contest that I think is the stupidest, most obnoxious thing in the world. I’m now intensely annoyed at being voluntold to do this, but I get the hot dogs, buns, toppings, and a case of soda as directed and drive home.

    Under other circumstances I would’ve just left everything in my car, but it was really, really cold out, being late December, and I was afraid the soda would freeze and the cans would explode. So I decide to take it inside for the night.

    The box breaks open when I lift it out of my trunk. Cans of soda go tumbling onto the street and immediately roll under my car. A few of them break open and start spraying soda. So there I am, in the middle of a frigid December night, on my hands and knees and trying to retrieve all these cans, *cursing a blue streak* all the while. I honestly cannot imagine how deranged I would have looked, had anyone been around to see me then.

    And remember, all of this meant to be part of a *fun* activity we were supposed to be grateful for getting to do.

  117. Zulema*

    I work for a start-up outside of the US. In our first year of operation, we held an end-of-year celebration, which included a speech from leadership, teambuilding games, and a big catered lunch for all teams. We also had a Secret Santa exchange, as we were small enough that everyone knew one another, but had only included teammates at a certain pay grade and up (the pay differential between staff levels can be quite substantial in our location). The managers organized for the support staff team (facilities, catering, etc) to receive gift cards from the company so they would also receive something, but without the financial pressure of the Secret Santa exchange on top of an already expensive month. One of our leaders also bought back-up gifts for anyone who forgot their gift on the day of the exchange.

    In our second year, we grew from about 50 employees to nearly 200, with a large percentage of new teammates in support roles, and more than one work site. Leaders delegated the party organization to several newer teammates. Company-provided gift cards to support staff were removed from the budget as it was no longer a sustainable expense given the organization’s size.

    The new party organizers insisted on a Secret Santa exchange including all staff (no opt-out) with a budget that was notably not negligible for our lowest earning teammates. When questioned on this decision, they were adamant that no one be left out, and that it would be a great opportunity for the larger team to come together and get to know one another. The following ensued:
    – Teammates buying gifts for a coworker they had never met before. Picture a lot of generic mugs and candies being opened.
    – Teammates asked to “guess” and find their Secret Santa after opening their gift, in a sea of 200 people also milling around in confusion. (How do you guess who purchased your solid blue mug?)
    – Many teammates who never received a gift that day, some leaving the party in tears.

    Needless to say, in following years, Secret Santa became a plan-it-within-your-own-functional-team-if-you-want-it deal, separate from the main company celebration.

  118. Me*

    Can we have one of these posts for birthdays at the office at some point? Because while I don’t have any interesting stories about holiday parties (my job does a very simple “here’s some free food from that one deli everyone likes, it’s available during your shift, enjoy!”), I do have a Horrible Boss Birthday Party story. And I suspect others might as well.

  119. Karaoke anyone?*

    Like many offices, my previous job had a Dirty Santa. When someone’s name was drawn out of a hat, they could choose to ‘steal’ a gift from someone who already had one, or open a new gift from a pile. We had a $25 limit, and I thought I’d nailed it with a $20 wireless karaoke microphone. When it came my turn to open a gift, I elected to choose from the pile. What did I pick? Another $20 wireless karaoke microphone (Kmart literally had a Secret Santa section that year), BUT this gifter was more generous than me, and had also included one of those fun little books you find at the counter of bookstores. This one was titled “Images you should not masturbate to”( I should add here that this book wasn’t setting off any pearl-clutching morality alarms. A bunch of pissed Australians working for a creative agency on a boat had no moral objections. Anyway, the whooping and hollering was probably heard all across Sydney Harbour, and a furious stealing war erupted for the microphone and book. Every subsequent person chose to steal the book (and microphone) until it had passed thought about five people, each of whom took their turn to grab the book and yell about the situations contained therein to an enraptured audience, while displaying the pictures. It was hot property! A junior staff member stopped the mayhem when it was her turn. She timidly announced “I don’t really want that book” and suddenly the mood shifted. The book had caused some kind of collective ecstatic delusion, and her comment seemed to bring everyone back down to earth. The person stuck with the book subsequently spruiked it to everyone whose name was drawn thereafter, but there were no takers. A bit of a penitent “when can we get out of here” vibe descended, and the rest of proceedings were rushed through quickly. The cherry on top was when the head of HR finally opened my karaoke mic, which was one of the last wrapped gifts left. “Someone’s cheap! This was going with a book before!”. I’m pretty sure someone quietly forced ownership of the book upon her, in the end.

  120. awaskyc*

    I used to work in the editorial department of a major book publisher. The holiday tradition for one of the divisions was to do a Secret Santa—except you weren’t supposed to give a gift. You gave a piece of original poetry. Rewriting lyrics to a holiday song was also acceptable. Participation was not optional. This is exactly as excruciating as it sounds. And in case it was not clear, being professional editors did not actually mean we could all write poetry.

    At the exchange, we all gathered in the boss’s office (he was a lovely, lovely man by the way—poetry exchanges not withstanding). He would then open each submission and read it for everyone. Or, if it was a song, he would sing it with a voice that could charitably be described as bullfrog-esque. This would take a couple of hours.

    I remember my poem being received with bafflement—I had entered the person’s name in Google with “is”, as in “Martha is,” and then the poem was the top results. But one of my closest work friends managed to seriously offend her recipient. I don’t remember the contents of the poem, but I remember thinking it was pretty innocuous. Nevertheless, the recipient refused to talk to my friend after that.

      1. Usagi*

        Oh my god you’re one syllable off from being a haiku too.

        The only approach
        I can think of for this would
        Be a haiku… dude.


  121. Beth*

    This is not a story of an embarrassing moment or a terrible party, but it was pretty damned funny.

    We’re in a part of the country where a LOT of professionals are Jewish — the grocery stores always have displays for the Jewish holidays as well as Christmas, traffic visibly drops on the major holy days, etc.

    My company’s two senior partners (out of a grand total of nine people) are both secular Jews. It’s the kind of company where we get a handful of holiday gift baskets, etc., from clients every year. One year, a GREAT big box was delivered to the office in early December.

    It contained . . . a small, decorated, potted Christmas tree.

    Seniorest founding partner (in his 70s): I’ve never had one of these before.

    Other founding partner (in her 60s): Neither have I.

    (They study the tree for a few moments.)

    Seniorest founding partner: That was really sweet of [client].

    Other founding partner: Yes, it was.

    And that was it. No pearl-clutching or interdenominational drama. Just a moment’s appreciation of a slightly errant but well-intentioned gesture. We kept the tree in the front waiting area until the holidays were over, and then I think someone took it home and planted it.

    1. Elizabeth Bennet*

      I worked with a Jewish family once and one of them once told me they’re never offended when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas, because the intent is to wish them joy. I’ve embraced her philosophy.

    2. WonderWoman*

      This is a funny story, but I’m uncomfortable with the “it’s so annoying when Jews complain about having Christmas forced on them vibe” I’m getting. It’s true that it’s often easier and kinder to assume goodwill, but . . . well, goodwill can’t always be assumed. People get weirdly aggressive about Christmas, and everyone has a right to a religion-free work environment.

      1. curly sue*

        Thank you. This is a much more civil framing than the argument I’ve been having in my head this morning. Minorities should not have to perform agreeability in order to make others comfortable.

      2. Usagi*

        People often go the opposite direction with it too and try to “defend” non-Christians (or, more correctly I guess, non-Christmas-celebrating folks) from people being too Christmas-y.

        I worked for a very large corporation that was all about being PC, to the point where there was an unspoken rule that you had to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” During one holiday season, I was having a one-on-one touchbase with my skip-boss and he was really harping on saying happy holidays. I looked him in the eye and told him that I’m Buddhist, and that we don’t even have a holiday around this time (fun fact, though, I’m Japanese, and we celebrate Christmas, though it’s non-religious — it’s a time for couples to go on dates, people to give gifts, and you eat chicken with your family; we don’t have turkeys. Also, I married a Catholic woman so I do celebrate Christmas “for real” now), and I could see this man’s brain break. He flipped out, stammering out panicky apologies and saying how he was going to make sure we stopped saying happy holidays. I told him not to worry about it, but that we also shouldn’t assume anything about anyone, I for one don’t mind it when someone tells me merry Christmas because at the very least I take it as “have a great December.”

        Ironically, we always had red and green decorations up every year.

        1. WonderWoman*

          Ah, yes, people going overboard with being “too PC” is a great reason for all this backlash against Jews who aren’t interested in having Xmas forced on them, especially given the climate of growing antisemitism that results in very real violence against their communities.

  122. Elizabeth Bennet*

    The CEO of my current employer is a prankster who one year bought machine-made snowballs and had a snowball fight in the office with the other C-suite personnel. (We’re in Texas, where snow is usually an annual event of less than an inch.) I learned my C-suite boss has quite the arm!

    For the holiday company party that year, we had a raffle for wrapped gifts. Winners opened gifts that were useful, borderline gag gifts (think oven mitts and thermal underwear), until the final box. The woman who won had a hell of a time getting into the box for all the tape, to find another well-taped box, like Matryoshka dolls. I think she ended up fighting her way through seven very well taped boxes to receive a box cutter in a clamshell package.

  123. Bond, Municipal Bond*

    Many years ago when I was in the Army, my unit came down on orders to deploy to Iraq. Our departure would be almost immediately after Christmas, so the timing, especially for those with families, was particularly crappy. To their credit, our HQ was super sensitive to this, and they went all out to schedule family and social events in the weeks leading up to our departure.

    One of these events was a holiday cocktail social for senior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) and their plus ones at the installation community club (bar, dance floor, game room, lounge area, etc.). It was billed as a casual event and, although no specific dress code was communicated, by the time you reach the ranks that we all were, it’s generally understood that business casual or the equivalent is customary.

    Enter an NCO and his wife. Now, I’m not the type to pass judgement on any woman (or on anyone really) for their wardrobe choices; you do you. I will, however suggest that a “top” consisting solely of nipple caps with tassels was arguably a liiiiittle outside the norm for an occasion like this. Did I mention the base we were stationed at is in the far northern part of the country where it gets insanely cold? Yeah, so, it was a little distracting but kind of funny, and since there was no shortage of booze and no one had formally put out a dress code, everyone (including the commander) just kind of shrugged and let it go. And then…….

    Then they got out onto the dance floor. The dancing started out as dancing, and then gradually devolved over a few of songs into something that can, at best, be compared to a Bangkok floor show. In short order, they were the only two out there, and the center of everyone’s attention. I happened to be standing at the bar next to another officer with whom I was acquainted, but didn’t know very well. We both slow turned our heads toward each other, made eye contact, turned around to the bartender and, in a scene right out of Spaceballs, said in unison: “check, please!”.

    I didn’t stick around to see what happened next. But, I will confess that to this day, I have the utmost respect for both of them. As awkward as it was in the moment, I mean, really, we were days away from leaving for someplace we might not come back from alive. Those two were living their best lives, savoring every moment they had with each other, and didn’t give a single flying f*ck what anyone thought. PS- He made it back without a scratch.

  124. Amesip*

    My department throws an open-house style party every holiday season. It’s pretty fun, and gets people into the department that do not usually come down. Everyone on staff is required to bring in three separate dishes for a finger-food potluck of sorts, which sucks but we don’t have to bring in anything particularly expensive. One of my coworkers, Loretta, brings in…very strange items. For example, one year she brought six pieces of celery, a small dish of peanut butter, and eight fist-sized ‘spinach balls’ left over from her Thanksgiving dinner. The party was on December 16th. I’m not sure if those (and similar) items are her way of protesting the ‘participation’ requirements, or if she genuinely thinks bringing them is a good idea. I will say, though, that I will miss her spinach balls this year, since we cancelled the holiday open house this year. The opportunity to roll my eyes at whatever weird thing she thinks is appropriate to present to the whole company would be a welcome break from the stress of the pandemic.

  125. Texas Librarian*

    Years ago (around 2003-2005), in another library, there was a white elephant gift exchange. I had left by the time it started but heard about the aftermath. There was supposed to be a $10 limit on gifts, but someone had purchased a DVD player. This became the hot item and there was disagreement over the 3 steal rule. A house plant was also part of the dispute. It got so heated that the 3 people involved got called into the library director’s office. There were no more white elephant exchanges after that.

  126. M*

    A former (quite dysfunctional in all kinds of ways) workplace had a management team with a strong commitment to partying *hard*, and also (for above dysfunctional reasons) tended to cycle through half-a-dozen or so new grad hires a year in a quite small office, which rather reinforced the matter. It was well-understood that, while we were otherwise expected to be in the office at 9:30am on the dot, at about 3am the night after any excuse for partying the entire office would receive an email from the CEO letting us know that we should come in late the next day. How late it was depended largely on how hard she had personally partied, rather than anything more considered – some of the more bemused of us used to run a little betting pool on just how late we’d be told to come in each time.

    Anyway, Christmas season rolls around, and we go off to our company Christmas lunch. Drinking started around midday, and was duly followed by our middle-of-the-night email – which set a new record for how late we should come in. So, at 2pm the next day, we were a bit surprised when one of our usually-quite-on-time junior colleagues squeaked in *just* on time, in a particularly impressive state of dishevelled. “Goodness!” we exclaim. “What happened to you?”

    Turns out he’d decided to kick on from the Christmas party with senior management, had drunkenly called it quits around 2am after they were refused entry to stop number 4 on their club crawl, and the next thing he remembered, he was sitting on a park bench the other side of London drinking cider with a man he’d never met before as the sun came up. His journey home, hampered by an entirely-out-of-battery phone, had involved getting on the nearest bus with a destination on it he recognised and steadily working his way across the city until he found a tube station.

  127. KatieHR*

    Each Christmas we do a white elephant. The limit is $25 and we are told to get a nice gift or a gift card. I spent $25 on a nice gift for our gift exchange and in return got a cheap fan that you plug into your USB on you computer. I refused to do the exchange ever again. The person who got the fan it tried to play it off but I know he got it from 5 Below. He left shortly after that but I still have to tell the story as to why I don’t want to participate every single year. Thankfully this year all parties are cancelled because of Covid.

  128. JustaTech*

    My company used to have quite the partying culture. Back in the day Halloween was an all-day affaire, and the Christmas parties were epic (sadly, before my time). As the company slid down a rocky slope of “turning a profit is hard” the Christmas parties went from the Fairmont to the conference room.
    And then we went bankrupt. We knew we were going to be purchased, so it wasn’t closing up shop, but it was a big blow to a lot of people who really believed in the thing we made.
    So our last holiday party (as our own company) was an actual party. We rented out the local history museum (great venue, because it gives you something else to do if stuff is awkward). But we’d rented the place, and made our catering and drinks arrangements, before yet another round of layoffs and a 2-department exodus to another company. We’d also used connections to buy our booze directly, rather than having the catering company supply it.

    So we’ve got too much booze, not enough people, and at the last minute our party is “crashed” by a whole bunch of very senior folks (none of whom had worked at the company as long as any of us peons), who got very drunk and cried that they were getting laid off (after having laid off half our coworkers). The mood was too depressing for big partying (even though the band was great and played on valiantly), so everyone went home early.

    But remember I said we’d bought our own booze to save money? It was all still around, cases and cases of 750mL bottles of good vodka and whatnot. So someone took it all back to the office. That booze was pretty much the only thing that got us through the first year of being owned by Evil Corp.

  129. Tantallum99*

    Our company was smallish—100 people or so and VERY conservative. Our CEO was very proper and religious and a complete teetotaler. Our holiday party was always on Friday late morning/early afternoon with no booze. Sometimes we had lunch at a restaurant but this time the party was in the conference space in the office and they hired one of those “mystery theatre” groups that mingle with party guests acting out a “crime”. They gave everyone a brief backstory on the plot and some of the higher ups had roles in addition to the hired actors. After we ate lunch the actors group took over and finished the play. What ensued was the raunchiest, jaw dropping sex filled “jokes”. Remember this is daylight with coworkers and no booze. Taking about oral sex and yeast infections and more. The material would have been fitting for a bachelor party at midnight. And they kept on going! They would pause for laughs after every cringeworthy comment but we all would just stare back in mortified horror.
    Needless to say our company never had them back. We went bowling the next year instead.

  130. The Katie*

    I’m a laboratory technician, and each lab organises their own Christmas event. We usually do a picnic since several of our employees have young children. This year, earlier today in fact, was our picnic, and we had organised a visit from Santa. We weren’t the only people in the park, and another group had organised a visit from Santa as well. Both Santas showed up at the same time, and we acquired an extra child from the other picnic who had seen our Santa.

  131. JZ*

    About ten years ago I worked at a company that was in many ways the textbook case for how NOT to run a company. I’ve heard that company culture starts at the top, and in this case our CEO definitely influenced a lot of the weird and unprofessional behavior around the office. This is a man who walked into a product demonstration and quipped, “Is this the AA meeting? Hi, I’m [name]…”, offered on a conference call to get someone some “ganja”, and once punched his fist through a cake because “His lifelong dream has always been to punch a birthday cake.” (His admin informed us that “You can still eat it if you want, he washed his hands first.”)

    But by far my worst memory about that job was the company Christmas party. We had rented out the ballroom at a local hotel. I showed up at the appointed time, and there was nobody there. After wandering around for a bit looking for someone I recognized (or a sign directing me to the right room) I finally bumped into a coworker. During an awkward cocktail hour our CEO asked us if we’d seen some random Santa video on YouTube. When I replied, “Not at work, YouTube is blocked at the office.” he seemed surprised to hear that. This was the job where I was constantly bumping up against articles or sites that were blocked, everything from breast cancer to swimsuits to risque terms like “food porn” was inaccessible from the office.

    After the cocktail hour the dinner started out with a few short speeches. And then the CEO went and changed into a martial arts gi and protective padding. He invited anyone who wanted the chance to put on boxing gloves and take a couple of shots at him. Apparently some of the VPs had enough alcohol in their system to take him up on it. It was very awkward witnessing our executives taking swings at our CEO.

    We then had dinner, which I remember as being good. After dinner the CEO came out in costume number two. This time he was dressed in a rather cheap and sad Santa Claus suit. But his very young (early 20s) and attractive executive assistant was dressed as what I can only describe as slutty Mrs. Claus. She was wearing a sleeveless red satin halter-top dress with a frilly, flounced skirt that just barely covered her underwear. I don’t think that dress could have been any shorter. She was wearing black high heel boots and long black gloves with fake white fur at the top. It looked more like those lingerie French maid outfits than anything else. The female engineer I was sitting next to said “That could not be any more inappropriate.” Every man in the room pulled out his cell phone and started snapping photos of her.

    I was hoping Santa might be handing out holiday bonuses, but he was handing out movie quotes for a party game. We were supposed to guess the movie from the clues and if you guessed right you could pick a gift. I was already pretty close to my limit of AWKWARD when the first quote turned out to be the infamous diner scene (“I’ll have what she’s having”) from When Harry Met Sally. When my grand boss started moaning and groaning a fake orgasm into the microphone I grabbed my purse and pretended I was going to the bathroom, but actually I was fleeing before people got any more drunk and inappropriate.

  132. CollegeSupervisor*

    Last year I went to work in Santa leggings and an ugly Christmas sweater hoodie with a Christmas tree complete with tinsel and puff balls. We were having a Christmas party for our student workers, many of whom found my outfit hilarious.

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