We need to stop pretending that the office Christmas party isn't fun

The minute the calendar ticks over into December, the Christmas-themed events start happening. Somewhere, deep in the North Pole, Mariah Carey and Michael Buble are thawed out and sent on their Carol-crusade. Decorations are dusted off, the quality of advent calendar chocolate is debated, and we all prepare for a month of merriment.

It's also when someone in the workplace, usually a passive-aggressive emailer, is given the unenviable job of organising the work Christmas party. 

Luckily, they're also the kind of person who thrives on being designated a task so they can let everyone know how hard it's making their life. 

Office party poopers

An inter-office invite is sent and promptly met with a collective eye-roll from the staff, who then begin the time-honoured tradition of bitching about how lame it will be.

"I can't believe we're going to [insert grim location] again this year!"

"What about the sad spring rolls, oh god I'm dreading it!"

"Are you still gonna go?"

"Yeah but only for a bit…" 

However, having spent the past few years as a freelancer with no colleagues, I've come to appreciate the work Christmas party in a 'don't know what you've got till it's gone' way. 


Fun is as fun does

Last year I threw myself a Christmas party-for-one, going out for dumplings at Din Tai Fung; a festive feast from the East. During lunch, I felt a pang in my stomach, which I blamed on the scolding Xiao Long Bao. But on second thought it seemed a more poignant pang; it was the pang of loneliness. 

Sat in the food court, I realised I missed the charming awkwardness of an office Christmas party. The hate-to-love-it anticipation, the cubed cheese sweating on a platter, packs of Jatz and cheap champagne in plastic cups. 

I missed the loosening of ties, following by the loosening of lips. Say what you will about the moral high ground, there is no greater feeling of human connection than when you stumble across a shared workplace grievance with a co-worker. 

"Do you reckon Richard from IT has killed before?"

"No doubt." 

I missed watching one person yell, "where shall we go next?" forcing partygoers into the ultimate Christmas conundrum: to call it or to kick on. 

An unfair stigma

And yet the workplace Christmas celebration has become the punchline of the festive party season. Go ahead and google Office Christmas Party. First, you'll get the 2016 comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, but with only 40 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it's not worth your time.

But after that, you'll see thousands of articles lamenting the decline of the event. There are workplace Christmas survival guides, columns listing the top excuses to get you out of attending. Just last week in the UK, The Telegraph penned a moving think piece: Are we falling out of love with the office Christmas party?

Live in the moment

I always looked at the workplace Christmas party in the same way I consider school reunions or movies starring Nicholas Cage. I begrudgingly attend and end up genuinely enjoying the experience. 

The chief complaint is that they can be a bit sad or awkward. But you know what's worse than a depressing office do? No office do at all. Spare a thought for anyone who works at Westpac, well, anyone except the executives. Their Christmas shindig was binned last week amid money laundering allegations.

"Unfortunately in the heightened media environment it will not look good if we have our staff whooping it up with alcohol," said chief executive Brian Hartzer, right before resigning. Imagine working at a bank all year and then being deprived your one chance to whoop it up. Lose-lose. 

Merry Christmas to all

It's for that precise reason that we need the workplace Christmas party now more than ever. Forget the heavyweights up top; it's the rest of us who deserve to come together and raise a (plastic) glass of Yellowglen to the fact we limped over the finish line.

So while you might dread being stuck with Susan from accounts, as she bores you with the logistics of her Christmas Day movements. "We visit my side of the family first; then we duck over to Mark's parent's place for a late lunch!" It could always be worse.

You could be all alone at Din Tai Fung, gesturing for another dumpling dish and silently hoping a stranger will join your table. It's Christmas after all, the more, the merrier.

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

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Do you enjoy the office Christmas Party? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.