There was a lot of drinking at last night’s party. This company has been trying different tactics over the years to encourage party-goers to consume responsibly. This year, the bar was company-sponsored until dinnertime, but that kept the party at the bar and out of earshot of the brass band. Everyone paid their own drinks afterwards without pause.
Another year, each party-goer was issued two drink coupons. These turned into a social currency, usually between spouses or close colleagues in exchange for quotidian favors. (As far as I know. I’m reminded of the free-kiss coupons at Renfaire.)
I think the experiments go on. I don’t think we’ll ever curb irresponsible drinking but we can encourage people to take precautions so that irresponsible drinking does not lead to disaster. (We’re getting better what with designated drivers.)
As I mentioned not long ago, there is a subtext of Christmas that has to do with with cutting loose a bit, even to the point of social impropriety. Even in this conservative era, Christmas parties in the US feature a high frequency of party-goers hitting on, or even making out with co-workers. Flashing or outright abandonment of sufficient clothing is rather commonplace, and sex happening between people at or immediately after the party is typical.* Bosses get more than their share of propositions. Bosses also accept more than their fair share.
A fun interpretation of this is that the old gods are calling and want their winter festivities back. More likely, it’s just a matter that we are back to celebrating Christmas as if it were what it was before it was Christmas, which is to say a big, drunken, revelrous shindig before winter gets too cold.** The phenomenon of unresolved sexual tension between colleagues and intra-office crushes is seldom acknowledged outside of the noninhibition and indiscretion that inebriation allows. Any sizeable office is going to be a hotbed of these dynamics: Those variants of the human animal that weren’t total, enthusiastic trollops died off long before we were mammals, let alone had opposing thumbs and walked upright.
This raises a question if these behaviors are found in the same frequency at other company functions. Picnics and the like are often more family oriented, but the Christmas party is a formal, alcohol-laden adult affair, generally.
I suspect a good unofficial policy (unofficial so it’s not misused) is the Vegas / Twelve-Step rule (What happens at the Christmas party stays at the Christmas party), especially when workplace crushes get together and have at. Especially, if there’s a power relationship, and spouses, and the awkwardness of the inevitable so what happens now?
When these rules were expressly lifted during holiday festivities, it made these matters easier to sort out, and you could resume trying to seduce your boss come Imbolc. Or Ēostre. Or Floralia…
* The figures are hard to pinpoint since they involve either people confessing their own awkward histories, or tracking affairs that are embarrassing to the company, which companies don’t like to do. That said, about 50% of company party-goers engage in a bit of sumpin-sumpin at least once in their lives, as minor as making out with co-workers (impassioned kissing) or disrobing to a point of indecency, and as much as having sex with the boss. And regarding parties involving more than fifty people it’s estimated that nine in ten of them involve degrees of revelry that are not safe for broadcast television, not safe for children, and certainly not safe for work.
** Prior to Charles Dickens’ intervention, there was a period when Christmas was losing its popularity and it was mostly a thing religious people did when they went to the nativity mass (i.e. Christ Mass) Like Scrooge, many bosses were phasing it out as a work holiday at all. This was, though, before the codes regarding national holidays as mandated breaks from work were clear or universal throughout Great Britain or the US, so any cause to demote a holiday back to an ordinary workday was taken.
Image is of Saturnailia by Ernesto Biondi. The candidate images I wanted to head this article included The Youth of Bacchus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Romans of the Decadence by Thomas Couture. Both feature olde-tyme oil painting classic nudity and hence may be NSFW.