Thoughts On A Holiday Party

Recently our group had it’s holiday party. An ordinary thing, you’d think, but it gave me food for thought. There was something multicultural about it that was very inclusive of everyone, yet at the same time we had an event that almost horrified me at it’s level of anti-Christmas spirit, which is somewhat ironic as I am not actually a big Christmas fan.

It started late Monday evening, when we got the Outlook appointment invitation…for Wednesday night. So much for future planning, huh? As to whether that’s “we had plans, so tough for you” or “hey, you ruined my plans with your last second invite to something I need to go to!” well, you can pick according to your own preference. We had no plans, so it wasn’t much of a problem. Of course, we did have to come up with a small gift, not more than 20 dirhams (about $5-6), for the “White Elephant” gift exchange. I think we ended up spending 40 dirhams, but it won’t bankrupt us.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s always following me around, jumping in front of me while someone is taking a picture, and making some sort of stupid face, unless he just always looks like that.

Scary Elf

Now, I know that in the USA, the whole idea of a Holiday party as opposed to a Christmas party can rankle some feathers due to concerns about political correctness. You might find an interesting lesson for tolerance here. Why have a semi-generic “holiday” party instead? Here’s why:

  • Uhh..because there’s a bunch of holidays all at once? It’s cheaper to be vague and all-encompassing.
  • Does Christmas have anything to do with Christ? Not anymore it doesn’t. It’s a commercial holiday. Of course, holiday comes from Holy Day, so the connection there might still be equally weak. :) Christmas in specific should be renamed “Buy Me Stuff Day”. THAT would make it non-PC, not calling it Christmas.
  • The main reason of course is that we are an extremely multi-cultural bunch here. There are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Orthodox Christians (this’ll make sense in a bit), Brits and Aussies (this will too) and probably an atheist or two as well. So that brings us a holiday list of Christmas, Hanukkah, Arafat and Eid al-Adha, Deewali, New Years’ (everybody gets this one, though the Orthodox — maybe not the Greeks though? — throw Christmas gift giving into New Years’ for a 2 for 1, and of course Islamic New Year isn’t actually until 20 January this year ), and of course Boxing Day. I left out Kwanzaa, but that doesn’t get a whole lot of play over here. All these holidays stack up at the same time so it’s much simpler to lump ’em.

We were outside on the patio, which was a concern as it’s actually been raining a lot here lately. Now I doubt that’s any big deal to you folks living in traditional, 4 season type places, but it just about never rains here. We just recently got back from vacation and it was raining like mad! It rained twice last winter (i.e., non-summer) but we were gone both occasions. In addition, the wind kicks up a bit more, so it was a bit chilly. Interestingly, the patio had these heaters that looked rather like torchiere-type lamps with gas flames. They were quite warm to be by, so I stayed away.
Yours Truly!

During the appetizer / bread / salad stage the rain began, and after it became more than just random droplets they readied tables inside and we switched there instead. It was louder inside, but some people had been getting cold so it was a net plus, never mind that it didn’t rain inside as well. After about 15 minutes someone notices it’s not raining anymore and pushes to go back outside. I’m not really sure who, as I couldn’t find anyone who actually agreed with the idea. It certainly didn’t make any sense to me. It was still windy, cold, and the rain could start back any time, and we’d have to move again. Luckily, sense prevailed and we stayed inside.

I'm not the only one who wore that hat

Then it was time for the White Elephant Gift Exchange. To me, as a gift giving exercise, this is pretty horrifying. It throws that whole “it is better to give than to receive” philosophy right out the window. Basically you start off drawing numbers. #1 (us) goes up and picks a gift and opens it. The next person can either choose a wrapped gift, or “steal” 1 of the gifts that have been picked and opened. They’re generally not great prizes, given the cost ceiling, but still…the concept is terrible. Let’s impose a “spirit of taking things away from other people” on top of the “spirit of giving”. That’s two ideas that just do not mesh. There was a person sitting across from us and down a bit who was greedily looking at everything, looking to steal something when it came their turn. The whole idea is almost offensive in concept to me. I don’t know who comes up with these things.

Irony bites us several times in the company gift round. Somehow we are #1 again. Woohoo! Go us! We get a free entry to Wild Wadi, which is a water park. You can’t go now because while the air temperature isn’t exactly freezing, I can’t imagine getting into the water right now. Then somebody says it’s heated, and at that point I can’t imagine getting back out of the water, with the cool air and definite chill wind. We did better last year with movie tickets — plural, for you and a friend / date / spouse, you know — and I have no doubt that before the weather enables a trip to Wild Wadi that piece of paper will be long lost…oh well. No complaints. It’s free!

3 Responses to “Thoughts On A Holiday Party”

  1. eagl Says:

    So, you’re saying you’re mad the guy after you stole your gift? Or you’re mad that you were #1 and didn’t get a shot at stealing a gift you were coveting?

    I guess I need more than just hints here. What are you REALLY feeling? :)

    By the way, at my Mom’s office they do the same sort of thing but because they are a pretty tight knit group and only about 10 people, it’s actually kind of fun. One gift got passed around to about 6 people before it stuck, and because it was so popular it was re-gifted about 4 years in a row before the group quit doing that kind of gift exchange. My Mom possessed it for a year. It was a formed sheet-metal duck on a bike that you could wind up and it would drive in a circle. It had a folding pinwheel sort of propeller on it’s head that spun around and unfolded when it was running. Everyone in my Mom’s group is either a phd, computer programmer, or an assistant who “gets it”, so that sort of silly item just resonated with them. Nobody really wanted to keep it from everyone else but everyone just HAD to have it, and that’s why it kept passing from hand to hand for years. I dunno who ended up with it finally… It might still be in the office somewhere, quietly riding in circles with it’s little spinny folding propeller hat whirring around.

  2. Robert Says:

    That’s the weird thing. We got a vase, and kept it. I don’t care about the trinket itself, it’s just the spirit of the thing seems so anti-Christmas to me. I know it’s supposed to be fun…but is it fun to take things from people? Just an odd concept for me.

  3. eagl Says:

    It’s only fun “taking things from people” when the group likes each other enough that everyone is happier if the other person gets what they want. If there’s one gift everyone really likes, everyone almost hates to get it because they want their friends to have it more.

    But those kinds of close-knit groups are sorta rare, and like you said it is pretty weird.

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