In the early days at the company where I used to work, we would get half day off on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. If Christmas day fell on a weekend it was great, because we would still have the half day rule plus a full weekday for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Such was the situation in 1988. Friday, December 23 was a half day of work. Those who had travel plans left work early. The rest of us weren’t in the work mood to begin with. From the moment we got in, the festivities started. The managers bought fast food (probably KFC) and we pretty much spent the entire day eating, drinking, and playing music and board games.
This was a simpler life back then. The old guard was still in charge. The company was at the top of the food chain, so to speak, in that our main competitors were no more than a blip far in the distance.
These were the days when we got bonuses on the first Friday of December and a massive office party for about 1,000 employees in the main ballroom at a 4-star hotel (no guests invited) on the second Saturday on the month, no expenses spared. Our office parties were the best: dressed up in our semi-formals, cocktails at 6 pm, four-course dinner at 7 pm, alcohol was flowing for those who drank, all night dancing to a live band, and the guys could get a dance (or whatever) with that girl they’d been dying to get close to all year long.
A few things were always guaranteed to happen on this night. Bungo, a 40 year old man with the face of a 70 year old, was going to be pissy-assed drunk before dinner was served at 7:00 and would have to be escorted out of the hotel. Mr. Buckley, wearing his best plaid tweed suit from the seventies, would be dancing in some weird kind of painful, epileptic manner. And Mr. Harrison and Bernadette would be making out on the dance floor.
At midnight, the lead singer from the band Fab Five would be asking: “Are you ready to go home?” and we’d all be on the dance floor answering: “Nooooo!!!” Three times. Then we’d get down to another three hours of dancing.
Good times…good times!
The company stopped having these luxurious parties in 1996. Increased competition and a falling exchange rate meant that we had to tighten up on spending. We also had new managers and directors who were averse to spending so much money on employees, even once a year.
No more lavish office parties ending at 3:00 am; they now took place in our parking lot and ended at midnight. No fine dining; it was to be hors d’oeuvres all night. No more automatic year-end bonuses; now they would be performance-driven incentives. And no more half days on Christmas eve. Well, if you took a half day, it would be counted as personal time off.
It’s funny how these old memories come back to me like it was yesterday. Not a care in the world. I was barely legal back then and life was full of promise waiting to be explored.
Ahhh…good times…good times!….
“Marley’s Ghost. Ebenezer Scrooge visited by a ghost” (cropped). Colour illustration from ‘A Christmas Carol in prose. Being a Ghost-story of Christmas’, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by John Leech (1817-1864).