A rare few of us enjoy holiday parties; the rest of us suffer through them in embarrassment, discomfort and sometimes outright misery. But this is the one time of year it's almost impossible to duck out of a celebration, and the guilt you might feel for missing yet another shindig is nothing compared to the negative effect it could have on your career, family, or neighborhood relations if you skip it. Whether it's the office Christmas party or the neighborhood get-together and tree-lighting, you should show up. Here's how to make it through — and maybe even enjoy yourself.
Go with a plan: Different parties have different priorities, so outlining those before you go can reduce the pain and suffering (both existential and hangover-related). Having a specific goal or set of tasks to get through will also keep you on track and less likely to be standing around stuffing your face with chips and dip out of nervousness.
Office party: To prevent embarrassment, plan on drinking one, or at most two drinks at the holiday party for your job. Go for at least 45 minutes, and make sure to wish a happy holiday and have a bit of small talk with your boss or supervisor first (do it and get it over with, especially while you’re still totally sober), then go hang out with your buddies.
There’s a greater chance you will actually enjoy yourself once you’ve gotten the necessaries out of the way. And if you've put in your 3/4 of an hour, done your duty in terms of talking to all your higher-ups and wished your colleagues a happy one, you have all the permission in the world to get the heck out of there. Having another party to go to, even if you don't, is always a good excuse. (Hey, I consider a new Stephen King book with a burrito a party — so define it however you want.)
Neighborhood celebration: The best way through this one is compliments, and lots of them. As you head to the party (or the day before), think up one for each family or house. Someone spends a lot of time on holiday decorations, while another keeps their plantings updated. Make tiny notes on such things and you will be the hit of the party; everyone loves to be praised! I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it works. And trust me, nobody will talk behind your back ("Gee, Bob sure was complimentary today, what a jerk!") once you tell them how lovely their hydrangeas are.
Friend's party: Hopefully, you actually want to go to this one. If you don't know a lot of guests (it's just a random collection of all of your friend's friends), a good way to deal is to start a game — there will be plenty of people there who are just as random as you are, and getting some Parcheesi or Charades going will make everyone more comfortable (ideally the host would do this). You can even bring your own games — just make sure they aren't too complicated and that most people know how to play them. Your host friend will love you for getting the party moving, and everyone will think you're a bit nerdy-cool for going old-school.
If your best friend’s shindig is actually the highlight of your holiday, and not a trip to awkwardsville, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the evening. Don’t make big plans for the next day, and if you have to work, try to get extra work done the days before so if you need to roll in a bit later, it's not a big deal.
My last bit of advice for any of these events is to wear something cute but comfortable, with an emphasis on the comfortable. You'll just make yourself miserable if you try to fit into something that isn't really you, or is too small, and why make these celebrations any more painful than they need to be? Happy Holidays!
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