College Holiday Parties Vs. Office Holiday Parties


In college, the holiday season requires a trip to Salvation Army to find an ugly sweater. Hours are spent agonizing over how to wear an ugly sweater while still displaying optimal amounts of cleavage. (BTW, the answer you’re looking for is a sweater vest, or a cardigan.) We wear red and green knee socks, pin ribbons in our hair and bells to who-knows-where, all in preparation for getting holiday-schwasted.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

These parties aren’t gone the second you leave college. In fact, I just began my annual search for the thigh-highs with the red bows that I bought for a college Christmas party and still use for parties of a similar nature. In the working world though, holiday parties are done a little differently and you start to notice your calendar fill up with events that require you to wear a little more clothing. (And require you to keep a calendar.)

So, here we go. College holiday parties, versus office holiday parties. The differences:

The attire: 

Believe it or not, your Reindeer headband with the jingle bells has no place at your office party. It’s destined to be replaced by an understated ribbon, or even a barrette.

The drink selection:

There is nothing more dangerous than Holiday Jungle Juice, overflowing with mystery alcohol. There’s always that optimistic (read: drunk) chick who chimes, “Maybe it’s Absolut!”

It’s not. It’s Barton’s. And that scary red, not-even-Christmasy hue didn’t come from cranberry juice. It didn’t even come from Kool-Aid. It came from Kool-Aid powder, which in its natural form looks like pink cocaine.

At an office holiday party, there’s a fully stocked bar. There’s a bartender, who you can’t believe is waiting on you because you couldn’t afford this level of service if work wasn’t paying for it. The bartender in question, who you’ll stare at while trying to pretend like you belong, will use mid-to-top shelf liquor in your drink.

The music selection:

It won’t be Top 40. It might not be any better though. Best-case scenario, it’s holiday themed music and Frank Sinatra makes an appearance. Worst-case scenario, you’re listening to elevator music for 3 hours.

The food:

There’s actually a meal. You don’t have to hide out in some guy’s pantry and steal his tortilla chips.

Who You’ll Bring:

If you were a girl in college, you heard about a party and invited your closest (and/or hottest) friends. If you were a guy in college, you got to throw a holiday rager and have girls in short skirts magically appear at your door which I assume is better than Christmas morning.

At your work party, you can’t invite your hot friends and assure them that they’ll totally get in as long as they flirt at the door.

No. You’re allowed to bring one person: a significant other. It can go a few different ways:

  1. You don’t have a significant other and you fly solo. Perfectly acceptable.
  2. You have a significant other and are super awkward at work events so you’re thrilled to have him/her there as your crutch.
  3. You bring your significant other and spend the entire time introducing him/her to your superiors while desperately trying to make it back to the bar and end up regretting that you ever brought a date.


At the office party, the floor won’t be sticky.

The conversation:

Guess where it’s no longer acceptable to get high and spend an hour laughing about how “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is totally about date rape? In fact, don’t use the words “date rape” at your office party at all. No one will yell, “keg stand” and there will be fewer holiday-related pick up lines. If you’re looking for someone to try the “let’s do something to get you on the naughty list” line, you’ll want to save it for another occasion. (An occasion that doesn’t include an HR rep.)

There’s a place to put your coat:

At the office holiday party, that is. Let me tell you, it’s a step up from, “Oh I know Jason on the third floor, we’ll stash our stuff in there.” When you’re trying to leave, at least you won’t have to wait for Jason to finish with his hook-up in order to grab your coat. It’s much less dramatic.

Unsurprisingly, some things never change. Here are a few similarities in the case of college v. office holiday parties:

The amount people drink:

Regardless of the work function, the amount people drink constantly amazes me. (To be fair, at one point I did work in the wine industry. And yes, the parties were great.)

Work party-drunk is a little different from collegiate-drunk. Instead of a Barton’s biddy, you’ll find a watery-eyed whiskey guzzler, or a Pinot Noir pusher. (Am I the only person having fun with the alcohol alliterations?) The point is people still get sloppy at work functions.

The cliques:

As in, ain’t nobody fresher than. Maybe the cliques are different in appearance between the office and the college party scene. Trust me, they’re the same in nature. Can you spot the Regina George of the office? (We all thought it got too political in college, but wait until holiday bonuses are thrown into the mix.)

The attire:

Okay, I lied before. Maybe the attire isn’t so different, because you’re still going to find someone in the ass-bearing skirt at the office party. Stop. Look down. Is it you?  

image – Mad Men