Christmas feasts maybe more important than ever

Celebrate the season together

Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB
A traditional julebord is a festive Christmas workplace dinner party.

Akan Competence Center / NTB

The Party committees at Norwegian workplaces are in full swing these days and things are certainly hectic. There is a lot to plan and organize, everything from where you’ll have the dinner, what you’ll eat, and how much you’ll drink. The traditional Norwegian julebord is perhaps more important than ever.

By the early 1900s, julebord was a term for tables covered with hot and cold dishes in hotels and restaurants, and for company parties in the weeks before Christmas. Today, these Christmas parties are a regular tradition for many businesses, a social gathering where Christmas food is served with lots of good drinks. Christmas parties come in all varieties; low-budget with paper cloth and plastic glasses in the cafeteria, white tablecloths and bubbles, a weekend at a mountain hotel or a trip to the spa, Christmas lunch and sleigh rides, with or without a partner – or, as some call it, internal control.

Regardless of what it entails, the intention for many is to mark the end of a working year, a kind of rite of passage in which we commemorate the old year and look forward to the new. It’s a party where we gather with colleagues to celebrate ourselves. Everyone participates, and even those who rarely do dust off their old graduation suit. The fact that one colleague ends up with the tie on his head after a few drams is mostly allowed to happen without more than a little laughter the following Monday.

A respite

In the dismal news cycle we’ve lived in for so long, we are all touched and personally impacted. We hear concerns from workplaces about employees who are impacted by the high cost of living, and some businesses are equipping themselves with financial advice for employees who need help. We discuss interest rate hikes and increased food prices eagerly at lunch. But the shame of not being able to pay bills or having to turn down a girls’ night out is painful and is kept hidden.

At the same time, we need some respite filled with positive things. Then, good relationships and social life are absolutely fundamental for us. Being together through difficult and heavy times — but also in times of joy — enables us to push through challenges and difficult times. Espen Røysamb, a researcher at the University of Oslo, points out that there are simple things in life such as good social relationships, being together, and giving to others that make us happy and give a feeling of good fortune.

More important than ever?

For many, work is a way of life. We spend more time with colleagues than with family. We develop close friendships with coworkers and refer to them as friends. It’s not hard to understand then that work parties help build unity and strengthen community. And maybe exactly what we need this year is a Christmas party as a little respite, a well-deserved break together with wonderful colleagues where everyone is included, strengthening the experience of community.

The julebord should be a bright spot during the polar night and a worry-free arena where all employees are invited and included. Perhaps this is a more important bright spot than we realize for many, especially this year due to stress and high cost of living, because “happiness research” says it’s the little bright spots, simple pleasures like being together, that make us happy. And happy and satisfied employees are healthier and perform better.

In order to safeguard and achieve the purpose of the julebord, it is even more important to talk about what it should look like so that everyone has a good time.

Five simple tips:

So how can you arrange this year’s Christmas party so that it is fun and inclusive for everyone, without depriving people of the joy of partying?

Talk about the drinking culture

All businesses benefit greatly from talking about their own drinking culture and expectations for their own parties. That is, ask yourselves the question, how do we feel when we drink together? Does everyone feel welcome and included? What do you do if something happens that is perceived as uncomfortable? Who takes responsibility?

Offer drinks both with and without

To avoid being part of the statistic that says 12% of people experience drinking pressure at work parties, make sure you offer non-alcoholic drinks equally as tempting as alcoholic ones. A lukewarm Pepsi Max isn’t as cool as a fresh mocktail. There’s a lot to choose from here, you just have to make sure it’s easy to choose.

Don’t ask

It’s time not to be so concerned about what your colleague drinks and to not ask why. It’s a bit strange how concerned we Norwegians are with this. But it’s a private matter and can be uncomfortable or annoying for some to have to explain.

Include all

Be creative with various unifying activities that engage all employees. This means that the focus is on something other than drinking, and that more employees can get to know each other across departments and roles. Quizzes, salsa courses, improv theatre – the only limit is your imagination! We won’t reach everyone with everything, but we reach everyone with something.

Handle adverse events

If unwanted incidents occur, they must be handled in a safe and caring way for everyone involved. It will be easier if you have talked about it beforehand, and if leaders lead by example. Remember that you will meet again on Monday morning.

Looking for a healthier, less heavy alternative to the Norwegian julebord? Taste of Norway Editor Krisi Bissell has the ideas and recipes: A modern julebord

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway