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6 Holiday Traditions Fading Into Obscurity

The office holiday party
The days of Sterling Cooper Price or even OfficeParty.com startups are over and most offices are lucky if the folks in the front office throw a cheese tray and some Cokes (KO - Get Report) in the conference room, never mind booze-soaked holiday parties with executive assistant piggyback races and posteriors pressed against the copy machine glass.

Nearly 70% of all U.S. offices plan to hold holiday parties this year, according to a survey from staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's down markedly from the 90% of firms that let loose in pre-recession 2007, but hides a bit of holiday cheer for the 95% of office parties that will have the same budget for their events as they did a year ago.

"The economy is not improving as fast as many had hoped," says John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Yet, despite the less-than-celebratory business conditions, the majority of companies refuse to abandon the year-end holiday party."

Recent economic uncertainty has taken many companies out of the partying mood. Outplacement firm Amrop Battalia Winston notes that the percentage of companies hosting holiday parties has been sliding steadily since hitting 81% during the 2008 and 2009 recession years and 79% during last year's supposed recovery. Cash-strapped companies looking to avoid party-related lawsuits have turned into teetotalers and cut boozy office bashes from 90% of all parties in 2000 to 79% last year, according to Amrop Battalia Winston's figures.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas says even more companies signaled last call for holiday booze this year, with little more than 50% saying they'll be serving something harder than cocoa at their parties. It's just one item on companies' cost-cutting party wish lists that also include limiting parties to employees only (53% of all companies), holding parties during the workday (55%) and holding parties on company premises (30%).

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