Happy Grinchmas

A Christmas tragic’s desperate attempt to convert an office grinch

Every office has at least one grinch, it’s a fact of life. But can an office grinch be converted into a festive fanatic? Madeleine Chapman tries her darnedest. 

I’ve always held onto the stubborn belief that nobody truly hates Christmas. They might think they hate Christmas, but really they just hate effort. Yes, I’m well aware that there are very genuine reasons, like traumatic childhood experiences, that would lead some people to hate Christmas. I’m not referring to those people. I’m referring to the people in your office who hate Christmas for no reason. Those people don’t hate Christmas as much as they love to announce that they do, they’re just seasonally lazy. I say this as someone who loved everything about the holidays at home but now live in a different city and so puts in a lot of effort to force those same festivities on my workmates at any given opportunity. I predict around 35% of readers already hate me.

Last year was the first time I got to experience a work Christmas party and boy was I excited. I started dropping hints that it should be a dress-up party and got two of my 13 colleagues onboard. That was it. But then one of them saw full Santa outfits being sold for $10 on the street and offered to pick some up for people in the office who didn’t have a costume. Everyone but the three of us (who’d already been planning obnoxious costumes) went to that Christmas party dressed as Santa. It’s not the concept that people don’t like, it’s the effort involved in executing the concept.

The Grinch (me) finding some shade with a Santa, Cindy Lou, and Elf. Note Duncan Greive’s Santa behind (Photo: Henry Oliver)

So this year, I knew I had my work cut out for me. From what I could gather, everyone in the office liked Christmas. At worst, some were ambivalent. But we had one grinch. A self-proclaimed genuine hater of Christmas. So with a little help from The Warehouse and their seemingly endless Christmas supplies, I set out on a five-day journey to convert our office grinch Jihee* into someone who doesn’t mind the idea of Christmas (I’m nothing if not realistic in my goal setting). Here’s how it went down.

*her real name.

Monday

It’s all about reading the room. How serious is your office grinch? Are we talking “please don’t include me in Secret Santa” grinch? Or “don’t you dare say the word Christmas around me” grinch? By midday, I’d ascertained that I was dealing with a top-tier grinch in Jihee. Challenge accepted. After work, I went to The Warehouse in St Luke’s (one of the smaller ones but it’s closest to my house) for supplies. I’m not very creative visually so stuck with the basics of lights, tinsel and baubles. Then I realised I had way too much stuff to carry and asked my workmate Alex if she could pick me up and drop me home. She did.

No one woman should have all that power (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)

Tuesday

I started slow. Everybody loves food, and every office worker loves it when a colleague passes around snacks. So I filled a bowl with chocolate Santas and handed them out. Everyone took one. Jihee did not. When I’d returned to my desk opposite her with the bowl, she got curious. “What’s with the Christmas chocolates?” she asked. “It’s Christmas!” said another colleague. “IT’S NOT CHRISTMAS,” said Jihee. I said nothing. This was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Wednesday

It was time to introduce some carols. I set up the speaker and played, ever so softly, ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’ (the Bublé version). Before he’d even sung the first word there was a long, loud sigh from the other side of my monitor, where the grinch sat. Soon after she had her headphones on. I seemed to just be annoying her.

That night I spoke to the man who designed this year’s Christmas themes at The Warehouse, Jade Turner, to see if he could help. While I was looking for some magic decorating pattern that would convert an office grinch on the spot, Jade had some more general advice. “When it comes to Christmas decorating, make sure you get everyone involved – it’s truly a friends and family affair,” he said. “You can never have enough Christmas lights – inside and out,” he said. “The more the merrier,” he said. Once again I said nothing.

Thursday

I had one last food attempt up my sleeve. The greatest seasonal snack in New Zealand. Yes, I’m talking about the chocolate wafer sticks that come in those handy round storage tins. They’re undeniably a Christmas treat without a trace of Santa on them. Maybe this would be my way in. I offered them around the office and everyone took one including the grinch. I’d made progress. That is, until someone referred to the wafers as “Christmas sticks” and Jihee fiercely argued that they had nothing to do with Christmas.

That afternoon I waited impatiently for Jihee to leave so I could start setting up the office for the big reveal the next morning. Everybody loves a big reveal, right? Workmates and fellow Christmas enthusiasts Sam, Kerryanne and Alex offered to help and I gladly accepted, remembering Jade’s advice to always decorate together. We were at the office till 11 o’clock putting up lights, hanging tinsel, blacking out the windows, making a giant advent calendar on the wall (just because), and drinking tequila sunrises. It was incredible.

Somebody call OSH (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)

Friday

I got to work early like some sort of weirdo and turned on all the Christmas lights. Then I recruited yet another workmate Ash to help put Santa hats and treats on people’s desks. Then we put on some Christmas music. It was a lot. And it was all for the grinch. As everyone began trickling in around 9 o’clock, the reactions were all the same. They loved it. By 9:30, Jihee was the only one who hadn’t come in to work.

Finally she walked in and kinda just looked at everything the way a tired mum might look at a child’s ugly fort creation. She sat at her desk and didn’t say anything. I’d failed. But then, a Christmas miracle. She couldn’t help but pull the Christmas cracker we’d put on her desk. And she wasn’t happy when the windows were eventually opened to let more sunlight in (this was entirely from her love of darkness rather than an affection for the Christmas lights but I’ll claim it anyway).

View from the grinch’s desk. Note: her special gold santa hat soon ended up on her neighbour’s desk. (Photo: Tina Tiller)

Our office grinch has always been vocal about hating Christmas. But with a little (a lot) of effort by a group of elves (and a lot of The Warehouse supplies), we managed to show her that maybe she didn’t need to hate Christmas. Maybe she could just not care about Christmas.

Postscript: I started to wonder if perhaps I’d done it all wrong. What if people just want to be included? I should’ve asked our office grinch if she wanted to help decorate with us instead of assuming she would only appreciate the end result. After all, I had much more fun putting up the lights with Sam, Kerryanne and Alex than I did just looking at them the next day.

So I asked Jihee if she would’ve wanted to help us.

She said no.


This content was made possible by The Warehouse – New Zealand’s one stop shop for all of your Christmas needs. If you need decorating (or a gift!) help, head there now.


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