During my last trip to the supermarket, I replenished my supply of olive oil and bought a box of Hannukah candles. Kirios’ parents put up their Christmas tree and lights (I’m still waiting for them to bake their Greek cookies though!) Although I’m not quite sure what happened to fall, it’s official: the holiday season is here.

As a young professional, the holiday season usually implies two things – holiday parties and empty offices. Every company celebrates the holidays a little differently – some host classy formal affairs, others challenge their employees to drink to the point of being ridiculous without jeopardizing your job.

When you work for a quasi-federal/severely in debt institution such as the Postal Service, however, holiday celebrations are typically limited to pay-your-way affairs. Two years ago, my manager brought in donuts and hosted a small gift exchange before our department went out to a nice restaurant for lunch. I supplied 50 homemade latkes to represent the festival of lights. It was a nice time, and my supervisor voluntarily covered lunch for his employees.

Last year, my department opted for a swanky lunch at an Italian restaurant along with a Postal Trivia activity. It too was a nice affair, but it set me back $35. My fellow young professionals (there were 3 of us under 30…) bemoaned the cost of a meal we didn’t get to choose, and discussed passing up on the party. But alas, when someone 3 levels above you in the corporate food chain invites you to a luncheon, non-attendance doesn’t seem to be a viable option.

And this year? Well, my manager has been so swamped and things around the Postal Service have been so depressing, no one’s even mentioned a holiday party. Sigh.

In contrast, Kirios’ office party is usually a fancy event with a nice dinner and an open bar. Employees are sent home with a token gift (last year it was Ralph Lauren drinking glasses) and participate in a white elephant gift exchange. The owners purchase all of the gifts, last year’s most coveted prize was an iPad. Kirios didn’t win it, but he did walk away with a netbook, and his coworker sitting next to us went home with $300 cash. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, Kirios will be attending his office party stag this year, since my brother is coming to visit. Although it’s not a great loss, I can’t help but feel disappointed that I don’t get to pretend for an evening that I work someplace that likes to celebrate and treat its employees to a night out.

I guess for this year, I’ll be enjoying holiday parties with friends, homemade treats, and other holiday rituals. And of course an empty office for the next couple of weeks ;-)