Nicola Alpe: How to survive the silly season social calendar


By the time you read this, it will only be a few days before the madness of the holiday season officially begins.

It happens every year, although why we let it sneak up on us year after year I do not know. November seems too early to think about the holidays, so once December hits we rush around like mad people, juggling work functions, our partner’s work functions, holiday parties by clients or associates, and Christmas soirees thrown by well-intentioned friends.

I am one of those friends and I’ll apologise now for throwing a party that jams up social calendars.

It doesn’t help that New Zealanders collectively throw up their hands at this time of year and check out on holiday. Traditionally the job market will be in hibernation until the latter part of January.

People will pause their lives until the evenings turn cooler, saying they will start XYZ again once they come back to work or that they can’t fit in a social catch-up until after the holidays. I say we plough on with our goals, achievements and fixtures. Haven’t we written enough of 2020 off already?

When we bought our first house in LA, it settled on Saturday December 22, so funds had to be sent up the day before. You can imagine the hand wringing that was going on between myself and my husband. If we missed that day, we were stuffed for weeks due to New Zealand being closed for summer.

The Americans, who enjoy a day off work on Christmas Day but then get straight back into life, were resolute in not caring that New Zealand basically shuts down for some weeks. For a while it seemed to be against us, given middle to upper management at the banks would be partaking in a liquid lunch the Friday before Christmas, but it did happen and as we have many times since, we praised the efficiency of the New Zealand online banking system.

America, in normal circumstances, is open all the time and you can always find someone who wants the work. I guess you could say every day they’re hustling. We came back a few years ago for my daughter’s birthday and had a party on December 23. I started trying to book a photographer months in advance to capture so many friends and family together, but each time I contacted someone they were unavailable due to the holidays. Surely not every photographer was off to the beach?

This is how I suggest handling the season. Learn to say “no”, firmly but politely. Embrace FOMO. Support small businesses with your gift buying but remember that larger businesses have been hit by Covid too, so maybe try to support both, especially those with New Zealand roots.

Remember those less fortunate than you and try to serve them in some way, be it a donation of money, your time, or goods. Teach your children what the holiday season is actually about: taking a break, recharging before another year, spending time with people who light you up, and that giving can bring just as much of a high as receiving.

Good luck. And if you plan on drinking too much at the office do, make sure you are wearing sensible knickers just in case you end up dancing on the bar.

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