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We’ve all been there. You’re two wines and three tequila shots deep singing “I’m a Slave 4 U” on karaoke at the office Christmas party while our bosses watch on. You think you’re killing it. Then you spot them. Your office crush, watching you with a look that's somewhere between appreciation and second-hand embarrassment. This is your chance, you think, this is the time to go in for the kiss.
Whether you take the leap or not, a cheeky snog at the office Christmas party is a tradition so synonymous with the British festive season that it was immortalised forever in the 2003 Christmas special of The Office (UK), where Dawn and Tim finally kiss. It’s a classic origin story for many a romance. A couple I know who had been flirting, rather obviously, for months finally took the guidance of mistletoe at one office Christmas party a few years back. They’re getting married next summer. Another friend of mine fell into bed with her work crush following their Christmas party. They never spoke of it – or to each other – again, awkwardly avoiding one another at work. So it can go either way, really.
The Christmas party kiss is a pivotal moment for burgeoning office relationships. A recent study found that 22 per cent of people met their partner at work, while a 2015 study claimed that 39 per cent of the population had sex with a colleague following their work Christmas party. Whether or not it works out, the notion of finally taking that leap, kissing the person you’ve been crushing on and flirting with ever since you joined said office is an important step – you can finally gain clarity on whether or not the relationship you’d imagined could translate to real life.
Yet, with Covid cancelling all things festive last year and the new variant, omicron, threatening to do the same for the 2021 holiday season, has the pandemic seen the end of the office Christmas party snog? The topic has hit headlines this week with a government minister and doctors at loggerheads over the latter. On Thursday, a spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson said: “The prime minister has been very clear on this, on Christmas parties. We don’t want people to cancel such events and there is no government guidance to that end.”
This instruction comes after work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said earlier this week that workers shouldn’t be kissing “people you don’t already know” or doing “things like that” at a work gathering. Coffey told ITV: “For what it’s worth, I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe. [You] don’t need to do things like that. But I think we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible.”
Coffey’s comments followed the head of UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries, advising people not to socialise if they “don’t particularly need to”. “Vaccines appear to be effective, but we find that the variant is more highly transmissible, having lowish grade infection, but in very large numbers of the population, [it] could still be a significant impact on our hospitals,” Harries told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “And, of course, our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas, we tend to socialise more, so I think all of those will need to be taken into account.”
Today, when the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked whether people should avoid kissing strangers, he said: “The position has not changed – there are no further restrictions or guidance.” This will be welcome news for those looking for a party pash. Of course, with the omicron variant arriving in the UK, many offices are asking Christmas party attendees to only go to the party if they have received a negative lateral flow test, so you should be able to assume safe smooching. (Asking someone, “So, what’s your lateral flow status?” before a kiss is a sure-fire way to kill the mood).
It certainly doesn’t seem to be the end of the Christmas party kiss but, instead, a new beginning. One where hybrid working means you don’t have to face your crush in the office the following day or hear jeers from your gossip-hungry colleagues. A Christmas party kiss in the age of Covid also means top-tier hygiene, lack of social cues and a world where you can keep the flirting going on Slack. Just know that if you do take the leap and go in for the pash, at least you’ll have the prime minister’s approval. And what a mood setter that would be.