December is a magical month. It’s a time when normally mundane storefronts come alive with colorful presentations; when an unexpected snowfall can transform a dreary cityscape into a pristine wonderland; when every passerby seems to doff his cap your way with a wink and a smile. The feeling of expectation—for gifts, lights, food and festivities—hangs heavy in the air.

It’s also a month during which there are lots and lots of opportunities to drink with coworkers. Happy hours abound, house parties crop up seemingly every weekend, and then, of course, there’s the much-anticipated company holiday party.

No matter what you do for work, chances are good that you’ll be attending at least one holiday work party this December, and likely far more as the plus-one for your hudband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, roommate, friends, etc. Parties are fun, and none better than those involving your boss dressed as St. Nick amid multiple sprigs of mistletoe. But office holiday parties tend to get downright weird, too. Having attended my fair share, I can say with conviction that there are always a handful of attendees who drag themselves into the shower the next morning dreading what transpired the night before.

To ensure you’ll have a good time without making water cooler headlines the next morning, heed these 10 tips for surviving the office Christmas party.

Eat your face off … before you arrive

All too often, people eat a lot while imbibing heavily, assuming that by doing so, they’re drinking responsibly. This, in fact, is only partly true. Chowing while you chug is wise, sure, but far more important is eating a big, carb-heavy meal a couple hours before the main event. This is the “base” you hear frat boys and finance bros referring to so often—take note, they’ve done this before.

Commit to be at work the next day

Inevitably, the suspension will build throughout the work day. Jokes will fly about who might get kicked out, which exec will hit the dance floor hardest or who among you will be mysteriously calling in sick the next morning. At this moment, boldly exclaim that under no circumstances will you be missing work. Stand up and shout it if you have to, make bets and guarantees. Instead of setting the bar low from the get-go—I’m going to be sooooo miserable tomorrow—set it high. Accountability is your friend.

Always overdress

There will be some sort of dress code for this event, and it’s important that you don’t arrive short of expectations. Most likely business casual will be fine, but festive additions are always appreciated. A Santa hat is fun; a colorful bowtie or pair of suspenders will go a long way, too. Just don’t miss the mark completely. A foam Rudolph nose and sweatpants isn’t funny; it’s sad.

Hydrate

I knew a guy in college who carried a Nalgene full of water to every party, and diligently double-fisted all evening, alternating beers and water for the duration. He caught a little flack at the time, but without fail, as we wallowed in our own hungover misery the following morning, he was chipper, spritely and ready to seize the day. You definitely shouldn’t carry a water bottle all night, but do remember to drink something other than whatever’s in the punch bowl.

Actually, just don’t drink the punch

It might taste like Jolly Ranchers and Cotton Candy and rainbow sherbet and miracles, but what you’re looking at is pain, misery and regret incarnate. If you’ve ever crafted such a concoction, you know how many handles of bottom shelf vodka are in there. It’s bright red because it’s embarrassed at how disgusting it is. Avoid at all costs; it’s just not worth it.

Set a drink limit

And let’s be realistic about this, shall we? Telling yourself the magic number for the evening is two just isn’t going to happen. There will be a toast, and some friend’s wife will grab you a beer from the bar unannounced. Combine this with the Jameson and ginger you copped on the way in and the ice luge you just hit, and you’re flirting with double digits if you keep the pace up. Instead, set your limit at five for the night. This way, you’ll have an obtainable goal and a reason to turn down the flaming Dr. Pepper shots.

Leave the work talk in the office

This is a chance to let your hair down, to meet coworkers’ spouses and significant others and children. Make the rounds and mingle with as many different people as you can. And whatever you do, don’t be that guy who brings up work stuff. No matter how fun your light-up Frosty tie is, you will be hated for this. Sales numbers and conference calls and brainstorming sessions can wait. People have lives outside of the office. You should too. Or you should fake it.

Keep those hands to yourself

For whatever reason, company Christmas parties have a tendency to get rather, um, handsy. Something about the holidays makes those hugs last a little longer, the banter become a little looser and the glances down the bar that much more provocative. This is a slippery slope in a very public forum. It’s important to remember that this isn’t some nightclub packed with strangers—these are your colleagues. If the courage to approach your office crush only comes with blurred vision and slurred speech, it’s probably not going to last anyway.

Avoid the paparazzi

If you’re following these rules so far, you shouldn’t have to worry about this. But chances are you’re feeling a bit boozy by now and the good decision making impulse is quickly being overtaken by the feeling that you’d move a lot better on the dance floor if your shirt was off. This will do terrible things for your reputation around the office, for no other reason than half the workforce is going to record it and hit play time and again the next day. Pictures of the office idiot are hilarious, unless that office idiot is you.

Go home alone

Simply put, a sloppy drunken hookup with someone you’re going to see every weekday for the foreseeable future is the last thing you need right now. You’re going to be hungover tomorrow; you might even call in sick. You know what they say: Never break more than one law at once. Same applies for these rules. Choose wisely.

Image via egotvonline.com