What a difference one year makes. This time last year, you could have been thinking about gifts to buy for your colleagues and looking forward to turkey and ham at the department celebration. Now, such matters may be the furthest from your mind, seeming almost frivolous, amidst retrenchments, wage cuts and dwindling job security.

While economists, analysts and politicians say there are signs of recovery, the effects may not have trickled down to the average Joe yet. So is anyone in a mood to celebrate Christmas?

Yes, why not?

There’s no reason to forego this year-end celebration, especially if it is a longstanding tradition at your workplace. Opportunities to put work aside for some camaraderie can boost staff morale. There’s no need for a big do, but sharing some lighter moments as a team can be a meaningful way to say thank-you to each other for their support throughout the year.

If catering a Christmas lunch with turkey and all the trimmings will bust the budget, think of cheaper alternatives like a high tea or breakfast spread with simpler food you can whip up yourself. After all, it’s the gesture that counts.

To give or not to give

There’s no need to feel bad if your Christmas presents cost less, or even if you can’t afford to buy gifts this year. Chances are, your colleagues are going through the same thing.

Don’t feel obligated to purchase gifts for everyone at work. But if there is a special mentor or buddy whom you might want to thank, go ahead and get him or her something, but be discreet when presenting the gift. You don’t want to come across as currying favour with the boss. Make the gift more meaningful by writing a personal note to say what you want to thank that person for. And don’t feel offended if you don’t get anything back in return.

If your office is having a “secret Santa” gift exchange, the usual rules of common sense and good taste of picking a suitable gift prevail – more so now, because you don’t want to be seen as wasting money on something your recipient is unlikely to use.