If the 15-metre evergreen wrapped in twinkle lights at Nathan Phillips Square is indicative of anything, it’s that holiday season is decidedly upon us.

But there remains one obstacle before we can eat and drink ourselves into a glorious coma, clad in something with an elastic waistband, lying supine on the couch in front of a Lord of the Rings marathon. (Or is that just how the Nanji clan celebrates Christmas?) The one hurdle left is the office holiday gathering – a dreaded, yet enthralling, spectacle that breeds awkward social interaction and embarrassing faux pas.

Here are a few tips on how to tipple and mingle professionally:

1. Make sure there is at least one person more drunk than you. If this person happens to be your boss, better still. You don’t necessarily need to tally drinks, but sip water throughout and eat an entire loaf of bread for dinner. Pace myself, you say? Bah humbug!

2. Take advantage of the free food. It’s like a liability or something, but most office parties centre around a meal to help soak up the libations – and this is definitely what you want to be doing. The more you drink, the more food you must consume. Mere weeks ago I wolfed down three bake sale cupcakes frosted with Blue Jays’ insignia before post-work brews at the pub to watch a game. For backup, stow a couple of snack-sized packets of Goldfish crackers in your purse.

3. Ask a lot of questions and don’t give away your secrets. I’ve been many a drunk type – a mean drunk, a too-friendly drunk, a left-keys-cellphone-wallet-in-my-Uber-that-I-tried-to-hit-on drunk – but most reliably, I am the talkative drunk, the revealer-of-personal-secrets drunk. What flimsy verbal filter I have in sober life gets swallowed whole sometime around the fourth or fifth gulp. That is fine for my friends and the people who actually give a shit about the trivial particulars of my life, but you don’t exactly want to work in the cubicle adjacent someone who has a deep knowledge of your romantic history or your cat’s behavioural problems.

4. Say no if you want. An erstwhile editor once made rounds filling our mugs with spiked egg nog hours before the real festivities were scheduled to begin. I ended up dumping mine down the sink to get through the rest of the day. To this day I suspect (hope) that editor keeps a flask handy in his desk drawer, but we all know our own tolerance. Don’t try to keep up with members of the old boys’ club who have been getting subtly loaded at office holiday gatherings since before us gals were more than just the secretary.

5. Schedule sober pep talks. Whenever I am really feeling the booze (or whatnot) I make a trip to the little ladies room. What is it about looking in the mirror that snaps you back to reality? It’s too easy for me to forget that I am a physical being with a body and not just a floating consciousness when I’m tipsy. “Cool it,” I’ll gently tell my reflection, “We’ll stop at that Jamaican Patty place on the way home.” Works like a charm, and by this time I’m usually ready to make a somewhat graceful exit (while I still can).

6. Absolve. Maybe you had a few too many drinks and ended up modelling a lampshade as a hat. (We have all been there, right?) Perhaps it was nerves or the thought of drinking in an intimidating crowd when you’re the intern. There is a sacred contract between coworkers that binds us together in drunken catharsis at the end of a tough work year. So instead of gossiping at the water cooler about who made out with whom or who climbed on top of her desk to dramatically call out everyone with a secret illegal space heater, bring them a hangover coffee. Or just sit at your desk clicking keys intentionally loud, so as to indicate that you are actually working, and hope no one will remember.