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Ho Ho-Hum

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Yes, Virginia, there is no corporate Santa Claus this year -- which means no free cocktails and trays of hors d'oeuvre for a thirsty and hungry city. With heavyweights like Bloomberg and HBO cancelling their annual fêtes, and even high party priestess Martha Stewart scaling back, employees across the city are finding that festivities aren't quite matching those of office holiday parties past.

On Wall Street, where Cristal once flowed at Christmas, less-lavish bashes are a reminder of leaner times. Lehman Brothers, still working out of temporary offices in New Jersey, is throwing its first-ever companywide party, instead of letting each department go wild like last year. The invitation outlines the party's bus system, stating, "Please help make the evening a success by not ordering a car on your own."

"Our group is also having a $50 party at a pub," says one employee. "But I'm not shelling out the cash to drink with my co-workers."

Up at Proskauer Rose, where some lawyers are still upset by a round of layoffs, the planned festivities are bringing little cheer: "We're having our department party at 4 p.m. in the conference room," says one associate, who longingly recalls the intra-office mingling at last year's dinner at swanky B. Smith's.

"An afternoon party? Obviously, there won't be alcohol. I'm not going."Thus far, though, the complaining has been surprisingly moderate. There's a recession on, after all -- not to mention a war. But the silence, it must be said, sometimes has to do with fear. "Basically, they are just looking for excuses to fire us right now," says one Wall Streeter.

Dot-com galas were already scaled back in winter 2000; now, of course, nary a mouse is stirring. Razorfish, which once sent 300 employees on a citywide scavenger hunt in limousines, will likely enlist its own staffers (who now number 150) to D.J. and decorate. "We have a lot of talented young people we can tap into," says corporate communications director David LaBar. "We might even do the catering ourselves."

If companies are worried about eggnog's bottom line, they're also struggling with what kind of event is appropriate to throw this year. The advertising firm Kirshenbaum Bond, located on Varick Street, decided to dedicate its party to supporting downtown businesses; they'll be raffling off meals at local restaurants and other prizes. "We're not having a big garish event," says Richard Kirshenbaum. "We're not worried about fancy hors d'oeuvre and decor."

Last holiday season, Glamour staffers belted out Britney Spears tunes at a private karaoke party at Moomba. But this year, "it's back to the basics," says deputy editor Alison Brower, who's planned a simple get-together in the loft at Fressen.

Still, some New Yorkers insist a raucous party is just what this holiday season calls for: "Everything was rough enough," says Jean-Marc Houmard, an owner of BondSt, who's planning a blowout for 500 to 600 people, complete with roving drag queens to scold naughty staffers. "People are taking too long to get back to normal."


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