I love Christmas. But Christmas in the workplace? That’s a little different.
Each year, my division holds some sort of holiday event. It typically involves food, with other activities that vary year by year. Sometimes we gather for games. Other times, we shop together. We booked a cinema screening a couple of times. And during COVID, we participated in a mystery whodunnit game through Zoom.
When I was a younger, less experienced staffer, I would typically come for the food, endure the small talk, and slip out before the party finished. That suited my grumpy, introverted, shy self just fine. But nowadays, I lead the division, so I’m there from beginning to end, and as a result, I’ve discovered something: participating fully and spending quality time with co-workers isn’t bothersome; it’s a gift.
I think Futaba, the diminutive protagonist of My Senpai in Annoying, feels similarly after her most recent workplace Christmas, shown in episode three of the anime. What begins with an obnoxious workplace tradition and a burdensome obligation, transforms into something worthwhile and meaningful.
It’s not an easy change for Futaba, however. The events surrounding Christmas at work just don’t align with her personality. Case in point: along with her co-worker Sakurai, Futaba “wins” the drawing to dress up as Santa and pass out gifts to the other employees. As one who hates the spotlight, it’s a nightmare of a role for her.
Even worse, though, is having to decide whether or not to give Takeda, her senpai (and if she’s honest with herself, her love interest), a gift for the holiday. Futaba spends a considerable amount of time contemplating the quandary. She is extremely anxious about doing this sort of thing, but also feels that she should show Takeda her appreciation and is encouraged to do so by her friend, Natsumi. Her anxiety flares up all the more when Futaba has to pick out the gift, followed by god-tier nervousness when trying to find the right timing for sharing the gift and the right words to say when handing it over.
If Futaba had her way, I think she would have wished there was no such holiday as Christmas. That way, she could avoid all the hassle and internal struggle that comes along with gift-giving.
But if that were the case, then Futaba would have missed out on the fruit of her labor. Takeda receives the gift with gratefulness and Futaba grows a little closer to him. Takeda is also reminded that he bought her a gift as well, a scarf that he chose very purposely for Futaba, showing his kohai that he sees and understands her.
A change is happening to Futaba—not just interpersonally between her and Takeda, but within her as well as she grows a little more through facing the things she fears and hates. None of it would have occurred if Futaba hadn’t taken a chance. None of it would have happened if Christmas didn’t insert itself into the workplace.
Christmas parties, luncheons, and get-togethers interrupt the daily routine. By gathering us together into personal spaces where we feel compelled to talk to one another, they offer opportunities to deepen relationships while pushing those among us who are more of the introverted variety to break out of our shells. Futaba and I need these events because without them, we stay in our comfortable cubicles and let life and opportunities pass us by rather than doing the work of investing in our co-workers.
As we approach Christmas, I can’t help but think of others who were also just doing their jobs when a Christmas party interrupted their work. About 2,000 years ago, a group of shepherds who were pulling the graveyard shift, were visited by an angel who proclaimed to them that the Messiah was born and that they would find the baby “wrapped in cloths in a manger.”
Surely among these men was one like Futaba or myself, who would rather have just stayed put and kept watch over the sheep. But that wasn’t their response. Luke picks up the story in chapter 2, verse 15:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
The shepherds received a great blessing that day. They were among the first ever to see Jesus. Though they were from among the lowliest of the Israelites, these men experienced what even the greatest men and women in generations past hadn’t, despite having longed for it. These humble shepherds saw the Messiah.
And then, they spread the word. The shepherds spoke to others. They developed relationships. Their lives, and the lives of those they talked to, were changed.
Sometimes, the blessings we receive come from the most unexpected sources, even sometimes from experiences that we would rather avoid.
I wonder if your awkward office Christmas party this year might be that source of hidden blessing, the place where change can happen between you and others, and within you as well. Just as Christ’s birth was the most profound and life-changing interruption in the daily life of the shepherds—and in all our existences—may your holiday celebrations this year be a welcome break to the mundanity of work and even better, an opportunity for you to grow in Christ and to let his love shine on those around you.
This post is part of an annual series entitled, “The 12 Days of Christmas Anime.” Join us from December 14th through the 25th, as each day we examine an episode of anime (or sometimes a movie, manga, or light novel!) set at Christmastime and see what it brings to mind about the holiday as celebrate the birth of Christ, who was born to set us free.
The My Senpai is Annoying Christmas episode can be streamed on Funimation. Christmas arrives in episode three.