THE office Christmas party ... four little words guaranteed to instill trepidation and anticipation into everyone's core in equal amounts.
They were usually raucous affairs, which spawned, er, raucous affairs.
It would be rare, in the early 'Naughties, that any of us would go to a work bash and expect to find the venue, and the dignity of the attendees intact by the end of the evening. There'd be dancing on tables, Slippery Nipples, Sex on the Beach and Screwdrivers ... . And that would be before the cocktail list would appear.
As a nation, we embraced the office party, seeing it as some form of unisex hen or stag night, where hedonism was encouraged and the goings on of the night would become the basis of a great united bond which workers would gossip about for another 364 days ... until the next Christmas party.
But, as far as I can see, things have changed. I attended my first Christmas party of 2012 this week; a dinner that started at 5 and ended at 10 pm when I drove home, having consumed just one glass of wine.
It was a great night. The level of banter almost caused the roof of Fade Street Social to lift, and for once, food was put at the centre of the evening, with creative tapas for all, rather than the usual dry turkey and congealing gravy so associated with festive functions.
Nobody was caught in a compromising position, no-one said anything they'd later regret, and everyone went home with their own coat ... to their own home.
Back in the day, that sort of party might've been declared a damp squib, but the next day, everyone agreed it was one of the best ones yet.
Maybe our partying habits have changed with the times. When things were Tiger-tastic, we were writhing on velure banquettes, thinking we were Rihanna or Jay-Z; swigging Bolly from the neck of the bottle, wearing far too many sequins.
We flashed more than the cash, rolling from the dancefloor, back to the desk, and straight out to do it all again the next night.
Now that things are a little more restrained, perhaps our party habits have followed suit. It seems we've all grown up a bit, or just become more cautious of where and how we let our hair down.
We've learned at the expense of that boring guy from accounts. Or that girl who slept with three different blokes in one night (yes, that really happened).
We're possibly also more aware of our reputations, and how being the hot topic of conversation the next day isn't a good thing. There's also the matter of corporate responsibility to consider. Businesses now don't want to be responsible for their staff turning into extras from Love/Hate on the company account.
For the last few years, there's been more of an interest in offering a more civilised type of night out.
There are even some companies who've scrapped the whole party option, and give their staff the cash instead. I'm not sure I'd want to go that far but I have to say I quite like the new type of work bash -- where I remember what I got up to, and how I got home.
And there's something very comforting in waking up the next day without The Fear.