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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chocolate, Cars Top Christmas Party Gifts

Businesses have been getting in the Christmas spirit ever since Charles Dickens -- or rather the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future -- transformed Ebeneezer Scrooge overnight into a funky, modern CEO who treated his workers to a big slap-up meal and entertainment.

Back in the day, Scrooge confined his corporate largesse to turkey and much-needed walking devices, but today's bosses have a much wider selection if they want to wow their employees and outdo the competition.

There are scores of companies in Moscow organizing festive corporate events this holiday season, and the country's burgeoning economy, mixed with a love of excess and the desire to go one better than your nearest rival, is feeding bigger and bigger parties.

You want a fountain made out of chocolate for a party -- milk or dark, sir? No problem for TNK-BP, which had fountains bubbling full of milk and dark chocolate at this year's Christmas party, which one employee speculated had set the firm back a cool $500,000.

Guests could help themselves to the chocolate whenever they wanted to, and unlike the gluttonous Augustus Gloop in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," there were no reports of anyone falling headfirst into the soup.

Supermarket chain Pyatyorochka will have a Salvador Dali theme for its party this year, said Sergei Knyazev of Knyazev Productions, who is organizing the bash. Instead of melted watches, a famous image from Dali's paintings, the party will feature melted pyatorochki, or 5 kopek coins.

The New Year's tree will be hung upside down and is to be set aflame at the stroke of midnight.

Of course, there are holiday parties for employees, and then there are parties for corporate VIPs. Some of these events for top executives lean more toward bacchanalian bachelor parties than eggnog and "Auld Lang Syne."

Transport and construction companies are especially fond of such events, said Knyazev, who organized one last year for 30 people from a top transport company. A typical event, he said, is in a strip bar with a ratio of two girls to every executive, and lots of skimpy Santa outfits.

In this case, the party featured a menu of aphrodisiac foods, and most of the food went on the girls rather than into the executives, he said.

Lotteries are big at office parties with prizes growing in proportion to the economy's expansion, with mobile phones, laptop computers and other electronic goods now all the rage.

Independent Media Sanoma Magazines, the publisher of The Moscow Times, gave away a Mitsubishi Lancer at its party last week. Back in the economically challenged late '90s, the company's top prize was a Lada.

In some companies' lotteries, BMWs or four-wheel-drive cruisers are not uncommon.

State news agency RIA-Novosti showed it had a quirky sense of humor when it gave away three lie detectors at a party for its clients last Friday. The winners in the lottery: state-run Channel One television (twice) and the Los Angeles Times.

Prizes for the bored executive are more difficult to choose. Knyazev's latest lottery wheeze is a game of helicopter paintball, in which two teams are taken up in helicopters armed to the teeth with paint pellets and automatic weapons. They then chase a four-wheel-drive vehicle through a forest and see who hits it the most.

Knyazev originally wanted the two helicopters to fire at each other but was told it was too dangerous.

If all this Babylonian excess is a little too consumerist and businesslike for this time of year, then you could swap it all for a hair shirt and donate the money you would have spent on gifts to charity instead.

That's exactly what accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is doing this year. According to its Christmas cards, the firm is donating its holiday gift budget of $100,000 to New Year's parties at several orphanages and to education for 100 special-needs children over the coming year.

Perhaps if Scrooge worked in Russia today, he would have tipped off the media about his imminent visit to Bob Cratchit's house. Television cameras would then have captured the joyful moment as he entered the hovel, arms laden with gifts -- and the accompanying press release would have reported glowingly on Scrooge, Marley & Co.'s efforts to feed the poor and help the disabled as part of its Yuletide social responsibilities. A note to shareholders would also point out that turkeys are tax-deductible at end of the financial year.

Humbug indeed.