7 Tips to Inclusively Celebrate Holidays at Work

photo of a man putting an ornament on a table
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

When you’re an employer, you likely want to celebrate the holidays. From giving easy office Christmas gifts to celebrating events like Halloween or Thanksgiving, these are opportunities to recognize and appreciate your employees and connect through having fun with one another. 

At the same time, while celebrating holidays with your employees can be an important part of a positive corporate culture, you want to make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s culturally sensitive especially with regard to religious holidays. 

So how can you do that?

The following are seven tips to inclusively celebrate holidays in the workplace. 

1. Ask For Feedback

The United States is considered a predominantly Christian country, and much of our culture and even our laws come from that, but it’s important that you’re sensitive to your other employees who aren’t Christian or don’t celebrate the same things as their coworkers. 

If you aren’t sure what’s appropriate, what would feel inclusive or what’s going to work for everyone, a good way to figure it out is to ask. You can send out a simple, anonymous survey that will help you get a feel for everyone’s comfort level is, and what they’d like to do to celebrate holidays at work. 

The term cultural competence is important in all areas of a business. You want to try to interact with people from cultures that are different from your own, and you can not only embrace these cultures but work on actively learning about them. 

Validate every team member’s values, which is going to encourage open dialogue and promote a sense of creativity and a positive company environment. 

2. Use Inclusive Terminology

Sometimes inclusion can feel intimidating in the workplace because you aren’t sure where to start. Your terminology and the language you use are one of the simplest and best places to begin. 

Try to establish language that’s going to integrate everyone’s beliefs. For example, December can be the holiday season instead of the Christmas season, so you aren’t excluding anyone. 

3. Become More Aware of Unconscious Bias

Companies are increasingly working to be aware of their otherwise unconscious biases. These are things that company leadership, as well as employees, may unknowingly harbor. You can start to make a collective effort to not only recognize these but eliminate them. 

This isn’t just something that has value in a business environment during the holidays—it’s important year-round. 

You don’t want to express ideas in a way that’s potentially going to affect someone from another cultural background in a negative way. 

Being aware, in general, is helpful. 

Don’t make people feel invisible, and let them know that you’re thinking about them. 

4. Learn More About Other Winter Holidays

There are many holidays in the winter season aside from Christmas, which can give you the opportunity to be more inclusive in how you celebrate. Try to learn about these, and especially the ones some of your employees may celebrate. 

For example, there’s Eid al-Fitr which is a celebration marking the end of Ramadan in the Muslim faith. The dates shift, but sometimes it does fall in December, although it can fall any other time of year too. 

Hanukkah in 2022 will begin on the evening of December 18 and end on Monday, December 26. 

Kwanzaa is a secular holiday that lasts for a week and celebrates African-American heritage. It’s celebrated at the end of December. 

These are just a few examples. 

Even at small companies, employees and company leaders can learn about other religions and holidays throughout the year. You can ask employees which holidays are most important to them and add them to an interfaith calendar. Then, you can recognize these throughout the year, even if you don’t do so with a full-scale party. 

As people get to know each other and understand one another’s backgrounds, it improves the feeling of being a team and collaboration. 

If there’s a sense that workplace culture discourages talking about faith, people will start to feel diminishing trust in their coworkers.  

5. Make Celebrations Voluntary

If you are going to host a holiday party for your employees, it should never be mandatory. Some people won’t be comfortable attending for their own reasons, and there are also religions that don’t celebrate holidays. Make it very clear that attendance is optional, and ensure that supervisors share the same perspective. 

Some people may feel like even though an event is technically optional, it isn’t really. That’s not what you want to happen in your business. You want to make it clear no one will be offended if someone doesn’t come, and they won’t miss out on potential opportunities in the future because they don’t attend. 

6. Consider Floating Holidays

You can show employees you value their personal and religious beliefs with the offering of floating holidays. Employees can choose when they take time off for religious observances that are meaningful to them. 

Supervisors should be conscious of these holidays, so they aren’t sending emails to employees on these days, for example. 

7. Consider Celebrating in January

Another unique way to be inclusive and still celebrate is to do it in January. This is when most of the holiday buzz has worn off, so people aren’t going to feel like they’re celebrating Christmas, even if it’s being called something else. 

It can be a great time to recognize employees for their achievements the year before and also start to set goals and intentions for the new year. Everyone’s usually back from their vacation, and you can have fun without thinking about religion or culture or causing anyone to be left out. 

You can give gifts that aren’t associated with any particular holiday, and everyone can enjoy food, drinks, music, or whatever works for your team. 

Another alternative to a holiday party is to host a charity event. Maybe you all get together for a charity fundraiser, for example, at the end of the year, which can also be fun and include employee recognition. 

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it exactly right. It’s challenging to learn how to be inclusive around the holiday season, but even making an effort is what matters. 

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