Celebrating Holidays and Diversity in the Workplace

The Star of David came off the wall Saturday evening to be replaced with a cross for Sunday services. The beauty of growing up in Columbia, MD, among many things, was that we had interfaith centers- no churches, synagogues, mosques. We had to share space and work amongst each other. That brought about a unique experience of sharing and inclusiveness in the community. 

Using this lens to think about the holiday season in the workplace is interesting. How can we be successfully inclusive and have everyone enjoy the experience?

The commitment to inclusion and respect for varying religions, all the time and in December particularly, where Christmas is a large focus for many, matters in the workplace. The decorations, parties, gift giving, is all relevant. Ultimately, it is feasible to handle this in a respectful and fun fashion, but it takes some thought and possibly effort different than the usual.

Below are suggestions from a few articles and ideas that worked well in practice at various organizations.

But first, a suggestion for a simple and very important task-- add non-Christian holidays to your calendar. It is important to know when these occur and to not schedule important meetings or events on these dates. This is a simple way to respect all holidays and all people.

Helpful Calendar Tools:

Ideas for Holidays in the Workplace:
  • If you plan to have a party, create a committee of people of varying religions to plan the holiday party.
  • Consider having a celebration for the new year instead.
  • Be sure to make holiday celebrations easily voluntary.
  • Use end of the year parties to celebrate work-related accomplishments of the year.
  • Skip the gift-giving (Secret Santa, etc.) This is hard for an employee to opt out of for religious or financial reasons. Consider for those who do celebrate Christmas, this is a costly time of year.
  • Keep the focus on those in need. Collect toys, coats, toiletries, food, etc. for a local organization.
  • If the office is closed for religious holidays, offer floating holidays for people to take the days at another time.
  • Keep office decorations festive and wintry, but not religious. 
  • Encourage employees to share about the holidays they celebrate throughout the year through stories, food, etc.
  • Display a multi-cultural calendar to help employees be aware of important dates throughout the year.
Helpful Articles:

Happy days to all!!