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Inclusive Holidays

3 Tips for Celebrating in the Office

What many consider to be the holiday season is nearly behind us! We’ve spent time for ourselves with family and friends; office spaces were decorated in reds, greens, and golds; tinsel and garlands were hung; gifts were handed out and parties were had. It’s a joyous time to celebrate the good things in life with those we care about! 

However, it can be easy to get lost in what we hold dear, and lose sight of what’s important to others. Statista reports that 85% of Americans celebrate Christmas, as an example. Not everyone celebrates the same way, or even the same holidays. So what about the other 15%? What and how do they celebrate, and is that respected in the workplace alongside the more “popular” holidays? Let’s explore some tips to ensure that everyone’s holiday seasons receive recognition, and all feel included. 


Be Aware

How do you celebrate something that you aren’t even aware of? The first step involves research - look for interfaith and diversity calendars, and check in with employees. You can find interfaith and diversity calendars through a general search - for instance, this Interfaith Calendar, and this Diversity Calendar

Then, to specify which holidays to observe or celebrate at the office, ask your coworkers or employees to see what’s important to them! The lists of holidays is extensive - it wouldn’t be necessary to celebrate all of them - you’d be holding a party nearly every day! So, find out what would be important for those in the office to have recognized or celebrated.

The next step would be to figure out how to recognize or celebrate. Are there decorations or types of food that would make the celebration more appropriate and special? Is there anything that might offend if it’s included, or not included? For instance, the presence of alcohol or a dish containing pork may dissuade Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu groups from participating. 

Lastly, making things voluntary, like attendance or the partaking of an event - such as gift giving - allows a graceful exit or polite declination. Make it clear that there are no consequences for not showing up; the inclusion initiative is not meant to force someone to partake in something that feels uncomfortable, but rather to broaden horizons and bring people together. Let folks know their attendance is not required, but welcomed. 


Schedule Intentionally

With your interfaith and diversity calendars, and a list of holidays people would like to see celebrated in hand, you’re ready to start planning! This could be a lot for one person to do alone, and diversity in thought can be useful. Consider creating a multicultural holiday planning team, if possible. Instead of having one person to plan out all the holidays, invite a group of knowledgeable and interested volunteers to brainstorm and divide up the work. 

The 85% celebrating Christmas may tend to focus on the end of the calendar year as the holiday season, but other groups celebrate all year round, or at different parts of the year. Think beyond the month of December and traditional end-of-year holidays. Take a look at those calendars and employee/coworker surveys - there are so many more holidays to celebrate year-round! 

Another idea is to allow floating holidays - these are used with employee discretion. If having parties or decorating or bringing treats in for all of the holidays would just be too much, consider moving all to floating holidays. This way, those who care to observe the holiday know they are welcome to, and those who don’t choose not to take the day. Everyone’s wishes and observances are respected, without the extra time and cost it may take to recognize or celebrate it in the office. 


Lead With Respect and Equality

While recognizing and celebrating holidays is joyous and can bring people together, be careful not to go overboard. What I mean by this is to stick with the generalities of the holidays - colors, decorations such as lights or streamers, and typical foods perhaps. Instead, leave people to celebrate with folklore and religious identities privately.  

Besides decorations, consider food and beverage options as well. Including certain foods or beverages - such as alcohol - can be tricky, so give some thought into what foods and drinks have a place at the celebration, and how you'll communicate to the guests what is being served, when, and how they can avoid foods or beverages from which they prefer to abstain.  

Lastly, the goal is to ensure that the holidays employees would like to celebrate, feel equally important as all the rest. It would be inappropriate to go “all out” for one holiday and not another. It may take time to find the right balance - with a consideration of budget, space, and time allowed to hold the celebrations. If it works out to have multiple large parties a year - great! - but it may make more sense to have just a few small ones a year. Let’s embrace these holidays equally. 


Together we can ensure holidays are not a cause for exclusion, but stay true in bringing people closer! Holidays are happening all year-round - let’s continue the celebrations too! 

What holidays do you and your organizations celebrate? Do you have tips for successful workplace celebrations? We’d love to hear about them! 



Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!








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