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Planning Inclusive Holiday Celebrations for the Workplace

Does your office display a Christmas tree each year or make the place festive with red, white and blue for the 4th of July? If you’re only celebrating holidays based on your experiences, you may be missing the chance to diversify your knowledge of other cultures. Inclusive holiday celebrations and recognition in the workplace can help support your diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and help make employees feel seen and valued. This guide to celebrating holidays at work can help create a more inclusive environment. 

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1. Start with an inclusive culture

Before jumping into an inclusive holiday initiative, look at your overall workplace culture to consider whether it encourages inclusivity. Celebrating holidays from various cultures can feel more sincere when your company values diversity and inclusion on a larger scale.

An inclusive culture is one where all employees feel they can be themselves. It celebrates differences and creates a safe environment for everyone to share openly and use their unique perspectives in their work. 

2. Create a planning committee

If you want to incorporate inclusive holiday recognition within your company, getting multiple people involved can make it more successful. Being inclusive means inviting different voices into the conversation.

You might ask for volunteers to join the committee and aim for a diverse membership, but you may want to avoid trying to force people who celebrate unique holidays to be on the committee. Some employees might want to share their traditions, while others may not want the responsibility of educating others on how they celebrate differently.

This committee can start by generating and researching a list of holidays beyond the traditional. They can decide how to incorporate more holidays into the year and celebrate respectfully. Providing diversity and inclusion training for those team members can help them succeed in their planning.

3. Get input from your employees

When you want to take an inclusive holiday approach, you may want to start with the holidays that are important to your team. Getting to know your employees beyond their work helps you learn how they celebrate and what they value. You might conduct a survey to get feedback on how employees would like to see holidays incorporated into the workplace.

Talking to your employees can also help you understand the differences in how people celebrate. Two people who practice the same religion might celebrate holidays in different ways and have unique traditions they enjoy. You can get a better view of different holidays by hearing firsthand how your employees celebrate them. 

4. Emphasize holidays equally

It’s important to recognize holidays equally. Mentioning Kwanzaa and Hanukkah in passing while fully decorating the office with Christmas trees, wreaths and other traditional Christmas decorations might send the message that Christmas is more important.

If you want to make the office festive, incorporate inclusive holiday decorations that represent all holidays celebrated by your employees. Consider turning it into a learning opportunity by printing an informational sign that explains the significance of various decorations and symbols.

5. Offer floating holidays

Your holiday pay policies can also become part of inclusive holiday recognition. Businesses often have standard holidays when they’re closed, and they typically follow federal holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.

However, it’s likely that not all of your employees celebrate those holidays. Instead, they might have other significant religious or cultural holidays that fall at different times. The employee might use their regular PTO to take time off work for those celebrations.

Offering floating holidays helps allow all employees to receive holiday pay on days that are significant to them. They can save their general PTO for vacations and personal use as they’re intended. Handling holiday pay in this way can help employees feel valued.

6. Consider cultural celebration differences

Celebrating holidays inclusively means not only honoring multiple holidays but also considering restrictions or beliefs that employees have in general. Offering food that everyone can eat is a major planning consideration.

Some employees might only eat kosher or halal foods. Others might not eat certain types of meat. The Muslim religion prohibits eating pork, while many people who practice Hinduism don’t eat beef. Offering a variety of good options can make it easier for everyone to find something that works for them.

Skipping alcohol at your workplace celebrations can also make them more inclusive. It’s something that people with Islamic and Buddhist beliefs usually avoid. It can also cause an uncomfortable situation for anyone who prefers not to drink or is in recovery or maintaining sobriety.

Activities such as dancing could also make some people feel uncomfortable. Understanding the beliefs and preferences of your employees can help you plan inclusive holiday celebrations that make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.

7. Choose a neutral date

If you’re planning a company celebration at the end of the year, check the calendar carefully to identify various holidays that fall during that time. Scheduling the party on a date with no holidays can avoid sending the message that one holiday is more or less important than others.

If you schedule the party on an important holiday that one or more of your employees celebrate, they might miss your company party due to their family traditions. Waiting until January is a way to avoid major holidays for various religions that often fall in December. 

8. Encourage peer sharing

Since celebrations and traditions are often very personal and differ from family to family, sharing your traditions with one another can help broaden your employees’ knowledge. This can be a fun, enlightening experience, even among people who celebrate the same holidays. While you might ask someone to share their holiday experiences, you may want to avoid pressuring anyone into doing so. Not everyone is comfortable sharing personal details in the workplace.

9. Offer educational opportunities

Celebrating holidays from different cultures can be a learning experience. You might have food catered from a local ethnic restaurant that relates to the holiday, or you might host a cooking class at the office to celebrate the culture. You could invite someone to teach a traditional dance or activity associated with a particular holiday. This helps allow employees who don’t observe the holiday to feel immersed in the traditions and more connected to them.

10. Make everything optional

The goal of work parties is often to encourage team bonding. In an inclusive workplace, you want everyone to feel welcome. But forcing people to participate could make them do things that go against their beliefs or celebrate things they don’t believe in. For example, some people may not celebrate holidays and personal events, such as birthdays. They might prefer to sit out of workplace celebrations.

If you host a celebration for a specific holiday, people who don’t celebrate it might not want to participate. Keeping everything optional lets people do what feels right to them based on their beliefs and preferences. 

11. Incorporate diversity training year-round

Experiencing inclusive holidays near the end of the calendar year is just the start. Add diversity training throughout the year to continue the conversation, raise awareness and make all employees feel included. Recognizing other holidays that employees observe throughout the year helps educate others who celebrate differently. You might also invite speakers to talk about different cultures as part of a monthly diversity training series.

FAQs about inclusive holiday celebrations

What is inclusion in the workplace?

An inclusive workplace is one that creates a welcoming, supportive environment for all employees, regardless of their background. Inclusion emphasizes respect and equality. It takes differences into account and offers flexibility to accommodate those differences. Being inclusive ranges from using inclusive language, such as partner instead of husband or wife, to accommodating religious dietary restrictions when catering employee meals. 

What are some diverse holidays to celebrate at work?

If you’re looking to add diversity when celebrating holidays, start with the holidays your employees celebrate. Some holidays that often don’t get as much attention in the workplace include:

  • Diwali 
  • Hanukkah 
  • Kwanzaa 
  • Bodhi Day 
  • Eid al-Fitr 
  • Lunar New Year 

Why is it important to celebrate holidays inclusively in the workplace?

Holidays and traditions are very personal and meaningful to individuals. Celebrating a diverse range of holidays, especially important holidays that your employees observe, shows that you recognize and appreciate this. It also helps you and other employees better understand and grow respect for one another.

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