Ideas for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations at Work

Traditionally, many religious and cultural celebrations occur between November and January. And with 65% of the U.S. population identifying as Christians, it may be tempting to focus on Christmas traditions this winter. However, with an increased focus on the inclusive and diverse workplace, its essential employers don’t ignore other celebrations. Get inclusive with holiday celebrations in the office!

Other holidays celebrations may include:

  • Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the second century BCS. According to the Hebrew calendar, the celebration lasts eight days and nights, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev. Depending on the year, it can fall anywhere from late November through December.
  • Kwanzaa takes place between December 26 and January 1. First celebrated in 1966, this annual holiday celebrates African harvest festival traditions.
  • The Indian festival of lights, Diwali, is observed by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists in October or November to celebrate the symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
  • Omisoka is a Japanese cultural holiday, observed on the last day of the calendar year, that celebrates the coming of a new year.
  • Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8 each year to mark the day Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment.
  • Chinese New Year falls on the first day of their lunisolar calendar, typically between January 21 and February 20.

These and many other religious, cultural, and secular celebrations represent a big part of an employee’s culture and identity. These celebrations can also evoke powerful emotions. So, ignoring and misunderstanding these cultural events can signal that their culture and identity don’t matter to your company. This may lead to feelings of exclusion, resulting in reduced engagement and productivity.

Recognizing different religious and cultural traditions is vital to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. But with so many celebrations occurring throughout the year, including it all is never easy. For this reason, do not get overly focused on getting it right the first time. But to keep learning and instill sensitivity to other people’s cultural differences.

To that end, we’ve included a few inspiring ideas to help keep you culturally diverse or neutral throughout the holidays.

1) Host neutral celebrations

With employees representing a variety of cultures, nationalities, and beliefs, ensure every element of the celebration is not religiously or culturally specific. Keep décor, music, and themes general. For example, focus the celebration on achievements or the company goals for the year ahead.

2) Celebrate all cultural/religious holidays

Make a point of acknowledging all religious and cultural holidays with enthusiasm. For example, you can set specific dates for celebrating each religious holiday. Or, organize one huge event to celebrate all the different religious/cultural events. Set up tables for each cultural celebration and ask employees to bring traditional foods, decorations, or games to show their colleagues how they celebrate. Encourage participation at all levels and make sure to represent all groups. This will give everyone a chance to learn about each other’s cultures.

3) Join an existing inclusive holiday celebration or cause

Instead of celebrating in the office, encourage your employees to participate in a local event. You can find local events by visiting sites like Event Brite or All Events. This will help them gain a deeper understanding of different cultures. Alternatively, engage in charitable activities like donating food and clothing or organizing toy drives. Charity is considered very important by many religions and cultures and also helps employees form stronger bonds with one another.

4) Organize a food festival

The love of food is universal and can break down barriers between diverse sets of employees. So, host a food festival and encourage individual employees to bring dishes unique to their culture or tradition.

5) Host a panel discussion

Another way to mark inclusive holiday celebrations is to host a panel discussion to foster mutual understanding and respect and shatter any stereotypes. For example, you can organize a panel discussion on the contribution of African Americans to the United States as part of Black History Month.


And some important tips for a smooth celebration …

6) Set up a diverse planning group

Whatever the occasion and however you celebrate it, it’s crucial that you invite workers from different backgrounds and cultures. Their input in the celebration’s planning can help you avoid mistakes and ensure the event is inclusive.

7) Use a multicultural calendar

These can be displayed in public areas in the workplace and electronically on the company’s intranet. Multicultural calendars keep managers and employees aware of all the holidays throughout the year. It can also include recognition days celebrating people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ groups. They may also help you plan events more effectively and avoid scheduling conflicts. For example, this year’s Hanukkah celebrations coincide with Christmas.

8) Make it optional

Avoid making holiday celebrations mandatory. There may be various religious or cultural reasons why employees cannot attend. For example, Christian groups like Quakers and Messianic Jewish groups don’t celebrate Easter. Holidays can also be painful for those suffering from depression or grieving the loss of a loved one.

9) Give time off for religious observances

Offer flexible schedules or floating holidays to allow employees to celebrate religious and cultural events. Doing this shows that you value your workers and understand the importance of their customs and traditions. But be sure to plan employees’ schedules early to avoid conflict or staff shortages.

10) Encourage employees to share stories

Create ways for employees to share stories about their cultures and traditions. Employees can share content and photos of food or clothing typical at specific cultural festivals.

Celebrating employees’ various personal, religious, and cultural backgrounds is integral to building a diverse and inclusive culture within your company. And when employees feel that they belong, they open up and share their varied perspectives, ideas, and expertise – massively improving your organization’s creativity, productivity, and profitability.