Creating an environment where everyone feels encouraged and comfortable to bring their whole, authentic self to work is a cornerstone of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) work. Celebrating the holidays in the workplace can become challenging to navigate, especially when prioritizing DEIB. However, with thoughtfulness, collaboration, and conscious effort, your team can recognize the seasons in an inclusive way that helps all team members feel a sense of belonging.
6 Ways to Host Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in The Workplace
1. Talk to your team first.
Discussing the holidays with your team is the best way to begin planning celebrations. What holidays do they celebrate? What activities and traditions do they find enjoyable during the holidays? What are their preferences when it comes to celebrations? Collecting your team’s feedback and understanding what types of holidays and observations they celebrate can effectively help you brainstorm ideas for in-office recognition.
2. Create a collaborative calendar to recognize all holidays.
Technology can support your DEIB efforts, help you understand your team members, and provide a platform for your staff to share their traditions. Create a collaborative calendar amongst your team and share edit access with your team members. Encourage your team members to add holidays they celebrate to the calendar. This will help you as a leader celebrate your team members’ holidays equally and allow others to learn about traditions and celebrations from other cultures.
3. Be thoughtful about decorations.
Celebrations are a great way to build comradery through fun, non-work activities. However, emphasizing a small selection of holidays or specific religious or folklore themes can lead to disconnection and exclusion. When planning the details of your holiday celebration, take extra time to consider the decorations for the event. You can take two central paths when making your holiday decorations inclusive: generic décor, using themes from many holidays, and providing an educational component.
Generic holiday decorations don’t have to be boring! Focus on colors and seasonal themes rather than holiday-specific imagery. For example, consider creating a Winter theme rather than having a heavy Christmas aesthetic with trees and Santa Claus.
In contrast, encourage your team members to express themselves. Decorations and tradition-sharing enable your team to recognize specific holidays and the imagery accompanying those celebrations. The Society of Human Resources recommends “adding educational cards nearby [various holiday displays] to explain the religious tradition to others” (source).
4. Check your calendar.
Host the celebration on a day that doesn’t overlap with any holidays to prevent any single holiday from being put in the spotlight. Check your team’s collaborative holiday calendar and an interfaith calendar before finalizing the event date. Remember that you don’t have to host your celebration in November or December when the excitement of Christmas can overshadow non-Christian holidays (source). Consider planning an event for the New Year or even in the springtime.
5. Make participation optional.
As a leader, it is understandable that you would want your entire team to celebrate together, especially considering how significantly non-work activities can help build connections. However, it is best to make participation voluntary when it comes to holiday parties. Some team members may not be able to participate for religious reasons, or others may have other challenges in their personal lives that make celebrations too difficult. Show flexibility and understanding; don’t be offended if some team members decline your invitation.
6. Ask for feedback.
We’re all on a DEIB journey and can continue to learn and grow as leaders in many ways. After your holiday celebration, ask your team for feedback about the event and suggestions for future festivities. This demonstrates your commitment to your team and their opinions and allows you to discover your blind spots and improve your events in years to come.
Resources for Further Reading
If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive holiday celebrations, visit the websites below.