Inclusive Holidays at Work – how to celebrate the holidays inclusively

As the end of the year approaches, and some workplaces begin planning for a holiday/end-of-the-year party, it’s important that we strive to make celebrations as inclusive as possible. We’ve put together a resource that can help to navigate the holidays in your workplace, along with a tool to ensure any event you plan is accessible and ensure inclusive holidays at work.

We’ll be discussing:

  • Why is it important to be inclusive at work during the holiday season?
  • Tips for hosting an inclusive party in December/January
  • Goals for inclusive holidays & celebrations to bring into 2023
  • Fall and Winter holidays to add to your work calendar
  • Mental health tips for the Holidays
  • Resources for further learning
  • Downloadable tool: a checklist to enhance the accessibility of your event

Download the resource sheet here or continue reading this blog for the info in the guide.

Why is it important to be inclusive at work during the holiday season?

People come from a diverse range of faith and cultural identities. It’s important to take a look at which traditions are being highlighted, which ones might be missing, and who is being excluded because of the way our workplaces celebrate the holidays. Each person in your organization will celebrate holidays differently, so recognizing and supporting an inclusive environment shows that you and your team care about everyone and ensures that nobody feels left out. In other words, “holiday” is not synonymous with “Christmas.”

Tips for hosting an inclusive party in December/January

  • Organize company holiday events reflecting an end-of-the-year celebration or theme – a party that celebrates your team’s contributions over the past year.
  • Be mindful of those who do not drink during celebrations and how you might be excluding people by making alcohol a big party theme. Make sure to include non-alcoholic options.
  • Don’t decorate based around one holiday.
  • Make the party accessible for everyone – consider all the needs of your employees and make sure that the venue is accessible.
  • Make a plan for those who work remotely – consider if you want to expense everyone the chance to join in person or if you’re going to host a virtual event instead.
  • Consider food restrictions and plan the menu with your team.

Goals for inclusive holidays & celebrations to bring into 2023

  • Ask employees what holidays they celebrate and which ones they would like to see recognized.
  • Offer Floating Holidays. Allow employees to select which holidays they choose to celebrate and shift their ‘stat holiday’ days to a holiday more meaningful to them.
  • Create and display a diverse holiday calendar in your workplace.
  • Have a discussion about decorating within your office. Invite all staff to be involved in the discussion.
  • Make participation for any holiday event truly optional.
  • Consider employee backgrounds – for example, don’t schedule a holiday party on a day that some employees are fasting for Ramadan.
  • Create a way to receive feedback from your team about your inclusive holiday efforts and keep improving.

Fall and Winter holidays to add to your work calendar

Bodhi Day. This Buddhist holiday, which commemorates the day that Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha, experienced enlightenment, is traditionally celebrated on Dec. 8.

Christmas. This celebration of the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, takes place on Dec. 25. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, it takes place on Jan. 7.

Diwali. This five-day Hindu Festival of Lights begins Oct. 24, 2022.

Eid al-Fitr. This celebration that marks the end of Ramadan in the Muslim faith has shifting dates and can sometimes fall in December. However, in 2023, it will start at sundown on Apr. 20.

Hanukkah. In 2022, this eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights will start at sundown on Dec. 18 and end at sundown Dec. 26.

Kwanzaa. This weeklong secular holiday honouring African-American heritage is celebrated Dec. 26-Jan. 1 each year.

Lunar New Year. This traditional Chinese holiday marking the end of winter falls on Jan. 22, 2023.

Yule. This Wiccan or pagan celebration of the winter solstice begins on Dec. 21 and ends on Jan. 1, 2023.

Source: Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

Mental Health Tips during the Holidays

Holidays can bring up many emotions for people, including stress, grief, anxiety and depression. Sometimes, shortening days can impact people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression, and the holiday season can create pressure to “show up” when they can’t. It can also negatively impact people who are struggling financially who cannot celebrate the way others around them are, among many other factors. Being mindful of this as you enter the holiday season, and how it could show up in your workplace is important to be able to better support your colleagues and teams.

  • Acknowledge feelings – It is OK to take time for yourself.
  • Reach out – Seek out community, religious or other social events, this could include virtual gatherings that can offer support. There are many online mental health service professionals that can support you during this time, see online resources like BetterHelp.
  • Take care of yourself – recognize that family members may not live up to our expectations and it is OK if you are not safe or ready to engage in discussions with them. To unwind from gatherings, consider reading a book, meditation, or listening to music.
  • Create a budget – creating and sticking to a budget can be helpful to make the holidays more affordable.
  • Say No – it is OK to miss workplace holiday gatherings or family gatherings if you do not feel included or to take better care of yourself. Prioritize the gatherings that are most important to you, and feel free to say ‘No’ to the others.

*Above list taken and adapted from the Mayo Clinic.

Resources for Further Learning

Downloadable Tool: Checklist to enhance the accessibility of your event

Download the tool below to use when planning an event to ensure that it is inclusive and accessible to all.

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