As we embark on December’s festive season, many of us in Human Resources prepare for traditional year-end holiday parties. Given the multi-cultural mix of employees in most organizations, for some, these holiday celebrations can leave some folks feeling negative, left out and unhappy. Given the backdrop of our political climate, tension and emotions are high, and the opportunity for misunderstandings increase tenfold. Some employees will embrace the idea of a more inclusive approach to the holiday party, and some will not appreciate this approach at all.
Although the US population continues to grow more diverse, Christians still make up about 75% of its population. This often leads to the “holiday party” that is really an incognito Christmas Party. For the employees that do not celebrate Christmas, this phenomenon can lead to disengagement and productivity loss.
The goal of year-end holiday celebrations is to show employee appreciation. Leaders who want to be inclusive will focus on making workers feel that they belong and are valued. One way to not be inclusive is to make someone feel invisible, to make them feel as though the organization just has no idea who they are. So, the idea is to not avoid acknowledging Christmas, or to avoid saying, “Merry Christmas”, but there should be general awareness that not everyone does celebrate it.
A more inclusive approach to planning the year-end shindig is highly recommended. Create a diverse planning committee to avoid mis-steps, or to avoid leaving a population of your workforce out. Also, avoid scheduling mistakes – check the holiday calendar. It would not be advisable to schedule an event at the same night that Hanukkah begins, for example. Holiday parties should be voluntary – do not make it mandatory. For some, this will feel very uncomfortable. Note, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate holidays, or perhaps someone is grieving a loss, and does not wish to partake in merrymaking.
To assist those who have the task of planning these events, I have complied a list of fall and winter holidays, and the dates on which they fall:
Bodhi Day – This is a Buddhist holiday which commemorates the day that Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha, experienced enlightenment, and is usually celebrated on December 8th.
Christmas – The celebration of the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, however, Eastern Orthodox celebrate on January 7th.
Diwali – This is a five-day Hindu Festival of Lights that began on November 6th.
Eid al-Fitr – This celebration marks the end of Ramadan in the Muslin faith and has shifting dates. In 2019, this will begin at sundown on June 4th.
Hanukkah – The Jewish Festival of Lights will begin at sundown on December 2nd and end at sundown on December 10th.
Kwanza – This week long secular holiday honoring the African-American heritage is celebrated December 26th to January 1st each year.
Lunar New Year – This traditional Chinese holiday marks the end of winter and falls on February 5th, 2019.
Yule: This Wiccan or pagan celebration of the winter solstice takes place every year between December 20th and 23rd. I always say “No good deed goes unpunished,” but, if you’re part of the holiday planning committee in your organization, or the one in charge of doing so, the chances of planning for a successful year-end party increase significantly by taking a stance towards inclusion.
- Lauren Lynch has a collective 13 years of experience in Human Resources. She completed her undergraduate work at Arcadia University where she earned a Bachelors in Sociology with a double minor in Psychology and Anthropology. While earning her degree she also worked as an intern in Human Resources. Lauren has worked in HR under various industries to include Cable Communications, Technology, and Healthcare and has had a hand in recruitment, coaching and training, onboarding, employee events, benefits, policy, performance management, employee relations, etc. To continue her education Lauren completed her executive education at the University of Notre Dame. The 12-month program included certification classes to elevate skills in leadership and management. This is Lauren’s first time writing business articles and is eager to continue sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experiences.