It’s December, and that means one thing to most people from Western cultures: Christmas time. But the month of December is a time of celebration for many more groups than just Christians, and it’s vitally important to your workplace culture that you incorporate the full variety of holidays into your festivities.
Being inclusive around holidays, however, is not an effort limited to December. For example, certain nations where Islam is the predominant religion may have a holiday in December, but the faith itself doesn’t celebrate a universal holiday that all Muslims observe during the end of the year. As holidays are a great opportunity to provide cultural education for all employees, it’s a good practice to highlight other cultures’ various holidays throughout the year. In the case of Islam, the next opportunity to pay respect to tradition comes in the form of Isra and Mi’raj at the end of February 2022.
In the interest of staying focused on the current inclusivity challenge, we’ll only cover what you can and should be doing in December to help your employees see what the business is doing to show its appreciation for all employees.
Inclusivity in December
There are five major holidays you should consider in your inclusive holiday practices this month. We’ll provide suggestions on how to highlight each for your employees and bring a bit of cheer around each of them to your entire workforce.
The most obvious of the bunch is Christmas, a day highlighted throughout American television and pop culture. Christmas can be inclusive courtesy of the wide variety of traditions that have been created over the years, from white elephant gift exchanges to tree lightings, sweater parties, Christmas movie marathons and toy drives.
While Christmas is the most prevalent December holiday in North America, it’s important to place some notable guidelines on decorum around respect for other holidays, traditions and religions, as well as those who are not religious but celebrate the holiday as an annual gathering with family, friends and other people they care about.
In the workplace, be sure to place spending limits on any gift exchanges and emphasize the voluntary nature of participating in any Christmas-related events. Also, while it is ultimately up to each employee to decide which greeting they use, the company policy should always be to wish everyone a Happy Holidays.
Hannukah, also spelled Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The eight-day celebration stems from what was believed to be a miracle as there was only enough oil to burn the menorah’s candles for one day during the rededication.
Each night during Hannukah, which falls on different dates each year determined by the Hebrew calendar, a new candle is added to the menorah after the sun sets. Blessings are recited, and Hannukah-specific foods are served. There is also the exchanging of gifts involved.
In 2021, Hannukah started on Nov. 28 and ended on Dec. 6. Although the holiday has already come and gone, that doesn’t mean you’ve entirely missed an opportunity to educate and highlight Hannukah traditions belatedly.
Starting the day after Christmas this year, Kwanzaa is the annual week-long celebration for African Americans based on African harvest festival traditions, primarily in West and Southeast Africa.
Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966, with each of the seven days representing one of the principles of Kwanzaa:
- Collective work and responsibility
- Economic cooperation
The historical relevance of Kwanzaa and respect for its tradition is worth noting out of respect for the people who celebrate it. However, diversity proponents may want to engage with that population before planning events that showcase traditions. Given its development as a holiday specifically for the Black community, any attempt to celebrate it by large, majority-white organizations may be seen as a form of cultural appropriation and should be treated delicately.
Celebrated by a handful of nations, Boxing Day originated in what is now the United Kingdom. Traditionally on this day, the donation box for the poor kept at churches was distributed into the community. This tradition still happens in some places, but the day has also become a national day off in many former British colonies, celebrated with sporting events, parades or street festivals.
New Year’s Eve is a big day anywhere, but perhaps nowhere does it take on more meaning than Japan. It involves a variety of traditions that honor the concept of “engi,” which translates broadly to luck. It’s an important day in Japanese culture to set a person up for the year to come.
Year-end preparations are made with close attention to details, tying up loose ends to prevent any misfortune experienced in the current year from spilling over into the New Year. The tradition dictates that kitchens should be kept quiet for the first three days of the year, so on this day, food is prepared, and sweets, snacks and other items are stocked up. Year-end cleaning is also common.
Omisoka can be a fun version of New Year’s traditions to teach employees about and even provide an opportunity to challenge all involved to consider what they want to carry into the coming year and what they don’t.