Planning an Inclusive Holiday Party

December is a time where many religious and secular holidays occur, flooding our inboxes with end of year party invites and warm holiday wishes. Holiday party planning can be tricky as the work force is diverse with various cultures and religions. Trying to plan a Holiday party that recognizes all cultures and religions could be a recipe for disaster. If any employees feel left out, even a small percentage, experts say that it can have a negative impact on overall employee productivity and engagement. The usual goal of end-of-year parties are to show appreciation to everyone. The inclusive approach would be to remember that all employees come from various faiths and traditions. How can you make all employees feel included during this festive time of year? 

Read further for tips on throwing a more inclusive holiday party:

1: Generate Holiday Awareness.

Look into an interfaith calendar and be sure to note all holidays throughout the year, not just holidays at the end of the year. You can send employees a voluntary anonymous survey asking which holidays they prefer to celebrate. Ask your employees which holidays are important to them and try to recognize them throughout the year as well as during your holiday party planning time. According to Gallup, 21% of employees report no religious identity or faith traditions. A suggestion for an inclusive celebration for all religious or non-religious employees would be to celebrate human rights mile stones or environmental milestones throughout the year as well. You can even consider throwing your appreciation celebration in January.


2: Make Parties Voluntary.

Let your employees know that it is okay to opt-out of any holiday events. Let employees who want to attend a celebration know, this is a good time to build engagement and get to know one another outside of the typical office setting. Steer clear of making a party mandatory as it might send the wrong message and make some employees uncomfortable. Plan parties around an “end of year” theme or the New Year holiday; this will include everyone in congratulating them on a year of hard work and best wishes for the year ahead.


3: Choose your decorations wisely.

If you decide to put up decorations during this festive time of the year and or have decor at an end of year party be considerate of all individuals. Remember that certain colors are associated with certain holidays, such as red and green typically remind people of Christmas. Consider laying out educational cards that explain various religious traditions. Decorate with more of a winter theme such as snowflakes, balloons and neutral colors. Encourage employees to decorate their own personal workspace however they wish, so long as it adheres to employee handbook policies. A considerate “Winter season” or “New Year” theme is always acceptable for common areas and shared workspaces.


4: Provide Options.

Consider all employees when deciding on what food to serve. It is popular to serve ham during a Christmas feast, however some people do not eat ham, or meat in general. Provide plenty of options and consider placing food items on various tables during the holiday party. You can even consider hosting a two-part party. Be sure to clearly state the schedule of events in the invitation. The first part can be the special thanks and or announcements over dinner, followed by part two where music or dancing is part of the celebration. This way employees have options and can choose to participate in what is most comfortable for them.


End of year holiday celebrations are definitely a fun way to thank your employees for a year of hard work. Just be sure to be mindful of all faith traditions during this festive time. Your celebration should be a unifying activity for you and all of your employees. Following these tips can help you throw a seamless and fun celebration inclusive for all faiths, traditions, and beliefs. We wish you happy party planning!