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Holidays, Observances, & Celebrations: A Guide for Inclusive Workplaces

This resource is for workplaces that want to be more inclusive and accommodating of various holidays, observances, and celebrations and attuned to the stark contrasts between special times and people’s realities

Engaging Special Times With Intention

Experiences with holidays, observances, and celebrations are not universal, so what can we do? This section focuses on expanding our understanding of a diversity of holidays, provides tactics for being inclusive of those with varying experiences, and gives some strategies for being more intentional in our workplace policies and practices.

Survey Your Team

Instead of assuming what dates or times are most celebrated in your workplace, ask people. Learn what is important to your people, allocate time and resources to expand your knowledge, and put these practices into place.

Consider an optional and anonymous survey that asks:  

  • What holidays, observances, and celebrations would you like recognized in the workplace?
  • What holidays, observances, and celebrations are important to you? 
  • How would you like those holidays, observances, and celebrations to be celebrated and acknowledged?
  • Is there anything else we should know about the holidays, observances, and celebrations that are important to you?

Ask Team Members What They Need

As a follow-up, ask team members what support they may need during this time. This is helpful information for planning and creates an understanding of people’s experiences.

  • How will you be observing this holiday, observance, or celebration? 
  • Will you take time off? 
  • Will you be spending extra time with family or friends? 
  • Will you be working from home during this time? 
  • Will you have increased friend or family obligations? 
  • Is there something that I could do to support you during this time? 
  • Is there something that the organization could do to support you during this time?

Educate Others (Share Learnings)

When you learn something new, share it with others respectfully. This can take the burden off those who observe holidays that are less recognized. You can educate those who are new to your country or unfamiliar with holidays that have complex histories. Newcomers can experience pressure to conform to dominant holidays and assimilate into the dominant culture to be accepted. The pressure to do so can contribute to their oppression and contribute to others’ oppression in celebrating holidays with complex histories. There are many ways to introduce holidays and create celebrations that don’t pressure people to celebrate in ways that contradict their personal beliefs and customs.

Acknowledge and Validate

Acknowledge that a variety of experiences exist and validate them in communications to your team, clients, partners, and social audiences. Provide some context surrounding holidays. Connect with team members privately and ask if they would like to share how they observe holidays and celebrations. Try and make it a collaborative effort to learn and educate; don’t leave the responsibility only to those participating. Create awareness of other religions. Start with an interfaith calendar and let everyone in the organization know which holidays team members will be observing; you don’t need to specify who. 

Don’t Make Assumptions

Avoid assuming a dominant holiday experience in your dialogues. Not everyone gives gifts or can afford gifts. Asking, “Have you finished your holiday shopping?” can make some people feel uncomfortable or stigmatized. Not everyone has parents or family who are accepting, so asking people if they are “celebrating with their family” should be avoided. In places where Christmas is dominantly celebrated, “Merry Christmas” is shared widely, and we must be intentional with the use of the greeting. If someone mentions they celebrate a particular holiday, ask them about it openly and let them lead the conversation. When people share their experiences with the holidays, actively listen to them. Do not minimize their experiences, and don’t tell comparative stories; both act as a means of suppressing people’s real and lived experiences.

Prioritize Community Over Consumerism

Purchasing gifts is a kind and thoughtful gesture, however, there is a lot of pressure to engage in this practice. If people cannot afford to buy elaborate gifts and decorations, or plan celebrations, they may feel guilt and shame. Try to focus on the holiday’s core values rather than tangible items during celebrations. 

If giving gifts, you can try to: 

  • Support small and local businesses that reflect your values, community, and organization. 
  • Purchase sustainable gifts and gifts in sustainable packaging to reduce environmental impact. 
  • Give experiences. These gifts might be more meaningful, and in some instances, they create a lower environmental impact than tangible items. 
  • Organize a gift exchange of “pre-loved” items. 
  • Ask friends or family to donate to a community organization you support.

Consider Inclusive Holiday Leave

Create a format for team members to take time off for celebrations relevant to them and opt to work during dominant holidays and statutory holidays. 

Many workplaces in North America make taking time off for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving mandatory, yet this is not relevant for all. Celebrations such as Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, or Pride may be more important. 

Leaders and organizations need to be open to reallocating days off work. For example, Spotify has implemented a flexible public holiday policy where team members can “trade” time off during public holidays for holidays they prefer to celebrate. Learn more in 7 Months with Flexible Public Holidays.

Finally, keep in mind that January 1st does not mark the start of the New Year for everyone, so allow team members to celebrate more than one New Year holiday. Check out 26 Completely Different New Year’s Days Around the World.

Allocate Budget for Special Days Fairly

How your organization uses its budget communicates which dates (and thus which groups of people) it values. Here are some things leadership can do to show they are allocating their budget thoughtfully and fairly. 

  • Create a comprehensive budget plan that expands the dates your organization celebrates or engages beyond the dominant days. 
  • Reallocate money that would have been spent on a single holiday party to other internal initiatives that foster belonging and inclusion for more team members. 
  • Allow for more inclusive or expansive work perks/benefits. 
  • Allow team members to select a charity to donate their portion of a holiday budget and/or choose a charity and make an organizational-wide donation. 
  • If buying gifts for team members, consider supporting small, local businesses, such as those owned by people who experience marginalization.
  • For virtual celebrations, consider offering a meal stipend for team members.

Acknowledge Holidays in Smaller Ways

Keep in mind, being inclusive throughout the year doesn’t mean your organization has to throw parties for every single holiday. You can acknowledge holidays in smaller ways to show team members you care about what’s happening in their lives. 

  • Send email reminders, celebratory thoughts/warm wishes, educational pieces, and holiday considerations. 
  • If you have Muslim colleagues fasting during Ramadan, it might be helpful to suggest that team members schedule meetings in the morning.
  • Send e-cards or draft handwritten cards.
  • Announce the holiday during team meetings, share what you’ve learned about it, and make space for others to share if/how they are observing (if they feel comfortable.)
  • Check in with team members to determine if they need more support during this time or if their obligations add extra pressure.

Host Gatherings Thoughtfully

Planning Committee 

  • Create planning committee positions valued, respected, and delegated to all types of people across identities, backgrounds, leadership levels, and lived experiences.
  • Organizations often rely on women and others experiencing marginalization to take on the emotional labour, event/birthday planning, decorations, cleanup, and administrative tasks. 
  • Consider how you can compensate team members for their time, as company parties are integral to forming bonds and improving workplace productivity and culture.
  • Communicate your values and goals to the planning committee and ensure that your team members have the skills and knowledge to create inclusive celebrations. 

Food, Beverages, and Catering

Respect individuals' choices in consumption without offering unsolicited comments. Refrain from making assumptions about people's dietary preferences or their relationship with food, including alcohol consumption. Avoid commenting on the type, quantity, or presence of food and drinks in their hands.

Recognize that food and drink-centric occasions can be challenging for those with disordered eating, people who face shame because of their size, or individuals managing addiction. If someone close to you faces difficulties with meals, eating in public, or being around alcohol, take the initiative to understand their needs and create a more supportive environment.

Proactively establish an open channel for team members to communicate any dietary restrictions based on medical, spiritual, values, or personal choices. Ensure event planning includes options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, and halal diets, as well as accommodations for common food allergies (e.g., peanuts, tree nuts, soy, shellfish, eggs, etc.). Include a variety of non-alcoholic beverage choices and be mindful of your team's fasting schedules when setting event times. 

Event Spaces

When choosing a venue, consider the following:

  • Are there gender-inclusive, single-stall, and accessible restrooms available, especially for non-binary, gender nonconforming, and disabled team members?
  • Is there any private space for breastfeeding/chestfeeding, praying, caregiving responsibilities, or sensory retreat purposes?
  • Is the venue accessible to people using assisted mobility devices like wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, scooters, etc.?
  • Are seating options appropriate for team members of different sizes and health statuses, such as offering back support, having arms-free seating options for larger colleagues, and tables with adequate height for all attendees to sit comfortably?
  • Is the venue accessible to people who do not have a personal vehicle, such as those travelling via public transit, biking, etc.?
  • Is there accessible parking at the venue?

Consider offering virtual alternatives for events where it is not feasible for certain team members to convene in a physical space due to health risks, timing, outside obligations, etc.


Communicate that team members are not obligated to attend. Keep tabs on those needing support and carefully communicate your appreciation for them.


Consider scheduling the party during work hours when team members are not stressed with competing deadlines. Many team members have obligations and important commitments after work hours and might feel obliged to rearrange their priorities to attend. For example, team members should not be forced to arrange child or family care to attend unpaid work events. If your event is after work, check team member availability and let your team know beforehand. 


Make your decor festive and cheerful, but avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes or disrespecting valuable dress, symbols, or ceremonies. For example, non-Mexican people may unintentionally appropriate Mexican culture in their celebration of Cinco De Mayo.

Focus on selecting decor that reflects the values of the holiday rather than choosing culturally specific decor, as many celebrations vary in expression across cultures. For example, Muslim celebrations and their respective decorations are usually associated with the Middle East and the Arab world, even though Muslim celebrations are commemorated worldwide. 

Consider selecting reusable items when buying decor This is also economical and can redirect your budget towards other more sustainable items and experiences that your team members value.

Instead of being representative of Christmas (Christmas trees, presents, angels, Santa, elves, etc.), consider winter decorations (snowflakes, garlands, lights, woods, etc.) There is so much inspiration online!

Virtual Celebration 

In our modern world, there are many ways to enjoy a gathering virtually. And it doesn’t have to centre around a particular holiday. Try just coming together to celebrate your team and organizational accomplishments! 

Have financial resources? Organize an “event in a box.” These packages are sent to everyone’s home and include everything required to participate in a fun and remote experience. The theme could be self-care, arts and crafts, or something company-related! 

Plan accessible virtual games and activities that foster bonds between team members and allow everyone to have fun and connect. Check out Virtual Games to Play on Zoom with Coworkers & Adults in 2022.

Important Note

This resource is not meant to be a static guide, but rather a compilation and reflection of our learnings to date. Everything changes - from technologies and innovations to social norms, cultures, languages, and more. We’ll continue to update this resource with your feedback; email us at hello@feminuity.org with suggestions.

About The Author

This resource was written collaboratively by members of the Feminuity team.

Give Credit Where Credit's Due

If you wish to reference this work, please use the following citation: Feminuity. "Holidays, Observances, & Celebrations: A Guide for Inclusive Workplaces"

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