The Yearly Dilemma: Holiday Parties That Don’t Discriminate

By | Nov 9, 2009

Yes, that dreaded season is approaching again. It’s time to plan another holiday party that doesn’t discriminate against anyone’s religion.

You Can’t Please Everyone

It never fails. You spend hours and hours planning a fun and festive holiday party for your office, trying your best to keep religion out of the mix. But sure as shooting, someone ends up offended. It was either too religious or not religious enough. Let’s face it, you just can’t please everybody.

The trick, of course, is to please most people enough that the one or two naysayers get drowned out. Of course, I’m not saying that you should bring any level of religion into the party. I’m just saying, make it as fun as possible, so even those who might be disappointed that it doesn’t meet their definition of a holiday party will still enjoy themselves.

Dealing With Decorations

Probably nothing gets backs up more than the issue of decorations.  No matter what you put up, someone is going to try and point out that it is somehow religious and therefore offensive.  You best tack is to be truly multicultural in your party decorations.  Include a creche, a menorah, Kwanzaa symbols, a yule log, and any other religious symbol that an employee may desire, and make sure that no one symbol appears to have a place of prominence over other symbols.

CNN has a really good article about holiday decorations and the laws surrounding them.  While it is primarily talking about decorations on government property, I think the principles discussed could be applied to any place of business.  CNN – Holiday decorations, religion clauses and the Supreme Court.


Party Fun

The most important thing to remember for a successful holiday party is to make it FUN!  It doesn’t matter if your party is a small pot luck or a swanky catered affair, as long as it’s fun, people will remember it.

I’ve attended many holiday parties over my career, and here are some of the ones I found most fun:

  • Casino Party – I worked for one large multi-national corporation that sponsored a big casino party every year.  You played for chips, and at the end, used your chips to bid on prizes at an end of the party auction.  They usually split the prizes between auction items and door prizes, for us less than able gamblers.  This company went all out, renting the ballroom of a swanky hotel, with food, drinks and dancing in addition to the casino.  But your party doesn’t have to be a formal affair to still be fun.  If you company has a nice budget for parties, consider a casino party.
  • White Elephant Exchange – This type of party is usually a big hit at non-profits who have less funds to pay for parties.  It avoids the “Christmas” factor in gift giving, and the game can produce great amounts of hilarity if played right.  Remember to set limits on what folks can spend, find someone with an outgoing personality and good sense of humor to MC the game, and sit back and enjoy the fun.  For rules on White Elephant Gift Exchanges, go here.
  • Have a Theme Party – How fun is a luau in the middle of winter!  Everyone dresses in their Hawaiian shirts, have a hula contest and a game of limbo.  The ideas for theme parties are endless.  Let your imagination loose.

What Are Your Ideas

Come on and share your ideas for holiday parties that are fun, Fun, FUN!  Leave a comment and helps all of us who have to plan an office party come up with a good idea.


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2 Comments so far
  1. Stephanie (2 comments) November 11, 2009 9:16 pm

    Great article and very sensitive to diverse cultural backgrounds.

    However, I disagree with putting up multiple religious symbols. Not only are most people apt to forget or not know about some (how many people know about Diwali?) but some cultures treat their religious symbols with different levels of respect and may not appreciate what can seem like inappropriate use or demonstration of symbols.

    Also, people who share beliefs may feel very differently about how their symbols are displayed. For instance, there is a rift between Chabad/Hassidic Jews who prefer public displays of menorahs and Conservative/Reform Jews who do not.

    At the very least, ask people of non-dominant backgrounds what they would prefer and how they’d like their holiday to be represented–if at all.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) November 15, 2009 4:16 pm

    Thanks for a really thoughtful reply, Stephanie (you’re awesome as usual)! I generally tend towards no religious imagery just for that reason.

    Thanks for taking time to give your input. I really appreciate it.

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