Holiday tips to make celebrations more inclusive

There are many people at UBC who reflect a diverse range of faith identities, and many who are from places where Christmas isn’t celebrated in the same way it’s done in North America. As much as we want share in the holiday spirit, we also want to create an inclusive environment while engaging in any festivities.

As you start to make plans for your office or department holiday celebrations, here are a few steps you can take to make your event more inclusive. Read below for some tips on how holiday celebrations can include everyone in your office and to help build understanding and awareness about others.

Holiday Celebrations

  • Ensure the language around the event is ‘holiday season’ focused, rather than ‘Christmas.’
  • Acknowledge all faiths present in your workplace.
  • Make sure your holiday party isn’t a Christmas party in disguise. Decorations and food should be more general and encourage staff of different cultures to share their favourite foods.
  • Consider having a New Year’s party instead of a holiday party.
  • Encourage staff to share in the celebration through stories, decorations, and foods that they can bring to the workplace.
  • Be respectful of these special dates, and plan events and meetings around various holidays. Check the Days of Significance calendar.
  • Display a multi-cultural calendar in your workplace to help all employees stay aware of important cultural events throughout the entire year.
  • Be flexible with the needs of different staff about religious and/or holiday celebrations.

Holiday Decorating

Christmas trees, stars, and angels are popular holiday decorations. Here are some tips to consider when decorating your office to make the display more inclusive:

  • Have a discussion about decorating within your office. Invite all staff (of all faith identities) to be involved in the discussion. Consider the impact of tree decorating on all members of staff and the UBC community. Recognize that even though the tree decorating tradition is linked to Christian traditions, it can be done in a way that fosters an inclusive environment.
  • When people are making decorations you can encourage them to share their ideas about the season ie. “How do you feel at this time of year?” “What is your wish for the next year?” “How do you interpret the season?”
  • Consider how your office might equitably recognize or acknowledge other dates significant to the members of your office or community. When providing ideas for decorations you can include Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Shinto holidays. Refer to the Days of Significance calendar.
  • Try to maintain a neutral public space. Make sure decorations do not prevent or block access to public services.
  • Set an agreed upon limit to number of days that your office will display decorations.
  • Incorporate a learning opportunity: Don’t assume everyone understands what the decorations are about or mean. Not knowing can cause people to feel alienated or made to feel like a foreigner.
  • Use the holidays as an opportunity to build community within your office, and with the people your office serves or supports.
  • Read up on different histories of tree decorating.

Does this mean I can’t put up a Christmas tree or decorations for any celebration?

  • Departments are encouraged to discuss how to hold a celebration in a way that ensures respect for all cultures, fosters inclusion, allows access, and is an educative experience. Use of symbols in one religion may have a different meaning in another and cause offense or seem coercive where that is not the intent.

What if I am feeling excluded as a result of an office celebration or decorations?

  • If you feel comfortable reach out to a colleague or a leader within your unit and let them know how you feel.
  • If you wish to speak to someone outside of your office first, you are welcome to contact the Equity and Inclusion Office or your HR Advisor.

We admit these guidelines aren’t perfect, but we hope they help to provide some advice on how to foster inclusion, while encouraging the celebration of cultures and faiths on campus. If you have suggestions or you would like to share how your office has achieved this, please contact the Equity and Inclusion Office:

Links to UBC Policies

UBC Statement on Respectful Environment for Students, Faculty and Staff

Religious Accommodation

Academic Concession

Posting Notices, Posters, Signs



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