Is it appropriate to gather staff for a holiday party if that holiday has religious significance?

For instance, is it appropriate for an office to spend money on an office party in December, as opposed to any other month of the year, when everyone knows that the month of December holds religious significance for Christians and Jews?

My Concern: Other people from other faiths may feel slighted if the office doesn't hold a comparable party during a different month of the year when their religion commonly celebrates its holiday.

  • 7
    In my experience, when a company does this, the parties generally only touch the secular aspect of the holidays. e.g. Christmas parties will have trees, Santa Claus, etc., but no baby Jesus. Easter parties will have chocolate bunnies. Dec 4 '13 at 4:59
  • 5
    This question will location/culture specific. Here in New Zealand, almost all workplaces have some kind of Christmas party. As the above poster mentioned, the religious aspect of Christmas isn't really played up. But also, New Zealand culture is less caring about religion/freedom from it, we don't have that 'happy holidays vs merry christmas' debate every year, like the US does.
    – user10911
    Dec 4 '13 at 8:44
  • 8
    As an atheist, companies throwing parties for their various religious holidays doesn't bother me in the slightest, and I think it's a compliment when they try to include me in their celebrations. Anybody offended by this probably has deeper problems.
    – JMK
    Dec 4 '13 at 13:54
  • 2
    Any company that would make it about their religion isn't going to wait until December to offend non-believers.
    – user8365
    Dec 9 '13 at 19:12
  • 1
    I'm atheist but I'm on for any kind of party where there is nice people and free food. :-P
    – Konamiman
    Jan 30 '14 at 8:01

Gathering people for a religious observance ("hey everybody, let's all go to mass for Good Friday!") is not likely to fly well in many locales. Even if the religion is dominant and the society takes it as given, it may leave a bad taste in people's mouths (at both ends of the spectrum, possibly).

However, just because a celebration is proximate to some holiday doesn't mean it's about that holiday. December, in particular, is the end of the year, when (in many companies) some projects wrap up and some people prepare to take a couple weeks off. Having a year-end celebration is pretty normal. Don't call it the Christmas party (even if you mean secular Christmas, not religious Christmas); just call it a year-end party or winter party or whatever.

A past employer used to have its winter party in January (or, one year, February), on the theory that (a) the middle of winter could use some cheering-up and (b) there's way less date contention for venues (and less conflict with people's vacations).

  • 2
    And most cultures have some form of celebration at year end and Christmas is as much a co-opted pagan festival as it is a "christian" one. Dec 4 '13 at 17:18
  • 1
    Here in NZ, my previous company used to have large XMas barbie and santa came. We also had our mid winter pick you up parties in july and they were called the 'Mid Winter Xmas Party' No religion except eating and drinking happened. Dec 4 '13 at 23:00
  • 1
    It's end of western year. There's Chinese new year too, which is rather different from ours. Of course, usually Asians living in US/Europe still celebrate our new year too. But still.
    – Olli
    Jan 30 '14 at 16:20
  • 1
    "Don't call it the Christmas party." - even that is very much locale-dependent. There are communities which frown upon the use of terms like "winter party" for what's obviously a christmas party, and it's not just the US religious right.
    – MSalters
    Jan 31 '14 at 16:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .