December 4, 2023

December is an opportune time for organizations to emphasize diversity and inclusion by embracing multicultural workplace celebrations. From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa, the month is filled with diverse celebrations. Acknowledging and celebrating these festivities in the workplace advances an organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program goals, HR strategy and overall business success by promoting a sense of belonging and shared purpose.  

Hanukkah, December 7 – 15 

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish festival that typically lasts for eight nights and days. It commemorates the miracle of a small quantity of oil that miraculously lasted for eight days, symbolizing the endurance of the Jewish faith. Celebrated with the nightly lighting of the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, Hanukkah is a time for reflection, gratitude, and the sharing of traditional foods. 

Christmas, December 25 

Christmas is a Christian holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is a time of joy and giving marked by the exchange of gifts, festive decorations and the gathering of friends and family for special meals and celebrations. Many cultures around the world, regardless of religious affiliation, embrace Christmas as a season of goodwill and generosity.  

Kwanzaa, December 26 – January 1, 2024 

Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage and identity. The name, Kwanzaa, comes from the Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits (of the harvest).” During the seven-day celebration, families light the Kinara, a candle holder with seven candles representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa including: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Other festive traditions include the exchange of handmade gifts, music, dance and feasting. 

Benefits of Multicultural Celebrations 

Educating employees about holiday traditions and customs promotes cultural competence to create an inclusive atmosphere that embraces differences. When employees feel seen, heard, and respected, they feel more connected to their workplace and build stronger team relationships. It breaks down barriers and promotes a sense of camaraderie among coworkers to positively impact mental well-being, job satisfaction and productivity.  

Education about multicultural celebrations also serves as a powerful tool in mitigating unconscious biases. By increasing awareness of different customs and traditions, employees are less likely to make assumptions or rely on stereotypes, which reduces misunderstandings and increases empathy. 

Multicultural celebrations also contribute to a more enjoyable, supportive and positive work environment that can have a ripple effect on productivity and job satisfaction. When individuals show interest in and actively participate in each other’s celebrations, it fosters a sense of unity among team members, strengthens team dynamics and promotes a collective spirit that can lead to greater collaboration and teamwork. 

Tips for Celebrating Multicultural Festivities 

Organizations can recognize and respect varied holiday traditions and customs by following these best practices: 

  • When decorating the workplace, incorporate decorations that are inclusive of various cultural and religious traditions. Avoid overemphasizing a specific holiday, making an effort to represent a variety of celebrations. 
  • Encourage employees to use inclusive greetings, such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” rather than assuming everyone celebrates the same holidays. 
  • If hosting celebratory events, ensure they are diverse and inclusive. Organize events that incorporate elements from various cultures and traditions, rather than focusing on a single holiday. 
  • When organizing gift exchanges, be mindful of cultural and religious differences and implement guidelines to ensure that gifts are respectful and inclusive.  
  • Consider organizing a multicultural potluck where employees can bring in traditional dishes from their respective cultures to share with colleagues. This provides an opportunity for everyone to experience the diversity of flavors and culinary traditions. 
  • Be aware that employees may request time off for religious or cultural observances during this period. Implement flexible time-off policies that accommodate diverse needs and communicate these policies clearly. 
  • Be considerate of employees who may have specific religious practices. Provide accommodations as needed, such as flexible scheduling for prayer times or quiet spaces for meditation. 



Maggie Smith