Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Why Acknowledging Christmas in the Workplace Matters

3 Dec, 2022

By Jonathan A. Segal* | Guest Post on our blog series, Authenticity & Connection.

Last year, a company wanted to celebrate the holidays but without risking offending anyone in the process. Out of an abundance of caution, they did not have a “holiday” party. Instead, as recommended by a consultant, they had a “December dinner.”

Per that same consultant, they did not have a Christmas tree. Instead, they had a “Seasonal Evergreen.”

There are other examples. But, I think you can see the movie.

The company took the issue very seriously but they ended up looking very silly instead. They did not want to offend anyone but they ended up offending almost everyone.

We cannot tell our employees we want them to be their authentic selves but then tell them to check their faith at the workplace door. For many employees, faith is an important part of who they are.

Inclusion relative to faith means everyone and that includes Christians. And, how an employer handles Christmas sends a small but still symbolic message about the inclusion of those of the Christian faith.

So, please, don’t attempt to eliminate Christmas from the holiday season. Acknowledge Christmas but also acknowledge other holidays, too.

It is more than okay to have a holiday party and specifically mention Christmas in connection with it. Just mention other holidays too, such as Hanukkah, Bodhi Day and Kwanza.

Please, have a beautiful Christmas tree. But have a Menorah and Kwanza harvest basket, too.

And, yes, you can wish someone a Merry Christmas if you know they celebrate the holiday. Frankly, if you know someone celebrates Christmas but wish them Season’s Greetings instead, it feels a bit uncharitable to me.

I very much appreciate when someone wishes me a Happy Hanukkah because they know I am Jewish. An important part of my family, culture and me is acknowledged in the process.

But some think: it is very hard to acknowledge all faiths so it is better to acknowledge none at all. The focus on the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Further, it is possible to cast a wide net of inclusivity relative to faith during the holiday season. And so I shall try.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, may the peace and happiness of Christmas be yours.

For those of you who observe Bodhi Day, may it be a blessed day.

For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, I will be lighting a candle with you to celebrate our resilience.

For those whose seasonal holidays I did not mention, they—like you—are no less important and I respect your faith, too.

For those of you who celebrate holidays at other times in the year or are of no faith but good faith, I wish you well just as well.

The December holidays provides us with an opportunity to focus on religious inclusivity and that includes Christmas. What we do now sets the tone for the year to come.

Erase Christmas from your workplace and all your subsequent efforts relative to the religious inclusivity will be for naught.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends.

* Jonathan A Segal is a partner at the Duane Morris Law Firm. He also is the managing principal of the employment group’s training arm, the Duane Morris Institute. Previously a litigator, Jonathan’s practice focuses on avoiding discrimination, harassment and retaliation and increasing diversity, equality and inclusion. Jonathan has a particular passion for preventing religious bias both as a legal and cultural matter and for promoting religious inclusivity. With the alarming increase of antisemitism, preventing and addressing this form of hate has become core to Jonathan’s practice. Jonathan has provided training to federal judges for more than 20 years, is a frequent speaker at business, HR and other conferences, and has had published on 3rd party platforms approximately 500 articles/blogs.