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Culturally Sensitive Holiday Decorations All Year Long

We understand that having a festive work environment, especially during the holidays is important to many in our community. We must also be sensitive and respectful to individuals who choose not to participate in these festivities.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in conjunction with the Diversity Committee, offers the following suggestions to individuals and departments planning and displaying holiday decorations to ensure inclusiveness and respect for a wide range of religious and cultural customs all year long. These suggestions are not meant as rules, but as a starting point for cross-cultural dialogue.

When planning holiday displays on campus, please consider an inclusive approach to your creativity. Displays that feature exclusively single-themed decorations may be well intentioned, but they can marginalize those who celebrate other religious and cultural beliefs during this season. At festive times, as always, we hope to foster a climate of mutual respect at the College, and one way to show our dedication to valuing human diversity would be to show that dedication in our holiday displays.

Here are some suggestions for inclusive decorations and celebrations:

  1. Before scheduling meetings and special events check the calendar to make sure that dates do not conflict with holidays such as Hanukah and Ramadan. Be flexible and adjust schedules as needed.
  2. Consider religious dietary restrictions when planning parties. Ask your colleagues if they have special needs.
  3. Consider a grab bag instead of a “Secret Santa” gift exchange.
  4. Learn about all the December holidays and the appropriate greetings for each.
  5. Keep decorations general and non-specific to any religion. Create a winter theme with lights and color rather than religious icons, or include decorations from all the cultural traditions represented in your department. Be sure to ask everyone in the department to contribute to holiday decorating.
  6. Acknowledge multiple cultures by asking staff to share their holiday traditions at a “pot luck” party.
  7. The holiday season should be considered an opportunity to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and inclusivity by acknowledging multiple cultural traditions rather than imposing or endorsing a single tradition on everyone.

For advice on keeping decorations inclusive please contact the Office of Diversity.

Helpful Articles

Holiday Resources, University of Illinois Springfield

Managing Diversity Issues During the Holidays: Simple Steps That Help Boost Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Your Organization

Last Updated 12/7/17

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