The terms “Christmas” and “holiday parties” are now deemed offensive by the Texas Woman’s University.
The University warns faculty about using “religious” terms to describe their parties, and instead suggests phrases like “End of Semester” Party, which they believe would be more inclusive of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and other religions.
Mark Kessler, a professor of multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University, has given pointers in what she believes would help people of other faiths feel more included in these parties.
Some of Kessler’s suggestions include removing any symbols like Santa Clause, evergreen trees, red nose reindeers and anything associated with Christmas from their card invites and décor of the event, so as not to offend non-Christian employees. Christmas music and food items that are in the shape of Christmas trees are also among changes she believes should be made to avoid offense.
Kessler believes that these parties should be focused on inclusion and learning of other cultures, inviting people of other faiths to share their own traditions and cultural foods.
From the Texas Women’s University website:
Approach No. 1: Some organizations may choose to avoid potential missteps by planning a party that is unaffiliated with any faith tradition. For a secular celebration at the office, the following approach is recommended:
- Consider naming the party, if it is scheduled for December, without using the word “holiday.” “Holiday” connotes religious tradition and may not apply to all employees. For educational institutions, a December gathering may instead be called an “end of semester” party. For a business office, an “end of (fiscal) year” party may be more appropriate.
- Try to assemble and include a diverse group of employees in the planning of the party. This would include, as much as possible, non-Christian employees of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and other religions, as well as non-believers.
- Avoid religious symbolism, such as Santa Claus, evergreen trees or a red nosed reindeer, which are associated with Christmas traditions, when sending out announcements or decorating for the party. Excellent alternatives are snowflakes, snowmen or winter themes not directly associated with a particular holiday or religion.
- Avoid playing music associated with a faith tradition, such as Christmas carols. Consider a playlist of popular, celebratory party music instead.
- Plan a menu that does not symbolize a particular religious holiday (for example, red and green sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees). But don’t forget to consider menu items that reflect dietary preferences and requirements of non-majority groups in your organization (e.g., halal or kosher).
Approach No. 2: Make the party a learning experience. Ask a diverse group of employees to plan the party so that attendees may learn about many different traditions and holidays. For example, representatives from within the organization might:
- Describe a holiday tradition that they have either researched or participated in personally;
- Bring dishes and decorations representative of as many traditions and dietary preferences as possible;
- Choose a multicultural playlist that reflects all faith traditions; and
- Discuss what their holidays or perspectives (e.g., atheists and agnostics) mean to them.
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