Christmas Party to cater for all religions and locations


| 16 Posts


16 Sep, 2014 09:06

I would be very interested to hear how you folk at SMEs approach Christmas Parties.  All-Hands company events have had an interesting history over the last year at our organisation (which was 72 people strong in December last year).  The event last year was held on a Thursday so as to allow Jewish employees to participate.  The following day a sizeable number of engineers called in sick (big business impact).

This year we number 145 currently, probably 160 by December.  Since sending out a "save the date" calendar entry, we've had responses from a Jehovah's witness and a Jewish member of staff to say they will be unable to attend for religious reasons and now a suggestion (from their UK-based manager, rather than from leadership) that due to the growing size of our Belgrade office, we do something separate for them.

I guess my core question is... Do businesses of a similar size hold all-hands events?  Or, do you do more team-based events.  What other activities to do you undertake to promote "one company"?  I recognise this is a broad company culture and communication question, but really would be interested in approaches specific to winter/holiday/Christmas events.

We did manage to hold a semi-all-hands summer event (Belgrade not present) that fitted the cultural expectations of our diverse workforce, predominantly because it was outside, at a sports club, had a bbq, alternative communication methods than "death by powerpoint" and a good team-building event, but a) don't want to repeat and b) would be difficult in UK December weather.


  • Inga

    | 16 Posts


    16 Sep, 2014 09:08

    I should have added - we are comfortable responding to religious queries that this is not a religious event and is designed to offer a celebration of a good year and well done for all the hard work.

    The leadership team is very pro an All-Hands event, especially since our workforce is split over 4 office bases, with the engineers all out on site - so the opportunity to all get together is rare. 

  • Julia

    | 116 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 09:21

    We do have an 'all hands' event at Christmas which most attend and we have had one team event for all as well.   We did one in the winter which was chocolate based in a hotel which was enjoyable and there are a few event companies that help with this kind of thing.

  • David Perry

    | 4652 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 10:02

    MMmmmmm?  A christmas event catering for all religions sounds like an oxymoron to me!
  • Inga

    | 16 Posts


    16 Sep, 2014 10:16

    In reply to Inga:

    Very droll David, but you will note that at no point in my query have I suggested that this is our goal! 

  • Keith

    | 8976 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    16 Sep, 2014 11:04

    Droll / David now that's an oxymoron. :-) 
  • Hi Inga

    I don't claim any great expertise in diversity matters, but if you had to cater for every interest you'd surely never do anything.  If it is a British company then have a Christmas Party.  Most people think Christmas is about presents and turkey rather than the birth of Jesus, don't they?

    I'd be surprised to see anyone from another country present, unless by convention the bosses regular appear on all sites.  Country-specific is sensible, surely?  

    Is there time to ask employees; then the majority will hold sway, which is surely always the case.  Whatever you do, I would seek to avoid the politically correct 'seasonal' clap trap!


  • Judy Williams

    | 484 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    16 Sep, 2014 12:42

    Perhaps do it in early January as a New Year event?
  • Ray

    | 1822 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 13:14

    Judy, wouldn't that upset the ethnic Chinese? Their new year is a little later....


  • David

    | 19214 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 13:47

    You could even accompany the invitations with such as these these (hugely constrained and qualified and therefore rather absurd) sentiments:

    (Personally, think i you want to throw a staff party, then throw a staff party in the time-honoured tradition of staff parties: assuming that the majority of your staff are likely to embrace the notion in a positive way. Unlike the flexibility of forms of words such as those below, you'll never be able to match the particular needs of each and every minority group, so it's really a bit futile even to try. Not in any way advocating that you should be insensitive towards these minorities, but they're choosing to live and work in the society we all inhabit and needn't and shouldn't be offended by that Society's  traditional festivals and festivities, etc )



    From us ("the wishors") to you, as a member of our staff ("hereinafter called the wishee"):

    Please accept without obligation, explicit or implicit, our best
    wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible,
    politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral,
    celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most
    enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practice of
    your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or
    traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or
    secular traditions.

    Please also accept, under aforesaid waiver of obligation on your
    part, our best wishes for a financially successful, personally
    fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of this
    calendar year of the Common Era, but with due respect for the calendars
    of all cultures or sects, and for the race, creed, colour, age, physical
    ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary
    preference of the wishee.

    By accepting this greeting you acknowledge that:

    This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal at the wishor's discretion.

    This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration
    shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights
    of the wishor are acknowledged.

    This greeting implies no warranty on the part of the wishors to
    fulfill these wishes, nor any ability of the wishors to do so, merely a
    beneficent hope on the part of the wishors that they in fact occur.

    This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions
    and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees
    in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the

    This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be
    expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of
    one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting,
    whichever comes first.

    The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited
    replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole
    discretion of the wishor.

    Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father
    Christmas", "Our Saviour", or any other festive figures, whether actual
    or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from
    them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any
    referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.



  • Ray

    | 1822 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 15:04

    Love it David!

    Although in my own multinational environment I would need to adjust your message to take into account the fact that our staff in the southern hemisphere (Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Calendonia, Tahiti....) would not be celebrating a "winter solstice" but a "summer solstice". Similarly, those working in a country situated on the Equater (take your pick) are not subject to solstices at all......

    Similarly I would need to ensure translation into 52 different languages to ensure nobody felt excluded - more particularly this would call for 8 variants of Spanish for Latin and Central America plus 3 versions of Portuguese for Portgal, Angola and Brazil....

    Let's just have a party and to hell with the reason !

  • Steven

    | 361 Posts

    Chartered Member

    16 Sep, 2014 22:20

    I have yet to go to any Christmas party which had any meaningful religious component, sometimes we just over think these things.

    Throwing a works party during the week and expecting people not to phone in sick the following day is an interesting concept.  Half of those who do turn up are probably not performing at their optimal rate.  The other half are too hungover to care about work but still want to get paid.

  • David

    | 19214 Posts

    Chartered Member

    17 Sep, 2014 05:42

    Yep, time- honoured guideline is to ensure that staff parties take place on a Friday and that eg important negotiating meetings with the workforce are convened for about half an hour before their usual work finishing time,

     All this ritual jollification may seem impossibly diverse now, but studies which culminated in Joseph Campbell's iconic work 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces ' put forward a  good case that the whole of human existence since imaginative and mystical human thought and myth and legend and ritual first began is in essence running and re-running the same basic story. Such as Dan Brown's Da Vinchi Code etc attempts to latch into and to try to exploit this notion. And, *mandatory TS Eliot content* - much of  the source material for 'The Waste Land' was inspired by earlier studies into the same phenomenon mentioned above, particularly the work of Sir James Frazer and Miss Jessie Weston ( 'The Golden Bough' and 'From Ritual to Romance' ).

    - just so as not to lose sight of the deeper meanings once the jollities start and the libations begin to flow.

     And, back to applied HR Management, if a few sore heads are the only fallout from your staff thrash, then you've either been very lucky or you made a strategic departure from the event far, far, too soon.

  • Hi Inga

    At my previous company, which was a multi-site SME with a multi-ethnic workforce of 160 employees. I organised annual family fun days in the summer months, which we held on either Saturday or Sunday and then a Christmas Party in December on a Friday, both of which, thankfully were very sucessful.  Religion was never a problem.  Communication was key to getting everyone on board, especially the personal touch of going round all the sites to promote the events with the staff.  You will never get everyone attending, most but there will always be the few that don't - make it enjoyable for the remainder.  The positive feedback from those attending outweighed the negative of those that didn't.  A selection of a our family fun days were, It's a knock out (great fun for all with inflatables), go carting, adventure days with high ropes, canoeing, climbing, bouncy castles etc. and of course, a barbecue every time.

    It is a lot of work but the boost for morale etc. is worth it - have fun and just go for it!


  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    17 Sep, 2014 10:16

    Usually Fridays are the most popular day for the annual party, but if you do have a sizeable Jewish or Muslim population it can be good to avoid this day and choose a Thursday or Wednesday evening instead.

    Mid-week can be helpful too if a large part of your workforce is based off site or travels frequently as some may resent having to give up their weekend to attend, but are happy to attend if they would normally be travelling mid-week anyway.

    I have been in a role where we had a mid-week Christmas party and it was just accepted that the next day was going to be below par for many people and line managers were encouraged to cut a little slack (allow people to come in later for example).

    To be in the next day and be fit and well was also a badge of honor - so actually most people didn't push themselves to excess the night before.  

    Many who knew they would want to party hard would book the next day off as annual leave to recover and do a bit of Christmas shopping, which was encouraged over taking a sickie.

    It helped that for us the run into Christmas was a quiet time - as we had already entered the winter change freeze so our predominantly IT workforce didn't have any critical work to worry about.

    Also the money you save on booking a mid-week date (and it is usually a lot cheaper!) is balanced with the slight loss in productivity the next day.

  • I think it's really encouraging to see that you are trying to incorporate the whole of your workforce, in my company we usually try but many don't want to attend for a variety of reasons.

     Having been a Jehovah's Witness in the past, I can safely assume that the reason your employee doesn't want to attend isn't so much as it's  'Christmas Party' but the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses are actively discouraged from associating or socialising with 'non-belivers' other then what they regard as necessary transactions e.g. going to work and being friendly. They may also have other commitments outside this as they may be attending a meeting (church) on the night you have chosen to have the party and again they are also discouraged from missing these. Although saying that I know some are cautious of going to any social events at that time of year either because they don't want to be around the Christmas atmosphere or because they don't want to be seen to be partaking in what they view as a pagan celebration.

    I wouldn't worry too much, like one of the posters above has said you can't please everyone and no matter how inclusive you try to be you will probably end up offending someone or not everyone will be able to attend due to prior commitments. For example I'm not planning on attending our company Christmas do this year as I would have hopefully given birth two weeks before (or less if it's overdue), so no amount of convincing would get me to attend and I really don't think I'd have the energy!

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