Holiday Guidelines: Using Holidays to Celebrate Inclusiveness

University members are reminded to be respectful of the religious diversity of our students and colleagues and are encouraged to use an inclusive approach in celebrating the holiday season.

Does the University have a policy on holiday decorations in the workplace?

No. The University does not have a formal policy regarding decorations, but we are fully committed to a diverse and inclusive community, including religious diversity. UR is fortunate to have members from diverse religions on campus. University members are reminded to be respectful of the religious diversity of our students and colleagues and are encouraged to use an inclusive approach in celebrating the holiday season.

Why this reminder? We're all adults and many of us have worked together for years and know we celebrate the same holidays.

Given the wide range of ways that people celebrate and experience the winter season, it is important that the University and departments within it avoid giving the impression that one or some of those ways take precedence over others. It is all too easy, even for well-intentioned individuals, to inadvertently offend their coworkers at this time of year, since most people have not had consistent interactions with people of all faiths, races, or nationalities.

What is the "December dilemma" employer's face at this time of the year?

While there are many religions that have no religious holiday between November and January, and while many members of UR's community do not practice a religion, the University encourages its members to respect differences in religious practices during the holiday season and always. The so-called "December dilemma" refers to the month in and around which there are many religious holidays, including the eight-night Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr, Ramadan's gift-giving festival, and Eid al-Adha or Feast of Sacrifice; Christmas; the non-religious African-American holiday of Kwanzaa; the Hindu Pancha Ganapati Festival; and the Wiccan Yule, observed on the winter solstice.

What are the primary guidelines governing holiday displays in the workplace at the University of Richmond?

Individuals may privately display symbols in their work areas or living quarters. Areas that would give the impression that the symbol is associated with the University may not be used for displays of religious symbols. The visibility of decorations to other employees and their resulting impact upon the workplace should be considered by employees who place them in the workplace.

Can you give me some examples of how this works?

Individuals and departments can demonstrate the University's inclusive approach to holiday decorations by:

  • Focusing on the winter season by using images of snowflakes or trees decorated with snowflakes and other non-religious symbols rather than focusing on a particular holiday.
  • Displaying symbols that visually represent holidays of several religions in combination with secular decorations of the season.
  • Discussing various perspectives within a department about certain displays/decorations that meet UR guidelines (such as trees decorated with bows, garlands and/or lights; wreaths with bows; combined decorations of snowflakes, Santa Claus figure and dreidel; holly).
  • Avoiding displays or decorations that are not consistent with either these guidelines or the University's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, such as: Nativity scenes; menorahs; angels; mistletoe; stars at the top of trees; crosses; and Stars of David.

Where do I go for more information about holiday decorations and religious accommodations?

Contact Safety Services and Risk Management, for safety information.

For holiday displays and religious accommodation issues in the workplace, you may contact Human Resources, the Office of the Chaplaincy or the Office of Common Ground.