boss confided family issues to me, I don’t want my horrible manager at my wedding, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Boss confided family issues to me … and my manager is interrogating me about it

I have worked for a small company for just under a decade. The owner of the company is very active in day-to-day operations. During 2020, the owner’s teenage children started working random shifts at our company because they were going stir crazy at home. They are good kids and I have no issue with their work. They still come in during school vacations and summers.

During this time, I noticed behavior from one of the kids that was concerning enough to me that I brought it up to the owner. He confirmed my suspicion and told me the entire situation. He asked me to keep the conversation private and apologized for unloading his personal life on to me. The situation is something I have personally dealt with, so I was just glad he was aware and getting help for his kid.

Fast forward to now: I get unprompted updates on the kid (I worry I am the only person besides his wife who he feels comfortable talking to about it), who hasn’t been doing well. The owner is getting incredibly mentally fatigued by the situation. He has days where he is a total jerk and snaps over the littlest things and can be awful to work with. My manager is ready to strangle him since he’s also started to neglect certain aspects of the business (nothing major, but things that get annoying and create more work for the rest of us).

Since I know what is going on, I’ve had more patience and tried to get my manager to give him some slack. In retrospect, since I usually engage in my manager’s complaining about the owner, my response was a dead giveaway to her that I know something she doesn’t. I am now being interrogated by her on a weekly basis about what I know. I have not confirmed nor denied anything, but she guessed what the situation is on her own and asked me if I agreed. So she basically knows at this point even though I haven’t said a word.

I’ve told owner the manager is asking me questions about his kid and I am getting uncomfortable with it. He is refusing to do anything to alleviate the position he put me in. Is it fair for me to ask him to tell the manager something like “Kid is going through medical issues right now and I’m under a lot of stress” and apologize for acting like a jerk because of it? If she knew for certain what was going on, she would absolutely give him more grace than he’s currently getting, I would stop being questioned, and things would feel much less tense at work, too.

You can suggest it. You could frame it as, “I’m in a tough position with Jane. She’s really pushing me about what’s going on, and I’m uncomfortable knowing and being badgered by her about it. I understand you want to limit who you share the situation with, but you would make my life a lot easier if you’d tell her something. Could you tell her Alex is dealing with medical issues, or even just that there’s family stuff going on, and you’re under a lot of stress? I’m certain she’d back off of me if she knew, and she’d give you a lot more grace too.”

But frankly, your manager bears a lot of responsibility too. She shouldn’t be hassling and interrogating you, and ideally you’d say to her, “I’m really uncomfortable being questioned about this. This is Bob’s private business, we’ve crossed a line by speculating about it, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

2. I don’t want my horrible boss at my wedding

I work as a physical therapist for a small wellness company. I love my work and my clients and overall it’s very rewarding.

The problem is my boss. The company is led by the founder and her husband, and they are terrible people. They’re awful leaders, horrible communicators, narcissistic, greedy, and manipulative. Some of the lowlights of my time at this company include: sharing a bed with my boss at her insistence on a work trip when there was an empty sofa sleeper in the next room, my colleagues and me working 18-21 days straight because of staffing issues instead of closing the business for one of the seven days to allow us time to recuperate, constant gossip by the founder about other employees (including private medical information that no one had any right or need to know), a culture of intimidation around the topic of money, constant questioning about details of our personal lives, extremely shady financial practices, repeated violations of privacy, racist and transphobic remarks by the founder … I could go on. The only reason anyone stays is because the money is good. The founder also has very loose lips so we all know everything that’s going on in her marriage and with the company and none of it is good.

I’ve made the decision to leave, but I have about 6-8 months before I can quit. I’m planning to get married at the end of that time, and I’m adamant that I will NOT invite my bosses. I know the founder will ask me about the wedding and has already said she assumes she is invited. Do I keep my planning secret and pretend I don’t have the date set to avoid it? She’s relentless when anyone keeps something from her, as I discovered the hard way with a medical issue that I didn’t want to talk about. (She questioned my colleagues about it for two weeks, trying to find out what procedure I needed time off for, before finally cornering me and making guesses about what it was.)

As long as you’re willing to hold firm with your boss even if she’s relentless about wanting to be invited, you shouldn’t need to completely hide your wedding plans. But you’ll need to stick to saying, “We’re having a small wedding with only family” and “our head count is really low and we’re not inviting anyone from work.” However, if you think you’ll be in danger of caving — or if you just want to minimize how often you hear from her on the subject — then yes, don’t talk about it at work. It sounds like it’s going to come up regardless though, so be ready with the “only inviting family” line.

Also! I know it’s too late now, and working in an environment like this can wear you down and warp your norms, but you do not need to let anyone insist that you share a bed with them. You get to say, “No, I’m not going to do that” and take the sofa.

3. My coworker is preemptively telling customers about colleagues who were laid off

My company announced sudden layoffs today. Our department is customer-facing, where a small team of people manage accounts. One of my colleagues, Sam, started emailing his customers saying things like, “As you likely saw, Widget Company made the difficult decision to lay off staff and, as such, XYZ is no longer with us.” Our account management structure is such that Sam is the primary contact 95% of the time, and the secondaries who were laid off were only looped in by Sam for relevant escalations, so it’s not like the customers have to change the way they communicate with us. None of Sam’s customers ever asked what happened, and we weren’t told to reach out, we were only given guidance by HR on how to respond to direct questions about the situation. He also sent the messages less than an hour after the departures were announced. Am I right in thinking this person is totally out of line?

Unless someone told him to do that or he has the authority to decide on those communications on his own, yes, wildly out of line. Companies generally put a great deal of thought into how to message situations like this to clients and don’t want people taking it upon themselves to send out public announcements. (Also, less than an hour after the layoffs? I’m curious about what his agenda is.)

4. Should I stay in a new job where I’m miserable?

I started a new role with a different team and department at my large corporation in August, and so far it hasn’t been a good fit for me and I’m not sure it’s worth sticking it out.

It’s a very small team, but I really don’t interact much with my coworker or manager at all. We don’t have weekly team meetings and my work so far isn’t very collaborative; my assignments are given to me via email and I work independently to complete it. I didn’t get any formal training for most tasks. We are in office one day a week, but it is rare that I interact with my team while in office and often my manager and coworker aren’t there or leave mid-day (without notifying me most of the time, either). In addition to feeling pretty isolated, I don’t find that most my assignments are the best use of my years of skills and experience and, frankly, are quite boring. This is pretty different from my prior role and department at the company where there were at least weekly team meetings, a more collaborative work environment, and more work assignments that better fit my skills.

But on the other hand, my new position is a small pay and title bump compared to my last, and the team reports directly to top management. The company is also going through a notable business change which might be a good opportunity for me to be involved in this role at this time.

I am just unsure if it’s worth sticking around this miserable work environment long enough to potentially gain relevant experience that would carry me to my next role. So far, I don’t feel very confident that I’m going to get the support and opportunities that I had anticipated in this role. I also don’t think my manager or team will change how it currently operates. I wanted to stay on at least for the early part of the year so that I can receive my annual bonus, but I have concerns about my mental health further declining and impacting my work ethic.

It’s not worth staying in a job where you’re miserable just because maybe you might get relevant experience for your next role. There are other jobs that will give you that where you won’t be miserable.

5. How to throw a holiday party instead of a Christmas party

What are your tips for throwing a holiday party vs a Christmas party?

My work has a pretty entrenched Christmas party culture, where the party activities all revolve around Christmas themes, and I get the sense that they are struggling to figure out what to do if there isn’t a Christmas theme. What are some games/activities that an office could do together to make it a “we’re getting together to celebrate This Time of Year that is Not Exclusively Christmas”?

You don’t really need activities at all. You can just … get together for food and drinks. Lots of office holiday parties work that way! (Think other adult parties that are basically just social get-togethers without activities and games. Same thing here.) That said, I’m happy to throw the question out to readers for suggestions.

Meanwhile, some don’ts: Don’t treat Hanukkah as the Jewish Christmas (it’s not; it’s a very minor holiday that just happens to be around the same time as Christmas) and don’t let anyone claim that Christmas decorations are secular (they’re not).

{ 660 comments… read them below }

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I’ve found the best fun activities for adults are voluntary and low stakes. I have this great memory game for adults that I put out at my parties (it’s cannabis themed so swap for winter themed) and you’d be shocked how it brings people together. Silently they just start taking turns playing and it gets fun and loud fast. Have these types of games out at the tables and folks will just start mingling.

      1. Kitty cat*

        Or even just games with a silly premise like Exploding Kittens.

        If people don’t know the game, that name alone will draw attention.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          I love that game!

          I did a modified version of bears vs babies for a baby shower… it actually went over pretty well.

        2. len*

          ymmv, I once attended a memorable work holiday party that came to a memorably awkward halt when the host pulled out that game and none of the rest of us could grok why it was supposed to be funny or interesting. We indulged her through one badly-designed round of gameplay then moved on to more widely appealing activities. I have since learned it’s a niche internet culture thing that’s just not for me, or apparently for any of my coworkers except one, so I guess it’s a know your audience thing.

          1. Jeebs*

            Yeah, I would much sooner put out Apples to Apples or something like that that doesn’t rely on twee early-2000’s internet humor.

      2. A Becky*

        Whenever I hear “winter themed” I wince. Unless your “winter” theme is “no daylight, slush, cold, etc” it’s going to set a scene, and that scene will be “stereotypical Xmas”.

        1. irianamistifi*

          I don’t think I agree with this. This is a very pessimistic view of winter! I love winter and I associate it with a lot of things that aren’t “stereotypical Xmas” or dark misery.

          What I love about winter:
          First snowfall
          snow forts
          taking a walk in the woods and seeing your breath
          a crackling fire in the fireplace
          when it’s so cold out that your snot freezes when you breathe in
          scarves and mittens and hats and boots
          birds at your bird feeders all round and puffed up to keep from the cold
          tree branches lined with white when the snow accumulates on them
          the way the stars get so bright and clear on a cold night
          the little stream of smoke and the smell of a nice fire coming from your neighbor’s chimney
          the crunch of breaking through that crust of snow in your boots
          hot chocolate or a nice mug of tea on a cold day
          The way dogs frolic in fresh snow
          climbing the big hills of snow that the plows make
          baking cookies

          1. Not Your Elf*

            This is beautiful, and exactly what I love to celebrate about wintertime (living somewhere it’s summer 85% of the year :/).

          2. Emmy Noether*

            I sense a theme (snow, the theme is snow, lol). In places where winter is pretty much three months of unrelenting fog and drizzle, occasionally interrupted by outright rain, all that’s left from the list is hot chocolate and cookies.

            Which is nothing to sneeze at, mind you (unless you got a cold from said drizzle). Alos, most of the melted-cheese meals (raclette, fondue, tartiflette, baked brie,…) are often eaten in winter. Definite bright spot. Also nice: snuggling up on the sofa with a good book or movie.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              In places where it’s frequently 85 degrees on Christmas, all thats left is baking cookies :'(

          3. Jessica*

            The problem is that Christmas has assimilated so much of that stuff (and wasn’t that the whole point of Christmas in December, co-opting existing stuff?) that a lot of it will automatically seem Christmassy even if you genuinely didn’t mean it to be.

          4. A Becky*

            Okay, but if you saw a pair of hands baking cookies in front of a window looking out on a snowy garden, and a thin plume of smoke heading up from a neighbor’s chimney… that’s a Christmas card. Little birds on a bird feeder (especially robins)… Christmas card. Skating and hot chocolate….

            It *shouldn’t* be Christmassy, but it *is*.

              1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                Yes, thank you, what an odd comment. And chimneys! I guess us poor un-saved just let smoke accumulate in our houses.

                1. ShanShan*

                  Nobody is saying that Christians own these things. We’re saying that they own the concept of throwing a party about them at work at the end of December.

                  There are a lot of nice things about fall, too, but no one goes to work with the assumption that there will be some kind of annual fall party regardless of the job.

                2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  @ShanShan I think a key difference, though, is that New Year’s Eve also happens at the end of December, which is a fairly universally celebrated and secular holiday. Even cultures that have their own new year based on a non-Gregorian calendar still live in a world that operates on the rhythms of the Gregorian calendar, so that just means they celebrate both.

                  In a business context, it’s typically the end of a fiscal quarter, and it’s common to have annual goals that are driven by the calendar year cycle. I work for a large international organization and if there’s any one holiday whose vibe comes through in the holiday party theme, it’s New Year’s. Lots of year-in-review, celebrate-our-accomplishments, take your well-deserved reward type stuff.

                3. Avril Ludgateaux*

                  We’re saying that they own the concept of throwing a party about them at work at the end of December.

                  Me, an actual Muslim, when Eid falls in December:

                  Me, not Pagan or Wiccan but respectful of others, when Yule:

                  Me, same, when Saturnalia:

                  Me, a person who in practice is mostly secular and loves holidays and any reason to celebrate, especially when days are short and depressing in the winter, when NEW YEAR’S EVE:

                  This is honestly getting too far. People can’t even find a reason to enjoy winter anymore because somebody out there will claim appreciating winter is Christian hegemony.

              2. Snow Dancer*

                AND gingerbread houses/cookies AND evergreens, holly and mistletoe AND candy canes AND…have I left out anything else that they supposedly have dibs on? What ELSE is off limits to non-Christians – hot chocolate?!

                Come on, folks – we can ALL enjoy all of those things! Let’s leave the grumbling to pre-reform Scrooge and stop imposing artificial limits on winter pleasures that we should all be able to share.
                (Full disclosure: I am neither Christian nor Jewish and thus have no vested interest in “scoring points” for either faith. I DO have a vested interest in enjoying all the beauties of the winter season – and I hope that all the AAM readers can do the same.)

            1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

              Little birds on a bird feeder is not a Christmas image. Skating and hot chocolate are not Christmas images. What are you talking about?

              I’m Jewish, and I wouldn’t think twice about wrapping a present for another Jew in wrapping paper with that kind of imagery.

              1. A Becky*

                Might be a geographic thing? Most of the Xmas cards I’ve ever received have had “Winter Scene (TM)” on them, not overtly Christian stuff.

                At which point, Winter Theme (TM) just reads as “secular Christmas” to me.

                1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                  The fact that winter reads as Christmas-y to someone who regularly receives Christmas cards doesn’t mean that it reads that way to someone who does not.

                2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

                  Like, seriously: are you saying that when it gets cold out, non-Christians cannot and do not enjoy winter sports? Drinking hot chocolate? And a party during the seasons that lend themselves to those activities, and thus referenced those activities, inherently references Jesus?

                  The whole point here is that we’re asking Christians to think about this season from the perspective of non-Christians, not from their own perspective. Saying “anything wintry is Christmas” is part of the problem.

          5. Elizabeth*

            Yesss, all of this.
            The two best things about winter:
            1. everything is dead and my allergies temporarily subside (except when the heat comes on in my shared apartment building and also when people insist on keeping their rotting dead trees indoors that throw off millions of mold spores a day, but I digress)
            2. Kicking that pyramid of slush/ice/snow out from behind the wheel of your car and it falls off with a big satisfying thud

            Niche pleasures, for sure, but I’d put them on a holiday sweater.

            1. Anonomatopoeia*

              You and I should be friends.

              I also like when the frost/ice on the car windows is just exactly thick enough that if you set anything flat against it and scrape (scraper, but also, credit card, CD jewel case, whatever), it comes up easily but in a nice solid continuous crinkled-together ribbon, and when you see someone doing bad-idea driving on an icy road and they experience consequences that are non-devastating but will probably serve as a lesson, like skidding into a fence post hard enough to ding the bumper, but with no injuries or real damage.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Fenderbergs are the ONLY pleasant thing about driving in snow. (Other than one’s destination when it’s pleasant.)

          6. HoHumDrum*

            As someone who LOVES winter and waits eagerly all year to get to play in the snow, I really appreciate this list. I get tired of people sh*ting on winter all the time, like if you hate it that’s totally fine and valid but if I say I’m excited for snow you don’t need to immediately launch into a tirade on his disgusting and bleak you think it is and question what’s wrong with me, the same as I don’t spend all summer telling you I hate how gross and hot it is and I hate being blasted by nonstop sun and think you’re weird for liking that.

            Once at my old workplace we were talking about weekend plans and I said I was looking forward to some potential snowfall so I could go sledding, and this woman then said she thinks it’s a little tasteless to talk about being excited for snow because of all the less fortunate people who suffer in cold weather. Funny she didn’t keep that energy for being excited about hot weather, which is also deadly for many people (heatwaves, drought, fire), or other seasonal dangers (spring tornados, fall hurricanes, etc).

            But anyway, love to talk winter wonders with other people who also like cozy weather, and to bring my comment back on topic- my suggestion for offices in general is maybe consider spreading out the office party fun to other times of the year to offset the obvious christmas-ness. I would love to work at a place where we had smaller Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter gatherings vs one big holiday party. And smaller might equal easier for those who hate office parties to attend (less production, easier to step out early or skip one when you know you can attend the others). Obviously this is a bigger change than what the LW was asking for, but if anyone reading this has a lot more power over office gatherings I’m just throwing this out there as food for thought. Holiday parties feels christmasy not just because of the theme, but also because that’s the big December holiday so we all know the subtext of the party. Seasonal gatherings offset that a bit, even if it was just summer & winter, or whatever.

            1. Eff Walsingham*

              Also relevant to consider:

              1) Party in December may mean driving in bad conditions compared to other seasons (obviously this is a northern hemisphere problem).

              2) It can be challenging and expensive to book a venue in December, compared with the same venue in a slower season.

              I am liking this idea of moving / spreading out of work festivities!

            2. Kate*

              There is so much going on for so many people in December – the last thing I want to do is have a work party in which you’re going to lose social capitol if you don’t get dressed up and schmooze.

              Spring fling, annual summer picnic, ANYTHING else.

          7. Jillian*

            I moved this year from Texas to Montana, so this will be my first winter here, and I will try to remember this when it’s negative temperatures for the first time this week. :)

          8. No Longer Looking*

            I kind of very much hate 70% of the items on your list of things you love about winter. Like, HATE. Cold is evil and must be destroyed with fire.

            That said, we’re stuck dealing with it. If the company wants to plan an indoor winter party, just focus it on the Solstice and Snow and Baking. Have someone put together a snow-themed bags game (maybe black and orange bags to be coal and carrots, with boards painted like snowmen), maybe have a cookie contest, make a trivia contest with things like origins of Daylight Savings, celestial movements, geography of the tropics, history of New Years celebrations, and so forth.

            1. Random tuesday*

              “Cold is evil and must be destroyed with fire”

              Yes, that’s the traditional way to destroy cold :) and it was even mentioned in the list.

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              Cold is evil and must be destroyed with fire.

              Careful what you wish for, there. We are well on our way.

          9. ShanShan*

            Those are all nice things, but if it weren’t for Christmas, you wouldn’t be throwing a party about any them at work.

            Like, I could make an equally beautiful list of nice things about fall, but my workplace doesn’t have a fall party, and neither does yours or almost anyone’s.

            And I bet none of us have a winter party in February, either.

            That’s really the crux of the issue. The theming doesn’t matter. Any winter-related party at the end of December, if it’s the biggest party you have all year, is a Christmas party.

            And to all the people saying “oh, no, it’s okay, you can enjoy winter themed late December stuff too!”, you are kind of missing the point. We’re not feeling left out. We’re feeling gaslit. Because everyone keeps insisting that a very obviously Christmas party isn’t one when we know it is.

        2. Smurfette*

          As a person who doesn’t celebrate Xmas, I’d be comfortable with a winter theme. Maybe:

          – a snowy theme – elegant silver + blue decor, serve cocktails, play jazz
          – a cosy theme – somewhere with real fireplaces, serve hot soup in mugs, provide boardgames

          I would not be comfortable with:
          – a red / green / gold colour theme
          – pointy trees
          – tinsel
          – baubles
          – crackers
          – candy canes
          – turkey
          – Xmas carols

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            Yeah, I was going to say go snowy/icy with the decor rather than reds and greens. Essentially, think Frozen (Anna/Elsa costumes optional).

          2. Anon 4 This*

            – Xmas carols

            I don’t want to derail, but I was wondering if I could get thoughts from folks. When it comes to music during the holidays obviously anything related to Jesus, Santa, or that specifically mentions Christmas would be considered a Christmas song (so Silent Night, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are 100% Christmas songs). But what about songs that are more about the winter (Let it Snow, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells)? I’m not going to pretend like many of these songs weren’t likely written with Christmas in mind, but I didn’t know if people felt they should still be kept out of non-Christmas-specific holiday parties?

            To be clear, I’m not planning any holiday parties (Christmas-specific or otherwise), this is just a curiosity from someone who does celebrate Christmas but is always looking to be more aware of those who don’t.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Many (not all) of those seasonal songs are among the most annoying. Unless you’re going with Joni Mitchell, Sarah MacLachlan, and Tori Amos you’re still heavily invoking Christmas-ness to me, and not even playing the good parts of the music. (Sadly, most of the best Christmas songs are explicitly religious , though for people who celebrate Christmas but don’t really have the faith. I also have Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun and Vienna Teng’s Atheist Christmas Carol, and Alexander James Adams’ Wintertide tries to blend Christmas with Pagan Yule. Still, I’m disinclined to share or suggest any of my playlist to non-Christmas celebrants, especially of other faiths.)

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Ooooh, another AJ fan!

                If people wanted to do a secular celebration, they could always go with astronomy based holidays – solstices and equinoxes. Yes, other religions celebrate them too, but they are objective phenomenon that requires no deific intervention or homage. Winter Solstice is December 21 this year, and the Spring Equinox is March 20 of next year.

              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Yeah, this is where I come down. If there’s a need for a soundtrack, I’d rather it just be a genre like pop or classical or jazz than a themed playlist, mostly because the stuff that ends up on themed playlists are the most overplayed-to-death songs.

                (I also saw a hilarious tweet recently about people putting together Halloween playlists just going by song titles they’ve clearly never listened to, so you get “Monster Mash, This is Halloween, Beautiful Elegy of Intergenerational Trauma of English Violence Against the Irish, followed by Thriller” with #3 being a reference to “Zombie” by the Cranberries.)

            2. Eff Walsingham*


              Personally, I am more of a party-like-it’s-1534 kind of celebrant, so I kinda hate all the tinsel and commercialism of modern Christmas. And yet I understand that the workplace is not there to cater to my personal pet peeves. Fine.

              But every December at most places I’ve worked, battle lines are drawn between perky employees who “just LOOOOOOVE Christmas!!!” and… others. At this time last year, our department had one misguided Christmas lover on our very multi-ethnic, multicultural team, and it was still a problem. It focused mainly on the radio. In our region there is this one station that plays almost entirely secular holiday songs by pop artists for the entire month of December. They are so repetitive, and in my opinion there is much to dislike about them. (Saccharine, boring, twinkly, questionable sexist themes, excessive bell use.) But I understand that this is a matter of personal taste.

              Anyway, she (19F) kept changing the radio station in our department to the “festive” one, and I kept changing it back. And I noticed that sometimes it was changed back by others, when I was too busy to deal with something so minor-yet-irritating. No one really wanted to confront her, either because they like her, or they didn’t want to make drama, but there was a lot of “Ugh! Not this again!” expressed generally.

              All this to say, a lot of people, even those who identify as Christian, even those who like these songs the first 25 times they hear them each holiday season, get heartily sick of this type of thing. It’s just so relentless. I used to avoid a favourite restaurant every December due to their endless rotation of six holiday pop tunes.

              I say, go with the previously-suggested instrumental jazz. Or a classical pianist. Or a rock ‘n’ roll tribute band, as my last employer did. Just because it’s December doesn’t mean you have to party to different music than you would if you got together at another time of year.

              Last Friday, “Silver Bells” was playing as I waited for my order at Starbucks. It’s too early. I feel particularly sorry for retail chain store employees.

            3. Chirpy*

              As someone who does celebrate Christmas, one of the things I find absolutely most annoying is when people try to make religious themed songs secular, or secular songs religious by changing the lyrics (for example “Christ the child is born” instead of the original “savior”, or “if the Lord allows” instead of “the fates”, etc). Both religious and secular Christmas music has its place, no need to force one into the other.

              I don’t really know of any “winter” songs that aren’t disguised secular Christmas ones, honestly. Most places I’ve been just throw in an occasional Hanukkah song and think they’re doing good, I guess?

            4. notfunny.*

              Those winter songs that you mentioned are definitely Christmas songs in my mind, so I wouldn’t play them at a holiday party.

              1. tommy*

                yes, they are all christmas songs. i say that as a jew and a cultural descriptivist, not prescriptivist.

            5. ShanShan*

              Look, man, these details don’t really matter. If you’re throwing a huge party at the end of December and you don’t throw one multiple times of year, it’s a Christmas party. Please stop trying to come up with a million ways to pretend that it isn’t and making us shoot them down one by one. It’s exhausting.

          3. JustaTech*

            The solution my company stumbled across a few years ago (when we ran out of time and money to do a December holiday party) was – New Years!
            It’s secular, festive, winter-themed, and you get to have the party in January when everything is much cheaper/more available.

            We did a theme-within-a-theme party one year, that was “Great Gatsby New Year’s” that was good fun, very jazz.

            1. lyonite*

              My company has their winter party in late January too (still winter!) and I highly recommend. It’s cheaper, there are fewer conflicts with other events, and it’s much easier to get away from the Christmas stuff once the holiday has passed.

        3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I think candles/white twinkly lights, snowmen, gingerbread men, pine boughs or holly, cardinals on snowy branches, are not-Xmas-specific.

              1. That'sNotMyName*

                That meaning is pretty post hoc and I think pretty recent. Holly is one of the few plants to provide any greenery and red pops of color in the winter.

              2. Rocks are neat*

                Which in turn was co opted from Northern European pagan winter festivals. As was most of the other trappings of christmas come to think of it. Except the nativity of course so we get to juxtapose Middle Eastern dress and animals with evergreens and snow.

                1. Chirpy*

                  It does snow in the Middle East, though. I’ve been told by a Jordanian friend the area around Petra at least gets a fair amount. (I have no idea about the Bethlehem area, but it’s not really that far away.)

                2. Polly Hedron*

                  I’ll stop laughing. Wikipedia – Bethlehem – Climate says Bethlehem averages one snow day in December. (In the first century, it could have been more.)

            1. M&M*

              Does every individual decoration need to explicitly not evoke Christmas though? As someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I’d be happy to attend a holiday party that was a) marketed as a holiday party (vs. a Christmas party) and b) avoided red/green/gold color schemes and Christmas trees (I agree with you on the pine trees being a no-go!). But I don’t think the LW has to avoid every single possible reference to Christmas, so long as the general theme is more wintery and the language around the party avoids invoking Christmas.

              1. ShanShan*

                Honestly, I’d rather they just call it a Christmas party to start with. There’s nothing in my religion that says I can’t GO to Christmas parties. I just get sick of people trying to convince me that they’re throwing them on my behalf.

              2. BeachMum*

                M&M, I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m responsible for our company’s holiday party. We have red and white flowers, jazz in the background, but nothing overtly Christmassy. OTOH, both owners and a good number of the staff don’t celebrate Christmas at all. My objective is to make them feel included even though we all recognize that it’s a party that’s near Christmas-time. I think we get a good balance. (The room we rent does have a Christmas tree, but I can’t do anything about that.)

          1. Unaccountably*

            All of those things are heavily represented on Christmas cards. They might be less so taken individually, but that list immediately makes me think of the Christmas card aisle at a Hallmark store.

        4. FrivYeti*

          As a non-Christian, I have a general rule of thumb for Christmas vs Winter, which is: if I see it midway through January, would I think “that’s weird” or “that’s nice”.

          Like, lights on houses? Totally reasonable throughout the winter. Snowmen? Great. Gingerbread? I love gingerbread. A tree with ornaments? Nope, that’s weird. Holly and mistletoe? Weird.

          1. mixed*

            In fact, you can move the entire office party to early January!

            People are more likely to look forward to it when the other festivities are over. Venues, catering, etc will be cheaper and easier. And it automatically pushes planners to think of it as an annual winter party instead of Christmas.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yes! This is what we did for a couple of years pre-COVID. The first year was because we didn’t get a budget in time to rent anywhere during December, so we ended up with January, and we got so much more bang for our buck, and people weren’t as busy that we stuck with a January date for a few years.

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              I like this idea, if only because my end-of-the-year is typically packed as it is, and I also use up whatever remaining vacation time I have in December, so often I am OOO.

              I like the idea of ringing in the New Year… in the New Year!

          2. Bee*

            That’s interesting, because I definitely keep my (faux) greenery up throughout the winter in the spirit of its original meaning: a reminder that things stay alive even through the worst, most depressing phases of winter. (Same with lights! It may be dark outside, but the light will come back, and in the meantime we can make it ourselves.) 100% agreed that a decorated tree would absolutely be weird, but I feel like I need that reminder most in February, not December.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              My county has such a large Indian community that people start putting up Diwali lights in October. Lights on houses stay up through Lunar New Year when the Chinese/Vietnamese/other Asian community celebrates.

          1. Chinook*

            Can you do January instead? February not only runs the risk of being up against Valentine’s Day but, for Catholics, our fasting type season (Lent) often starts then (it is rare when it is as late as March). Then again, maybe there isn’t an ideal month to do this because there will always be conflicts of this type in a multicultural office?

            January, on the other hand, is still a dreary, dark month (at least around here) and still slow enough in most of the industries I work in to be able to pull off a party without interfering with deadlines.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Some places will be slow if their Asian suppliers are closed for Lunar New Year in January/February…

        5. JSPA*

          Just because christianity was historically both quick and thorough in claiming the memorable bits of everyone’s seasonal traditions doesn’t mean they get exclusive rights, though.

          And snowmen don’t morph into christian iconography just because Frosty the Snowman is in the Christmas TV rotation.

          Winter things that go beyond the negatives of cold, as far as decorating / themes: Skiing, sledding, skating, ice fishing, snowflake cut-outs, hot spiced cider, candle lanterns, fuzzy earmuffs, roasted chestnuts, roasted sweet potatoes, winter animal tracks, cozy hibernating animals, bird feeders, seeing the milky way on a cold, clear night, sun dogs, northern lights.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I think games are okay if they happen over to one side of the room and people get to decide whether or not they play.

          Has anybody’s company changed the Christmas party to a New Year’s party? That feels like an easy way to get party planners’ brains to shift out of Christmas-All-The-Time mode. I know some cultures have New Year celebrations at other times of the year, but I don’t think there’s much that’s objectionable in a “yay we made it through 2022!” party.

          1. Springtime*

            My spouse’s workplace shifted their party to January one year for office-specific scheduling reasons, and everyone liked it so much that they did it for a couple more years. Mainly, everyone just liked that it was at a less busy time in their social calendar, and the planners liked that it was easier to find a caterer with availability.

            1. Ditto*

              I do not celebrate holidays and would not attend a winter or holiday party in December because it is a thinly veiled cover for a Christmas party. A January party that has absolutely zero connection to any holiday? That I could get behind. Why do all office get togethers need to be connected to a holiday?

          2. Rain's Small Hands*

            Its better to have the “mid-winter” party in late January anyway – as everyone tends to be busy between Halloween and Superbowl Sunday. Its a non-stop time for us in our house and I always disliked trying to fit in an office party during that time.

            We aren’t Christian but do celebrate Christmas so there is shopping, decorating and baking that needs to get done in our house. My husband has a birthday in there with a big party, and another friend always has a party at that time of year.

            So avoid any time between Thanksgiving and New Years – Christmas celebrating people are too busy and non-Christmas celebrating people have a hard time getting around the Christmas thing. Be careful between Halloween and Thanksgiving, as that period can end up short and busy – but its safer – as is the time between New Years and Super Bowl Sunday – busy for a lot of people, but safer.

            Regarding activates – if you have separate spaces so people can really escape. Being corralled into a game of Codenames by your hypercompetitive (and not very good at Codenames) boss is a party killer. Likewise, being encouraged to dance when you don’t want to go near a dance floor when your coworkers are watching. Keep as space for people to have conversations with less risk of being roped into games, sports, dancing, karaoke, etc. For a lot of corporate cultures there really isn’t an “optional” option to those sorts of activities.

        2. Lydia*

          Okay, but if they’re optional so nobody has to play, that would appeal to the majority of people attending. You’re most likely the exception.

        3. SofiaDeo*

          Why? If no one forces anyone to join in, it’s like just another item in the buffet. Skip it if you like. Pushing one to join in, like people pushing drinks or food on others who decline, is another matter.

    2. Kitty cat*

      LW5, I’d also suggest pushing back in case someone comes up with Hanukkah balls. Make sure your workplace doesn’t end up adding to AAM lore.

    3. nnn*

      If you do need activities for your party rather than just enjoying food and socializing like Alison mentioned, I’ve found board games and pub-style trivia effective for office parties. You can even encourage people to bring their own board games (one year, Hungry Hungry Hippos was a sleeper hit)

        1. StressedButOkay*

          Or Jeopardy – which allows for participants or watchers to cheer/egg on the participants/teams. I was in one and it got ROWDY in a fun way but folks who didn’t want to participate could retreat to the other side of the room and just chill.

          As long as you don’t make the questions Christmas themed, you’re fine.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Euchre tournament, if you are in a part of the country where Euchre is often played! Great for mixing up big groups playing a game.

      2. train rider*

        Yeah we did a seasonal trivia that was focused on New Years/year in review. So some wintery questions (what’s the most snow ever gotten in our area) some New Years questions (first year of the Times Square ball drop) and then mostly stuff like which movies won at the oscars, who was in the major sporting events – things that most people were likely to know at least a few.

      3. Grace Pool*

        One year we had a table for people who wanted to make snowflakes out of paper, and it was a hoot.

      4. JustaTech*

        One year we paid to have a company that does casino games come in and that was super popular and fun (and for fake money to get extra tickets for the raffle, I think).
        I know in some areas a gambling theme wouldn’t be acceptable, but if folks would be cool with it, it can be great fun.

    4. Aphrodite*

      Does your office close between Christmas Day and New Year’s or even for a few days around that time? If so, how about “Winter Vacation” as a theme? You could even have a game similar to Secret/Dirty Santa if you want with items that focused on various themed vacations (maps, postcards, inexpensive souvenir-type gifts, foods specific to an area, etc.) People could decorate for their favorite vacations such as mountains, skiing, beach, France, backpacking, sofa surfing and favorite books, museums, cities, and more.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        If you’re in a cold climate, maybe a summer vacation themed party. Winter-themed is a bit hard, because so many generic winter things (snowmen, snowflakes, etc) have been co-opted into non-religious Christmas stuff, and so many of the traditional Western winter drinks and foods are strongly associated with Christmas.

        Decorate with a giant cut-out sun, beach toys, fake flowers, order in BBQ and sides, serve fruity cocktail/mocktails, smores for dessert. People can wear sun hats or Hawaiian shirts if they want, and you could think up some goofy summer themed activites.

        1. LongTime Reader*

          I love this idea- from a Michigan native who generally does not want to celebrate the cold in winter

        2. That'sNotMyName*

          I think an apres-ski theme can offer a number of helpful options, even if you don’t fully embrace the ski part of it. One of the ways that I deal with my winter depression is learning to lean into the beautiful things about winter and just go totally into winter cozy mode. I’m also Jewish and get uncomfortable with Christmas-y stuff, even more so in the rest of winter. Looking up apres-ski has given me some great ideas.

        3. Rain's Small Hands*

          A friend used to have a Tiki party in January in the Upper Midwest – they’d heat the house as hot as it would go, fill it with borrowed plants and humidifiers, and you’d wear your best Tiki clothing and drink rum drinks. It was great. (Too drinky for work though).

          1. Stuff*

            Also, it’s best not to bring anything involving Tiki culture into the workplace. The whole culture is something invented by White people to exoticize Pacific Island cultures and drive tourism, and it’s something deeply harmful and problematic to a lot of Pacific Islanders. I’m not saying drinking Tiki drinks or collecting Tiki merchandise is in and of itself wrong, I do have quite a few Geeki Tikis, but I think it’s a very complex situation, and I certainly wouldn’t want to bring a culture I know has a long history of racism into the workplace where there might be somebody from an effected culture.

            1. Rain's Small Hands*

              Oh, yeah, its fun (the drinks are great and a party in a 90 degree humid house in the Minnesota winter was awesome) – but its cultural appropriation of the sort that doesn’t do to perpetuate without awareness and isn’t appropriate for a corporate setting. Plus tiki is frankly all about the alcohol – and that much drinking isn’t appropriate for a corporate setting. People get stupid.

      2. allathian*

        For a truly inclusive holiday party, I’d avoid exchanging gifts altogether. Even if other cultures may exchange gifts during the winter holiday season, secret santa stuff is very specifically Christmas-related, even if the gifts themselves aren’t.

        1. Merricontrary*

          This is what my company does. We are so multi cultural AND December weekends are so booked for everybody. Mid January new year party has been terrific and we get much better turnout.

          1. Coenobita*

            Yes! My department in grad school had an annual winter/new years/new semester party in January and I thought that was a great idea.

            Where I currently work, the holiday party tends to be super early in December and it has a more fall/end of year/Thanksgiving-ish vibe, which I also like.

          2. That'sNotMyName*

            My husband’s company does this and it is well attended and seems to be widely enjoyed. It also makes it easier to get a fun venue if the party is offsite. In my last job, the entire month of December was absolute bananas. Lots of stress and long hours. Having to make a festive dish and lose a bunch of work time was not fun.

        2. The Person from the Resume*

          Absolutely agree. You could even call it a New Year’s Party instead of generic Holiday party because Christmas is overwhelmingly the predominant commercial holiday at the end of December.

        3. Miette*

          Also, if it’s being planned for off-site, it’ll be much less expensive to book a place in January than during the Christmas party season. The savings could go into prizes for games or top shelf food and drinks.

          1. KRM*

            We used to do this at my old job. We’d have a gathering in Feb/March, and call it our “winter get together”. Usually it was offsite so we didn’t bother with decorations. Just some place where we could do activities (bowling, pool, etc) and eat food.

        4. Smithy*

          The New Year “theme” also helps with decorations – even if this is a party that is held in December, all of those decorations are available now. Cups/plates/napkins with “happy new year”, colors that are more like silver and black with other colors/sparkle thrown in there, assorted noise makers, etc.

          Basically, you can just walk up and down the New Years aisle of a Party City without having to edit yourself too much.

        5. Llama Wrangler*

          Agreed! Certain people who are very attuned to this might feel like “Gregorian new year is not MY new year”, but as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, having a New Year themed party is MUCH more comfortable than a “generic holiday party.” (And I was going to say – if you said “here’s our generic holiday party” after years of having a christmas party, I’d likely feel slightly uncomfortable.)

        6. Chirpy*

          Yeah, a January party is so much better, no conflicts with other Christmas/ Hannukkah / Thanksgiving/ concerts /holiday obligations. You have time to relax, instead of worrying about all the other stuff you need to get done while cramming in yet another social activity.

      3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        How would anything “Santa” fit with the LW’s specific request for a non-Chriatmas party?

        1. amoeba*

          Well, I guess that’s why they wrote “a game similar to…” – have had similar kinds of gift exchanges at different occasions (end of the school year etc.)

          But maybe changing it a bit more, e.g. to a raffle/tombola style would also make it even less Christmas-associated?

            1. ShanShan*

              Sorry. I got a little excited. I know this isn’t your fault. It’s just hard to explain how frustrating it is to watch people try to put a coat of paint on a Christmas party and try to tell me it’s not a Christmas party every single year. It’s well-intentioned, but it’s also a sign that they do not understand the problem they are trying to solve at all.

              Like, my problem with the Christmas season isn’t that people are playing specific songs or decorating in specific colors. It’s that people in the US pretty much don’t have the option of at least nominally celebrating Christmas, no matter whether they want to or not. Just swapping the color palette or the playlist at the party you. are pressuring me to attend at Christmastime when I don’t want to doesn’t solve that problem, and the fact that people think it does makes me feel like they aren’t really listening.

              1. Another_scientist*

                I want to make sure I get your point. Is a celebratory event in December problematic on its own? Is it the moment that gifts are involved? Is your point about being pressured to go when you don’t want to?

        2. Smithy*

          If the Santa concept is related to this party being for families, and so part of the Santa aspect has been giving a gift to kids – I think that swapping that for a spin the wheel and get a gift wrapped in purple, silver, black, or yellow paper could be interactive. Or literally just have a gift they pick up as they leave.

          I do think that inevitably when you switch from a Christmas party to a Holiday party, the more you focus on 1 to 1 replacements – the more you put yourself in a place of convincing someone turkey/plant bacon tastes exactly the same as regular bacon. However, if instead you focus on the party being generically really likable to staff (fits their schedules well, has food/drinks they like, games they find amusing) – then the change of theme is less of a loss.

          Instead, investing in something new and fun like a cotton candy or frozen drinks machine (depending on the style of party) – that may go a lot further.

      4. Other Alice*

        If LW wants the party not to be Christmas themed I would avoid any sort of gift exchange. Or else you might as well have Hanukkah balls.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Honestly, even if it were a Christmas theme, can we just not with office gift-giving? It’s mostly senseless consumerism, and between keeping the gift to a reasonable dollar limit and keeping it bland and inoffensive enough for a workplace setting, you largely end up with people exchanging cheap crap that not a one of them would have bought for themselves with their own money, and contribute to our landfills growing that many inches larger.

    5. Brain the Brian*

      We did a Company Trivia game one year, with different departments playing against each other. That was a fun, definitely secular activity — questions like the year the company was founded, where our first office was located, which VP had served the longest, etc.

      Also: don’t forget to make sure the food and beverage options at such an event include things that everyone can eat and drink. Non-pork meats (along with vegetarian and vegan options!) and nonalcoholic beverages can go a long way toward demonstrating an understanding of different religious, medical, and other types of dietary restrictions.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        Trivia was a hit at ours, too. We were in a small city that a lot of people stayed in after growing up there, so we put together some fun local trivia like “what are the closest cross streets to these local landmarks?” Lots of people know the giant cement cow is on 10th street, but fewer knew which random side street was nearby :-P

      2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Along the food line…you can’t pretend it’s a generic “holiday” party and have traditionally Christmas foods…so no egg nog, candy canes, sugar cookies all iced out as santa/reindeer/stars/christmas trees/ornaments etc. Just have regular food.

        1. Sylvan*

          You could look to NYE for menu inspiration, or another secular holiday that’s close on the calendar.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            NYE is a great idea for a nearby holiday inspiration! But make sure you have some nonalcoholic beverages other than water available.

            A Thanksgiving-themed party held in late November / early December might also fit the bill, although of course there are sensitivities to keep in mind around the way Native communities do and don’t observe Thanksgiving.

    6. lilyp*

      Could you maybe defer the company party to some other time that is not so overtaken by the “holiday” (christmas) season? That could make it a much cleaner break and let people really think of it as a new and different event vs “the Christmas party but we can’t say Christmas anymore so we’re calling it a holiday party.” Could be a New Years party in Jan, or a generic “Annual X Company Party” in Feb/March, or a summer barbeque, or maybe a celebration of some important milestone/season for your company or industry. Or if you’re in America, move it a little earlier and make it Thanksgiving-themed. In the transition year you could do an informal potluck/lunch or maybe a small gift to smooth over “holiday” expectations if you feel like you need to.

      1. Not Australian*

        Seconding this. I’ve found that people in general tend to feel a bit flat in mid-late January (in the northern hemisphere, at least) so scheduling a social event for then gives everyone something to look forward to at an otherwise dull time of year.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          That’s what we did at a previous company and it worked well. A short speech on the general theme of “last year, this year” and then a 3-minute walk to a restaurant for food and socializing. We started around 4pm I think and it went until 8-9 or so with some stuck it out later.
          At my current company we used to do a large party for/by employees and alumni; this was obviously nixed the last two years due to Covid. Now we are doing smaller (definitely not Christmas themed) outings; ours is tomorrow afternoon with an informal buffet dinner cruise. The boat is docking every hour so people can join/leave as they like – a nice touch! It was organized by our junior engineers and interns.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          That sounds like a great idea. And I don’t know if it’s the same in the US (but I’d imagine it would be), but here at least, it can be hard to find somewhere to go in December as everybody is booking for parties. In January, you would likely have a better choice of venue and as people are often low on funds then, I bet hotels, pubs, etc would be glad of the business.

          I’d avoid too much theme at all personally. While you’ll never please everybody, it seems like just letting people mingle and eat or drink as they wish is less likely to put pressure on people.

        3. Jade Rabbit*

          In Hong Kong we go from Winter Solstice (big event for families in the Chinese calendar) to Christmas to New Year to Chinese New Year. It’s a 2-month period (depending on the moon). By March it feels flat. That’s why some companies will have Spring annual dinners instead of specific Christmas/CNY parties. Not officially a particular celebration, at least in name.

          But there are different sensibilities in western countries that just don’t arise elsewhere.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I worked a place that did this and it was a hit. They scheduled it between NYE and Lunar NY and Nowruz and started it at 2 pm on a work day so folks could just leave. For once we had a small budget so we got vendors from the different communities we work with to make a traditional New Year dish. Possibly the most delicious party ever

        5. That'sNotMyName*

          I’ve long wanted to create some sort of festive holiday in the bleak midwinter doldrums. I need twinkly lights until at least March where I live. Also, the holiday would be very low pressure in celebration. Basically, a reason to put up nice decorations and enjoy cozy things.

      2. nnn*

        In pitching the idea of moving it to a different time of year, a useful framing might be “Everyone has so many obligations this time of year, it might be more fun and less of a burden if we did it a different time of year?”

        Since it’s November now, they’re probably already planning a December party for this year. So (depending on the vibe) it might be helpful to start gently floating the idea of too many obligations in December at this year’s December party. “It’s so great to see everyone socially, I just wish all the parties and reunions didn’t come at once – it can take something that should be fun and make it a stressor.”

        (To be clear, I agree that moving away from Christmas to be more inclusive is a good enough reason in and of itself, but often when in an entrenched Christmas party culture, people get resistant to explicitly trying to make it more inclusive. So it can be more effective to simply do something that’s better on the basis that it’s better, without ever mentioning that it also happens to be more inclusive.)

        1. Smurfette*

          I agree – and there are always people who will resent those who are “taking their Xmas party away” whether it be the organisers or those who selfishly don’t observe Xmas.

      3. Lime green Pacer*

        When I worked in foodservice, December was too busy to even consider a corporate party. So it happened in late January, which is a very slow time for restaurants.

        1. Another Admin*

          January?? We always had our restaurant staff parties in March! January is gift card month :)

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think gingerbread houses are pretty christmassy but you could do some other form of challenge – maybe decorating giant cookies.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, it doesn’t have to be a gingerbread house, any type of decorated food item would probably work. And you can leave the leftovers in the office kitchen afterwards!

        2. Sylvan*

          My office, which is predominantly but not exclusively Christian and where I don’t expect any winter celebration to ever become secular, has a cookie swap. Everyone brings in homemade or store-bought cookies and a container, and fills their container with all kinds of good cookies. It’s a lot of fun!

        3. KRM*

          Target has non-Xmas themed gingerbread houses (doghouse, trailer, ugly sweaters, among others) you can do. I did that when LastJob was very small–just picked a bunch of generic ones and then people decorated them however they wanted.

    7. Beth*

      The thing is, having a December Holiday Party is pretty clearly a Christmas party even if you go out of your way to not reference Christmas. Even if it’s not religious in the “we’re talking about Jesus” sense, it’s still religious in the “we think of this as a season of celebration because of Christianity” sense. Keeping that in mind, frankly, you’re not going to be able to fully make the event Not A Christmas Party.

      What you CAN do is not make it overbearing for people who don’t celebrate Christmas. Call it an “end-of-year party” instead of a “holiday party”. Choose winter-themed decor over Christmas trees or nativity scenes. Skip Santa-related activities. It’s fine to let people mingle, eat and drink, and chat; if you think you really need games and activities, maybe look for New Years themed options, or non-themed party games like Bingo.

      Like Alison says, definitely don’t try to create ‘parity’ by tacking on Hanukkah activities. First, Hanukkah isn’t “Jewish Christmas”; second, people still shouldn’t be pushed to do activities centered around a religion they’re not part of while at work, even if there are activities centered around their religion too; and third, that doesn’t do anything for the wide variety of people who are neither Christian nor Jewish.

      1. talos*

        Yes – please make it explicitly an end-of-year party versus a holiday party. I’m atheist and care about…precisely zero holidays in December. But I am generally interested in eating food with my coworkers!

      2. mlem*

        This worked with my group. Many years back now, I frankly asked my supervisor, “Is this an end-of-year party? If so, I’ll attend. If it’s a Christmas party, I’ll decline, because I’m not Christian.” She is Christian, but she considered me (atheist) and another of her staff (possibly Hindu? I’ve never asked), and she spoke with our manager, and it’s been secular ever since.

        We typically have opt-in “Yankee swap”, opt-in “Left-Right-Center” with $1 scratchers as the stakes, and potluck (though at least half of us just pool funds to bring in pizza as our contribution).

        One recent year, a junior-to-me colleague took it on himself to try to start playing Christmas music from his phone. I intercepted him and shook my head, and that was enough.

      3. Smurfette*

        As the token Jew in most of my workplaces, I would hate to have Hanukkah activities foisted onto me.

        1. fueled by coffee*


          I RSVP’ed “no” to a “holiday cookie swap” and was informed that I had to come because “someone had to bring Chanukah cookies.” Christmas activities do not become Jewish just because you add blue icing!

          1. Just me*

            Yiiikes. You’re right, and also! The idea that an optional, ostensibly fun activity becomes mandatory for only you so that some kind of diversity threshold is met is … wow. Yikes.

        2. EmmaPoet*

          Same here. I do my own Hanukkah stuff, which normally involves lighting candles on schedule and stuffing my face with latkes and sufganiyot. I don’t want work trying to cosplay Hanukkah.

      4. The Person from the Resume*

        Lots of people have new year’s party. Obviously don’t hold the office party on new year’s eve, but that is an alternate that people celebrate. You can decorate with lots of Happy New Year decorations to make it obvious, it’s not Christmas.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Oh man, this just gave be a brain drizzle. I’m going to have a “New Budget Year” party. Surviving another budget cycle and getting all those damned grant reports submitted is actually something to celebrate

      5. Dinwar*

        “…it’s still religious in the “we think of this as a season of celebration because of Christianity” sense.”

        Glad to know us Pagans and our winter celebrations don’t exist….

        1. EmKay*

          It’s not that we don’t exist, it’s that we’ve been so successfully coopted by Christianity that we “don’t count” or are forgotten.

        2. Beth*

          It’s not that there are no other holidays in winter. Obviously that’s not the case!

          The problem is that the dominant cultural paradigm in the US (and many other countries) is so heavily Christian that Christmas is what will inevitably come to mind for most people when you start talking about a December holiday. People aren’t going to see a calendar invite to the “office holiday party” on December 15th” and think it’s about Yule, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, or etc.

      6. Peaceweaver*

        All over the world, people celebrate the winter solstice – it’s the beginning of the end of winter, after all, and the promise of the warmth of spring. So many of the religious holiday traditions that we associate with both Christmas and Hanukah are actually derived from spiritual traditions that predate both those holidays!

        Fire (to reflect the returning sun) and thus candles? Evergreen trees and holly (that stay green all winter)? Mistletoe? Check, check and check – all of pagan origin, folks! And we’re happy to share them all.

        So please…think hard before you assign 2022 religious symbolism to any of them. They belong to a far older spirituality than any of the Abrahamic faiths. And none of those faiths has dibs on any of those ancient symbols and traditions!

      7. Sylvan*

        The thing is, having a December Holiday Party is pretty clearly a Christmas party even if you go out of your way to not reference Christmas.

        Yep! If you use “the holiday” as a euphemism for “Christmas,” we all know it’s still a Christmas party. No matter what you call it, try to make it welcoming to people who don’t celebrate Christmas or who might celebrate Christmas in a different way than most.

        I’m an atheist, and I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I end up at something or other “holiday” just about every year. And you know, it’s a lot of fun! As long as I feel welcome the way that I am, not as a soul to save or something. There’s a lot to enjoy about winter get-togethers.

      8. Random Biter*

        Kind of off topic, but I have to say, as a Christian in the very loosest sense of the word, having a Jewish spousal equivalent was great. Who knew I’d love gefilte fish with horseradish? That he’d be the one not happy when I decided to not put up a Christmas tree. I mean, where was he expected to hang his dreidel ornament?! I had to remember to get candles for the menorah. And I discovered that Hanukkah at his brother’s was a good deal like Christmas dinner at my mom’s. Way too many good things to eat, kids sugared up and running wild, and if you weren’t there you WOULD be talked about. AND we never had the dreaded “whose family are we going to for the holiday?” fight.

        1. Westsidestory*

          I hear you and heart you – Our family celebrate every holiday in December (the only pushback I recall was when I served venison for Solstice). But to travel back to the main point, having a New Year party in early January seems to be the best solution this crowd has come up with. There would be no Christmas music or decor needed, and on many companies would provide an opportunity to reflect and thank employees for their good work in the past calendar year.

    8. Yvette*

      If you want decorations, snowmen, snow flakes and penguins represent the time of year. Strings of white/clear mini lights are used as decorations by many venues year round.
      Games – I don’t know how silly you want to be. How about a variation on the egg in spoon race using round ice cubes. Pin the tail on the polar bear. Charades but pre-select the topics – things to do with winter and cold places.

    9. LittleMarshmallow*

      We always just do a potluck where the company buys like a ham or turkey or two and we bring sides/desserts. I realize this doesn’t work with every group but it works great for ours. We usually cook the meat ourselves at work and have fun setting up crock pots and prepping gravy and sides and stuff. We never get anything done that day but it’s always a good time. Our sides range from things as simple as buns or a jar of gravy to more complex things like pies and green been casserole. It’s all voluntary, but everyone enjoys it. We do this for thanksgiving also (and any other holiday we can get away with… our group loves food). We also try to make sure to accommodate dietary restrictions so everyone can participate. Don’t be mean about dietary restrictions… everything is better when you care enough about people to make sure they can eat food too! We also don’t really make it about the holiday. Weirdly enough ours aren’t planned by management. It’s allowed by management (for use of company funds to buy main course foods) and they’re invited but we, the minions, do the planning/prep.

      Definitely agree that the easiest thing is to have food.

      A different place I worked used to have a holiday party. It had no Christmas theme, but it was in December. Usually it was a dinner with some sort of entertainment (hypnotist and dinner murder mystery are the ones I remember – I would not recommend hypnotist, but the murder mystery thing was kinda fun) off-site. I had fun at them, but for inclusivity, I’d say stuff done during work hours is better. People just have too many life things.

    10. Lab Lady*

      Its a ‘the days are getting longer party!’ Christmas just accidentally got tacked on.
      Actually, seriously focus on the new year ahead
      Mayne not fiscal year, but calendar year.

      – Throw a bash celebration your peoples achievements (not company achievements, but individual ones)
      – throw a ‘we survived 20XX’ bash…
      – Focus on resolutions and new directions…

      I host my lab 3 times a year. End of Summer (congrats to the grad student graduating); End of December (look at all the awesome stuff you did this year) and end of April, beginning of May (research kick off)

      1. darcy*

        (accidently posted this separately too sorry)
        “we survived 20XX” is likely to land poorly with people whose loved ones did not, in fact, survive 20XX

        1. teapot analytics*

          I messed up and replied on that one so I will chime in here:

          I lost family this year and I would absolutely be upset and angry about a party with that theme. The odds are far more likely right now that multiple people will have lost loved ones in the last couple of years, possibly people who could have been expected to live many more years.

          It’s just a tasteless thing to do, don’t do it.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yep. 2020 was the worst year of my life and I would absolutely have refused to attend anything that referenced celebrating it, surviving it, etc. Just don’t.

            1. Samesies*

              Same here. Three of the four of my family that got Covid in November of 2020 survived, but there will always be a hole in our hearts from that time.

    11. Sma*

      As a non-American, these conversations are fascinating. In my culture, a secular Christmas coexists alongside the Christian one (and if any religious minority has an issue with that, it tends to be a small subsection of Christians who feel that atheists and other non-Christians erased or stole their religious celebration) and Christmas decorations can fall within one or the other. They aren’t all viewed as religious.

      Anyway, IMO from my years in North American workplaces, “Holiday Parties” often resemble “Christmas Parties”, to the point that it seems like lip service to call it a “Holiday Party”. For one, they are organized when a “Christmas Party” would be because they are in-lieu of a Christmas Party. If it weren’t for Christmas, would practically every company organize their holiday party in December? Other cultures and religions don’t necessarily center December or have major holidays at that time. The color scheme, decor, food, etc also tend to be identical to the ones traditionally associated with Christmas. And more often than not, there’s a gift element.

      So my advice to step away from all that would be to throw the holiday party at a different time. For instance, in January, as a celebration of the New Year. Centering a categorically non-religious theme will help start fresh and avoid unconsciously bringing in religious baggage.

      1. Worldwalker*

        A lot of religions actually do have some sort of midwinter/solstice/bring-back-the-sun celebration. (Jesus was very likely born some time in the spring; the date of Christmas was probably selected to co-opt the Roman feast of Saturnalia). There are records of similar sorts of celebration going back to remote antiquity. The long, dark days of winter are dreary and endless in an agrarian society where people’s schedules are governed by daylight. So some kind of midwinter festival is not uncommon, and many of them resemble modern Christmas in some respect because either the elements are pretty much universal, or Christmas has just absorbed them.

        1. Sma*

          Yes, I’m aware of the pagan origin and later cooptation of Christmas, as this history plays a part in it later being reclaimed as a secular celebration.

          When I said other cultures and religions do not necessarily center December as their big holiday period, I am referring to modern day religions.

        2. Storm in a teapot*

          Maybe a lot of Western religions
          Hinduism is most commonly centred on Diwali (Oct or Nov each year)
          Islam probably on Eid – again variable and not in December.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I was under the impression that Diwali did celebrate a light half of the year/sun return even if it is a different time of year. Definitely no expert though.

            1. Storm in a teapot*

              As a Hindu I can tell you that whilst yes Diwali is about light and dark it’s not related to a solstice but the fight between light and the dark (more diwas aka lamps being lit and less light sabres though).
              It’s date is based on the Hindu lunar calendar so is at a different time annually according to a western Gregorian calendar but usually around Oct-Nov

          2. SpoonieAnon*

            It’s probably more of a nearer-to the poles/nearer to the equator divide – regions with a bigger variation in day/night hours tend to go bigger on Soltices than areas with less.

            (Obviously history and the legacy of colonialism means the North West part of the world gets an unfairly louder voice but there’s definitely geographical/astronomical factors at play here as well as western bias)

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          By universal you mean European, right? Those symbols are definitely NOT part of winter solstice traditions in the part of the Americas, Asia, Africa, etc.. where it is winter in December

          1. SpoonieAnon*

            Are you missing a “not” here? It’s definitely winter in December in Europe and the whole rest of the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Northern and Central Asia)

      2. Jiff*

        “In my culture, a secular Christmas coexists alongside the Christian one”

        A lot of Americans try make this claim as well, but there is no such thing as a “secular Christmas.” I’d bet that religious minorities in your country do have a problem with it, but they’re not being listened to.

        1. mlem*

          Yeah, it’s hard to hear the people trying to point out that “secular Christmas” is an oxymoron when you’ve stuffed candy canes in your ears and keep saying “fa-la-la, can’t hear you!”

        2. ecnaseener*

          +1 you don’t have a secular Christmas, you have less-overtly-religious Christmas that your culture doesn’t let non-Christians opt out of without looking like a stick in the mud.

        3. A Becky*

          As a Jew in Europe, I’d really like to know where OP is – it’s somewhat true in Japan, in that very few people there seem to understand that Christmas was ever a religious festival and Christians are very much a religious minority. I would assume that Japanese Buddhists feel much the same way as Shinto folk – but it’s NOT true here.

          In both European countries I’ve lived in, and every one I’ve visited, there is a *very* strong social pressure to say “oh no, I don’t mind” to whatever Christmas thing is being shoved down my throat today. No, I don’t mind that it’s the Christmas dinner. I don’t mind that it’s a Christmas party. Sure, let’s meet at the Christmas market. What am I doing for Christmas this year? Objecting or pushing back on any of it, even very mildly, gets you marked as a Scrooge who just wants to make other people feel bad for their innocencent question/friendly invitation/etc.

          1. Lone Wolf*

            Yes, all of this is true. Europe is way behind the US in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s funny to watch people try to claim that European countries are superior to the US because they don’t have these problems when in reality, their countries are just really, really good at ignoring the problems.

        4. SpoonieAnon*

          I’m not Sma and don’t know where they are based – I’m in the UK and though I would never try to argue that Christmas is secular (it’s very obviously rooted in Christianity) there is a difference between “cultural Christmas” and “religious Christmas” here.
          Cultural Christmas is celebrated by a lot (probably most) agnostics/atheists here and has been taken on by some (definitely a minority but still a significant number of) people of other Faiths or with a historical/cultural connection to other Faiths as well as by Christians.
          Actual Church-goers are in a minority here (though a lot more people have vague historical/cultural connections to Christianity) and sometimes cultural Christmas gets celebrated in ways that are pretty antithetical to religious Christmas (obviously the materialism/commercialisation but also things like cultural Christmas being celebrated throughout December and pretty much ends of Boxing Day (26th December) whereas in religious Christmas that’s the more solemn Advent period and the religious Christmas season continues up to Epiphany).

          I was brought up (church going) Christian – and am now a Pagan who celebrates the Winter Solstice – and I don’t always immediately notice the subtle ways that people of other Faiths get excluded and as I’ve already said Christmas is not secular. But Cultural Christmas here is Christian-plus or Christian-lite and attitudes towards workplace Christmas parties and decorations etc are different to the impression I get of US Holiday celebrations from reading here and in other US media.

          1. Willa*

            As a Jewish person who has spent significant time in both the US and the UK, I think both countries actually very similar in the way that some people celebrate “Cultural Christmas” and insist that it’s not religious Christmas so other people shouldn’t be upset. Trust me, the insistence that it’s not religious is just as annoying in the UK as it is in the US.

        5. Sylvan*

          Mm, I agree, but I also don’t want to be an uninformed American trying to ~educate someone about their own country. Drives me nuts when people do that to us, lol.

          1. Sma*

            I didn’t intend to start or engage in a debate on that and I won’t. I had mainly come to suggest moving the party away from December and centering a theme with no religious connection, like New Year – and was just noticing a cultural difference in passing. Which clearly I should have abstained from as it’s getting the discussion sidetracked from the actual advice.

            But as a point of correction, our word for “Christmas” does not contain the word “Christ”.

            ThatGirl, yes, I’m non-Christian as well and love Christmas. Buddhism was the only religion practiced in my family growing up, although I’m atheist myself. My dad’s employer sent us gifts for Christmas, which was more common than work Christmas parties. You would opt in by selecting what you wanted, so it would be easy for an employee to not participate or simply pass the gift along to a charity without people knowing, as opposed to a party where your absence could be noticed. By and large, non-Christian employees still liked getting free stuff.

            1. That'sNotMyName*

              There can be a lot of pressure to “go along to get along”, especially when there are bigger things to deal with that people want to spend capital on. Atheists (from culturally Christian backgrounds) have the ability to make a bigger deal about it because it doesn’t really splash back on them as group the way it can on other groups. So its, “Bob is trying to ruin our fun.” vs “Jews are trying to ruin our fun.”

              1. Sma*

                Absolutely. Just because I celebrate secular Christmas does not mean that I condone pushing it on anyone or disrespecting their religion. I have never used that as an argument to claim it should be celebrated in the workplace – as said above, I suggested not even doing a December Holiday Party as even that can still carry too many undertones.

                Conversely, ‘Christmas is Christian’ has been used by a subset of the Christian majority in my culture to try to exclude non-Christians from celebrating it or dictate how Christmas should be celebrated. I have been questioned on the fact that I celebrate Christmas as an atheist. It’s in that context that atheists and pagans have brought up secular or pagan Christmas to push back on the notion that Christmas belongs to Christians. It’s not ‘everyone has to celebrate Christmas at work because it’s secular’; it’s ‘Christians don’t have a monopoly on Christmas and others may celebrate it too, in their own ways, if they wish’.

                By contrast, I only participate in minorities’ religious or cultural events to the extent that I’m invited and I’m mindful of the way I interact with these events. I’d be horrified if a Muslim told me that something I did in relation to Eid al-Fitr was offensive or cultural appropriation. I’m a guest in something that isn’t mine. When a Christian tells me I am doing Christmas wrong and need to stop, I do not feel the same way because Christianity coopted previous cultural rituals then forced Christmas on everyone, embedding it in my culture to the point that I and other non-Christians can now claim that it’s ours too. Likewise, if I was in competition with a Hindu colleague to have Diwali off, I would obviously withdraw my leave request. People should get their major religious or cultural holidays off. But I would strongly push back on Christian colleagues automatically getting priority for Christmas day off over me and other non-Christians.

                And just as there’s a bigger context of Christianity pushing itself on non-Christians, there’s also a bigger context of Christianity having coopted and carved its mark on every aspect of human life, then now using it to claim these things as Christian and assert the right to dictate how they should take place. A more significant example of that in the recent-ish history of my culture being marriage.

                Anyway, I didn’t mean to detract from the topic at hand but I clearly did (and should have anticipated it), so I won’t comment further.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I get why people say it – my husband for example is not religious but loves Christmas, but he was raised Catholic and needs to be reminded that even if there’s no nativity scenes or church involved, it’s still a Christian holiday.

        2. My Cabbages!*

          As an atheist who was raised non-Christian but still celebrates Christmas with my own traditions, I would very much beg to differ.

          I don’t think you should force anyone to celebrate it (or anything else) but to say that it is impossible to enjoy Christmas traditions without worshipping the Christian God is utterly wrong and insulting for those of us who choose to claim it.

      3. Rain's Small Hands*

        Secular Christmas exists in the U.S. as well. My husband WAS NOT AWARE that it had anything to do with Christianity (he was raised atheist) until he was an adult, and still forgets. And we do a tree and cookies and presents and a big dinner. Just no church or Jesus.

        I suspect he’d be offended by anyone who thought that our Christmas decorations were some sort of Christian signaling and not just “hey, its the time of year when the light changes and we have a feast and presents and Santa.”

        1. nnn*

          It sounds like he needs to talk to some members of minority religions then because he’s oblivious to some seriously big cultural issues in play.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            Or not. Because holidays are important to the person celebrating them. To him, his secular Christmas is important – and since it doesn’t involve Jesus, it doesn’t bug him. There isn’t any reason for you to get offended over how he celebrates Christmas. There is a reason for him to get offended because you are trying to police how he celebrates Christmas.

            1. nnn*

              He can celebrate it any way he wants, of course. His getting offended by someone’s response to long running cultural signaling and the way minority religions experience the dominant religion’s holidays would be the issue.

    12. April*

      My workplace has their yearly party in mid/late January. Nobody is expecting anything Christmas-related. It’s just a “dress up and eat and drink and do fun stuff with coworkers” party. They do often have a theme, and we often have those silly photobooths with props, and a dance floor with a deejay.

      Having it in January just means more of us show up! Given a choice between my work party and a lot of other holiday-related activities, I’m not going to pick the work party. There’s far less going on in January.

      1. J*

        Agree! I worked someplace that had a winter party in January instead of a holiday party. It was at a nice restaurant with dinner and a dance floor.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I jhave been trying for years to get my workplace to do this. However, I am very much a lone voice in the wilderness and have mde no headway !

        It’s annoying as I am now sufficiently senior that I feel I have to attend as I’m technically hosting, plus you always end up paying over the odds because it’s holiday season.

        Years ago a hobby related group I was a member off moved the christmas meal to January – The first year it was accidental, we left it too late to book and couldn’t find a date that worked in Decembr, so booked January instead, and it was such a success that we made the move permanent . January is often a bit grim and having a celebratory meal was great.

    13. Just me*

      I’m so grateful that the point about Hanukkah being a separate (and minor) Jewish holiday has already been made several times here. When people — especially non-Jews, especially in the workplace — treat Hanukkah as basically Jewish-flavored Christmas, that really chafes me.

      When workplaces treat Hanukkah with slightly more thought and effort (say, by knowing when the holiday actually is, maybe turning on the right number of lights per day on a decorative electric menorah), I’m not mad, but it still feels weird to me. If they really cared about Jewish stuff, how about an effort to not schedule deadlines or meetings on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah or Passover? So it’s clear that Hanukkah is getting attention only because it’s been lumped into the Christmas season.

      Anyway! The office party! I like food and drinks and mingling. I like when it happens during the workday, and I like when it’s a whole-office thing so I get to see my friends from various departments.

      Sometimes as part of its not-Christmas party my office does a raffle (everyone receives exactly one entry; no need or even opportunity to earn tickets), and I’ve liked that. We’ve also had ugly sweater contests. Some people like it; personally, I’m not a fan.

      We’ve also had a cookie day, in which anyone who wants to do so makes a batch of cookies of their choosing and then everyone gets to eat the cookies. (There was zero pressure to participate in any way.) That was before the pandemic, so I don’t know whether I’d love it anymore, but at the time I did enjoy admiring everyone’s cookies and complimenting the bakers. It created an easy way for me to get to know some colleagues a little bit beyond just their job functions.

      1. Just me*

        Btw, cookies and especially ugly sweaters are still pretty Christmassy.

        Again, I’m not a fan of the sweater contest, but I do think it can be nice to see my colleagues’ non-mandatory creativity, so maybe there’s a kernel of an idea buried in there.

        And I can’t bring myself to begrudge cookies. They’re cookies! But this is not necessarily a universal opinion.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I disagree with you there, I refuse to adhere to a worldview where 90% of cookies are inherently Christian and we Jews just get hamentaschen :P maaaaaybe certain cookies like gingerbread, but not the entire concept of cookies.

          1. Phony Genius*

            I know that some forms of Christianity consider the eating of wheat to be an important symbol of Jesus. So, if you stretch hard enough, cookies (or any bread product for that matter) can be a Christian thing.

            1. Lydia*

              I feel like Christians have managed to coopt everything and at some point, you have to just put your foot down and say no, you can’t have that.

              1. Rocks are neat*

                I feel early Christianity had an excellent PR department that decided they would borrow this and that, and oh that too…and it’s just kept going.

                1. Jewish Employee*

                  Ding ding ding. So much so that they appropriated most of our sacred scriptures, tacked on some fanfiction, and spent the next 1500-2000 years killing us for doing our own religion wrong.

          2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            I don’t think cookies in general are Christmas, but there is definitely a set a Christmas cookies that aren’t made/sold any other time of year. And the ubiquitous sugar cookies shaped and decorated like stars of Bethlehem, Christmas trees, Santa, reindeer, wreaths, ornaments, stockings…that are 100% Christmas cookies even if sugar cookies in general are not. If they serve a platter of chocolate chip, sure no problem.

          3. J*

            I definitely think I view cookies as more secular because I happened to work next to two catering cookie places. We also were trying to switch away from alcohol-themed catering parties so we’d do milk & cookie parties (with various non-lactose milks and cocoa depending on the season and even flavors like strawberry) or ice cream sandwiches or even their ice cream menu during the summer. I’d also always avoid anything seasonal colored, making sure it was just cookies (so we avoided M&M ones because they’d mix the colors up by the season). Because we did this so frequently, it became clear it wasn’t tied to one holiday. Except March Madness where we’d have custom cookie cakes designed to be sent to companies we were inviting to our viewing party. That was the only “holiday” we celebrated.

          4. Just me*

            Oh, I was unclear! I should know better than to comment in the middle of the night.

            I don’t think the concept of cookies is Christian. I think the tradition of exchanging cookies in December is Christmassy.

            I enjoyed my office’s December cookie event. I even enjoy December parties. Even specifically Christmas parties. But since the question was about how to get away from Christmassy stuff, I was trying to note that a December-themed office party — at least in the United States — is basically either a Christmas party or a don’t-call-it-Christmas party. There’s not a way to escape that, not even by turning to something as widely appealing as cookies.

            I love that the idea of a January office party has such traction elsewhere in the comments. I’d thought it would be a non-starter, and I’m delighted to be wrong. It would solve the whole problem!

        2. Deborah*

          I have not one but TWO ugly Hannukah sweaters. Although they are clearly derivative. But they are still really funny.

      2. Worldwalker*

        “The Christmas season” now starts some time in August, and includes every holiday it can sweep up. When the actual date of Christmas comes around, it’s been “Christmas season” for four or five months, and I just want it to go away!

        1. allathian*

          Oh yes. At least when I worked in retail, Christmas decorations were never put up before late November (1st Sunday in Advent). Now you see them almost year round, and I don’t like it. By the time Christmas rolls around, I’m sick of it. A couple weeks ago we went shopping for some Halloween goodies, and our son thought it was stupid to have chocolate calendars for sale before Halloween. I must admit that I agreed with him…

          1. The Person from the Resume*

            The retailers move from one holiday to another almost before the current holiday ends. It’s almost halloween and the halloween t-shirts are sold out … pull out the christmas t-shirts and sweaters. The halloween section is decimated and empty 2 days before halloween … put out the christmas decorations on those empty shelves.

            1. Chirpy*

              Yup, because the goal in retail is to sell everything before the end of the holiday or season, because sales drop off sharply afterwards and it costs money and space to store things for next year (and you’ll likely have to put the old stuff on clearance anyway as people often don’t want last year’s stuff)

        2. That'sNotMyName*

          In craft stores, it is ridiculously early. I live in the northeastern US, I should not be sweating from the weather and see the big Christmas displays at the same time. I wanted to get my kid a plastic pumpkin to decorate in mid-October and all of their Halloween stuff had already been put away. Not sold out, but moved for Christmas stuff.

          1. J*

            It has to be! Crafters need time to craft and the warehouse has to keep up with them, not just the decorators.

          2. Chirpy*

            One does need enough time to actually make the crafts, so I’m okay with early craft store displays. Other stores can hold off thought.

          3. Polly Hedron*

            I live in the northeastern US, I should not be sweating from the weather and see the big Christmas displays at the same time.

            This is not just in craft stores and it keeps getting worse as global warming collides with ever-earlier Christmas displays: today Christmas has been on display for a month while the northeast has record high temperatures.

        3. penny dreadful analyzer*

          every year sometime around December 20th I have this realization that’s it’s actually almost Christmas and I feel like it snuck up on me and nobody told me that it was Christmas anytime soon. Because “Christmas season” doesn’t actually serve the function of signaling that Christmas is drawing near.

      1. nora*

        My work (at a public university) now holds a “holiday party” to respect all cultures, and then plays Christmas carols the whole time, including the incredibly religious songs like Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night, without batting an eye.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          This is what bugs me. Its when you pay lip service to inclusivity – and then serve chicken cordon bleu at your holiday party lunch (yep, ham plus milk and meat in the same dish – but you know, those “other” Abrahamic faiths can always just get the vegetarian meal) while playing religious holiday songs.

          My kids schools would have a holiday concert where the choir would sing. We live in a pretty Muslim heavy community – probably 10% of the student body is Muslim (few Jews here, but some of the same issues). And yep, little Muslim kids singing Christmas carols of the Silent Night variety. Every year I’d complain on their behalf – and on my own kid’s behalf, we aren’t Christian either.

    14. Anon23*

      As someone who isn’t Christian, this topic is always interesting to me. Any “holiday” party is a Christmas party. It always felt disingenuous to say otherwise. Also whether time off is given freely or taken from your PTO – again it’s for Christmas/New Years.

      Having said that I think calling it a general end of year party is fine and as long as the super religious stuff is avoided (ie religious songs, manger displays, etc.), I don’t mind any of it really. After all for those of us outside the Christian sphere we still grew up with it. It’s not a holiday without Mariah Carey and Charlie Browns Christmas.

      1. Smurfette*

        My first job was at a company with lots of Muslim, Hindu, and Christian folks. Our December party was never a Xmas party. But I think you’re correct that most “holiday” parties are poorly disguised Xmas parties.

        And I also love Charlie Brown’s Christmas!

      2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        Agreed. And I think it’s odd to have to BAN any and all foods associated with Christmas (real egg nog is very tasty and should be served more often IMO). It’s the erasure that makes things grate, the assumption that Christmas is everyone’s default. When it’s clear that that’s NOT the assumption–when throughout the year, a workplace is showing awareness of other faiths and making comparable room for their practice–then very few people are going to mind a poinsettia-themed cocktail or a few jazz covers of carols at a December office party.

    15. Anne Wentworth*

      Just have a end-of-the-year/New Years’ party instead!

      Often “holiday” parties are just Christmas parties hiding under a veil of performative inclusion (don’t do that! listen to Alison’s advice!).
      Think about it, other December holidays aren’t big enough to warrant an office party, except New Year’s. Assuming your office uses the calendar that ends on Dec. 31, it’s straight-forward and an easy theme to plan a party around.

      1. Anne Wentworth*

        Also, if you’re unclear on how to have a party in December that’s completely void of Christmas, get help from someone who doesn’t celebrate it.
        For example, white poinsettias cannot be Chanukah decorations; all poinsettias are Christmas decorations. Ugly sweater contests are a Christmas tradition; if you do it but don’t specify “Christmas” sweaters, that’s one of those “Christmas but we’re pretending to be inclusive” things.

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*


          As far as themes, maybe you usually have a theme but my workplaces don’t. How about a winter sports theme?

    16. My dear Wormwood*

      We have an end of year party that involves an all-hands meeting in the auditorium handing out awards and director talking about the institute’s achievements for the year in the early afternoon, then from about 3pm there is food, drinks and music in the atrium. It goes till 8pm but you can leave as soon as you want.

      In the past we have had costume themes for those who wish to participate (pirates was particularly good) and there are usually things like a photo booth, giant games like a giant connect-4 set up, and the icecream cart was particularly popular last year.

      We’re in the southern hemisphere so we avoid Christmas-y connotations by not using snowy motifs because wtf, it’s 32C here. I think the only Christmas reference last year was a normal distribution graph with a santa hat on top in someone’s brief presentation.

    17. MK*

      Have a New Year’s party after the middle of January. Parties during the holiday season tend to blur together because a lot of people have multiple celebrations scheduled and it can be fatiguing. Afterwards there often a slump and that’s when people would like a fun event to look forward to. If you really need a theme/activities, center them around “it’s a whole new year”.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Yeah, the big problem with a New Year’s party is that most people have been invited to at least one outside the office, and will not be happy having to turn down the invitation because they have to go to a “voluntary” mandatory office party.

        1. askalice*

          I don’t think anyone is suggesting a work new years party actually on the 31st, I think they they are suggesting an end of year party to celebrate new year’s, any time between the start of December and mid-jan.

          I quite like an end of year party, the end of the calendar is always a good time to take stock and reflect on successes, challenges and goals. And my birthday is December too, so that doubles it for me.

          That said, my work is always screamingly busy in December, so we’ve never had an end of year gathering before mid-Jan. People would actually be angry if you made them do something extra in dec that wasn’t ticking off our thousand deadlines, takes all the joy out of something that is supposed to be nice!

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          I don’t think anyone is envisioning having this on December 31 at 10 pm. I think people mean to have it maybe the second week of January, after people have wrapped up most of their other holiday events and are back at work. Just like with other office celebrations, I also think people are envisioning this being an event either during work hours or very close to it, not something that goes until midnight.

          More a “the new year has started, here we go!” celebration.

        3. MK*

          I specifically said “after the middle of January”. My whole point was to schedule the event “after” the holiday season.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        I think after the middle of January is good timing – any earlier in January and there’s the unappealing prospect of people spreading around all the respiratory diseases that they picked up during the holiday break.

      3. nora*

        As a secular person in an office where our holiday parties are truly Christmas parties, I would *love* a New Years themed party later in January. But I suspect my coworkers would be confused (and some even upset) because the trappings of our holiday-party-that-is-yes-actually-a-Christmas-party would be absent. I can almost guarantee that more than a few folks genuinely wouldn’t feel celebrated/valued as employees in a truly secular context, because at our current holiday parties their cultural and religious traditions are the ones that are honored, and to have those missing would detract from their positive experience. Which…hello! That is the entire issue!

        1. MK*

          I have gone to a lot of New Year parties in late January and early February and, yes, they are secular, because the specifically Christmasy elements are missing. I am not sure if a “winter” themed party before or during Christmas could avoid it.

    18. TokenChristmasAuthority*

      So, I’m American but I have lived and worked in non-Christian dominant countries for many years. In the sense that December the 25th is a regular ol work day.

      It’s a pretty tough sell to pretend that a party at this time of year would be organized for any other holiday, but having said that, what do you do for other office gatherings? Birthdays? Big wins? Try to envision this as more of an end of calendar year office gathering in line with whatever your office does. Maybe that means catered food and drinks and a cake, but it probably doesn’t include a pianist and trees and fairy lights…If you wouldn’t have it at the company picnic, maybe don’t have it at this gathering! Unless it’s like, carved ice glasses for the drinks or something that just wouldn’t be logistically possible in summer. Maybe organize something about workplace achievements to refocus the gathering entirely? Just…imagine living in a place where less than 1% of the population celebrates your holidays and that any time you open your mouth to say “oh, I actually celebrate (insert other things)” you suddenly become a symbol for all “your people” who is called upon to educate everyone at the gathering about your “unique perspective.” (Or get told what everyone there knows about “your people” like the ally olympics) It’s just…not really for work.

    19. Fiorinda*

      On the off-chance that the party isn’t being held in the northern hemisphere, avoiding any winter-themed decorations (or even just the red/green/gold/silver colour combo) would be a really quick way to lose the Christmas overtones! Also, not doing any gift-giving activities (Secret Santa and suchlike). If the weather allows, taking it outdoors would make a big difference. Think a picnic at the local Botanic Garden, or a barbeque – that sort of thing. Summer food rather than wintery things would help too! There’s nothing traditionally Christmassy about prawns or lamb or pavlova, they show up at every summer celebration.

      The best thing I could think of, though, is to move the date, as others have said. A New Year’s party would be good, especially if the business closes over the Christmas period – you could have it at the end of the first week back and call it a ‘Back to Work’ celebration.

      And if you’re in the northern hemisphere – well, some Christmas-loving die-hards here do ‘Christmas in July’ so that the party matches up with the weather that’s traditionally associated with it. Why not take some inspiration from that and have a ‘Dreaming of summer’ party in the middle of your winter?

      1. Lydia*

        I’m a card maker for fun and one of the things that has always bugged me is how decidedly winter things like snowflakes and snow people and even hot chocolate have fallen into the Christmas creep. Winter doesn’t end on December 26th and I want to be able to create and send winter greetings after Christmas without it feeling like I’m really out of season.

    20. Storm in a teapot*

      We have our annual work do in January. You can get a decent venue for much better value and it is something to really look forward to.
      For end of year we tend to have smaller departmental or team things and maybe some drinks and food in the office kitchen one afternoon. During Covid we had an online musical bingo and a pub quiz which were great fun!

    21. Susan Calvin*

      Just want to add on to the pile of “just don’t do anything in December” – I mean, really, if you don’t do Christmas, it’s awkward, if you DO do Christmas, your calendar and to do list are probably already packed, in many industries it’s a busy time because customers are trying to use up their remaining budgets for the year…

      Just make it a New Year’s celebration in January (or heck, an outdoor-friendly month). As for what, food and low-stakes socializing is always a hit, everything else in terms of activities is an optional add-on and depends on your budget.

      1. Storm in a teapot*

        Yes exactly this! We are all so busy with year end and trying to spend leftover budget on projects, finalising things before year end, people using up leave etc….
        January is so much better. We tie it into a company wide meeting and do a work meeting in the day.
        So much better.

    22. Bagpuss*

      I would suggest doing a new year party in January instead of in December. If yoare having it off-site then you may find that there are Christmas themese / music / decor in the venue even of you try to avoid them or yourselves, plus you are likely to be able to get a better deal without the christmas premium, and it more obviously separates it from Christmas . (Tht propbably laos applies to getting it catered on-site.

      For activities – it depends on what your staff enjoy – you could consider a theme – one year for our holiday party years ago we had a murder mystery event – each person (I think it was the same for each table of 8 or 10 people) got a character sheet telling them who they were, and a few key facts (clues they had to provide, and for the murderer, the fact they were the murderer) etc. The one we had was supposed to take place at a 1920s house party. I think that there were some extra clues which were read out at points during the meal (It was a long time ago and I missed most of it as I got stuck at court, so the details are a little hazy!) – I think the game was bought in so didn’t need much planning.

      You could have a trivia quiz if that’s something your teams might enjoy, and could have games – things like Jenga and spillikins as well as quick board games like Pictionary might give you a range of things that people can enjoy, not eveyone likes triva but if you have other things as well then there’s something for everyone.

      If you have to have it in December then maybe a theme (which doesn’t require too much effort, for the people who don’t enjoy costume parties) might help focus it away from Christmas – maybe something like a great gatsby / 1920s /prohibition-speakeasy theme, with costume encouraged but not compulsory, with a jazz band / play-list , – or hawaiian beach / summer vacation themed party, with eveyone given a lei on arrival, and fruity cocktails and mocktails.

    23. I need a new name...*

      LW #5

      Do a holiday party or an End of Year Party. Don’t bring a tree inside, don’t have any bauble decorations and maybe opt for the more generic autumn/fall colour schemes* plus sparkles for the New Year.

      *The decorations in these colour schemes are less likely to be accidentally Christmas themed, than silver or white or green.

      Also wreath decorations are becoming more year round so you may be able to get away with some dried flower wreaths (or those dried orange/cinnamon ones) as your larger floral decorations.

      As for activities, other people have mentioned trivia quizzes which are fun. Also maybe a charity raffle, where everyone donates a prize (with a limit) and everyone gives a donation to chosen charity (like a local foodbank) to participate. The company could pay for some ringers so there’s some guaranteed nicer stuff to ensure interest. I think this could be a good way to do gifts without any Christmas connotation, especially if you make it a ‘every ticket wins’ raffle.

      1. Catherine Tilney*

        After Halloween and Thanksgiving, I’m tired of the lovely fall colors and am ready to see something different. I agree that you have to be a bit careful, but white/green/metallics were my first thought for a color scheme. I live in a cold & snowy area, so those are the colors I tend to think of for winter. I’d trade in the pine boughs for something like boxwood or other evergreens and have metallic snowflake decor with white or yellow flowers?
        It’s way too early in the morning for me too plan this….

    24. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      What about an End of Year party? Celebrate the achievements of 2022 and have a toast for a even better 2023. Definitely not religious at all.

    25. R*

      Not sure why you would say that Hanukkah is a minor holiday. This makes it sound like Christmas is more important which is objectively not the theology of the holiday. This is an unnecessary comment on a religion – please remove that wording!

        1. UKDancer*

          That’s my understanding from my Jewish colleagues. It’s minor in comparison with the High Holidays and Passover, as I’ve been informed. That doesn’t mean it’s not important but it’s not the most major Jewish holy day in the calendar.

          In the same way I’d say Whit Sunday is a minor holy day in the Anglican calendar. It’s important but less significant than some other days.

          1. SpoonieAnon*

            Witsun/Pentecost is actually one of the big 3 Christian Festivals (with Easter obviously being the most important of those three) – it’s definitely not minor to Anglicans or any other flavour of Christian. But it is pretty minor culturally and non-Christians/vaguely Christianised people might see it as less significant than something like the religiously-less-important-but-culturally-significant Harvest Festival

          2. Phony Genius*

            I knew a rabbi who said that since Americans make a big deal out of everything, it’s OK to make a big deal out of Hanukkah. (As long as you make at least as big a deal out of the Torah holidays.)

      1. Garnet*

        Hanukkah is a minor holiday in Judaism that, because it is often near Christmas time, many Christians have assumed Hanukkah must be the Jewish version of Christmas. Major Jewish holidays (the high holy days) include Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Ironically, by making this comment you’ve shown you’re still seeing Jewish holidays through a Christian lens.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          But don’t try and throw a Rosh Hashana party – it really isn’t a party hardy type holiday.

          1. Huttj*

            I’ve had friends wish me a Happy Yom Kippur.

            It’s like, I recognize what you’re going for, and I acknowledge your intent, but wow that does not feel like the right word for that greeting.

      2. Curious*

        Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, in comparison to other Jewish holidays. It is thus a poor analog to Christmas, which is a major holiday in the Christian calendar.

      3. mlem*

        Alison is allowed to comment on her own religion at her own blog. And Hannukah is less significant *on the Jewish calendar* than specific other holidays; Christians have just tried to promote it so they can still have parties near Christmas and pretend they’re “Judeo-Christian”.

        1. A Becky*

          Jews have also promoted it, because “we’re doing Chanukah, thanks, now eff off” goes down somewhat better than “why would I celebrate the birth of somebody else’s prophet? Go away.”

          But yes, the “let’s all get together and eat too much” festival exists, and is called Pesach (passover).

          1. Modesty Poncho*

            To be fair I thought all Jewish holidays were “let’s all eat too much” (/raised Jewish)

            My Rabbi used to joke that 90% of our holiday festivals amounted to “They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.”

            1. A Becky*

              Yeah, that’s not UNtrue (except Yom Kippur) but the one you’re most supposed to celebrate at home, with family (passive aggressive glare from my mother) (rather than at Shul) is Pesach.

      4. Gnome*

        Chanukah is not a Holy Day, as in one of the holidays mentioned in the Torah during which work is not permitted. It is a relatively modern holiday, some would argue that it is celebrating a military victory and not so much religious at all (obviously, some don’t argue that). The Holy Days are given from G-d and are in the Torah. That is why Chanukah is minor.

      5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday–this is like a Christian saying they don’t need the day off for a minor holiday like Maundy Thursday.

    26. JSP*

      +1 on the 2 Christmas don’ts, those both really bug me.

      I got a sense from the LW that the company didn’t see a middle ground between endorsing Christianity and pretending Christmas doesn’t exist. It’s still nice to wish a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

    27. Gnome*

      Another don’t:. Don’t put up one chanukah themed decoration and call it a holiday party. I see this a lot. It’s offensive. I’d rather go to a work Christmas party for mandatory fun than one of those!

      If everything smacks of Christmas and things associated with Christmas, it’s a Christmas party. So, no problem with some peppermint things, but if everything is red and green and peppermint and…. That’s just a Christmas party.

      It should go without saying, but doesn’t, that if anyone gives a speech, leave G-d out of it. Seriously. Jesus too.

      1. Seashell*

        A government office I worked in previously traditionally had a holiday party in the work break room, which was decorated in Christmas (red/green/jingle bells, nothing Jesus-y), Hanukah, and Kwanzaa decorations. For a time, our boss was an Orthodox Jew, so I guess he wasn’t offended.

        1. Gnome*

          I wonder if I worked in that same office, because it sounds like I might have. Now, back when I was there, it was one of those things where the political capital to change the “tradition” beyond slapping up a few “Happy Hannukah” banners (and similar for Kwanzaa) wasn’t worth it to the higher ups.

          That said, it is definitely offensive to some people. The MAJORITY of decorations in these cases are Christmas. Chanukah is NOT a major holiday, and tossing it out there with Christmas like it’s Jewish Christmas (or even remotely related or similar) is offensive, regardless of whether that one boss was ok with it or not.

          Frankly, for many of us, this is what we think is the best that can be done. It really shouldn’t be.

    28. Gnome*

      Have food for everyone (kosher, gluten free, vegetarian, etc). I know that should go with saying, but it doesn’t.

      If you have food that is expressly NOT Christmassy, like sushi or nachos that would help. Heck, make a chili cook-off and tasting an activity!

    29. I should really pick a name*

      One of the easiest ways to de-christmasify is to not have it in December.

      Does your office do other parties? Use those as a guideline.
      Maybe do something off site. Go see a play, visit a local attraction or something like that.

      1. Quickbeam*

        Yes. I’m a pagan and the winter solstice/Yule is a big deal for me. I’ve never attended an office party in December (many of which were mandatory!) that was anything other than a thinly veiled Christmas celebration. Oh, they may have said “Holiday” but you knew what they meant. I think creating an annual party other than December is the way to go.

    30. Prof Ma'am*

      Just don’t call it a Holiday Party… I know everything thinks it’s inclusive but as AAM said, Hannukah is not a big deal, not to mention it can often land well before Christmas (and these scheduled “Holiday” parties) which is just silly (I know I know, this year it’s late in the calendar). I can’t speak towards other wintertime holidays… just my 2 cents as a jewish person.

      I 100% advocate for an “End of Year” adult party. No games. No ugly sweaters. Just celebrate another year done.

    31. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m Jewish and not sure what the relevance of Hanukkah being a “minor” holiday is. From a religious standpoint it’s true but it’s still celebrated at the same time roughly as Xmas and kids still get gifts.. So it is kind of a big deal culturally, at least where I live.

      If the point is to remove all mention of any holiday from the party that’s one thing but if it’s to include others besides just Xmas, it would make sense to include Hanukkah as well

      1. Sam I Am*

        You’re proving the point, though. From a religious standpoint, it’s a minor holiday, but it’s become a big deal culturally *because* Christmas has such prominence in American/Western culture. It’s fine to celebrate Chanukah however you want — we love it in my house! — but this is not happening in a vacuum, and you have to be aware of where these influences are coming from in order to make conscious choices about how you engage with it.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          ” but it’s become a big deal culturally *because* Christmas has such prominence in American/Western culture.”

          Agree, but why is that a problem? The holiday still falls around the same time and is still celebrated, so if there’s going to be a party that covers other festivities besides Christmas why would you not include it?

          1. Gnome*

            It is a problem because some of the people who are Jewish find it offensive. The reasons why don’t really matter, because it’s not up to you or me to decide what should offend people… but to try and illustrate imagine that somebody decided that the “main point” of easter was hunting for easter eggs and eating jelly beans… and pushed that on really religious Christians. You might imagine some would find that offensive, right? It’s not very different for many observant Jews and what happens with Chanukah. Some of us prefer to not have it smooshed together with Xmas.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              But what does that have to do with whether Chaunkah is a major or minor holiday?

              My only point was that if there’s going to be some kind of party that takes all seasonal holidays into account it would be weird imo not to include Chanukah regardless of where it stands in the holiday hierarchy

              If the idea is to eliminate *any* holiday mention altogether, well then maybe that’s the better option anyway.

              1. Gnome*

                Imagine being Christian in a country that wasn’t, but they had a holiday around, say, St. Patricks Day, so over time, the country acted like St. Patricks Day was THE ENTIRETY of the Christianity. They put out shamrocks in red and green (because those are Christian colors, obviously, /s), and that’s what the Christian kids got asked about at school, because it’s all they knew. Now you are at work and they are having a “seasonal party” and it’s all really about their holiday with a few red shamrocks on the wall. Meantime, you can’t take a vacation day for Dec 25 or Good Friday. And now you’re told how included you are because look – they noticed St. Patricks day.

                There’s a good chance you’d, at best, roll your eyes at the shamrocks on the wall, but you certainly wouldn’t feel included. You’d probably not enjoy being asked about all your family St. Patricks Day traditions, and you most likely wouldn’t feel like it had anything to do with your actual religous beliefs, regardless of how you actually celebrate the day.

                1. Hiring Mgr*

                  I hear you, though if they’re not letting the employee take days off for RH and YK (in your analogy) I’m not sure if the type of holiday party really matters. The company has already shown where they stand

          2. Jewish Employee*

            Personally, I don’t want my culture actively refracted back to me through a Christian lens at work, while I feel pressure to act like I enjoy it.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              For me it would be like seeing Hanukkah cards or dreidels in CVS, it wouldn’t bother me nor would I think CVS was doing something wrong, but I see your POV and will give it some more thought

    32. Moho With a Grudge*

      Maybe it’s just what’s done in more urban vs suburban or rural environments but the last couple jobs I and my partner had in a Major East Coast city the “holiday party” was always two hours of catered hors d’oeuvres and either drink tickets or open beer and wine at a nice bar that served good food. I was in non-profits he was in higher ed, but we both had the exact same “party” just depended which bar or restaurant. No religious-based decor, no nothing. Drinks and food and it’s the solstice so let’s all huddle indoors.

      1. nora*

        I work at a public university, so its government affiliation makes the very Christmasy party in my current department all the more appalling to me.

        I did work in a different department that handled it like you described: nice food, a DJ, a bar, and zero holiday trappings. It was just a typical fancy event with a pretty hefty coat check area due to the weather. I’m sure those aspects still alienated or excluded some people (like non-drinkers, those that would need to get childcare, etc.), but it definitely didn’t feel like disguised Christmas.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t think it depends on the urban/rural/suburban location so much as the type of party. There are basically two types of holiday parties in my experience. I worked for city and state government agencies, so all parties were paid for by the attendees. There were parties held by individual offices/buildings during work hours . These were sometimes potluck and sometimes had catered food – but these were the ones where Christmas music was playing, there were Christmas decorations and often some form of gift exchange. I always thought that was way too Christmassy for something in a government office. The other parties took place at night , at a catering venue . Always dinner, sometimes open bar ( if not, cash bar) and either a DJ or a band. No Christmas music or decorations or gifts- could have been a NYE party except it wasn’t December 31

    33. Ranon*

      My company is having ours in February which seems like a good start. Plus it takes one thing off the busy year end plate and puts it in a fewer things happening month, which is definitely a pro.

      We just got a survey about what sort of things we might be interested in at said party and I don’t really remember because I’m a food and chatting person but pretty sure casino games and photo booth were on the list. Plus music.

    34. Snoflinga*

      Can you shift your party into a New Years party? I was able to do that at my office, with the explanation that so many people are taking time off and traveling in December, New Years just made more sense. We call it a holiday party and have nice food and drinks.

    35. Rebecca*

      I love celebrating being “Halfway Through the Dark” at holidays and events.

      We’re all sick of the cold and the dark, that’s why a lot of the holidays are at that time of year.

    36. SW*

      My company moved its annual party to the summer under a tent and had various lawn games but mostly just socializing. Watching fellow nerds play badminton is in fact highly entertaining. I much prefer the summer to a holiday party which is really a Christmas party with the serial numbers filed off. I know that’s not an option for this year for the OP but if they really want to break the connection between party and Christmas, I think it’s the right way to go.

    37. Sydney Bristow*

      You can have customized bingo games made. That could be fun for an office party if you make it all about your office, accomplishments from the past year, etc.

      My office has a food and drinks thing in the evening near the end of the year. We have a large space in our office that works well for this and it is just decorated with fancier stuff than normal. Nothing Christmas-related at all. I think it starts about an hour or so before the end of the workday. I’ve never felt pressure to stay long, which I appreciate. So I typically go when it starts and stay about an hour then head home. I’m pretty introverted and don’t like to go to things like this, but it is about as easy and low-pressure as it can be so it works out well for me.

      1. You can call me flower, if you want to*

        That’s what we did. Our company party was in October and we went bowling and had food and drinks. It was nice and casual.

    38. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Throw the party in January, after the gauntlet of Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years stuff is over.

      You can get much cheaper rates from banquet halls. And can make it more low key.

    39. Colette*

      I’d go winter themed – so silver, blue, pine cones, snowflakes, etc. Avoid red and green Christmas.

      And I’d make games opt-in – maybe winter trivia around the walls (e.g. “what city gets the most snow on average”, “where was the first ice hotel”, etc.) – you could make it a scavenger hunt where anyone who finds the answers gets a little prize.

      Basically, I’d look at games as a way to break the ice and involve people who are around people they don’t really know.

      If you need something more interative, you could do something winter-themed but silly (Pin the hat on the snowman, snowman bowling).

    40. Anon100*

      We have ours either late November or in January so it’s either a Thanksgiving bonus party (yearly bonuses are handed out) or as New Year’s Party, which are both secular holidays in the US.

    41. MRL in HR*

      One of my greatest hits was when the marketing department and I teamed up and created our “Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Celebration”. It was all silver, white, gold, light blue snow themed decorations. We brought in middle eastern food and more desserts and candy than anyone could possibly eat. We shut down the office a few hours early and did it right there. It was a success!

      1. ShanShan*

        Speaking as a Jewish person, I would still 100% view this as a Christmas party, and find all the nods to being non-denominational very annoying.

        Would you ever consider having this party at a different time of year? No? Then it’s not non-denominational. The food and the decorations have zero effect on that. If it’s a party that you’re having at that time if year, because Christmas is that time of year, then it’s a Christmas party.

        And, like, have a Christmas party! It’s fine! I love holiday parties for religions I don’t believe in! They’re fun and there’s cake! But just STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE ME THAT IT ISN’T. It’s the gaslighting that gets me upset, not the candy canes!

        1. SofiaDeo*

          Well, then, IMO you are doing a bit of gaslighting.

          I am not going to get into arguments about how Christianity co opted parts of other religions/celebrations, or how annoyed and lonely people who aren’t part of a major religious group feel when the majority is celebrating something that pretty much excludes others.

          If someone is trying to be inclusive, avoiding the “annual Christmas party” and deliberately names the party they are throwing, using decorations and foods NOT associated with the majority holiday that is usually the one celebrated during that time period, with a name that is trying to make it clear there is a celebration but it’s NOT the one that just happens to be the one usually celebrated, please choose to believe them. There’s a difference between ersatz “holiday not Christmas” parties that only exhibit tokenism at avoiding Christmas or making only lame attempt at being inclusive. That’s not what MRL in HR described.

    42. Susie*

      Bingo, with prizes. Ours was cash and the amount increased with each round.

      If it matters, our founder/owner and his family, who are all on the board, are Jewish and this was their idea. It was at the annual holiday party, usually at the local country club. We had a delicious buffet, founder/owner would give a little speech and then bingo. If you came on time, did a little socializing, dinner and then a round two of bingo, you could be done in 2 hours.

    43. Pauli*

      My former company just did theme parties where dressing up was optional and the food/music/activities were planned around the theme. In the time I was there they did a couple of decade parties (70s, 80s) and a casino night where they hired a company to run casino games and gave everyone fake cash to play with. They were all as fun as you’d want to expect an end of the year work party to be :)

    44. Caroline+Bowman*

      husband’s old firm always had a year start party that was very extra and lavish, and EVERYONE went, because it was 3rd Fri in Jan, with accommodation paid for, I mean, who wouldn’t?

      I have a memory that within smaller teams, there would be catered small lunches or a meet up at a pub or whatever in the run-up to the holidays, but nothing specifically Christmas-themed at all.

    45. Qwerty*

      Schedule the party for January! It immediately shifts the mindset to “New Year’s party” since that’s the closest holiday. If you need to keep it in December, use alternatives like “end of year party” in addition to “holiday party”.

      Try to keep the focus on celebrating the year that you had as a company. Talk about the major accomplishments.

      Color scheme – metallics and/or company colors. If you need a nod to the season, winter wonderland goes great with metallics and snowflakes are pretty.

    46. WantonSeedStitch*

      I was raised by atheists in a “culturally Christian” household, and am now Pagan, so that’s my background in this.

      Decorations like snowflakes and lights are always nice for a non-Christmas-y winter bash. Evergreens can be nice too, but stick with accents that are not things like Christmas ornaments. Silver and white work well for a wintry feel without looking like Christmas. Have a hot chocolate bar where people can choose their own toppings and mix-in: flavorings like peppermint or vanilla or hazelnut (maybe some in liqueur form, if that’s ok at your party), whipped cream, marshmallows of various kinds (there are some neat flavored marshmallows out there now), shakers of cocoa powder or cinnamon, etc. Comfort foods, not just sweets. Music (NOT Christmas music–even people who celebrate Christmas get sick of that being everywhere). Jazz is a nice option for a swankier feel, while oldies or 80s hits can go over well for something more casual.

    47. Molly*

      For 5 years, I worked for a small company that was founded by several Muslim Drs. The CEO/president, the senior VPs, many of the managers, all Muslim. Due to the nature of the business and the travel involved, as the company expanded, they added not just US citizens, but people from all over the globe. There was a real need for people fluent in other languages and some based in other countries.
      What the company did was have a big, families included, holiday party in mid-January. They covered travel for OUS personnel to come in for the party and face to face meetings. We all essentially had half a day off because the party was a weekday afternoon. And, what was one of the favorite parts, was that it was potluck. It was encouraged that you brought in either a typical holiday dish from your country of origin, or something that was a family tradition. All was allowed, but it was asked that everything be well-labelled as to potentially problematic ingredients for both allergies and religion.
      The company supplied a wide assortment of non-alcoholic beverages, tableware, etc. It was all coordinated by the office manager.

      1. Molly*

        For 5 years, I worked for a small company that was founded by several Muslim Drs. The CEO/president, the senior VPs, many of the managers, all Muslim. Due to the nature of the business and the travel involved, as the company expanded, they added not just US citizens, but people from all over the globe. There was a real need for people fluent in other languages and some based in other countries.
        What the company did was have a big, families included, holiday party in mid-January. They covered travel for OUS personnel to come in for the party and face to face meetings. We all essentially had half a day off because the party was a weekday afternoon. And, what was one of the favorite parts, was that it was potluck. It was encouraged that you brought in either a typical holiday dish from your country of origin, or something that was a family tradition. All was allowed, but it was asked that everything be well-labelled as to potentially problematic ingredients for both allergies and religion.
        The company supplied a wide assortment of non-alcoholic beverages, tableware, etc. It was all coordinated by the office manager.

        It was strictly called a Holiday Party. Actually, the Annual Holiday Party.
        No music, just lots of conversation.
        No gifts, cards, etc. Any bonuses or gifts for above and beyond were given throughout the year as earned.
        No games, just lots of conversation.
        While we did have a small tree in the lobby because it is so standard in the US, no decorations in the party area.
        It was a great party!!

    48. Rapunzel*

      Instead of “holiday” which is mostly code for Christmas in the US (due to what Alison noted about Chanukah), what about an end-of-year party to celebrate the hard work & wins from the year? Or a party in the beginning of Jan to celebrate New Years? (Less over-scheduling of holiday stuff that way).
      If you want activities, I’m sure you could theme some around that, though I agree that activities are not needed and also you can just do non-themed activities.

    49. All Het Up About It*

      We had a holiday party once hosted at a restaurant where we had a room and an outdoor patio. They had various game stations that people could play, with various engagement. There was also karaoke. As cliché as it is, I find there are always a few people who really get into it and then make it enjoyable for others to watch.

      Definitely think back on that party as one of the most fun.

    50. QA Peon*

      We did a winter party that was snowflake themed and invited people to make paper snowflakes while they chit chatted. Some people were really awful at it and others were amazing, and both ends of the spectrum were entertaining.

    51. Nancy*

      At my last job we had the party in mid-January and called it a New Year celebration. It was easier to find a day that worked for most people because it was not in the middle of the holiday season, and Boston can be kind of gloomy around then, so nice to have something to celebrate.

      No games or activities, just great food (it was usually held in a private room at one of the local restaurants).

      1. Sylvan*

        Snowy theme? White/silver/gold?

        My office has seasonal desk decorating things and I’ve decided I’m not going to sit the winter one out just because I’m not Christian. Decorating is fun! So, my color scheme’s white and pale blue with some fake snow fabric or faux fur, idk, some kind of fluffy white textured element.

      2. J*

        Projectors with snow. We had big giant flakes lit up and twinkle lights and it was such a nice vibe. Lots of blue and white.

      3. Gracely*

        Winter animals–polar bears, penguins, narwhals, foxes, snowy owls, snow leopards, etc.
        Winter sports–ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowboarding–any of the accoutrements that go with those sports
        Ice and lights–just lots of warm white twinkly lights
        Fantasy creatures–unicorns, mermaids, fairies, pegasuses (pegasi?). I’d avoid elves, though.
        Dinosaurs are always a fun theme, even if they’re not a winter-related theme. Put them in sweaters.
        Paper snowflakes are both a good decoration and a fun and easy activity.

      4. Rain's Small Hands*

        Do you decorate you office for all holidays? If you do put out hearts for Valentines Day and flowers in the Spring and flags out around the Forth and decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving, then go ahead an put up glittery snowflakes and hang icicle lights.

        If you don’t, skip it. I’d be tempted to decorate for seasonality if the office has a decorating culture. After all, what DOES one put out for Labor Day?

    52. Jukebox Hero*

      My company does a big to-do, featuring a buffet-style dinner, casino games where the “cash” won translates to tickets to enter into drawings for various prizes, door prizes, and a DJ and dance. Many years ago, it pivoted to an employee celebration on a Saturday a week or two before Thanksgiving (US) instead of the during the holidays. Decorations are more generic red-and-gold foil than Christmas. It’s the same exact party as before, only before the hustle and bustle of the holidays and employees love it. They appreciate the timing, because it’s one less thing to do during the holidays, and they don’t feel anything’s been lost because of the change. It’s voluntary to attend (truly, I’ve only attend once and there’s been no repercussion). It hasn’t been held since the pandemic, but it’s in the budget for 2023.

    53. Ann O'Nemity*

      We’re having an End Of Year party with a winter theme. The colors will be white, silver, and gold. Decorations will include paper snowflakes and those decorative lanterns with the battery-operated “candles.” There will be a catered lunch and some party games. That’s it.

    54. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Any party games. It doesn’t have to have a theme. So you could get some trivia games or something like Winter themed Pictionary (snowshoeing, building a snowman, ice skating).

    55. Quinalla*

      Make sure the games are voluntary (or at least if you aren’t participating like trivia on an app no one has to know or care) and games involving the entire group are not long. If you want to have a big area for socializing/drinking/eating and a small area where folks can play some board/card games – that can work. But don’t make anyone play anything and keep the games things that are simple to teach/learn. Puzzles can be great if would want to allow 3-4 people to work on something chill. Codenames I think is a great one where # of people can vary a lot as long as you have at least 6 (you can do 4, but it is better with at least 6).

      As far as a Holiday party vs. Christmas party, I agree with others to make it winter themed if you must have a theme or just make it a generic party, that’s fine too.

    56. Julia*

      Since you company culture is devoted to themes and games around them I would go with an end of year/new year theme. You could do decorations like you would for a NYE bash. Black and metallic (silver or gold) is lovely.

      For games or activities what was popular in the past? Can the vibe of the games be maintained without being about Christmas? I honestly can’t think of Christmas themed games. But if an activity is group based, make a trivia game with teams.

      Name that tune? Family Feud? Jokey new year resolutions? Photo booth with silly props?

    57. nm*

      I’ve had great success with snacks and board games as an office activity. They do not have to be themed around anything at all! My only specific advice is to go for board games that are lesser-known; the “we’re learning the game together” vibe has worked well in my office.

    58. That'sNotMyName*

      A good way to avoid Christmas-y stuff is to imagine you’re planning the party for mid-January. Christmas (even on the Orthodox calendar) is well past, but you still want to make it festive.

      Fwiw, my husband’s employer does their company party in mid January since a lot of people are out for holiday travel and many don’t celebrate Christmas anyways. It starts in the afternoon, so people can attend during work hours and stay after or head home. Genuine fun, rather than mandatory.

    59. Eater of Cupcakes*

      While I fully support the idea of inclusion, I’m not sure that using the term “Holiday party” is the best way. Not only are they often just Christmas parties with a different name, but when they’re not, they’re often so generic that using the term “holiday party” seems unfitting. I always want to ask which holiday, exactly, is being celebrated. There is not, and have never been, any such thing as a holiday in general.
      Some people use the holiday party to celebrate Christmas and other holidays too, but that always feels, to me at least, as A Christmas Party (But We Need to Include Other Holidays Too In Order To Look Good).

      Why not call it a “winter party” instead? And why not have it in February, or late January? (This is a rhetorical question, BTW. I know that a lot of the time, the actual answer is “because then it won’t be a differently named Christmas party.”)

      1. LB*

        Ehhh “Holiday Party” is pretty standard terminology at this point, and there are so many holidays (particularly New Year’s) around that time that calling it a Winter Party might come across as a little… generic to the point of prissiness. Some people may like it, sure! But it’s not like offices also hold Spring/Summer/Fall parties, so it’s still obvious why it’s happening around the end of the year.

        1. ShanShan*

          A lot of things become “standard terminology” while still being exclusionary to minorities. Generally, nobody asks us about what “standard terminology” should be.

          1. ShanShan*

            Also, the comment about how “there are so many holidays around that time” is really the point we’re making, because… they don’t?

            When you mentioned New Years, you mentioned pretty much the only other major holiday in the US that comes at the end of December. (Maybe Yule would be one more, since Christmas stole its date).

            Most of the other holidays you’re thinking of either don’t really happen at the same time as Christmas and just get roped into the “holiday season” because they’re sometime in the fall/winter, or aren’t actually very important holidays. Hannukah, for instance, is both: it’s not an important holiday, and it’s in November half the time anyway because of the lunar calendar.

            The reason you think that a lot of holidays happen that time of year is because Christmas happens at that time of year, and people make an effort to mumble under their breath about some other holiday when celebrating Christmas in a public sphere to make it sound like they’re being inclusive. But it’s not, like, a real thing. It’s just an impression people who celebrate Christmas artificially create so that they can feel better about dragging all of us into Christmas.

            1. Westsidestory*

              N.B.: here are a few December holidays variously celebrated in certain U.S. communities; St Lucys Day (Scandinavian influence), St Nicholas Day (Italian, Dutch), Feast of Guadalupe ((Mexican)… and those are just the Christian-related ones. Add Yule, Chanukah and Kwanza, and the odds are good that someone you may work with is planning a festive evening any week in December.
              With regard to office parties, New Years may be the only holiday that is truly inclusive, and having a party in January seems to make sense to me.

    60. LB*

      Our holiday parties have always been holiday-neutral – catered raffle/trivia competition/dinners (very fun), or just getting together at a bar/bowling alley or even just a nice restaurant outing.

      Even if the budget doesn’t allow that, and it’s more of an in-the-breakroom deal, just have nice food, treats, drinks, and some kind of prizes/small bonuses is always a plus.

      Think Pam and Karen’s party moreso than Angela’s Nutcracker Christmas ;)

    61. Jennifer*

      A few of my employers have done the holiday party either in November or January. Fewer scheduling conflicts, holiday pricing for catering and/or venues usually not in effect. I’ve never had activities other than door prizes (which is not an activity, but you do have to pay attention to see if your name is called). I think OldJob had a photobooth one year.

    62. DisneyChannelThis*

      Making paper snowflakes is a fun activity and not christmas themed. We do ours ahead of the party then judge the best ones.

    63. sc.wi*

      At an old job, where we offered children’s classes, we always did a “Celebrations” theme rather than a holiday theme. I think it could carry over to an office party. Think confetti, gold, and more New Years-y decorations than specific holiday decor. Activities could be some kind of food or drink bar, or decorating cupcakes etc. Something that is generally part of a party, but not Christmas-exclusive.

    64. Tintinnabulations*

      I’m pagan myself, so I definitely appreciate the thought to have a not-just-Christmas holiday party!

      Depending on your office culture, perhaps have some card board games available to play? Things like Uno, Scrabble, Boggle etc could be good ways to have fun, without any specific religion involved! Depending on the kinds of activities your workplace enjoys, things like karaoke? Garage band? (do they still make that?) If your office does a gift exchange, that doesn’t have to be a “Christmas gift” exchange specifically -though maybe a light reminder to avoid specific-holiday-themed items might be helpful to avoid someone getting stuck with a Santa etc they have no use for.

      If you want a little more “holiday” in the holiday party though… how crafty are your coworkers? Perhaps have a paper-snowflake contest, or a cookie decorating contest? I unironically enjoy crosswords and coloring pages, if you think your coworkers would like that and can find some that aren’t just Christmas themed. If you think people wouldn’t just assume it’s only for Christmas sweaters, an “Ugliest Holiday Sweater” contest could also be fun? (I’ve seen Hanukkah and Yule sweaters, I’m sure there are more out there too!) Maybe set up a hot cocoa bar, with different options for cocoa powders, milks and toppings?

      If it’s something you think your workplace would like, perhaps also you could do an informative lean? I love learning about other people’s traditions, and while I’d be cautious of putting anyone on the spot about it, perhaps some sort of info card with a blurb about a number of different holidays? Perhaps a potluck or such themed around different holiday food traditions? An open invite to submit (perhaps anonymously?) stories about favorite holiday traditions? I suppose these could come off as a bit cheesy, but depending on your office culture it might be something that would let people explore and celebrate things – I know I often feel a bit overlooked near the winter holidays, so perhaps a way to celebrate everyone vs a non-religious party would be an option for you!

    65. Gotta love the bowl*

      We have a bowling party with employees making several teams (including a spouses/partners team), food, and laughter. The bowling place has adaptive equipment for disabled bowlers which we can use. Only two employees take the bowling seriously which helps it be fun not overly competitive.

    66. kiki*

      I don’t know if this is something specific about my industry (tech) or has more broader appeal, but folks at my workplaces have always gone wild for ranking things brackets, even of low-stakes things. One year for Halloween we had a candy bracket where people tasted and voted on their favorite candy. For a holiday party, you could rank different winter drinks (cocoa, mulled cider, etc.).

    67. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      I wish LW had given us an idea as to what these “activities” were. All the really good office holiday parties I’ve been too had no activities–just food and drinks and mingling.

      The things that make an office party good are the things that make ANY party good:

      -people don’t have to wait long for food and drinks. (POSSIBLY MOST IMPORTANT)
      -said food and drinks are GOOD, and plentiful/varied enough that everyone can have what they need.
      -people who want to sit can sit, but the space is conducive to getting up and mingling.
      -music and lighting also conducive to mingling.
      -easy to get home, whether that’s about parking, subways, coat check, or all of the above.
      -if there can be something about the space or the menu that makes everyone feel a little special, like you went the extra mile, that’s a bonus!

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Yes to the easy to get home! My current company payed for everyone to get a cab/Lyft/etc. home, no price limit, last year so no one would have to worry about driving, even if they lived farther away. Brilliant idea.

    68. Allison*

      The best office party I’ve been to had a casino theme – they gave everyone a good handful of chips at the door, and there were blackjack tables and probably craps and roulette as well, I forget, but loved being able to plop myself at a blackjack table and play all night – the idea was to play until I ran out of chips, that just never happened. We could buy more if we wanted to, and when we were ready our chips could be redeemed for raffle tickets, and they had some cool prizes. The food was good too, and there was an open bar, which was par for the course for this particular company, but the games gave me something to do so I wasn’t wandering around looking for people to make awkward small talk with. I ended up chatting with the people at my table and it was a good night.

      And just to clarify, so no one makes an assumption and gets mad, this party WAS voluntary! It was in the evening, hours after work, and absolutely NO pressure to attend.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        We did this for a summer party and it really was fun. From talking to the planner it also was pretty easy to plan and not as expensive as she thought it would be, since one company took care of almost everything.

    69. AVP*

      We do ours in January and call it a winter gathering! December has gotten so packed with other parties and events (why do they do Art Basel right before the holidays lolllsob), we were struggling to even find a date that made sense, so we just moved it and it give us something fun to celebrate in an otherwise boring month.

    70. Glitsy Gus*

      Most of the places I have worked for do more of a New Years theme, rather than a Christmas theme for the holiday party. It’s kind of nice to bring the focus back around to celebrating all the hard work everyone did for the year, rather than a random holiday only maybe half the staff celebrates (I work in a field that has many non-Christians).

      For activities, I really don’t think you need many, but company trivia is a good one; especially if you can find a bunch of kind of silly facts (“The CEO regularly brings his dog… which of Bowser’s feet has a white sock?” “Pam in Reception always uses the same coffee cup, what color is it?” “How many steps are there in the main stairwell?”) to mix in with the more normal “When was the company founded?” “What does TPS in TPS report stand for?”

      If your company has the right vibe, Karaoke can be fun. This isn’t for every company, but a couple that I worked for it went over a treat, especially if it was in a separate room from the main party so no one was performing in front of *everyone.*

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Oh! If you have a bigger company where folks may not get to talk to people outside their department, you could make a “scavenger hunt” where you need to find people with various traits. For example, “Find someone who has gone skydiving.” “Find someone with multiple graduate degrees” “Find someone born in a state that begins with ‘M’.” Hand the form out as people arrive, and then collect at the halfway point or something. The folks with the most get a trinket (nothing big, this should be low stakes).

        Also, I would suggest investing more time/budget into really good food, beverages, and atmosphere. If it’s get a good caterer or get supplies for a game? Get the caterer. Get the better DJ. Spring for the extra drink tickets, that kind of thing is what folks really want. A couple low stakes activities can get things going, but shouldn’t be the focus.

    71. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Have it in late January. Skip the holiday party when everyone is so overbooked and stressed and have a better party in January for less money. Event places are cheaper, caterers are generally less expensive and more available and families aren’t having to juggle multiple holiday parties and kids school holiday activities and family obligations.

    72. No Tribble At All*

      Have the Holiday Party in January, not December. Make it “welcome 2023!” themed. Completely removes any temptation to make it Christmas-on-the-sly. Also, people’s calendars are free-er in January.

    73. Lizzianna*

      I’ll preface this by saying you really need to know your audience, because some people are partied-out by January, but I’ve worked a few places that did New Years themed parties in early January. For whatever reason, people just really tend to struggle with making a purely winter theme not about Christmas, but since New Years is its own thing, it can be about glitter and sparkles without “Evergreen trees with red bows that we swear aren’t Christmas trees”.

    74. Nina*

      My workplace has a ‘party that just happens to be in December’ which is huge, the entire company takes the entire day off (paid) and gather in the hangar to build model vehicles (different type of vehicle each year) out of cardboard, toothpicks, hot glue, and paper, and race them (standardized motors are provided). There’s drinks and pizza laid out on tables for people to help themselves, and it doubles as the ‘exec get to tell everyone how well the company did this year’ event. Yes, we are an aerospace company.

      We also have an explicitly Christmas party within each department (but all on the same day) which is usually much closer to Christmas, much later in the day, and much smaller, and which people tend to opt out of.

    75. FiddleFaddle*

      Just to be a contrarian, many decorations that are associated with “Christmas” actually had their origins in pagan celebrations: eg. the Christmas tree, lights, special foods, etc.). Christianity co-opted many pagan holidays and traditions, and pre-Christian peoples who lived in parts of the world with obvious and sometimes extreme changes of season would observe the winter solstice in some fashion. Greenery that remained green through the harsh, dark winter and various preserved foods would obviously figure in the celebrations.

    76. John Scott*

      Please don’t make it a “holiday party” at all.

      Not everyone has a holiday at that time of year, and also do not practice interfaith. (Meaning, they would view attending any type of holiday celebration a disobedience to their faith.)

      Having an end-of-the-year gathering, and ensuring there are no religious themes would be ideal.

    77. Delta Delta*

      One of my favorite holiday parties was a Winter Solstice party. Everyone was encouraged to wear bright colors to celebrate lengthening days. Food was sunshine-themed (think: lots of lemon), and everyone pretty much just stood around eating and drinking. While there are obviously spiritual connections with the solstice, there’s also the fact it’s literally how close the earth is to the sun (or not), and it’s sort of hard to argue with planets.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Exactly. The Winter Solstice, while celebrated by some pre-Christian religions as a holy day, is also a purely astronomical phenomenon. The night is the longest it will get through the year. In pre-Christian times they would celebrate it as “this is the longest night, soon the light will be back.” The solstice happens without beliefs, deities, or worship, yet marks the cycle of the year.

    78. Aiani*

      I once went to an office holiday party which was a small murder mystery dinner party. It was a lot of fun and of course, a murder mystery party is not specifically holiday themed in any way.

    79. SpaceySteph*

      Radical concept from this intermarried Jew:
      Throw your holiday party in January, call it a New Years party. People who don’t celebrate Christmas will appreciate it not being a Christmas-party-we’re-calling-a-holiday-party (which I would argue any holiday party in December inevitably ends up as) and people who do celebrate Christmas will probably appreciate one less thing to cram into an already busy time.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        And I should remember to refresh before I submit because I see I’m not the only one with this radical idea.

    80. Silicon Valley Girl*

      The companies I’ve worked at have “end of year” parties (no holidays necessary) with food & drink. Decorations, if any, are generically festive like silver & gold sparkly stuff.

      For activities, we’ve often done charitable things like a food or warm coat drive & assembling toiletries kits to be distributed at homeless shelters. All useful stuff in the coldest time of year, & there’s always charities (non-religious ones too!) that want to partner with businesses for the help.

    81. pagooey*

      A possibility I didn’t see in the thread: could you encourage people to celebrate (voluntarily, of course!) by giving, instead of wrestling with all the holiday party pitfalls?

      At my last job, we sponsored a Giving Tree (yes, I know, gifts + tree, but hear me out) with requests from kids and seniors in need. On the day we collected all the donations, we took a team photo *with* the stuff, and something about a herd of software devs joyously clutching bathrobes and coffeemakers and Easy-Bake Ovens was a pure delight. They also had a holiday party that year, but I didn’t even go.

      At my current job, we spent an afternoon at a local food bank warehouse, sorting donated produce and packing boxes with essentials. That was also much more fun and satisfying than any corporate dress-up song-and-dance spectacular I’ve ever been to.

    82. SeriousSillyPutty*

      Our small team was encouraged to bring a favorite winter/holiday youtube video to share. My boss played Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song. I did “Hey Yeah Charlie Brown”. I imagine there must have been some explicitly Christmas ones in the mix (most of the the team celebrates Christmas) but because it was individuals sharing silliness that made them feel festive (as opposed to coming from the organization) I think it worked.

    83. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      In Parks & Rec, we can’t have adult beverages at official work functions so we generally have to have activities. Last year I helped plan what we called Winterfest, which is basically the only time we bring the entirety of the department together. It’s more an end of the year celebration and looking ahead to the new year than anything specifically Christmas-y.

      We keep the decorations/theme wintry and snow/cold-weather related. For activities, we gave a couple of our programmers the chance to highlight what they do with an archery activity, ceramics activity, and a music bingo activity. A lot of our program areas can be pretty silo’d and we all work different hours/days, so it was a cool way to engage with like, what we do as a Department.

      I know that approach probably doesn’t work as well when you what you do isn’t very fun (I’m in the admin division so we did not have an activity to share lol) but if you have units who could host their favorite party games or crafts or activities, that could be cool and engaging? YMMV on that, though.

      I think keeping focused on the end of one year start of another vibe is generally the best method to get out from under Christian Holiday Domination.

    84. bopper*

      We would have a “Snowflake Breakfast” with the company providing breakfast and there would be optional games and activities.

    85. Sf88*

      You can still go somewhere with activities that aren’t Christmas themed if you dont want to do just drinks/food. Not sure where you live but there are a lot of bars and restaurants that have games (i.e. darts, pool, bowling, etc.).

  1. Observer*

    #5 – I don’t have a suggestion for your party. But I do want to point something out to you.

    PLEASE make sure that people understand what Alison said about Chanukah not being the “Jewish Christmas”. It’s not and it’s incredibly alienating to treat is as such. Even MORE than just having a flat out Christmas party.

    It’s also worth noting that there are other traditions that have festivals at this time of year, and they also are unlikely to appreciate having their holidays treated as the “X nationality version of Christmas.”

    1. John Smith*

      I’ll second this. I was once waiting in a taxi office for a cab when it was Diwhali. This was in a city where the vast majority of taxi drivers were people who celebrate this festival. The phone operator, struggling to meet requests due to a shortage of drivers kept telling customers “its the Asian’s Christmas, I’ve hardly any drivers”. Never mind the wrapping up of faith with ethnicity, I honestly don’t think she or her customers had the brains to understand the difference, never mind the issues of what she said.

      1. Zephy*

        Wow, that is perhaps the most racist way to describe that problem. I award that operator no points and may her god have mercy on her soul.

    2. MK*

      I wish you luck with that. I have trouble explaining to my fellow Christians that Christmas isn’t even one of the three most important holidays in my denomination.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Honest question, is there *any* denomination where Christmas is actually the most important holiday, from a church standpoint? Except prosperity gospel type Christianity-flavored capitalism? Because I was (maybe naively) under the impression that most orthodoxies agree on the concept that resurrection is a lot higher on the miracle scale than birth, even if they don’t agree on the correct date or other details!

        1. MK*

          Interesting question. I don’t really know the position of the Catholic Church or the Protestand denominations; I believe all(?) Orthodox dogmas officially consider Easter the important holiday and Christmas a modest family celebration.

          1. Pear Tree*

            To add in, for RCC, Easter is the event the entire church calendar year is organized around and the definitive answer to “most important holiday in the liturgical year” :)

            1. Jackalope*

              For Protestants, the first day of Advent is the first day of the liturgical year, so we organize ourselves more around Christmas.

            2. Charlotte Lucas*

              Yep. Christmas was pretty minor until Dickens got his hands on it. And that actually has to do with industrialization & trying to keep older rural traditions alive (many of which has little to do with the church).

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Poor Dickens. He originally decided to write A Christmas Carol as a hilariously cynical cash-grab, but the red leather binding and gilt edges he insisted on really cut into his profits.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            The Catholic church also puts more emphasis on Easter, but really both are fairly important.

            As a preteen, I once asked a priest about the cultural dominance of Christmas over Easter and he pretty much said it was more about people wanting something to celebrate in the middle of winter than for any theological reason.

            1. Lady_Lessa*

              And if you do Easter right, it is both long and full of both joy and sorrow. That’s one thing I like about being Catholic, we are aware and worship both the good and the bad of Holy Week.

              When I was a Baptist, we would celebrate Palm Sunday, and Easter, but Good Friday was neglected. (I think that it has gotten better since I left them.)

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I’ve read that cultures that have a long dark winter have some sort of “lights, evergreens, food” celebration around the time it’s darkest.

              Anecdotally, it seems that Christmas in Australia is more of a go-to-the-beach day.

            3. SpoonieAnon*

              Totally agreeing that the middle of winter being bleak and miserable in the more northerly parts of the world is a big reason for Christmas’ cultural dominance but I think it’s also because it’s an easier festival of children to understand than Easter. For a lot of people who maybe only get exposed to religious teaching at school or because their parents send them to church when they are young but don’t insist that they keep going as teens Christmas is going to be the more lasting memory/link to their childhood.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            Easter is a lot more important, but there was a greater potential to co-opt and appropriate Yule celebrations and traditions and get the pagans on board with Christianity. Learn from history and hold on to your separate and non-Christian religious traditions with tight hands!

          4. Jackalope*

            At least one branch of Orthodoxy has a period of fasting before Christmas that is like Lent (go look up Nativity Fast in Wikipedia if you want more information). It’s similar to the importance of Lent in my (admittedly limited) experience. And then Christmas is both a high holy day and a celebratory breaking of one’s fast.

            1. MK*

              It exists, but really isn’t nowhere near similar in importance in practice. In my denominationthe Nativity Fast is a lot less strict than Lent, and only the incredibly observant (as in go to church several times a week observant) follow it. And of course Christmas is a high holy day, no one is saying it’s a minor occasion, but it’s more like 4th or 5th in importance.

          5. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Historically easter was always the most important holiday. I think it wasn’t until like the 18th century that it became more popular. I think also later Queen Victoria had a lot to do with it getting more popular. She was the one that made Christmas trees more popular in England (and by extension the US).

          6. nora*

            The Christian evangelical fundamentalist sect I grew up in explicitly rejected recognizing Christmas as a religious holiday. The reason was a mix of it being a co-opted pagan celebration, there being no Biblical directive to celebrate Jesus’ birth in that manner, and an attempt to differentiate itself from the “worldly” religions it saw itself in competition with.

            Many individual families still exchanged gifts and had trees, but there weren’t things like special services or church decorations/traditions. In fact, my family had a household ban on decorations or even wrapping paper featuring angels, mangers, etc.

            I mention this to only underline the point that uniformity rarely exists when people are involved, even something as simple as Christians celebrating Christmas!

          7. Kotow*

            I wouldn’t consider it “minor” on the Orthodox calendar though it’s certainly nowhere near Pascha. It’s definitely one of the 12 Great Feasts and there are specific texts that are used for that day. Historically it’s true that Theophany was the greater celebration. In Catholic traditions it was historically Epiphany that was celebrated and in some cultures it still is (they both occur the same number of days after Christmas, but they actually commemorate different events). But Christmas definitely is an important holiday. There’s an entire 40 day fasting period where it’s no meat, dairy, alcohol, etc. It’s not as strict as the one before Pascha, but it’s definitely longer than the other fasting times.

        2. Bagpuss*

          No, from a religious perspective, Easter is the most important holiday.

          However, I think for a lot of churches Chrsitmas is the most popular and the most visible festival – lots of people who don’t normally attend church (and don’t generally consider themsleves christian) will show up for carol or Christingle services, for example and I think probably there are quite a lot of people whodo identify as chrsitian but who see Christmas as the highlight of the church year.

          1. CJ*

            Mom worked for y e a r s as a Lutheran ELCA church secretary. She referred to Christmas and Easter as the “submarine” services, as you’d see the members who only surfaced twice a year, often with family members that the church had never heard of.

            1. California Dreamin’*

              I grew up in the Episcopal church attending weekly. My best friend was the priest’s daughter. We used to call those folks C&E Christians. She might’ve heard that originally from her dad.

            2. pagooey*

              I’ve heard that called the “Lily and Poinsettia Crowd.” Which we totally were, when I was a kid; now I practice nothing in particular…except gluttony.

          2. Cassandra Mortmain*

            Christmas services definitely have the most secular crossover of fun/enjoyable/religion-lite stuff for nonbelievers. I was raised mainline Protestant but am now a nonpracticing humanist, but I have always loved Christmas Eve church as a cultural experience — candlelight, family togetherness, a packed house, carols (I have a huge soft spot for the religious Christmas songs), and relatively less theological importance.

            I’d be less eager to go to an Easter service precisely because it is more religiously meaningful.

        3. allathian*

          Yeah, at least for the Lutherans and Orthodox, the two denominations I’ve come into contact with the most, Easter is much more important than Christmas…

        4. Asenath*

          You’re right – in any Christian denomination I know about (although I’m ready to admit with so MANY Christian groups around, I don’t know them all), Easter is far more important than Christmas theologically. I was taught that at some point in my childhood – I was raised in a somewhat conservative but basically mainstream Protestant denomination. But Christmas is more fun – especially for children, and people who remember their childhood happiness and want to recreate it for their own children. I sometimes wonder if being the northern hemisphere, when you really want a nice break in mid-winter has much to do with it!

        5. IT Manager*

          I read somewhere that American commercialism in the 50s/60s bumped into American evangelizing and got packed up into the “export democracy” effort and now everyone thinks that “Western culture” demands this big, commercial christmas over other Christian religious holidays.

          No citation, just a vague memory.

        6. Jackalope*

          This is not the place to get into a deeply religious discussion, but I think a lot of denominations/church branches are trying to head that way due to the over-commercialization of Christmas, but it’s not theologically accurate. I mean, yes, Easter is considered more significant than Christmas, but it’s not as huge a difference as some might think. The Bible devotes multiple chapters to Jesus’ birth and focuses on the miracle of God becoming a human baby and what that means. Both holidays have a period of spiritual preparation leading up to them (in most parts of the church that would be Advent for Christmas and Lent for Easter, although I know of some branches that have a Lenten season for both), taking several weeks to prepare your heart for the upcoming holy day. There are no other Christian holidays that have that sort of prep or time commitment to try and prepare you for what you’re going to be celebrating. So Easter is a high holy day, but so is Christmas, it just has been getting short shrift lately.

          1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

            So, I’ve got a PhD in theology — this is partially right. First, only one of the 4 gospels in the bible really depicts a birth story around Jesus (Luke), and a second mentions it in passing (Matthew). But all 4 center their narratives around the death and resurrection of Jesus, so there is no doubt that the feast days around Easter hold stronger theological weight for the early Christian communities who wrote those texts.

            But today, yes, Christmas is a pretty important feast day (ex: for Catholics it’s one of the 3 holy days of obligation where you have to attend mass. Easter is already obligatory because it’s on Sunday). It kind of comes down to whether you are a Christian who thinks Jesus saved everyone by dying for our sins, or whether he saved everyone by being God and becoming human. If you stress the former, Easter wins by a mile. If you stress the latter, Christmas has a *lot* of theological importance. It’s also a great example of how religious traditions evolve over time (for better or worse). Something that was a minor feast day 1000 years ago grows in importance as it draws on other cultural traditions and develops beyond its origins.

            1. Lana Kane*

              “If you stress the former, Easter wins by a mile. If you stress the latter, Christmas has a *lot* of theological importance. ”

              Reading this, I immediately thought of all the theological arguments around the early years of Christianity (like how disagreements over the nature of the trinity could get someone killed as a heretic). Obviously not to the same degree nowadays, but these differences of opinion on basic tenets continue to linger thousands of years later.

            2. Just another librarian*

              Where are you getting the 3 holy days of obligation information? The solemnity of Mary, the ascension (unless moved to a Sunday), the Assumption, All Saints, and The Immaculate Conception are all holy days of obligation this year. Christmas too but it happens to fall on a Sunday.

        7. RagingADHD*

          Easter and Christmas are close to par in terms of the big-dealiness in my denomination. Which makes sense to me, because Easter couldn’t happen without Christmas, and Christmas wouldn’t mean anything without Easter. Easter is the fulfillment of Christmas. They are bookends to the life of Christ.

          It’s a very traditional, liturgical, Reformed denom. We observe Advent very similarly to Lent, as a season of solemn preparation and repentance. “Long lay the world, in sin and darkness pining,” etc.

          Serious traditionalists in my denom won’t say “Merry Christmas” until 12/24, because that’s when we change over from the purple drapes of fasting/repentance to the white drapes of Christmas, which stay up for the 12 days until Epiphany.

          (Us young folks under age 80 will joke about “tsk tsk, it’s not Christmas yet,” but we aren’t really invested in the distinction.)

          But yes, it is a major holiday, and like many items in the liturgical calendar, everyone knows that the date is set as an observance rather than a literal anniversary.

          1. Nina*

            I usually start grumping at people at work by about December 13th. ‘no it’s not the sodding twelve days of Christmas yet. The first day of Christmas is Christmas day

        8. Hannah Lee*

          “Honest question, is there *any* denomination where Christmas is actually the most important holiday ”

          Yes, Fundamental Corporate Capitalism.

      2. Observer*

        I wish you luck with that. I have trouble explaining to my fellow Christians that Christmas isn’t even one of the three most important holidays in my denomination.

        I hear that, and I do sympathize with your frustration. But it’s different deal with “people making too much a deal about a shared holiday that we actually share, even if not in quite the same way” and “people who insist that I actually celebrate a holiday that is antithetical to my religion” and / or “people who insist that my holiday is actually a version of their holiday, even though that’s antithetical to my religion and the whole point of *my* holiday.”

        1. MK*

          Eh, that was sort of my point. If it’s hard for some people to understand nuances of their own religion explained from co-religionists, I assume it must be even more difficult to get them to understand the perspective of others’. I wasn’t equating the two.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I’m curious—what are the other three? I’d assume that Easter and Good Friday are two of them, but I’m having trouble coming up with the third.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’m not sure how that commenter divvies them up, but one of them is probably Pentecost (the arrival of the Holy Spirit).

          1. Clisby*

            As an atheist who was raised in the Episcopal church, I would definitely consider Pentecost as more (theologically) important than Christmas. Obviously, Easter is even more important.

        2. MK*

          Easter and Good Friday are definitely more important. Pentecost and attendance at Church every week during Lent is also stressed much more than attending Christmas Liturgy. The Ascension of the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary are theologically considered more or less equally important to Christmas. I don’t think there is a specific official hierarchy of high holy days as such.

        3. Kotow*

          It would probably be denomination-specific, but how I would rank the importance of holidays from my own tradition would be as follows:

          1. Easter
          2. Theophany (Epiphany in Catholic and Protestant traditions)
          3. Pentecost
          4. Christmas

          Technically I wouldn’t consider Good Friday to be a “holiday” in the sense of it being a feast day. It’s incredibly important, but it’s not considered a feast. For me personally, I would say Holy Thursday is tied with Theophany as being my second favorite service in the liturgical year.

    3. WS*

      And your average person in a Christian-dominant culture *even if it doesn’t seem that way* may not be able to assess the inclusion of other traditions well – I remember being in a petrol station on Christmas Eve and one woman at the counter was talking to the other, saying, “Oh, I thought you were going to have to work Christmas Day this year because I did it last year.”
      The other woman said, “No, Mohamed was happy to do it.”
      “Why? Doesn’t he want to be with his family for Christmas?”
      “No, he’s Muslim.”

    4. Lilo*

      Oh yes. The large office building I work in puts a large light up menorah next to a giant Christmas tree and then proceeds to not even vaguely bother to do the lights properly. It’s definitely frustrating.

    5. lilsheba*

      Also christmas trees are pagan based, not christian. Christians took over yule and made up christmas and the manger story, which never happened.

      1. HannahS*

        You’re not the first to bring that up, so I’m curious–what does that change? The entire Old Testament is Jewish scripture repurposed and reintepreted into Christianity, but that doesn’t make Christians quoting Psalm 23 a non-Christian activity, nor would it be appropriate in a workplace, AND as a Jew, being included in Christian-led recitations of Psalm 23 would make me uncomfortable even though I sing it in Hebrew before Havdalah almost every week. So I get that a lot of Western Christmas images are lifted from European paganism, but what does that change for you or for others?

        1. Calliope*

          I will say, I think it changes absolutely nothing about workplace appropriateness. But I’m also very tired of being told that I’m wrong for viewing them as secular for me (as Alison’s parentheses indicate). Can’t we say these are traditions with religious origins that aren’t appropriate in the workplace without always telling other non-Christians that they’re being non-Christians wrong? This is tangential because I agree christmas stuff shouldn’t be at work but it seems like every year I am also subjected to lectures about how I’m actually a cultural Christian and just don’t know it (I’m not).

          1. Kit*

            I think the key is that they are secular for you. As a non-Christian who is living in a Christian culture (specifically the US) a lot of Christmas traditions are pushed on non-Christians with the justification that “they’re secular now!” as though they are somehow entirely separable from their religious origins. We are exposed to Christmas very routinely thanks to mainstream culture; being expected to enjoy it, or being told that we are wrong to find it oppressive, is exhausting and yet a part of life that we have to cope with as a minority religious or cultural group (depending on the flavor of non-Christian in question).

            Some non-Christians, like yourself, can comfortably embrace and enjoy traditions of Christian origin without friction – but that’s in part because you probably live in a Christian culture, even if you yourself are not culturally Christian.

            1. Calliope*

              I feel like this is what I said though? I don’t think anyone else should or shouldn’t feel like it’s secular. It just feels like every year there’s a lot of comments about how everyone who celebrates Christmas is culturally Christian and how they are not secular full stop, and honestly, part of living in a predominantly Christian society is also that it sucks to be told you’re basically Christian when you’re not.

              1. Roland*

                I mean if you celebrate Christian holidays then you ARE culturally Christian. I don’t see why that’s such a big deal.

                1. Roland*

                  That should have said, culturally Christian to some extent. This covers people from another religious background who also celebrate christmas because it’s the dominant holdiday.

                2. Calliope*

                  Because when you’ve spent your life being told by Christians that you’re going to h*ll etc., it’s pretty insulting to be told “actually because you like stringing lights on a tree, you’re basically a Christian yourself.” Can’t we just respect people’s own self-identifiers?

                3. nnn*

                  How about you can self-define however you want but also recognize that the holiday itself is a Christian one? Doesn’t mean you are, just means the thing you’re celebrating is. I could celebrate the British Jubilee and it doesn’t make me British but I recognize the holiday is.

                4. Calliope*

                  I mean that’s fine. It kind of feels like we’re splitting hairs? I’m mostly reacting to years of being called culturally Christian and I brought it up here because it’s been a theme on this blog and also seemed to be reflected in this post.

              2. Jessica Price*

                As long as you celebrate Christmas and are getting it off as a federal holiday while the rest of us literally have to use up part of our compensation package to observe our holidays…

                As long as you can go to a “secular” Christmas party and not have to have armed security present so white Christian supremacists don’t shoot you…

                As long as you can buy a Christmas tree if you want to at a big-box store and not get a lecture or yelled about how you need to accept Jesus the way I have been while waiting in line to buy a cute hanukiyyah (!!! At TARGET!!!) last year…

                Hell, as long as, if you want to buy decorations for your “secular” Christmas, you can go to any major department or big box store and be confident that they’ll be available, in great variety…

                You are benefitting from Christian hegemony. The fact that you have these privileges and choose to use them does, in fact, make you culturally Christian.

                I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable to hear that, but your personal history with abusive Christianity does not erase its hegemony or the ways in which you benefit from and help *uphold* that hegemony any more than, as a white Jew, my own fraught history with whiteness—

                Which ranges from the annoying/mildly hurtful (having multiple dates walk out and stick me with the bill after accusing me of “pretending” to be white when they found out I was Jewish)

                to the scary (staying with friends of the family in a vacation town as a child and being told by their neighbor that I had to leave after dinner because it was a Christians-only town—which, incidentally, it actually legally is, look up Bay View, MI)

                to the actually dangerous (having my community on a white nationalist “hunting list” after the Tree of Life shootings because we were trying to “destroy white civilization” by, I don’t know, existing while Jewish)

                —means I don’t also benefit from white privilege or am not white. I think white supremacy and white privilege need to be dismantled, I have been abused by them, and I wish I could opt out of them.

                But I can’t. All I can do is attempt to contribute to efforts to dismantle them and acknowledge my own privilege.

                Christianity isn’t an exact parallel to whiteness, but it’s also not what it tries to claim it is: solely a religion. It’s what Americans and Europeans ARE by default, even if they’re not actively practicing Christianity The Religion. Its norms are everywhere, from expectations around forgiveness to redemption arcs in media to the calendar to the structure of the family to how we structure and talk about leadership. It’s cultural as well, it is in some ways passed down through families, and the extent of its hegemony and normativity means that it is not a simple or quick process to opt out, and fully opting out—in the sense of divesting yourself of all of the norms and assumptions and thought patterns—might not even be possible in a lifetime.

                If you think you’re not culturally Christian, I highly suggest you talk to former Christians who have actually converted to Islam or Judaism and joined hereditarily non-Christian communities where the norms and assumptions are very different. It would be a good mirror for you.

                Meanwhile, denying the prevalence and inescapability of Christian hegemony actually protects and upholds it, so if you actually want to try to divest yourself of Christianness and cultural Christianity, you should probably start with being honest with yourself about the ways in which you still participate in and benefit from Christian hegemony and privilege.

                None of which is to say that it’s wrong to be someone who is culturally Christian but not practicing and who celebrates and enjoys Christmas in a way that is secular to you personally.

                Just be honest with others—and yourself—about what it is and represents.

                1. Sma*

                  A bisexual person who is currently in an opposite-sex presenting relationship might benefit from heterosexual privilege in some ways (while also suffering from it in others) but that doesn’t mean they are heterosexual and it’s not ok to erase their identity and push the heterosexual label on them when they tell you they are not.

                  As someone who enjoys Christmas, I might benefit in some ways from Christianity being the dominant religion (while also suffering from it in others) but that doesn’t mean I’m Christian or a cultural Christian and it’s not ok to erase my identity and push these labels on me and others like me when we thell you we aren’t.

                  I also wonder if you would also claim that my Jewish grandma or my non-practicing Jewish and Buddhist convert mother or my Muslim childhood friend – all of whom enjoy celebrating Christmas – are culturally Christian. If not, I think you should reflect on why it’s ok to do it to atheists and whether you unconsciously suscribe to some widespread prejudices/stereotypes about atheists that lead you to this double-standard.

                  I do obviously agree that white supremacy and white privilege need to be dismantled, as do Christian supremacy and Christian privilege and I attempt to contribute to efforts to dismantle them and acknowledge my own privilege. But I’m not Christian or culturally Christian and your insistence on labeling other people as such when you know nothing about them is inappropriate and problematic. Literally, the only thing you know about Calliope’s background is that they don’t identify as a cultural Christian and that they celebrate Christmas but somehow that’s enough for you to go off and tell them to admit they are a cultural Christian. Who made you the decider of other people’s identity and culture? You need to examine your assumptions.

                  > It’s what Americans and Europeans ARE by default, even if they’re not actively practicing Christianity The Religion.

                  I’m not sure what that even means: is every Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, etc American or European a cultural Christian? Would you say Alison is? Would you say you are?

        2. Sma*

          It makes no difference to workplace appropriateness.

          When you sing it every week before Havdalah, it’s a Jewish practice. People would be wrong to insist that since it’s been repurposed and reinterpreted by Christianity, your own practice is now Christian regardless of how you live and label your own practice.

          Likewise, pushing a Christian label on the cultural practices
          of non-Christians is irritating, especially when Christianity is already pushed on non-Christians so much.

          Different minorities, people, and groups have dealt in different ways with Christianity bulldozing other cultures and religions. Some have rejected practices such as Christmas and we need to respect that choice. Others have reclaimed it and that’s not a reason to force a Christian label on them or their practices.

        3. EF*

          I don’t see why it’s necessary to finish the Catholic church’s job of eradicating what it can’t appropriate and appropriating the rest from the cultural and religious celebrations of the many traditions and ethnicities it did its best to swallow whole, so that’s why it matters to me.

          Evergreen branches, mistletoe, and the rest were part of my ancestors’ midwinter traditions before Christianity existed. Christianity has borrowed them, but it doesn’t own them, and it can’t make them Christian by using them.

          Given how much of my young life consisted of being aggressively Christianized and resisting same, I find it both ignorant and offensive when people tell me that my peoples’ symbols and practices must be Christian, and thus I must be, too.

          By the way: most of those symbols and practices tied into pre-Christian religions/beliefs, so still don’t belong in the workplace.

          1. Jessica*

            But the only reason you even know about any of those practices is because they were absorbed and maintained by Christians.

            White Europeans continuing to engage in their own cultural practices after switching their religion (which was coercive in some places and voluntary in others) is not appropriation. You can’t appropriate from yourself and there is no direct, unbroken connection from anyone alive today back to the origins of those practices that doesn’t run through Christianity.

            It is actually pretty offensive to equate that with actual appropriation—taking things from a culture you’re not part of (often in tandem with punishing members of that culture for continuing to engage in their practices when you want them to be yours, e.g. peyote being trendy among white people but a criminal offense for Natives).

            I’m all for people trying to reconstruct pre-Christian practices, but stop equating continuous practice of a tradition among the people who originated it with actual appropriation.

            I agree that none of it belongs in a workplace.

            1. Snell*

              Tangential, but if it’s any comfort, peyote in the US is not currently a criminal offense for Natives, and is in fact, protected for their use/practice and illegal for the use by non-Native people. The reason you might not know about it is because laws do change—I think one of the big ones was relatively “”””recently””””, as in, I was surprised it took so long, and surprised to find out I was alive when it happened: President Clinton signed into law the aforementioned rights for Natives in 1994. That’s not the end of it, because as you mentioned, peyote gets trendy and that leads to poaching, not to mention it suffers from habitat loss and climate change.

  2. my 8th name*

    #4. Take a beat and talk to your new team mates first. You’ve only been on the team 3 months if my math is right. Find out if what your experiencing is the norm since many departments are cyclical, and you may have just joined during their quieter season.

    1. allathian*

      Mmm, I don’t know. If they don’t have regular team meetings and get their assignments through email, I’m not sure it’s a matter of how busy they are. Some jobs, not to mention some offices, are a lot more collaborative than others, and it sounds like this LW would prefer a more collaborative environment.

      1. LW4*

        This. I don’t mind doing a lot of independent work, but I like having brief check ins to get an understanding about what the team is working towards, be able to have a dedicated time to ask questions, etc. An occasional collaborative meeting/work session can be helpful as well to bounce ideas and find a solution to things.

        I’m also deeply bothered with the requirement to come into office once a week, but then not use it for any team meetings or in person discussions (or just not show up at all and not tell me).

        It just feels like I’m not really a part of the team under the current circumstances.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes, if you haven’t had a sit-down with them yet, just schedule coffee for some time. “Hey, I realized we haven’t had a chance to chat. Now that I’m settled in, I’m taking some time to get to know the people I work with.” You can do this with people outside your team as well.
      I’ve found this so valuable that I now incorporate it into any onboarding on my team.

    3. Trawna*

      Maybe ask your manager if you can put a quick weekly team meeting on your calendars?

      Also, keep in mind that if you’ve been picked for c-suite track, your days of “weekly team meetings” and “collaboration” are over. If you are truly miserable with this level of autonomy, you might need to bow out of this career track.

      1. LW4*

        I’m not on c-suite track, the team I’m on just directly reports to and supports the c-suite. I support my manager who is the head of the team, who coordinates with the c-suite.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        This was my thought. Since you are planning to stay through bonus time (good idea), take this period to see what options there may be. Talk to your manager and let them know you would like to have a 1:1 weekly for a little while, or even suggest a monthly team meeting if you think a bit of face time with your team would actually be useful (weekly would be a big ask to start). If your manager is receptive, then see how that feels. Talk to your manager about where they see this position in a few months. It’s very possible you will start getting more interesting work once you are more in the swing of things.

        If you are still unhappy after bonus time, look for something else. But as Trawna said, once you hit a certain level, there is far less collaboration, regular meet ups, and teamwork in general, so keep that in mind.

        1. LW4*

          I’ll probably ask for a 1:1 or team meeting at least once a month. And I think what I need is less about team work and collaboration, and more of wanting to have an understanding of what my team is working on and what it’s goals are, having an opportunity to share updates/questions, etc. I enjoy my work when it feels meaningful and I understand it’s relevance to the team. It often feels like my work just goes into the void and I’m the awkward third wheel to the few meetings I am invited to.

  3. Language Lover*

    lw #2, If you haven’t already told your boss when you’re getting married, I’d try not to share that piece of information. I’d try to say you’re still in the planning stages for your wedding. Technically, it’s true as it seems as if there always things to take care of right up until the wedding. She’s more likely to ask you about invitations if she knows when the wedding is supposed to be.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this is yet another example of how a toxic work environment can really skew your perspectives on what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Most managers wouldn’t be offended not to get an invitation to a wedding, even if they know some of the soon-to-be-married employees’ peers get an invitation. Or even if they were slightly miffed, they wouldn’t make a fuss about it. Some who do get an invitation send their regrets to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, and to ensure that other reports don’t feel compelled to invite their boss to their weddings in future.

      If at all possible, only inform the owners after your wedding has taken place. But if they’re as vindictive as they sound, this may mean that they won’t give you vacation for your honeymoon…

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        For sure, when I got married my coworkers would ask about wedding planning in a small talk way and they threw me a small shower where we basically just ate cake and they gave me a gift card to Target (it came to like $300 after everyone chipped in!!) but not a single person expected to be invited (and they weren’t).

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I like my boss and still wouldn’t invite her to my wedding. I’d like to keep my family’s shenanigans out of the work place. She really doesn’t need to Uncle Nikoloz do traditional dance while drunk. He doesn’t actually know how to do it well so it looks like that scene with Vladislav from the movie What We Do in the Shadows. It is bad enough Mr Gumption needs to see it

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      LW2 would be well served by keeping her wedding and planning discussion to a bare minimum at the office in any case. Unless you’ve invited everyone in your office, the guideline that it’s rude to discuss a party in front of someone who is not invited applies.

      I love weddings and wedding talk, and I think MOST people need to keep discussion of their weddings out of the office if everyone is not invited. Focus on work at work just like you would if you weren’t planning a wedding.

      Also, the great Miss Manners has said that “we’re having to keep things very small” is a perfectly appropriate response to anyone who asks about your wedding. After all, even if you have 700 guests…it’s too small for that 701st person, isn’t it? So, adjust as necessary and repeat ad infinitum.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          At one point I told a coworker I was having a small wedding and she goes “Oh, only four or five hundred?” and I about fell out my chair, before I remembered that she had moved here from India in college and her general experience with weddings was “post a flyer and plan for four digits worth of people to show up.” Then I said “No, more like 50,” and SHE about fell out of her chair, because that wouldn’t even encompass her closest family.

          1. I should be working*

            A previous co-worker from Kenya told me that one should expect the whole village to show up for a wedding. I get stressed out just having family over for a holiday. I can’t imagine trying to coordinate a village size celebration (but it did sound pretty festive)!

          2. That'sNotMyName*

            Yup. My husband comes from a “invite everyone you or your family has ever met and they might bring people as well” background but said he wanted to keep things really small. I said I was fine with something medium-ish. I meant up to 100 people, he was thinking at least 150. A good lesson in defining terminology. We had the wedding where we live (a solid airplane ride away from where a lot of our family is), so that helped keep numbers under control. I was still expected to invite my brother-in-law’s wife’s sister’s husband’s full family, but it was fine

          3. Beka Cooper*

            Ha, oh my gosh! I was an event custodian at a convention center during college, and 300 sounds average-ish to me. I think 500 is probably around the biggest we would have had. I’m trying to imagine which rooms would have been used for 700 guests…it probably would have been held on the ice arena floor at that point haha.

      1. Anon Bride*

        Thank you!! I need to tattoo this phrase on my forehead. And very good point about keeping the topic quiet anyway. Besides, no one but the bridal couple finds the planning minutiae very interesting, so no need to bore anyone with planning talk.

      2. Antilles*

        Speaking generally, I don’t think a wedding is quite equivalent to discussing a normal party in front of someone. It’s such a major life event and planning headache that most reasonable people understand that you won’t be inviting everybody. So it’s not a social faux pas in the same way as discussing a more casual party.
        Of course, from a practical standpoint, a lot of the planning details aren’t particularly interesting to others anyways. You can do some brief discussion of major points or share a particularly interesting anecdote, but anything more than a couple minutes is just going to fall totally flat.
        That said, for OP in particular, the correct answer is to say as little as possible because the boss is not a “reasonable person who’ll understand”.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, I think a lot of people like hearing about weddings and wedding planning and offering advice from their own wedding even with people that they don’t know well enough to expect to be invited.

        2. I should be working*

          I’m pretty sure weddings aren’t exempted from the guideline, especially when only some of the people in the group may be invited.

          For my money I’d just keep wedding talk to an absolute minimum in the office. Avoid the possibility of any hurt feelings.

          1. Clisby*

            That’s probably a wise course, although I can’t imagine having hurt feelings over not being invited to the wedding of a co-worker. Weddings are just not that much fun, unless you have an intense personal attachment to the bride and groom.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I practically only said “planning is going well” for about six months before my wedding to a few coworkers who were actively fishing for an invite (I wasn’t inviting anybody from work). I eventually did deploy (with management foreknowledge) the “I was taught it’s rude to discuss an event in front of people you cannot invite to said event” response to the rudest of the invite-fishers.

        And I was always super cheerful in tone with my planning is going well comments. I was far more willing to speculate about what hubby was planning for a honeymoon (which he did all on his own, only asking a few questions of me; and then giving me packing guidelines) than wedding planning because all of them knew they’d never be going on the honeymoon*. It gave something to talk about that is wedding related without being the wedding itself.

        *only use this if you think the manager is sane enough to realize that no, you aren’t going on or planning the honeymoon. If they aren’t in touch at all with reality (which is possible given some of the other things OP has said the boss has done), don’t talk at all about the wedding and time leaving this place such that she can’t refuse you the ability to be at your wedding and go on a honeymoon if you so wish.

    3. Artemesia*

      If you cannot simply walk into the next room and make up the fold out coach rather than sleep in a bed with your boss then you will not be able to resist the bullying around the wedding. Stop discussing it at work at all. If anyone asks ‘plans are indefinite, but it is going to be a small family only thing.’ Then stop talking and explaining.

      And seriously reconsider staying for another 6 mos. This place is doing a number on your head. If you will be leaving the area when you marry and that is why you are sticking it out, consider finding a temp job and quitting. If you really need the money then figure out how to isolate your ‘caring’ from the job. If it is a contract thing, sounds dodgy — maybe get legal advice. but regardless of what you choose, if you stay, figure out how to remove yourself emotionally from this disaster. Be the dispassionate anthropological observer; remind yourself you are getting out. Phrases like ‘I can’t really say’. ‘you’ll have to talk to her about that’. ‘that won’t be possible’. need to enter our vocabulary.

      1. Anon Bride*

        That’s a great point. In my defense, the bed sharing was right after I joined the team, so I didn’t have the same confidence to refuse. If that situation came up now I wouldn’t do it.
        I’ve reconsidered and now plan to quit right before the wedding. I don’t have to give notice because my boss will tell me to leave immediately (seen this happen a few times before) so I’m not worried about time off for honeymoon.
        I’m also aware that I may not be able to handle 6 more months, and will need to formulate my plan B, just like everyone is suggesting.

        1. Mockingjay*

          You love your career, not this company. I urge you to look for another. Job hunting on top of wedding planning can be stressful, but you’re stressed already. Physical Therapists are in demand. Maybe temping until after the wedding? Or job search and negotiate time off for the wedding as part of the offer. You have options.

          1. Smithy*

            100% this.

            My brother and his now wife got married before COVID with a fairly normal “year-ish” engagement before their out of town wedding. They kept on marveling around how planning the wedding wasn’t that stressful, and then less than two months before the wedding our dad was diagnosed with a fast moving terminal illness. Overnight wedding planning became stressful, everyone’s job became harder, family relationships became more tense etc etc.

            This isn’t to be a doom and gloom about wedding planning, just I think that as the wedding gets closer – the demands and stresses around planning continuously increase. And if you’re already stretched really thin emotionally at work….now may be when you have the fewest demands around wedding planning to find a Plan B for work.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              Ehh, I got married in the Before Times with an 11 month engagement. We were getting married in an area that I was living in when we got engaged, but because I moved away 3 months in, we did nearly all of our planning upfront. I was basically living in a tourism area and we ended up doing a destination wedding back to my old turf. By the time I moved, 6 months before the wedding, we had venues reserved for wedding and reception, catering squared away, cake ordered, etc. Grandmother owned a flower shop, so I had fun visiting a big city wholesale florist to pick out fake wedding flowers for her to create a bouquet (and my talented SIL did the maids’ bouquets). Yeah, we had some last minute stuff to do in the few days before the wedding, but it was mostly figured out months ahead.

          2. That'sNotMyName*

            Yes, this is solid advice. Also, doing temp/contract work might expose you to a variety of settings and you can get a feel for where you’d actually want to be.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          If you can get out sooner that’s obviously better, but I think even having made the decision to leave may help you keep boundaries going forward. You know you don’t want to stay so you don’t need to care about trying to appease your boss. You don’t have to care at all about what she thinks of you! Set your boundaries and then just keep politely repeating them any time they try to push.

        3. My Dog Is On My Couch And I Have Nowhere To Sit*

          Please reconsider staying there another 6 months!! I’m an Occupational Therapist, and my first job out of school was a toxic small company pretty similar to what you are describing. I stayed there a year and a half, and I really regret staying so long – it *does* mess with your sense of what normal professional behavior should be. It also nearly burned me out. The sense of relief after leaving was incredible.
          You know you won’t have any trouble finding another well-paying job, therapists are always in high demand. If your current position really does pay significantly more than similar positions in your area, now you know that’s because it’s a poisonous place. I do understand the prospect of changing jobs WHILE planning a wedding is pretty overwhelming, but it sounds as if in your case it will actually decrease your stress :-)

    4. Snow Globe*

      The only challenge there is that the LW may want to take time off for a honeymoon, and would need to inform the boss about the time off. I see no way that the boss wouldn’t figure out what the time off is for.

  4. UrsulaD*

    LW2 Insisting you share a bed seems firmly in the sexual harassment territory. If you think this may come up again see a lawyer to explore your options. You can do this even if it won’t come up again, but definitely see a lawyer if it might.

      1. TrixM*

        I’m almost exclusively into other women, and I would have left the room, the hotel, and the city, and not stopped until I was safe in my own bed, having emailed my resignation en route.

        Absolutely no shade on the LW for being so discombobulated she went along with the boss’s batsh!t order. I can fully imagine being so shocked/bewildered that you feel like you’ve lost touch with reality. Like the boss apparently has.

        1. That'sNotMyName*

          OP commented above (Anon Bride) that she would absolutely refuse now but at the time had just joined the company and didn’t feel confident enough to refuse. If you’re stuck in a place that is not your home, having just started a new job, and possibly with big student loans hanging over your head, I can see being to stunned or even scared to refuse.

        2. tessa*

          I would have slept on the sofa bed, and then, upon returning from work, updated my resume and quietly looked for another job.

          But resigning on the spot? When there are bills to pay and possibly kids to feed? Hardly.

      2. Observer*

        It’s hard to tell if the OP would have run in the other direction – people can do the strangest things when they are thrown for a loop of that size.

        But I do agree that if you flip the genders here – if either one of them were male, it would be obvious just how insane the order was.

    1. LB*

      Yes, I understand the uncomfortable pressure you were under, but take that as a flag that this environment has eroded your ability to say “no” and stick to it, and realize that you can rebuild that ability.

      Even if your boss gets horrible about it, she can’t force you to let her attend the wedding. The worst she can do is fire you, so obviously you have to decide whether that’s worth holding the line (it very well might be since you’re working on leaving anyway). (And remember, with this kind of abusive job it can be worth it to quit and just work at Starbucks or somewhere while you job search for something more in line with your career, rather than try and present yourself at your best during job interviews while you’re stuck in this stew of warped norms and emotional distress.)

      DO take care not to let out the details though! If your boss knows where and when, she may try to gate-crash. We had a potential threat of wedding crashing too, and our planner helped us brief someone whose job it was to watch for that person and not allow them in. It sucked to have to do that but it was well worth the peace of mind!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – I had a potential crasher as well for my wedding. I just asked the two guys who were serving as seaters at the wedding to keep an eye out for this person and quietly turn them away if they showed (which fortunately they didn’t).

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Same here – we had 3 people on the lookout for a Person In Particular with express request to throw them out if they showed up. Access was pretty easy to restrict at our venue, which made it easier. (They did not show up.)

          1. Anon Bride*

            OMG that’s terrifying!! We’re getting married overseas so I don’t think she’ll attempt to crash. It’s more about trying to keep the atmosphere at my workplace pleasant or at the very least tolerable. I don’t have to see her a lot, but when I do it’s full on and she is an energy vampire so I become completely exhausted.
            And for the record, the bed sharing felt totally bizarre at the time but it was that whole “we’re FaMiLy” vibe… I wish I could say that was the only thing she’s done that I should speak to an attorney about.

  5. Jackalope*

    #2: I know you said you have several months until you can quit, and I know you have good reasons for that or else you wouldn’t have made that decision, but I would like to push back on that. You would be at this job for at least another half a year, while planning a wedding which is super tiring, and will have to keep putting up with all of this garbage. Is there any way you can start looking for another position now and switch sooner than that? Even if it means doing temp work or something? The longer you stay in a toxic environment, the longer your recovery period will be.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      This is really good advice. The senioritis can get strong, and you may find yourself with even less patience for your workplace’s toxicity than you would have in other circumstances. Maybe the pay and benefits are so much better than you could get for a short-term gig elsewhere that it’s worth it to stay, but if it were me I’d have an exit plan in place just in case it got SO bad I couldn’t stand it any longer :-\

    2. it's-a-me*

      Just in case, let me also spell it out for OP 2 that: you almost certainly can’t be forced to work there for another 6 months *because your contract says you need to give 6 months notice or you’re obligated to work there for a minimum of 2 years or etc.* OP 2 if you think you’re actually legally bound to stay there, or your boss is the one who has told you you must, seek legal counsel.

      1. mlem*

        I kind of got the impression that OP2 wants to get past the wedding before switching, maybe from fear that a new job wouldn’t give time off for a honeymoon. But there’s no harm in seeing what’s possible!

        1. AbruptPenguin*

          Agreed! I had a colleague join our company a few months before her wedding, and she negotiated vacation time for her (already-planned) honeymoon as part of her offer.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’m involved in hiring where I work, and if the person I selected for the job said “I’m getting married in the spring and I’ll need these dates off” there is no way on earth that I would refuse them. I don’t even refuse the people who have a pre-planned Disney vacation. If I want you enough to offer you the position, I’m willing to work with you on your time off needs for your first few months.

          1. Anon Bride*

            THIS. This is the type of employer behavior that I am so detached from that it doesn’t even seem real. My standard of what’s normal and reasonable is so skewed from being immersed in this toxicity. Thank you everyone for all the great suggestions and reminders of what is normal.

            1. Lizzo*

              I got married several months after starting a new job. The time off was negotiated as part of the offer. Now, do you want to be learning a new job while also finishing up wedding planning? (And what are your health insurance considerations?) The devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t. But know that you have options.
              Best of luck in the planning homestretch!

        3. it's-a-me*

          So did I but I thought it should be said just in case it’s a case of having become too accustomed to the crazy.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      For temp work: OP, can you look into per diem work at local hospitals/nursing homes/clinics in your area? I think a lot of places are hurting for healthcare staff, so you should be in a good position as a physical therapist to be able to cobble together something else as a back-up plan. The money may not be as good and the scheduling (on your end, if you end up working for a few different places) may be a bit more chaotic, but (1) no one will pressure you to invite them to your wedding and (2) you’ll be able to take time off (unpaid) for your honeymoon.

      Not that you have to quit your job right now, but an option to keep in mind if your current workplace becomes less bearable.

    4. Observer*

      I know you said you have several months until you can quit, and I know you have good reasons for that or else you wouldn’t have made that decision, but I would like to push back on that.

      I agree – if there is any way you can reconsider this, I would strongly encourage you to do so. And in any case, prepare a Plan B, because you may be forced to quit or get fired.

      For anyone who is thinking that the comments are too quick to encourage people to quit, I’ll point out that it DOES happen a lot, but NOT because people are cavalier about the matter. It’s because we get so many letters where the behavior described is either outright insane or sets of major screaming alarm bells based on life experience.

    5. Bernice Clifton*

      She mentioned that the salary is great – maybe she knows she knows it is more than she would get somewhere else and she needs that extra money to pay for the wedding.

  6. GingerCookie*

    #1 – not ur responsibility to manage your manager and the owner. You done nothing wrong… just making clear for you! I’d tell the manager that if she has concerns about the owner she can take ‘em up directly. And say I already told you every time she goes poking. Now it is a kindness to flag the owner…

    1. to varying degrees*

      Ehh, while I do think the manager (and boss) should not be putting them in this position, the LW does state that they have engaged in the past with the manager to complain about the boss, so they’re not entirely innocent here.

    2. Cait*

      Exactly this. “I don’t feel comfortable sharing what was meant to be a private conversation with you. I understand your frustrations with Bob right now, but I think if you want to find a solution you need to talk to him directly.”

  7. Sharon*

    Here to add to the Hanukkah is not Christmas for Jews with a specific – blue and white Christmas decorations are not Hanukkah decorations. And not every Jewish symbol is Hanukkah related. I ah r seen so many holiday decorations that would be the equivalent of having a Merry Christmas banner decorated with turkeys and Easter eggs!

    1. I need a new name...*

      It’s the blue and white themed Christmas decorations as Hanukkah decorations for me.

      Both doing too much and nowhere near enough.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        This would include the infamous “Hanukkah balls” of a legendary letter from years ago.

    2. AbruptPenguin*

      The best (worst) one I’ve seen is menorah ornaments on the Christmas tree. That was compliments of the management of an apartment building I lived in. The building had many Jewish residents they could have consulted, but that clearly didn’t happen. Every year I think about the irony that Chanukah celebrates a triumph over the forces of assimilation…

      1. Observer*

        Every year I think about the irony that Chanukah celebrates a triumph over the forces of assimilation…

        Yes. That’s a major reason why THIS particular situation is much more galling than other similar situations.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I just googled Hanukkah fails and there are a LOT of them. It’s pretty amazing/appalling.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        Yup. It often feels like they google “Jewish stuff” and slap that together in blue and white. Personally, I think gnomes are adorable and saw a display at target. A subsection of them were in blue and white with “oy vey!” written on their stomachs. Christmas gets elves and Hanukkah gets upset gnomes? Not to mention the holiday matzah. I live in an area with a sizable Jewish population and stores still haven’t figured out that their big matzah displays only sell well once a year.

        1. Sam I Am*

          How is “oy vey” related to Chanukah at all?! Ugh I hate this stuff. Especially “oy to the world” (nonsensical) and “happy challah-days” (challah has nothing to do with Chanukah). It’s all just a way of pretzeling Jewish practices to fit into the American version of Christmas. The opposite of genuine inclusion.

        2. Bluebell*

          We have a grocery chain in the area that pretty much believes that matzah, yahrzeit candles, egg noodles and bubbly grape juice should be put out for any Jewish holiday.

          1. Kristi*

            Random related story: The liquor store in the rural, Canadian town my grandparents lived in at some point (the 50’s?) put out Manischewitz (inexpensive, sweet kosher wine) in the winter around Hanukkah – the town did have a small Jewish population. Since it was cheap, various people must have bought it… Apparently this somehow morphed into Manischewitz becoming thought of there as a traditional Christmas drink, and my grandfather and others would purchase it and put it out with the snacks when people did the Boxing day rounds. I don’t know if this was limited to that town or more widespread.

      2. ShanShan*

        I remember playing “let’s see how many facts they know about Hannukaaaah!” when Nailed It! had a Hannukah episode.

        It turned out that they knew five and a half things:
        1. Blue
        2. Candles
        3. Stars of David (nope!)
        4. Gifts
        5. Dreidels
        6. The word “gelt” but not its meaning

        Boy, it’s a good thing this holiday doesn’t have a story attached to it, any foods attached to it, or any songs attached to it that aren’t the one about the dreidel!

    4. Jessica*

      I was once told by my management that they wanted to have a Hanukkah tree in addition to a Christmas tree in the department display and asked how to do that respectfully.

      I told them for a tree to be a Hanukkah tree we’d have to say a blessing over it and light it on fire.

      They did not ask again.

  8. münchner kindl*

    LW 2, this workplace sounds very toxic, which is very troubling because it’s about customer’s health, which is endangered if employees are overworked; too long without sleeps impairs as much as alcohol does.

    And I worry how much the cultish vibe spills out onto how customers are advised on their health needs (pushed into quackery)?

    If there is some kind of licensing or state control board, I hope OP can tip them off to take a closer look – at least when OP can get out.

  9. Jessica Fletcher*

    #3, if Sam is the contact but now-former employees were then looped in to do the work, I wonder if Sam feels like he needs to give a heads up that the work will now take longer because he’ll have to do it himself? And this was his poorly thought out way to do that? Or possibly he thinks X recipient may want to hire Y former employee, and he’s inelegantly letting them know that person is on the job market? Or maybe people did ask to be made aware, or the team asked for some notice to go out, and LW wasn’t part of that discussion.

    Just trying to think of non-sinister motivations, ha.

    1. Antilles*

      The other non-sinister motivation is that the company does a terrible job with transitioning departed employees’ email and letting clients know that employees have left. Sam has seen a bunch of fallout when clients directly email a departed employee and get no response, so he’s trying to proactively head off trouble before it starts.

    2. The OTHER Other*

      It’s very odd behavior, companies generally don’t want to broadcast their turnover, especially not to customers. And especially not for layoffs, talking about people being laid off can make clients think the company is distressed and that they need to take their business elsewhere.

      Not sure how to handle it if Sam is not your report. Hopefully if LW is seeing these emails someone further up the chain is also and can tell him to knock it off.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Another non-sinister motivation is that Sam was anxious/upset by the news and just needed to do Something, Anything and this is what his anxiety-addled brain came up with.

      1. Cassandra Mortmain*

        That’s more what I was picturing. Or was so shocked and upset (or other strong feelings) that somehow felt it was his job to spread the news, not realizing that it’s sort of weird to tell people that don’t really know the affected employees. I can picture a very young person doing this without thinking.

        My MIL is like that – tell her any bad news, and she immediately feels a personal responsibility to tell everyone in her life. I think it’s partially how she processes information. We don’t share much with her.

      2. Malarkey01*

        I mean this is Twitter right? Maybe? If so, the as you may have heard language makes a lot more sense and if it is, go for it Sam because I don’t give AF how they want to manage the message.

        If it’s not, yeah weird.

  10. OneAngryAvacado*

    LW 1 although your boss should be doing more to manage his emotions at work, it doesn’t mean he should feel obligated to disclose personal details to your manager just to make life easier for you. The obligation is 100% on your manager to back off, and the fact that she feels comfortable repeatedly ‘interrogating’ you about what’s going on in the owner’s personal life is incredibly inappropriate, rude, and a slightly iffy use of a power imbalance. My response would be every time she brings it up to gently but firmly say ‘that’s really none of my business, and I don’t feel comfortable discussing colleagues’ personal lives behind their backs when they clearly don’t want it talked about’.

    If she pushes back on that then that’s the time to bring it up with your boss – but as ‘my manager’s repeatedly interrogating me about this thing and it’s seriously inappropriate’, not ‘you need to share stuff about your personal life to make my own work life easier’. (His attitude at work clearly does need to be brought up by someone – but that’s almost a separate issue.)

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I have to say the manager in this scenario is the biggest problem in my mind.

      Of course you have engaged with your manager to express frustrations about your Big Boss from time to time. That doesn’t make you an awful person or terrible employee. It pretty much just makes you normal.

      Your manager is way over the line and needs to stop. Alison’s script or something like “If you have concerns about Boss’s family life you need confirmed you’d have to do that with him.”

  11. darcy*

    “we survived 20XX” is likely to land poorly with people whose loved ones did not, in fact, survive 20XX

    1. teapot analytics*

      That is me and I am trying to picture how I’d react to that kind of messaging around a party.

      It would not be good for me or the people who’d come up with it.

  12. bamcheeks*

    So just to be clear, Manager in LW1 has worked out what that the owner’s kid has a serious medical issue, but instead of going, “woah, I’ll back off then”, or having a conversation with the owner where she says, “I get the impression that something is going on with you, I don’t need to know what, but these are the issues that I’m having at work, so how shall we work around that?”, she’s just getting mad at the owner and badgering LW for more details?

    I mean, I understand the annoyance, but this basically comes across like she’s just annoyed she’s not getting all the details and is taking it out on everyone else. Which is really shitty! LW, I realise this isn’t actionable for you and a lot of the responsibility for this situation is definitely on the owner, but yeah, your manager is being *horrible* about this.

    1. BethDH*

      I do wonder though if it would help for manager to be given enough info to plan though. Maybe this just didn’t come up in the description, but it seems really common for people to conflate telling what accommodations they need with telling medical details. If OP, manager, and owner are all making that leap, it’s possible OP could take the pressure off by encouraging owner to follow one of Allison’s scripts for talking to coworkers about medical absences. Manager doesn’t need to know the cause, but they should be told the anticipated/likely workplace effects.

  13. Pagan*

    I’m in the UK. I honestly don’t mind it being a Christmas Party. I’m going to mine, we’re having a meal in a hotel followed by drinks and the compnay has paid for everyone to stay in a hotel, I think we do Secret Santa as well. It doesn’t bother me at all. It helps it’s the UK and most Christians are non demonstrative, let’s face it, as is most of the UK. I’m happy to go along, same as being invited to any other religious holiday party. I don’t think you can really justify it as a “Winter Holiday Party” – it’s a Christmas one. If it indeed was inclusive of me, we’d be outside round a bonefire which I don’t want to do. I’m more than happy to join in with your celebrations.

    1. MsSolo UK*

      The Uk is a slightly different beast because despite being a less religious country than the US, we do have Christianity as a state religion, so there are national holidays based on it, which skews things slightly in terms of end of year parties. The US is meant to be secular, so the extent to which Christianity is forced on people as much out of habit as evangelism grates on a lot of people a lot more.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Its not meant to be secular, more so pluralistic (no religions welcome vs all religions welcome). Not that we have a particularly great track record. But it does speak to the tendency of inclusion by adding different religious celebrations rather than removing all religious trappings.

    2. mlem*

      It could also be inclusive by being unrelated to any religion at all, unless you want to argue that the Western calendar is inherently religious. It’s honestly easy to have an end-of-year/New Year/winter party with no specific religious-holiday ties.

    3. HannahS*

      That’s nice for you. Not everyone feels that way. In fact, a lot of people don’t feel that way, and I’ve met several!

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think that the fact that on the whole, people tend to be far less agressively reigious here than in the US and that there is much less intrusion of religion into politics et probably plays a art here,. but even taking that into account, I think there are quite a lot of non-christians here who do mind.

      It’s very individual. I once had aGrandboss who was Jewish, and observant, who absolutely loved Christmas and the Christmas P arty, equally I had a co-worker (at a different job) who was Muslim and *was* uncomfortable with it, but who was also pretty junior and didn’t feel comfortbale saying so – I only found out becuase the party was in office hours and we needed someone to cover a court hearing – I offered to do it as I knew she had missed the previous year’s party, she told me she would prefer to do it as it gave her a valid excuse for not attending, as she was a little uncomfortable with celebrating . (That firm also had several people in pretty senior position who were Jewish, and while they were clearly happy with attending a christmas (albeit non religious) party, I do wonder with hindsight whether the fact that having people in senior posts, who were members of other religions, joining in made it harder for anyone more junior to say anything. At the time, there wasn’t anyone in a senior role who was a Muslim

      1. Calliope*

        A lot of Muslims I know (not all by any means!) are ok joining in low key Christmas celebrations and many even do some Christian celebrations with their own family. Jesus is a prophet in Islam too after all, so I think there’s a different relationship with it than some other religions.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Oh Yes, I’ve known other muslim friends who were fine with it, too, although I did have a different muslim collegue who would happily exchange christmas cards and join in with secret santa but didn’t attend the party, mostly I think because alcohol would be served, while others are fine with being around it even if they don’t themselves drink.

          I think in this case it’s possible that she may have had concerns about things other than it being a christian fesitival – e.g. whether the food served would be Halal for instnace,
          it was really more to respond to Pagan’s comment and make the point that it can be an issue for some non-christians here in the UK too, and that not eveyne is going to feel able / comfortbale with speaking out.

          1. UKDancer*

            People really vary as to their buy-in to festivals of other religions. Our Christmas jumper competition and most of the festivities are organised by a Hindu lady who really, really enjoys herself and loves Christmas. She puts her lights up for Divali and keeps them up until NY and she’d be devastated if anyone suggested she didn’t run the festivities.

            I’ve one Muslim colleague who enjoys it very much (usually winning the jumper competition due to sheer tinsel overload) and another who doesn’t participate at all and both approaches are fine. People are so different, that’s what makes them wonderful.

  14. Lily Potter*

    LW2 doesn’t say whether s/he is inviting any co-workers to the wedding. The “it’s a small family wedding” line doesn’t work if everyone BUT the boss is invited. Allison, how does your advice change if LW2 wants to invite everyone BUT the boss?

    It’s weird that LW3’s colleague would so quickly send out emails about company layoffs to customers when said colleague is really the only customer contact. I will say, though, that every company I’ve worked for has been bad about communicating personnel changes due to layoffs, both internally and externally. When people are terminated for cause, emails explaining the change are sent promptly, but when it’s a layoff, people are left to figure out that Fred from accounting got laid off when he stops responding to messages. It’s screwed up. LW3’s colleague may have sent the announcement because s/he knew from experience that no one else would do it.

    LW4’s situation is becoming more and more common with the advent of WFH. If s/he felt a part of the team, the work itself might be more fulfilling. But s/he’s dealing with a situation where everyone is “doing their job” at home and leaving LW4 alone and drifting. It sounds like LW4 is an experienced professional; can you imagine how much harder the situation would be if it was LW4’s first job? Yikes.

    1. Snow Globe*

      LW2 – If they don’t want to invite the boss, they should not invite anyone else from the office. That would just put everyone else in the boss’s firing line when Boss finds out that others knew and didn’t say anything.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        I agree that if LW2 doesn’t invite the boss, they had better not invite anyone else from the office. If it’s too late for that, then LW2 should try to mitigate damage by swearing all the invitees to secrecy.

    2. doreen*

      I don’t think LW2 can invite everybody except the boss without fallout. Even if the boss doesn’t take it out on everyone else, you will still have the issues that happen when you invite a group of people and leave just one or two out, whether that group is your cousins or your softball team or your co-workers (including your boss).

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Fully depends on the group and how everyone handles their social media I guess.

        Did not invite the owner (a functional alcoholic with verbally abusive tendencies, in addition to just general run of the mill arseholishnesss and bad behavior) nor the VP where I worked. Invited several coworkers with whom I was fairly close. They attended, had a blast, and it was long enough ago – social media wasn’t really a thing. I understand that the VP actually ASKED them if they’d been invited. I suspect that he was told they were not and they knew nothing.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Let’s not add more pressure to OP. OP can invite who she wants to her wedding. They are adults. They can decide if they want to come or not based on their judgment of the situation.

        Right now, OP just needs advice on how to handle the Boss sticking her nose into OP’s private life. Which is, don’t talk about the wedding at work. If pressed just say “oh its all up in the air but we know we are keeping it small.”

    3. LW4*

      Yes I am an experienced professional, thank goodness! And that’s the feeling exactly; I am fine, capable, and for the most part enjoy working independently and at home. But when I don’t know what the rest of my team is working on, how my completed work fits with the team, and what in general my team is trying to accomplish I feel like the odd person out. I come into office and no one even meets with me. I’m not even told when my manager is out of office for a few days! We haven’t even discussed what my annual performance goals are!

      It’s hard to feel like my work matters and I’m a valued professional for the team and company under these conditions.

  15. Moi*

    LW4. I’m in the exact same position as you. It sucks. I was so excited for this role and it is very different than I expected. Best of luck on the job hunt. Is

    1. Panda*

      Same. I am going to look for something else a bit closer to my one year anniversary as I took a signing bonus that I’d have to pay back if I leave before my anniversary. I hate the hot desking office (because we’re “hybrid” 50% which they are now cracking down on because most people have been only coming in 1-2 days per week.), and the work is boring. There is a ton of unnecessary meetings and most people work more than 40 hours. The people are really nice though.

    2. LW4*

      Glad to know others are out there! I was really excited too, it was going to be a bump in pay and title, and it really seemed to be a great fit for me given my experience at the same company and my experience in roles prior to that company. I thought I had a good understanding of the role and asked lots of questions, but I guess not.

      If I had known that the role would be this isolated and bland, I would not have taken it. And it really is shocking for a 3 person team with high visibility deliverables to be both!

      Good luck in your search!

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I hope you are all hanging in there over at Lyft. ;)

        I don’t want to start a guessing frenzy, but I couldn’t help it. I do hope you are all doing OK. It’s more than a little stressful out there in tech right now.

    1. snarkfox*

      I had this thought too, in which case, I feel like “professionalism” hardly matters anymore because that whole thing is, well… I’ll just go with “cluster” and I think you get my meaning.

      OP specified that it isn’t twitter below, though!

  16. FashionablyEvil*

    #4–you don’t mention how you ended up in the new role/how extensive an interview process it might have been, but worth thinking about questions to ask in future interviews to make sure you end up in a more team-oriented and collaborative culture.

    Also, you can make an effort if you’re feeling isolated—invite people to coffee or lunch (virtual or in person), keep in touch with your old team, ask for recommendations about new people to network with, etc.

    1. LW4*

      I ended up in this role because I ran into a ceiling in my prior role. There wasn’t any senior role available in my team to advance to, and I couldn’t really receive more pay despite a having outstanding performance reviews. I saw this internal role which was a great fit (on paper) for my experience in the role at the same company and my prior experience outside the company. It would also be a small bump in title and pay. I was genuinely excited to apply for this position, and I got offered it after only one interview, which I think was a little unusual. I thought I had asked a lot of good questions during the interview (from this website, too) and my current manager gave me an optimistic view of the role. However, I will definitely be asking more questions about collaboration/team dynamics when looking for my next role! I think I’ve just been shocked it has been this terrible. My manager didn’t even tell me he would be out of office this week…

      I’ve been keeping in touch with some people in my former team/department, which has helped a little. Maybe I’ll ask if there are others to network with, but almost everyone we work with internally are high level leaders, so it’s been hard to get an introduction or face time with people at that level. It’s been hard to want to try to connect with my team when it’s been difficult or awkward to do so thus far.

  17. theothermadeline*

    Absolutely no proof to support it but my head fiction for #3’s agenda is they’re a Twitter employee trying to show external clients directly how the mayhem is affecting them and to make the new leadership look wild.

    Relatedly, I’d love if Alison had an opinion about what happened with the layoffs in terms of the WARN Act – how Twitter may defend itself from the class action suit?

    1. Snow Globe*

      IANAL, but the penalty for WARN act violation is 60 days pay, and Musk has said that all terminated employees have been paid three months’ severance, which exceeds the penalty.

      1. Hound Dog*

        Yah butbthay requires Muskrat to be telling the truth, and the man doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record there.

      2. Qwerty*

        It will depend on whether the severance was granted unconditionally or if employees had to sign a separation agreement to get the cash. They are entitled to the 60days pay without extra strings being attached.

      1. theothermadeline*

        Thank you! Then my delight in the potential nefariousness for societal good has been diminished, but I’m still more liable to think this person may be more clueless than anything. In my experience the first-line customer-facing person has been the most junior and may not have ever been through a layoff process or have considered the norms/sensitivities around proactive communications.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I’d love to hear some AAM commentary on all the Twitter drama, even if it’s probably obvious “he’s shooting himself in the foot” stuff. Like, you lay off half the company and then realize “oops, I shouldn’t have done that, wanna come back?!?” Then what should someone do? Would the company take away whatever they were offering to force them back?

        1. Jaydee*

          Skeptical me just wondered what happens to Twitter employees who have been laid off but then get called back in right away. I’m guessing based on the way things went down a lot of them are not going to want to go back. Will they lose their severance and eligibility for unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work? Is that precisely why they’re being brought back?

  18. Irish Teacher*

    LW2, I just cannot get my head around your boss insisting you share a bed with her when there was another alternative! When I read the part about sharing a bed, I assumed it was a cost cutting thing, that she didn’t want to pay for another room or even a room with two beds, but there was an alternative and she wouldn’t let you sleep in the next room. That is beyond weird.

    There are other concerning things in your letter too but that just stands out as really bizarre.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s equally bizarre OP didn’t just say, “hell no!” Which goes to show their norms are already seriously warped.

    2. Sam I Am*

      So bizarre! I really wonder what the boss said to pressure LW into sharing the bed. Was it for the boss’s benefit (“I don’t like sleeping in a room by myself”) or for LW’s (“the sleeper couch will be uncomfortable”). Either way it’s mind-bogglingly inappropriate, I’m just so curious how the boss justified the request/command to share a bed when there was an alternative available.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I wonder if it was something like “we do not have the linens and that couch is in a public part of the accommodations, so I don’t feel safe with you sleeping there.

        1. JustaTech*

          A very long time ago (like 40 years) my mom and her boss were traveling for work that involved staying in the homes of donors, rather than hotels. And at one place there was only one guest bed, so the choices were share the bed or sleep on the floor.

          So they shared the bed, and the boss then reached out to their next few stops to clarify that they needed *two* sleeping places, because no, they weren’t “girls on a sleepover”.

      2. Anon Bride - LW2*

        It was a combination of both of those reasons. This was a long-term work trip and we were several people staying in a house. I was the most junior, so I got shuffled around. What makes it even grosser is that her husband had been in the bed for a couple nights before and I don’t think the sheets were changed… once he came back from his trip I did sleep on the sofa bed until another bedroom in the house opened up.
        On a more recent work trip I had the option to share a king-sized bed with a colleague or sleep on a couch, for cost-saving measures. I chose the bed because I’m close with her, so although it was a little awkward at first it was fine. Plus, I knew in advance what the options were. That’s also not an ideal work trip situation but more understandable…

  19. CharlieBrown*

    Oh gosh, my first thought for #2 was to do a Four Seasons maneuver and give the boss an invitation on the same day to a place with the same name that is several hundred miles away.

    I’m not suggesting it, but just thinking it warmed my heart a little.

  20. Cat Tree*

    LW4, you get to leave whenever you want to for any reason and it sounds like that’s the most likely outcome here.

    But, have you tried talking to your boss about your concerns? She won’t be able to re-vamp the culture of independent work, but she might be able to give you better assignments, start updating you when she’s not on-site, or give you more insight to what changes are coming.

    If she can do those things you would still have to decide if it’s the right decision to stay but I think it’s worth at least having the conversation.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      Yes. OP has nothing to lose in having a conversation with the boss and trying to make the job more enjoyable while looking for something else.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Agree. When you work on independent assignments, sometimes you have to advocate for yourself more than you would in a team environment when everyone shares info frequently. OP4, all you might need to do is flag your boss and let them know you are ready to do more. “I’ve been on New Team for X months now and feel I’ve got a good background on the project.” (Even if this isn’t quite accurate, it’s an opening.) “I think I’m ready to contribute more, especially on X and Y…”

    3. LW4*

      I have talked about some of the things, but I think I just need to be more blunt about everything. I feel like I’m forgotten about all the time! It really makes me feel terrible and frustrated about my position.

  21. CharlieBrown*

    Thank you Alison, for posting the link to the “Other Jobs” post in #4. I really needed to see that right now.

  22. Not A Manager*

    LW2, your boss sounds scary. If she can steamroller and manipulate people into giving her personal medical information and sharing a bed with her, I don’t have much hope for you successfully going grey rock for 6 months about whether she’s actually getting an invitation.

    I think you will need to lie. You can use one or several of these, as needed:

    “We had to postpone the wedding, it won’t happen until [3 months after you plan to quit your job].” That way, you can still talk in a general low-key way about the wedding, and you can take the occasional wedding-planning phone call at work so long as you don’t explicitly say a date on the phone.

    “Of course you’re invited, we just haven’t sent invites out/yours must have gotten lost in the mail/wait for it.” Repeat until you quit. I assume that you are not planning on any kind of good reference from this woman in any event. If you are then I think you will have to invite her to your wedding.

    “Yes, Mathilde, of course you’re invited and here’s your invitation.” – “Whoops, now that I’ve quit obviously it doesn’t make sense for you to attend my wedding.” OR “Whoops, I’ve just quit AND I’m so sorry to inform you that the wedding has been unavoidably postponed.” If you have to resort to these, you’ll need to alert people to keep an eye out for her crashing the party, unless you have the guts to give her a fake invitation with a fake venue on it.

    Seriously, your boss sounds so awful and boundary-stomping that I agree with everyone else that you should get out now. If you can’t, I think you should say the easiest thing to get you through the next six months without being interrogated constantly.

    1. EPLawyer*

      OH GOD, do not imply she is invited. Do not under any circumstances. Because Boss will JUST SHOW UP. The only mention of invites should be “we are keeping it small.”

    2. Observer*

      Yeah, don’t lie. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a matter of practicality.

      Trying to keep the lie straight, and make sure that no one winds up saying anything that might tip Boss off is just going to be another layer of crazy.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      And honestly I’d just say that “planning is going well” in response to all wedding questions from boss.

      Invitation fishing/questions: we’re keeping it very small/close friends and family only.

      Just cheerful tone grey rock answers to all questions, as boss doesn’t sound like they inhabit the same normal as the rest of the world.

  23. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: It’s November. If your job search is normal (i.e. not for a super in-demand position where you’ll get snapped up immediately), it is likely to be the new year anyway before you have an offer somewhere else. I’d go ahead and start looking now. You will probably still be at the current job long enough to get the bonus anyway and your mental health might improve by starting to take steps to get out.

    If you really did want to stay, I’d suggest talking with your manager and seeing if you guys can coordinate times to get together and discuss your work + get to know your other team member. Mine organized a brown bag lunch a month or so after I joined so I could virtually get to know everyone I don’t see in the office. If you want to improve the current situation, trying to coordinate something like that and trying to make sure you have regular one-on-0nes to discuss your work and your goals would be where I’d start.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Oh, and I should have also said, work is not the only place for you to level up your professional skills. Take advantage of any downtime you might have to take an online course in your field so it doesn’t feel like a waste of your day.

    2. LW4*

      I think you’re right, it might be worth just looking now for something to help my mental state.

      I haven’t pushed for more meetings or goal discussions because I have felt pretty frustrated to even have to ask to be notified when my manager will be out of town, if they plan not to show up for the in office days. Which is probably my answer for why I should leave.

  24. The Person from the Resume*

    For LW3, I don’t think it’s a wild overstep. Should he have done it? Probably not.

    But if it made the news, the account manager may have wanted to assure the clients that nothing is changing for them. Depending upon if clients may leave if concerned about changes, it may have been a proactive attempt to reassure them. 1 hour is possibly too soon, but maybe not.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      It might be a bit of an overreach and 1 hour is a little soon, but I can see some reasoning for being proactive: I’ve had multiple instances at organizations I’ve worked at and organizations I’ve worked with where someone has left, no one has told extended contacts* and for years, people were trying to reach contacts that had left the company long ago. Being proactive and saying, “This person is gone- please funnel all requests here,” would go a long way towards avoiding those situations.

      *In one instance, no one told the other employees of the company. When asked about this, the president said he assumed management would tell employees who was laid off. When management was asked, they said they assumed the president would have told them what to say, so since they didn’t get any instructions, they didn’t say anything (I’m not entirely sure they knew who all was laid off, even!).

      1. Observer*

        I’ve had multiple instances at organizations I’ve worked at and organizations I’ve worked with where someone has left, no one has told extended contacts* and for years, people were trying to reach contacts that had left the company long ago.

        That doesn’t apply here. The OP says that these people are not public facing and that Sam is reaching to *his* contacts whose only contact with the people who left are through him (ie Sam.)

    2. Observer*

      But if it made the news, the account manager may have wanted to assure the clients that nothing is changing for them.

      This is not the way to do it.

      And if you are thinking Twitter, if I got that email I would be MORE worried rather than less. Especially now since it’s come out that the layoff was even more poorly thought out than one would have expected. I mean it’s obviously going to be a problem when you try to cut half your headcount in a week, there is no way around that, even if you ignore the fact that the legal issues are going to wind up probably eating up any cost savings you got out of it. But it turns out that they were even sloppier than expected.

  25. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #3 – Unless this is a politically-motivated to hold one’s employer responsible for layoffs, which is a specific kettle of fish, then without any other context, I’d assume coworker is making things up in their head about appropriate communications with customers. Maybe in a different situation, a more involved coworker suddenly left and it was important to redirect customer contact.

    I’d want to know more about other choices that the coworker has made with regard to communications, either internal or external, before assigning nefarious reasons to this decision.

    Coaching would be relevant in any of the cases.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      This is what I thought as well. Communication was necessary after a much smaller change and is assuming that’s what to do in this (very different) situation.

  26. EMP*

    LW #5: I think advice I’ve heard for public school teachers is also relevant here: Aim for “winter”, and don’t do anything (decorations, themes, songs, games) that you feel you’d have to take down on January 1st because it no longer “fits the season”

    Good: Snowflakes, ice skating, hot chocolate, snow men, gingerbread houses, unthemed twinkle lights
    Bad: Wreaths, Santa, Hannukah dreidels, Christmas carols

    Make it about the time of year and not any holidays. Hope that reframing helps!

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      At my daughter’s predominantly Jewish public school the winter concert was in late January. Less busy time, and less Xmas-y just by date

  27. straws*

    LW1 – I wonder if it would be helpful to acknowledge that you recognized some of boss’s behaviors from your own experiences and that’s why you’re able to give more grace to him. Not necessarily mentioning that you experienced it directly or that you spoke to boss about it or confirm that you know that it’s actually true, but more along the lines of you’ve seen something like this before and it’s worth giving boss some space. That would give her some context without giving her any details.

    I also like to lean into the idea of everyone having their own personal story when I’m being pressed for details about someone else. I won’t confirm or deny information about someone else’s personal life – even if they haven’t requested that it remain between us – and I tell the nosy person that it’s not my story to tell. I used this a lot when people used to press me for info about my ex when we split. I’d freely talk about my half of the situation, but as soon is it veered into his personal situation (we split amicably and I was helping him through some of the difficult transition pieces), I’d immediately throw out a casual “oh that’s his story to tell, not mine”. People learned pretty quickly that I was willing to acknowledge that I knew something but I was not willing to say what it was and they’d have to feel comfortable going to him if they needed the info badly enough. And that’s kind of how I feel about your manager here – if she needs the info so badly, she needs to get comfortably asking for it from the appropriate person.

  28. Joanna*

    Letter 4 sounds like it could be one of my coworkers. I agree with others that a conversation with your boss might help things a little.

    But, I don’t think anyone should stay in a job that is impacting their mental health, and that’s more than enough to justify looking for a new job. You mention not wanting to miss out on your bonus, but it’s possible that moving to a new company might also come with an increase in pay that could offset loosing the bonus. Or, being in a job you enjoy might be worth the price of loosing the bonus.

    I’d also recommend considering any connections you have within your current company to see if you can leverage them for another move within the company. The coworker that I have who moved to a different department is highly respected and I think it’s possible there could be people who would go out of their way to prevent them from leaving the company.

    If this is my coworker, I’m sure you can figure out who I am based on this post and my name, feel free to come sit by my window and chat. I won’t blab to anyone.

  29. ILoveLlamas*

    LW #4 – use the year-end bonus as part of your compensation negotiations for the new job. When I was negotiating for my new job, I told them that I was losing X$$ in my 401k because I was leaving before becoming fully vested. They gave me a bonus that included those $$. You need to do what’s best for you. Can you talk to your old manager? Perhaps they have some advice for you… Good luck!

  30. A fellow Jewish person*

    Chanukah is not a minor holiday. It’s a major holiday, originally very somber, but one that has been coopted in such a confusing way that many Jews let it drop off the radar if they don’t have young children in their lives with whom ti celebrate it.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Something I have noticed through the years is that a religious festival/holiday and its importance varies based on so many factors that an event that is minor to one person can be major to another person.
        Let’s not attack each other over differences in how we practice or not our many different faiths.

        1. Former Hominid*

          So here’s the thing- in Judaism “minor” and “major” holidays have a defined definition. A major Holiday or literally a “holy day” are the holidays in the Torah, on which Jews are not supposed to work. Minor Holidays are everything else. Hannukah is not in the Torah. It is a minor holiday, and it celebrates resistance to conversion and assimilation, and therefore is considered important personally to many, but as Observer says, it is NOT a major holiday. And the complete whackadoo refusal for so many gentiles to refuse to engage with Hannukah on OUR terms rather then as “Jewish Christmas” is just constantly enraging.

          1. fueled by coffee*

            Yes, this. “Minor” doesn’t mean “not important,” it means that the obligations for observing the holiday are less than for “major” holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Passover.

        2. Observer*

          In addition to what @Former Hominid said, the claim is *factually* incorrect. There is a lot of information about how the holiday was celebrated in many parts of the world and rules about the celebration that go back to the Talmud.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      That’s the first I’ve ever heard anyone call Chanukah “major”. My general line for “is it major or minor?” is “is work permitted?” Work’s permitted during Chanukah. Weddings are also permitted during Chanukah. If it were a major holiday, the holiday would take precedent over any other thing that date.

      1. Kit*

        Yep! The major/minor distinction is a means of distinguishing in English between Yontif and other observances where some degree of melakhot is permissible. Not all chagim are equal in this regard, but that doesn’t make them less important.

  31. irene adler*

    Regarding #1: OP wrote “I am now being interrogated by her on a weekly basis about what I know.”

    Is there a point at which this would become harassment?
    (not protected class harassment; just plain harassment of one person by another.)

    (A long time ago, I was in a similar situation-being interrogated on the regular by a manager about a co-worker’s grave health condition. Reason: upper management had a bet going as to what illness co-worker really had. It was awful. I probably should have sought legal advice. But! Young and stupid. And fearful of losing my job.)

    1. JSPA*

      “Plain harassment” isn’t a recognized thing / not an illegal thing in most of the USA (some states may differ), so it’s probably a moot point?

        1. JustaTech*

          Of course it’s not okay to harass people.
          It is just that in this specific case (constant questioning about someone else’s medical condition) doesn’t meet the definition of “workplace harassment” which is very narrowly defined.
          (Just like “hostile” has a very narrow definition for legally-actionable workplace interactions”.)

          IANAL, but maybe (*maybe*) that kind of thing might fall under the ADA somehow. But sadly, as we’ve learned here, being a huge jerk is not covered by employment law in the US in the vast majority of cases.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          No. It’s perfectly *legal* to harrass people (outside of some specific employment laws) but it is never okay to harrass people. Lots of things are left legal that are very much not okay.

        3. JSPA*

          There’s (obviously, an by design) a lot of daylight between things that “are not OK” and things that are illegal.

      1. Observer*

        No, not a moot point. Just because something is not LEGALLY actionable, it doesn’t mean that it’s not actionable at all.

        1. Lydia*

          Pretty much this. It doesn’t have to put the company at risk of a lawsuit for HR or someone to come in and tell someone to stop doing it.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Reminds me of a disabled friend of mine who works for an organization that employs people with disabilities. She says regularly that her boss is constantly asking about her health (which well, is pretty bad and she’s not able to work right now) and asking nosy questions about it. Apparently the lady is getting on everyone’s nerves doing this in general. But I don’t know what, if anything, you could do about it since that’s kind of a factor with regards to the job, especially if you can’t work, and she probably won’t be able to find another job that can deal with her being able to work intermittently.

  32. El l*

    This role that you are finding difficult is…let’s call Teapot. Do you want to be known at the end of this as The Teapot Guy? Because that’s what you’re doing if you stick with this.

    Whether you talk with your manager or not all depends on how much you value and can rely on that relationship. Fwiw, I think you should start looking for another job – keeping part of an eye open is generally good practice, you’ll feel more in control, and these things always happen unpredictably.

    1. LW4*

      I think the point you made about if I value and can rely on the relationship with the manager really speaks to me…because I don’t value or think I can rely on it. I will probably start my job search now!

  33. JSPA*


    You could forestall a lot of it by saying,

    “I’ve been thinking about what you said. Based on my awareness and experience of people with [x], I also tend to default to seeing [x]. That’s probably why I’m responding the way I’m responding. But even if it’s not [x], there’s obviously something similarly stressful, and similarly private, going on. You know I’m comfortable complaining about boss when boss is normal levels of impossible! But when I get the feeling someone is going through something serious, I’d rather default to cutting them much more slack, and speculating much much less.”

    And feel free to shut down conversations with,

    “Forcing people to disclose stuff just feels gross.”

    “I don’t need to know what it is, to know that this is something that deserves some privacy and a bit of extra slack.”

    1. Cassandra Mortmain*

      I think the last 2-2.5 sentences of that script, without speculating/mentioning the cause at all, are good, and redirect away from the “oooh what could it BE?!” aspect.

      “You know I’m comfortable complaining about boss when boss is normal levels of impossible! But when I get the feeling someone is going through something serious, I’d rather default to cutting them much more slack, and speculating much much less.”

  34. Nonprofit Lifer*

    For Letter Writer 2:

    The phrase you want is “It’s a very small wedding. Family and wedding party only.” Then, if you DO want to invite coworkers you make them “in the wedding party” by giving them a very small role. They can all be “ushers” with notably limited duties like putting out some keenex packets in case someone cries, standing next to steps to assist elderly relatives, or passing out bubbles to the kids at the end.

    If you try hard enough you can make a pretty-well-infinite number of people “part of the wedding party” and it’s an ironclad excuse for anyone who thinks they should be invited and wasn’t.

    1. Chexwarrior*

      I’d be wary of that route, because Horrible Bosses will possibly still ken to the fact that there are unconventional “wedding party” roles being doled out, especially if it’s for everyone except them.

      If you have an outside of work relationship with certain coworkers, or are otherwise particularly close to them as opposed to others in your office then “our head count is really low” can still cover why Jane and Mary were given a personal invitation card and a +1 as needed), but not anyone else at the teapot factory. As long as LW2 has a ready script to explain why no one without a by name invitation is invited, to forestall the Horribles showing up uninvited, then I think there’s only so much of their feelings that have to be danced around. Obviously with 6-8 months of work left to go, you can’t directly say “everyone but you is invited because you’re horrible people”, but the letter writer shouldn’t have to go to contortions to spare feelings just because they want to invite the members of their office Euchre club/Quiddich team/Soccer group and not also invite the horrible people who happen to manage the aforementioned friends.

        1. Bob*

          So your solution to “I don’t want this person at my wedding” is “don’t invite people I do want to be there”


  35. friday accomplishments*

    #5: you can’t. The very fact that you’re doing it at That Time Of Year means it’s a Christmas party.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      This is ungenerous. There is a lot of stuff that is going on at the end of the year (including New Year) and it’s very possible to make it a seasonal, rather than a Christmas, party.

      Sorry if your mileage varies, but the end of the year and the middle of winter is a perfectly nice time to just get together and relax.

    2. JSPA*

      A friend’s workplace had a summer party and a winter party, tied to longest and shortest day. Hard to argue with that.

  36. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    For Letter Writers 1 and 2 and everyone else dealing with nosey bosses/coworkers/neighbors etc. Here are some of my tried and true lines I’ve used to shut down evasive questioning and gossip gatherers: “That’s not my information to release.” “It’s not my place to say anything.” “Not my story to tell.” “You will need to discuss that with them.” “Why do you need to know?” (No gossip will ever admit because they want to spread the story all over the place so they can never think of a legit why.) “Not discussing this.” I start out with a very neutral if slightly flat face and voice. The more they try to pry the more I let disapproval creep in.

    1. irene adler*

      I use the unsophisticated “I don’t know” ad infinitum until they get exasperated with me.

  37. Luna*

    LW1 – “I am not talking about matters that are not my personal business. If you are really so concerned about boss’ situation, go and talk to them.” and then walk away. Or mentally walk away from the conversation, if physically leaving is not an option.

  38. Dawn*

    Y’know, “it’s not worth staying in a role where you’ll be miserable” is completely valid and I’m not going to question that, but what this poster described really doesn’t sound that bad to me, and it sounds like you might be a bit in BEC mode here.

    And your feelings are completely valid and I’m not trying to tell you what to feel, but I wonder if it might be worth trying to reframe some of your thinking here?

    Your manager and coworker really aren’t obligated to inform you when they’re leaving. If you’d like them to, you could try asking them to, because by the sounds of it they’re just used to not thinking about it.

    And were the weekly team meetings really necessary? Or did you just like having weekly team meetings? Because, gotta say, most people would be thrilled to hear that they no longer need to attend a weekly team meeting.

    Boring assignments are another thing, but maybe that’ll change after you get your feet under you there, or maybe you need to ask for something a little more meaty. Have you tried asking?

    Unless there’s something missing, I just really do not hear “miserable work environment” from what you’re telling me. You have a job that pays well (or at least better than your previous one,) positions you to move up, and doesn’t overwork you or require too much emotional energy from you.

    So my suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to maybe stick it out a bit longer and try finding the social life aspect elsewhere. Ask for a few of the things you’d like to see. And see if maybe it’s not so terrible after all.

  39. Raida*

    I’d put them both in a meeting with myself, say “Boss, Manager is having a hard time with your behaviour changes at work. Manager, I am telling you now, clearly, with a witness, that is your boss “Do not ask me about this again, I will not talk about it and I will complain about being harassed if you do.”
    Boss, I am cutting you a lot of slack with your professionalism recently but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue.
    Now you two talk it out, decide who can know what, decide how to work together with the current stressors, and let me know anything pertinent to doing my job.
    I am going back to work now.”

  40. TG*

    For the LW with horrible Manager – absolutely do not let her convince you to invite her to your wedding and if she shows up have her removed. Ridiculous.

  41. bopper*

    Re: Layoffs

    Don’t layoff people if you don’t want employees telling customers that they are laid off.

    Sounds like the company didn’t do a good job communicating to the remaining employees how to handle this. Often they don’t even know who is laid off until you see a good-bye email.

  42. Jasmine Clark*

    I don’t think LW5 should put up any kind of Christmas decorations/symbols if anyone in their workplace feels uncomfortable with that, but…

    and don’t let anyone claim that Christmas decorations are secular (they’re not).

    This isn’t accurate. I read the post you linked to, and it was so bizarre to read! I’ve been a Christian my whole life and Christianity is something I take very seriously. My family and many other people I know are Christian too. I don’t know anyone who sees all Christmas decorations as inherently Christian. A lot of Christmas decorations are secular. Don’t get me wrong — I love even secular Christmas decorations and think they’re pretty. My family and I decorate our house for Christmas. But while some of our decorations are Christian-themed, some just aren’t.

    The idea that all Christmas decorations are connected with, or a part of, the Christian religion is far from accurate. I don’t know any Christian who feels that way. Many of us feel the opposite way (disappointment that Christmas has become so superficial and secular that Jesus is ignored).

    Again, I’m not saying LW5 must put up Christmas decorations if that’s going to cause a problem. They could have an “end of year party” or something. But I wanted to correct this statement and express my surprise about the post you linked to.

    1. sigh*

      Maybe listen to the people who AREN’T Christian on this topic. You’re seeing this from within the dominant religion’s bubble and therefore aren’t in a position to state that.

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