fired coworker left us all a church flyer and a link to her music, is Mardi Gras OK for work, and more

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

1. My fired coworker left us all a bible quote, a church flyer, and a link to her music

About a week ago, a colleague, “Bridget,” was let go. She was brand new to the workforce and the job was not a good fit. After six months of training with no results, and the teams she was supposed to support working around her, she was let go. This was sad, but after training her myself I could see that she wasn’t really understanding what I was explaining after multiple attempts.

The next morning after finding out Bridget had been let go, I came into the office and saw an email sent at almost 4 AM from this now former colleague. In the goodbye email (that was bcc’d to an unknown number of colleagues), she announced that she had been let go and that she was having a hard time comprehending and processing what happened because it happened so abruptly, and even mentioned that she was writing the email at 3 AM while crying and didn’t know if she would be allowed back in to collect her things while the rest of the office was working. She ended the email with a bible quote and linked her own music.

I was stunned. Another coworker who received the email asked me about Bridget and I struggled to figure out how to explain to this coworker. Personally, if I was let go, I would not send a tearful email at 3 in the morning to former colleagues. However, I was so stunned by it I just blocked it out of my mind and didn’t mention it to my manager, who was Bridget’s manager. I chalked it up to her being new and naive in the workforce and didn’t respond.

Fast forward to this morning, I arrive at the office and there is a little notepad on my desk. I open it up and there is a personal note from Bridget (I guess she came to collect her things), along with a little advertising card from her church. I am not a Christian. I noticed this on other coworkers’ desks who are also not Christian. I was stunned again.

Should I have brought up the email from Bridget with my manager last week? Should I do or say anything about this note and church flyer? I firmly believe these were not the wisest things to do after being let go, but she is no longer with the organization. I’m a more senior member of our job role but I am not a manager and have no real authority here, but this whole situation was incredibly uncomfortable and awkward and put me in situations with other colleagues where they started asking me about what happened.

I think you’re right to write it off to Bridget being new and naive (and sometimes the way someone leaves a job is sort of a continuation of the problems they had while they were in it). I don’t think you were obligated* to report it to your manager, although there’s no reason not to — it’s useful for your boss to know what happened in case there’s any more aftermath. And Bridget’s decision to advertise her church on her way out is so yikes that personally I’d relay it to your boss just based on that factor alone.

* Caveat: You’d have more of an obligation to report it to your boss if you’re seen as anything like a team lead or second-in-command, even if just informally; in that case your boss would rightly expect you’d flag stuff like this for her.

2. Can I offer to pay a coworker’s vet bill?

I am a relatively high earner at my current job. I have a very friendly relationship with an office assistant, who doesn’t earn nearly as much as me (I know because I used to have his job). He has been telling me lately about a cat he has who has been having some health issues, but he cannot afford to take it to the vet. I find this to be very heartbreaking because I also own a cat and can only imagine how hard that is. I want to anonymously do something to help, like either leave an envelope of cash on his desk before he comes in one day, or slip it into his bag when he’s in the restroom or something (though I don’t know how I’d explain this if he caught me — I think I’d look very suspicious). I’d want to attach a typed note like “please use this to take Rex to the vet.”

The biggest problem I’m having is that I’m too worried he’ll figure out it’s me. I don’t know if he’s told anyone else about his cat, and I ask about how it’s doing sometimes. I think this would make our work relationship feel awkward. He doesn’t report to me or anything like that, but the nature of his role means that he assists me with requests I send to him. Also, because I used to have his job, I’m often helping to train him on things if his usual trainers aren’t available.

Side note before anyone says “don’t get a pet you can’t afford,” the cat was a rescue he didn’t necessarily want, but it had no one else to take it and would likely have been put down if he hadn’t taken it in. The previous owner basically left it at his doorstep. He loves it very much and wants to take good care of it. Anyway, what do you think of my idea? Any tips?

I don’t love the anonymous note option. There’s too much chance that your coworker will know it was you if you’re the only one at work he’s shared the situation with — or that he’ll just feel like people around him are judging him for not having taken the cat to the vet. There’s also the possibility he’ll decide he has a greater use for the money elsewhere, and if he continues not taking the cat to the vet despite receiving the money, that’s going to make things weird between you in a whole new way.

Would you instead be willing to be forthright about it? You could say something like, “Would you let me cover Rex’s trip to the vet? I love cats and I’d be so happy to help make it possible.” You could even add something like, “Someone once covered something for me when I needed help with it, and you’d be helping me pay it forward.”

I know this risks being awkward, but (a) some awkwardness in the service of getting a sick cat veterinary care isn’t the worst thing and (b) it could end up being less awkward than the alternatives. It’s so kind that you want to cover the vet bill; just ask if you can.

Read an update to this letter

3. Is Mardi Gras OK for work?

I’m originally from a region of the U.S. that goes *big* on the whole Mardi Gras season (fun fact: it’s a whole season!) but am now in an environment that has barely realized it’s happening. I wore some beads into the office today, greeted a coworker with “Happy Mardi Gras!” and brought a king cake for the staff breakroom. I think this is pretty low-key and ok for our work environment. But I’m also realizing I don’t really know how secularized it actually is in much of the U.S.

I am personally atheist, and I know plenty of other people celebrate it totally divorced from its religious roots (cough Sydney cough). For me, it’s a nice way to share my regional-cultural heritage and celebrate joy in a dreary season. But Mardi Gras is at its core a very, very Catholic celebration, and I would never put out a Christmas tree in the office. Or bring an Easter basket. If colleagues wanted to do an organized “give something up for Lent” challenge I would be HORRIFIED.

Should I chill out about the holiday in the office? Or is it closer to a cultural exchange, like a Mexican coworker sharing Día de Muertos traditions?

A cultural exchange is a fine way to look at it. Obviously you shouldn’t insist that people who don’t want to celebrate it should embrace it anyway (as people love to do with Christmas), but it’s fine to observe it yourself (i.e., the beads) and bring in king cake to share.

4. Subpar vendor from my former job won’t stop hounding me

I’ve been freelancing on the side for 12 years and recently left my full-time job of 10 years at Company to freelance full-time. Over the years at Company, I worked with an outside vendor on various products and services. Vendor had a long-standing relationship with Company, especially because the owners were friends and sometimes took international vacations together. It was a relationship I inherited and was encouraged to continue to grow. But after working with Vendor for a while, I determined that they did not provide quality products or services, and managed to move some of their production back in house where we made a far superior product. But Company continued to push me to use Vendor for more and more products and services. As time went on, it became very typical for Vendor to miss deadlines. At one point, Vendor was nearly one year late with launching a website for us! It was a very stressful time; they kept replacing my contact for the project, and kept making promises and breaking them. When I decided to leave Company, although it wasn’t the reason, it was certainly a perk that I would never have to work with this subpar Vendor again…

…that is, until a few months later when several contacts from Vendor started hounding me via email and social media to work together now that I freelance full-time. They are requesting that I send overflow projects to them and pushing to meet up when they are in town next month. I am 100% not interested in ever working with Vendor again, and I don’t know how to decline politely and professionally. To make matters more awkward, I now freelance for Company, so there is a small possibility that I may get pulled into an email with Vendor at some point. I don’t want to make that uncomfortable and potentially hurt my freelance opportunities with Company. But I also want to get better at saying no and sticking up for myself. This is my freelance business, and I only want to work with reliable, quality clients and vendors.

You’ve got a couple of options. There’s the indirect blow-off: “I’m set right now, but I’ll let you know if I ever have a project where it would make sense.” (After which, you can ignore future messages without any qualms.) Or there’s the more direct rebuff: “Thank you but no, the fit isn’t right for my work.” These people sound aggressive enough that the direct rebuff is likely to result in queries about why, in an effort to look for a path past it. Either way, after you deliver whichever type of initial no you choose, you don’t need to keep engaging. If you want, you can send a final “I’m swamped so won’t be able to keep discussing, but good luck with everything you’re working on.” But stop responding after that.

If you get pulled into an email with them later on through work you’re doing for your old company, just proceed as if all is normal — don’t be weird about the fact that you turned them down, since that’s a very normal thing to happen in business. Be briskly cheerful and assume they will be fine with it.

5. Should I wait to give notice until my background check clears?

Would an offer be rescinded because I said I would give notice at my current role as soon as the backgrounds check clears and the offer moves from conditional to firm? I accepted the conditional offer if that matters.

It’s very normal — and strongly recommended — to wait to give notice at your current job until you have a firm offer, not one that’s conditional on background checks or anything else. That’s true even if you’re confident nothing will come up in the background check, since unexpected things can still go wrong.

It makes no sense to pull the plug on your source of income before a new company has firmly committed to employing you. No decently-functioning employer will have a problem with that, and they should have encountered it plenty of times before. Do not budge on this.

{ 668 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    If you bring in a king cake, make sure you tell people that there’s an object hidden in it (at least assuming it’s the same kind of king cake I’m familiar with)

    Source: the first time I was ever exposed to this tradition was when a co-worker brought a king cake into the office, and I was rather nonplussed when people reacted to my nearly swallowing a foreign object by putting a paper crown on my head

    1. münchner kindl*

      Oh, is that a king cake – with a bean inside?

      But that’s usually done on 3 Kings day (Epiphanias), Jan. 6th!

      I’ve never heard about if for carnival.

      1. Mongrel*

        My understanding is that a small, plastic baby figure is placed in the batter, not a bean. Depending on who you ask it’s often meant to represent the baby Jesus.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Plastic? in a baked cake??? ye gods! in France it’s ceramic, no chance of it melting or leeching endocrine disrupters.
          It used to be metal, originally it was a small coin. My partner broke his tooth on a metal “bean”.

          1. mango chiffon*

            I think in the US the plastic baby is put in after it’s baked, and then covered in icing? or it’s put in from the bottom so you can’t see it. I don’t think the plastic is being baked

            1. Person from the Resume*

              I think that is for legal reasons so people don’t accidentally swallow the plastic baby (or other item placed in the king cake) and sue. The baby is usually in the center and the person buying the cake can hide it themselves.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              My King Cake instructions said to put it on the bottom of the cake (not inside) after it was baked.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                And you were supposed to check for it there before eating the cake. I think they didn’t want to get sued!

              2. Bitte Meddler*

                This makes more [safety] sense than inserting the object into the cake.

                You put the baby somewhere on the bottom, cut the cake into equal servings, wait until everyone has their slice in hand, and then instruct them to turn their slice on its side to see who has the baby.

                Tada! No choking hazard.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            No, the baby is pressed in after it’s baked. And most commercial cakes just have the baby sitting on top because of the obvious choking hazard.

          3. Lucia Pacciola*

            A lot of times, when something strikes you as unbelievably stupid, the correct response is to not believe it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Louisiana enjoys it from Epiphany through Carnival to Mardi Gras.
        And yes it’s a little plastic baby.

        I’d suggest our OP skip the baby to avoid that non-secular step: “king for a day” goes back to Jesus as “king of kings”. And nnn’s experience is just the 3-color icing on the cake of that decision!

        1. Enginerd*

          Yeah, I also came here to suggest skipping the tiny baby Jesus figurine. That moves it from potentially secular to solidly religious.

          1. Ruth*

            I still think it’s ok to include because it’s part of the tradition. In fact, I got the baby from my office’s king cake yesterday! I take it as a fun symbol of good luck for the year.

            1. Observer**

              I still think it’s ok to include because it’s part of the tradition

              So what other specifically and solidly religious traditions are OK to bring into the (secular) workplace?

              1. Spargle*

                Fwiw I had no idea the baby was anything other than a fun little “younger to but the cake next year!” gag.

              2. Dahlia*

                If you wanna bring in latkes for Hanukkah, which are specifically and solidly linked to the oil of the Hanukkah miracle, that’s absolutely fine. Or if you want to wear a cross or crucifix or a hijab. Or if you bring in hot cross buns at Easter to share.

                It’s one person sharing their culture in a way that is completely voluntary for others.

                1. Kit*

                  Honestly, this is where I’m at – nobody is *forced* to have a slice of king cake, or hamantaschen, or any other religiously-associated food. But it’s free food in the office. It will be popular! Anyone with religious qualms can opt out, just like those with dietary concerns or food allergies can, but I never saw an issue with having some king cake when our Louisiana-based sales rep sent one to the home office, and I’m not Christian at all. It’s cake, not the Eucharist.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          Do you get a choice to include or not include the plastic baby Jesus when you order the cake from a store? It’s not clear whether OP was planning to bake it or buy one, and King Cakes sort of inherently contain the plastic baby… right?

          1. Unwatered Office Plant*

            If you’re in the US, the cake cannot be legally sold with the figurine inside it. Food laws don’t allow non-edible items inside of food products (the same reason European Kinder eggs are illegal in the US). Bakeries typically include the figurine on the side that you can either shove into the bottom of the cake or place under a random slice.

            1. amoeba*

              Wow, that’s interesting! (I’d heard about the Kinder eggs, but forgotten again…)

              Hereabouts, it would indeed be included in the cake when you buy it, and also a large part of the fun (who gets to wear the crown, etc.). I don’t think it’s a baby though.

            2. Ally McBeal*

              That totally makes sense. I’ve only had two or three king cakes in my life and I wasn’t the one buying or baking. I found the baby once and it was well hidden in the middle of the cake, so I figured it had been baked that way rather than shoved through the bottom (but of course I wasn’t turning my slice over to investigate). Thanks!

              1. Nea*

                Oh, you always want to turn your slice over! You’ll either see the baby poking out or where it was shoved in deeper.

            3. Nea*

              My experience with buying multiple king cakes from Randazzos in New Orleans is that Randazzo is the one putting the baby under the cake. Once I figured that out it was pretty easy to “de-baby” it before eating.

              (On a side note, I now own a rather creepy jar full of little plastic babies.)

              1. Berkeleyfarm*

                This sheds light on something.

                Years back I worked with a company that had an office in NOLA. These excellent co-workers sent us a few King Cakes during season.

                One of the people in my office (who was kind of shady/squirrelly) always found the baby. I suspected shenanigans (or he’d learned ‘the code’ for looking). It stopped after I mildly remarked “you’re lucky you’re here and not there, the person who gets the baby has to buy the next round”. He got A Look on his face.

      3. Nonanon*

        TYPICALLY, Mardi Gras king cake has a small baby figurine to represent the Christ child. The recipient is said to have good luck for the year, and/or be the one to bring the king cake next year. This is “borrowed” from an Epiphany tradition, where a king cake had a bean, a coin, a charm, and a figurine “hidden” in them, with each signifying something (the coin was riches and the figurine was luck, but I forget the bean and the charm).
        My (Catholic) household always did the Three Kings Epiphany cake (ironically not the Mardi Gras one, even though we’re a day’s drive to Louisiana but different discussion for a different day) and my mom would ALWAYS load it up.
        (Also, might be a regional thing, but Gambino’s Bakery does distribute to grocery stores and has their figurines inside the cake, but labeled on the outside. So not always a guarantee that a “store bought” cake is baby-free)

        1. Abogado Avocado*

          So true! I live in Houston, where this year — yay! — we have a drive-through king cake stand with cakes from several New Orleans’ best bakeries and all of the cakes have a small plastic baby figurine in them. In fact, it’s not unknown for bakeries to put more than one baby figurine in the cake — so that, next year, you have more than one person on the hook to bring king cake. And, while I’m not Catholic and several of my co-workers aren’t either and we work in a government office, I can assure you that all of us love king cake, Mardi Gras beads, and the hunt for the baby. (We are not as unified on the giving-something-up-for-Lent effort that follows.)

      4. SunriseRuby*

        A king cake with a bean inside! That brings up happy memories of one of the first children’s novels I ever read, The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams. Twenty little girls who live in an orphanage in Paris celebrate Three Kings Day with their beloved matron and young assistant, and when one of the girls gets the slice of cake with the bean in it, she gets to make a wish that sets marvelous adventure in motion. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but you might find a copy of it in your local library, or online for purchase. It’s delightful, and highly recommended for giving or reading out loud to 5-10 year-olds.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      The plastic babies aren’t baked in; they are stuck in through the bottom of the cake after it’s baked and cooled.

      Last I heard, king cake makers aren’t allowed to put the plastic baby Jesus inside anymore because it’s a choking hazard. Instead, when you buy one, they include the baby seperately so you can either put it in yourself, so that if anyone chokes it’s your fault and not theirs, or find some other way of giving it out.

      Alternatively, you can wrap it in a little waxed paper packet and slip it in to make it more of a “hello foreign object in your food here” and reduce the chance of choking or breaking a tooth.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m a New Orleans native who ended up going to college in Chicago. My mom sent me a king cake my first year there, and when I told my friends I was surprised by their blank stares (I assumed everyone knew what king cake was!). So I started explaining it to them and made the mistake of leading with, “There’s a cake with a baby in it…”

      That’s when I realized just how odd it can sound when you don’t grow up with it.

    4. Jay*

      #2 – do you know what vet they use? You can go tot eh vet office and put money on their accounts. Some friends did this for me once and it was amazing!

  2. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I’m in recruitment, and I advise my candidates that they should NOT resign until they have been told that all reference and background checks have been completed to the satisfaction of the hiring company. In fact, I tell them to wait until this has been confirmed in an email / in writing. Things happen – even if you think your background is clear, there’s no guarantee that you haven’t be confused with someone else; there could be a long delay in getting the checks done (esp. if your education was overseas; a reference might say something they think is helpful but that turns out to be something the employer doesn’t want, etc.

    If the company is serious about hiring you, they will extend the start date if THEIR process delays your hire. If they expect you to resign before the background/reference checks are completed, so that you can start at the planned start date, they are asking you to take on too much risk, or are expecting you to give less than a couple weeks of notice. That says something negative about them, as an employer. I would treat it as somewhere between a bright yellow and red flag.

    1. AJ*

      Plus a hiring team can use the background check as an excuse to change their minds over something else, like a more qualified candidate finally answering their emails or a different manager overturning a decision.

    2. Nebula*

      Question here about references, and this may be due to cultural differences (I’m in the UK): in every job application I’ve done, it’s always been a requirement to provide a reference from a current employer, if you are employed at the time you apply. As such, you have to let that person know that you have been offered a job elsewhere in order for the reference check to be completed. I received a job offer yesterday, which included a request to contact my references and let those people know someone would be in touch, which is standard for conditional offers here. While obviously you don’t have to immediately give notice, at the very least you have to let someone at work know that you are expecting to move on. Is this not something that comes up in the US? Of course, we do have longer notice periods (at least four weeks), so maybe that’s a factor, but the basic principle is the same.

      1. References*

        Nope, it is generally considered perfectly acceptable to use other references or, if you’ve worked in the same place for a long time, use only carefully selected coworkers you’ve sworn to secrecy. It’s common to have a “do not contact” option when supplying info about a current job.

        Also, please note that (in my experience at least) only a small percentage of companies bother contacting references. Those that do would normally do so toward the end of the process but before making an offer

        1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

          In the UK twice now I’ve STARTED A JOB before they finished the background checks and that seems to be at least semi-normal (I had been freelancing before so it wasn’t that much of a risk to me, and the employers treated the checks as just a formality – but what a risk for some of my coworkers who needed to give notice.)

          For a large employer in Canada I was forced to give a current supervisor as a reference prior to an offer being made, despite pushing back as hard as I could on that requirement. I had been freelancing on the side so I offered current clients, I offered former supervisor references from the company that wanted to hire me, I said it could jeopardize my current employment, and no dice. The HR people were adamant that this was normal practice. Because it happened to be for a company where I used to work and trusted the hiring manager, and I (mostly) trusted my current supervisor not to sabotage my reference, I went ahead with it, but the practice puts employees in a huge risk scenario.

          1. Johanna Cabal*

            I’m in the US and I’m aware of companies that will have employees start while the background check is underway. Then, negative information comes out such as falsified work history or lies about graduating from university. Or a criminal history that precludes the candidate from the position such as a theft conviction and the employee is handling money or worse, a conviction involving children and the employee is working with children.

            And of course, the employee is fired, which could have been prevented if the company had waited to onboard the employee after the background check. Sometimes I wonder if these companies just need to get a body in and at least some work out of the person. Or naively assume the background check will go smoothly.

        2. Betsy*

          At my last job, they made the offer; I gave notice at my current job; and then they said they’d be doing the background check. I assumed that, since they hadn’t mentioned it, they weren’t going to do one. Because doesn’t everyone know that you shouldn’t put a prospective employee in that position?!

          Fortunately there were no issues, but (1) in the future, I will always ask about anything like that that and not assume anything, and (2) I told HR at the new job that they should not wait to do the background check, or if they do wait, they need to tell the prospective employee that the offer is conditional so they don’t give notice too soon!

        3. learnedthehardway*

          In Canada and the USA, it’s not expected that you would give current manager/employer references before receiving an offer. An application might request them, but most people will leave that blank.

          A company might request a current employer reference, but typically they will want a manager reference, and will be okay if that reference is from a past company (unless it is really, really out of date). Even then, you might be able to provide a reference from a manager who has left your current employer, rather than a current manager.

          1. Cicely*

            Hm, not always true, at least in my experience (and I work at a very large public university in the US, with roughly 15,000 staff and faculty, so they’ve had the same experience per hiring requirements as I have). For my current job, I had to give a reference that was from a current boss or former, but from the previous five years. I was able to get my previous boss’s reference, but had I been employed with my then-current boss for 6+ years, she would have had to be the reference.

      2. Cyrus*

        Most job applications ask for contact information for each job, and have a “May we contact this reference?” check box next to the contact info. They understand that applicants may be reluctant to let their current employer know they’re looking, especially early in the process.

        If a job requires a background check, there’s probably no way to avoid some contact with the current employer, but they may accept a peer or other co-worker who isn’t the applicant’s direct manager.

    3. Watry*

      Yes, do not resign too early! I think I’ve told this on AAM before, but I used to work for a local govt agency that did state background checks as a service. People used to call us up furious that “we’d” given a job wrong information or taken so long that the employer had hired someone else. It was always one of those third party background check places.

    4. Olive*

      I had an awkward resignation after waiting for a background check. I worked remotely but was flying in for an in-office week that was centered around planning my upcoming work. I was desperately hoping that the check would complete before that.

      Unfortunately, the background check cleared the Monday after I returned. Even though any company should realize that employee resignations aren’t necessarily going to happen at convenient times, they had been reluctant to let me work remotely to begin with, and my last two weeks felt chilly. I don’t feel like I can ask for a good reference even though my performance reviews had always been good, but I could have if I’d have been able to give notice a week or two earlier. It was still the right decision to wait until the background check cleared, but the timing really hurt me, nothing to do with the new company.

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      Totally agree that LW should not give notice until their background check clears. At my company, we legally cannot run a background check unless we have a signed offer letter. But the letter says employment is contingent upon a successful background check.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      We give the same advice (as the employer). We ask candidates not to give notice until their background clears (and, for positions that require conflicts checks, those as well). I had have only had to pull two offers in 20+ years – one lied about their degree, the other was working on the opposite side of the biggest case we had in-house at the time. The latter had given notice and then their current employer would not allow them to rescind their resignation. I felt horrible, and I’d rather bump out orientation a week for delayed notice than ever be in that position again.

    7. el l*

      Yes, and if for some reason LW gets pushback – “it’s only a background check” – LW should just say, “It’s my income source, so I have to be sure.”

  3. Mariko*

    OP1. Curious how Bridget got into the office after being fired? Maybe it’s worth raising as a security issue, given that she seems to be behaving in a somewhat… erratic manner. It’s possible she is doing further invasive things to other colleagues, so it might be worth checking notes as an organization in case her behavior is escalating or going in a concerning direction.

    1. Skippy*

      Yes–this is why it’s standard to turn off email at the same time someone is getting terminated and only allow them in the office with HR supervision.

      1. Dorothy Zpornak*

        I’m glad I don’t work in one of these paranoid offices. They seriously try to control who can even walk through the office space? Do you work for the CIA?

        1. bamcheeks*

          I work in universities and limited access to offices (usually using ID card locks) is primarily to control access to data. We’re not the CIA, but we DO have the personal data of thousands of students, mostly in electronic format but sometimes in hard format. We’d be wildly non-compliant with GDPR if anyone could walk into our offices.

          Plus the fact that your average six-person office has a few thousand pounds worth of electronic equipment in it.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            I also work for a university and since our offices have adjacent lab space, you have to badge through security gates and then badge through two additional doors to get into our office spaces.
            Even though you couldn’t get into the lab space without badge access (my badge isn’t coded for lab access because it’s not necessary for my job), they still don’t want to take chances in terms of people running off with chemicals or lab equipment.

          2. UKDancer*

            I work in a major company and we control access via ID cards because we have sensitive information under GDPR. Industrial espionage is also a thing in a lot of sectors so you don’t want just anyone wandering in to steal the super secret llama shampoo recipe that’s just been perfected.

            I’d also agree about wanting to deter people from stealing things. I mean London is mainly a safe place but we don’t want people being able to just walk in and steal all our IT equipment.

          3. Phryne*

            I work in an University of Applied Sciences in a EU country (so under GDPR) and we have flex work rooms where the locks don’t work and the cupboards don’t lock. This is not a problem because we have not had anything important on physical paper for years, everything is digital and all access is tied to ones personal account. I can access the personal data of thousands of students, but that stuff never leaves my work laptop in any shape or form. Privacy and security compliance is locking you screen when away from desk, and thinking before printing, and not letting data be stored on external devices or servers.
            Even still having a work laptop and phone at home after being fired is not a problem, as you cannot access those once your account has been blocked.

            There would be no point trying to block access to the campus buildings. They are massive semi-public buildings where many hundreds of people walk in and out freely every day. It even has a food court that is explicitly for anyone who wants to use it.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Lots of our buildings are open access, but a significant proportion of office space is behind key card locks. Last year, my team got offered new accommodation which wasn’t locked and they were really upset about it, because it meant they couldn’t leave anything there and would have to carry everything around all day. I don’t think I can imagine working in a totally open space all the time!

              1. Czhorat*

                As someone whose company designs low-voltage systems for commercial clients I can confirm that most offices have access control of some kind (at least here in NYC).

                It’s TOTALLY normal and expected.

                And this is for buildings with their own security at the entrance lobby; to get to my office you need to badge through a turnstyle to get to the elevator, swipe your badge at the elevator bank to summon one for your floor, then swipe again to get into the office on the floor.

              2. Phryne*

                The mental barrier is real and works pretty good. Students know this is a workspace that is not for them, and they really do not just walk in. Most students are decent people.
                We do leave our stuff there during the day, there generally is someone there at any time or someone can walk in any second. It probably also helps that you cannot see from the hallway if the whole space is empty or not before you walk in. There is also camera oversight in the hallways including on the doors to the space. And as they are flex desks, you are supposed to clean up at the end of each day anyway, we have lockers but most people take their laptops with home and just leave their coffee cups in the open cupboards.
                There were protests here too in the beginning, when we first moved to this open concept, but after over 7 years in this location without incident people have gotten used to it. Now they moan if doors are locked unexpectedly.

                1. Phryne*

                  I’m not in the US. Stuff like spree shooters are not really a risk here. In 15 years as a college support staff, I can count angry people incidents on one hand, and only one was violent (a stapler was thrown). That was 12 years ago when we still had locks on the door.

          4. Leia Oregano*

            Yep. I work in college admissions. We’re behind locked doors that require a code or swipes from our ID cards. The last thing we need is an angry/unstable applicant or parent gaining access to us or the private info we keep on quite literally tens of thousands of people.

          5. Observer**

            We’d be wildly non-compliant with GDPR if anyone could walk into our offices.

            Not just privacy. In the US, just on the Federal level you are looking a HIPAA, FERPA, and COPA on that front. But there are also lost of state and local laws, and ALSO in some fields, not protecting people’s private data can be considered “deceptive practice.” On top of which data breaches are very bad business.

            Plus the fact that your average six-person office has a few thousand pounds worth of electronic equipment in it.

            Yup. Even with so much moved to the cloud, by the time you add it all up, it’s a lot of money. And if it’s a larger site? I remember after Sandy needing to provide a rough estimate of equipment losses and I quickly came up with $250K of lost equipment. We’ve been able to reduce the per person cost of hardware since then, but if someone had gotten into even one of the offices that have 3-5 people? That’s not pocket change. On top of the disruption.

        2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Just before I started at a job, someone was fired for asaulting a co-worker and extra security was hired to ensure they couldn’t access the workplace. It made everyone including the victim feel safer. I’ve witnessed another former co-worker escorted out by security when they theatened their manager upon being fired. Even if it’s an idle threat, it’s still stressful.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          No– I work in a state that had a workplace mass murder in the 1990s. Security badges are for our protection.

        4. DJ Abbott*

          Dorothy, is your office open to the public? Is it any random person allowed to walk into your office and be around you while you’re working?
          That would be terrifying! Where I live, beggars would come in and ask for money. Other random people would come in trying to sell stuff or hassle us too. People like Bridget would come in and proselytize. I can’t imagine any workplace would allow that.

          1. Ashley*

            Smaller companies in suburbia and rural areas it is super common to let people walk-in. Law firms, doctors office, etc tend to have some better screening, but generally you can walk into someones office if you try.
            A lot of schools around me haven’t finished security upgrades to keep people out still and we all know how much that is needed.

          2. Starbuck*

            Lots of offices aren’t locked down, it’s not so strange. Everywhere I’ve worked, people could walk in – and people who knew the organization and had business with us occasionally do, to chat or do business. It’s not scary. Every now and then we do get a random person wandering in, but all they want is to know “where is the nearest public restroom?” or what have you.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I remember offices where I grew up where people could walk in. They always had a front desk where someone would greet a visitor and find out what they wanted.
              Where I live now, public businesses have security at the door. If there’s not someone taking care of this, it could cause problems.

          3. Pinky*

            I’m sorry you live in a place where it is normal to live in fear like this. That is not normal everywhere though.

        5. Seashell*

          My husband used to work for financial institutions, and he witnessed people having a security guard there when they had been let go and were packing up their stuff. Sometimes these were just layoffs, rather than the person having done anything wrong.

          He now works for a well known company involved in technology, and he said some colleagues discovered they had been laid off while working remotely because they couldn’t get into their email.

          So, not just the CIA.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Every time my computer glitches first thing in the morning, my first thought is to wonder if I’ve been let go.

            1. I Have RBF*

              I know that feeling. If my password doesn’t work (usually because I’ve bunged several times while half awake) I wonder if I’ve been laid off again.

              1. AnonORama*

                After working in a place where people found out they’d been let go by suddenly being unable to code open the door, anything’s possible. (It didn’t happen to me, but it was extra fun on those 10-degree days where taking off your gloves didn’t necessarily improve your precision typing in the numbers.)

        6. Snow Globe*

          I’ve never worked anywhere where anyone not employed by the company could just walk in and wander through offices (especially after hours!). Even in retail, the public isn’t allowed to walk through the back areas of the shop.

          1. amoeba*

            Yup, and I’m certainly not working for the CIA! Even the universities I worked in had badge access, usually. Science though, so in addition to risk of corporate espionage (which is certainly real), there’s also safety reasons…

          2. ferrina*

            Ditto. Random people aren’t allowed in the employee-only sections, and in the offices that’s pretty much the whole thing. Even if there’s not official security, the rule is that an employee should meet their guest and generally stay with them.

            When someone has been fired, they are more likely to have outsized reactions. Most HR has a standard protocol around this. When I was let go, HR walked me to my desk to gather my things and walked me out of the office. I was on friendly terms with HR and they knew I was professional, but it was protocol (HR even left to grab a coffee from the kitchenette while I was packing, so it was pretty clear it was them doing their job, not anything personal)

        7. Wings*

          The only place ever where I’ve worked and which could have been accessed by anyone daytime was a university (students didn’t have keys) but even there the individual offices could be locked because otherwise anyone could come in and walk away with the computers and other electronic devices, staff wallets or anything portable with any street value. Every other place (and even the university at nights and during the weekends) has had badges that you do need to swipe to enter the offices and different offices have had different access policies so not all staff could necessarily access all areas if they had no reason to. All guests always need to register and have visitor badges but still they are only allowed escorted in dedicated meeting room areas. To me, this has always been standard practice as almost any business handles confidential something (personal data, trade secrets, insider information that hasn’t been released to the stock market yet, you name it) and as a minimum they don’t want unwelcome visits from the friendly neighborhood weirdos harassing staff (the university did have a bunch who had always new “evidence” to prove their favorite theories no matter how discredited by the scientific community) or even emptying the fridge (a new level of lunch thieves!)

        8. doreen*

          I don’t think I’ve worked in or even seen an office that any person off the street could walk into since the 80s. The only exceptions have been medical, real estate, insurance and similar offices – and even some of those require someone to buzz you in.

          1. Venus*

            All those places you mention will have reception staff, so access to the work area is also controlled.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            And for medical, HIPAA requires that some places can only be accessible to staff. In fact, I’ve worked for a health insurance company where the government contracts meant staff from different divisions couldn’t access areas they didn’t work. The general public could walk into the lobby and that was it.

        9. Ally McBeal*

          That’s not paranoid, it’s incredibly normal. You are opening yourself up to HUGE risk by allowing a fired employee unsupervised access to the company’s physical and virtual assets.

        10. AngryOctopus*

          I work in biotech and we absolutely control who can walk through our spaces. It’s a way to protect data ‘in progress’ as well as all the very expensive equipment we have, and it’s not at all paranoid.

        11. The Other Dawn*

          “They seriously try to control who can even walk through the office space?”

          I work for a bank in the back office and there’s no way we’d allow someone who doesn’t work here, especially a terminated employee, to walk the floor unaccompanied. We have a lot of confidential information here, either in hardcopy or electronic form, as well as our server rooms depending which building you’re in, and we don’t want someone getting access to something they shouldn’t. That’s how identity theft and other things like data breaches happen. There’s nothing paranoid about wanting to protect sensitive bank and customer information.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Forgot to add that we also have electronic badge access in all branches and admin buildings, as well as keypads within certain areas for further protection.

          2. Observer**

            I work for a bank in the back office and there’s no way we’d allow someone who doesn’t work here, especially a terminated employee, to walk the floor unaccompanied. We have a lot of confidential information here

            And also, in places like banking you also have a legal obligation to make sure that no one can delete or change your data without some sort of audit trail.

            So just another layer.

        12. Czhorat*

          Lots of places have security.

          I work for an engineering firm we have access cards on all of the doors to the office. Part of our work is low-voltage design, so we’ve seen that most if not all of our clients have access control and cameras.

        13. Generic Name*

          No. I work for a company that designs public infrastructure that you use every day. We have controlled access and on-site 24-7 security guards.

        14. Everything Bagel*

          I’m very surprised that you are surprised that any employer, at least in the US (and maybe you’re not in the US, I don’t know) would risk allowing a former and potentially disgruntled or dangerous employee back into their building. There are many examples of former employees stealing, corrupting files, or committing acts of violence.

        15. RagingADHD*

          My last however many jobs have involved storage / working with protected data. A lot of it on paper. Access was tightly controlled because we were accountable for who could see the files (like literally the names of the individuals who had access on any given date). Not because we were concerned about personal safety.

          The CIA is by no means the only place that has your social security number or medical history on file. I’d imagine you probably don’t want random members of the public or ex-employees who were fired for cause to have free reign of it.

        16. Oryx*

          You’ve never worked anywhere that had an “Employee only” section? Maybe a stock room or office space behind a customer service counter? Anyone and everyone who walks into your place of work can just walk *anywhere* in the building all on their own?

        17. iglwif*

          Many, many workplaces either have badge or fob access to the whole building, or a publicly accessible lobby/entry area with badge or fob access to the areas where people actually work.

          This isn’t paranoid, it’s practical. Do you want random people wandering through your work areas? Do you want your staff washrooms and kitchenettes, your computer equipment, and your bulletin boards to be publicly available? Do you not want to know who is and isn’t in the building in an emergency situation?

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Trust me, street people will wander into your kitchens and bathrooms and make themselves at home, and it won’t be pretty. There’s good reason to restrict access to the public.

        18. Velawciraptor*

          In the US, even workplaces that don’t necessarily deal with confidential information can have security concerns WRT things like mass shootings. So yes, many office have policies in place controlling who can be in the office space. It’s not at all uncommon. And it’s not paranoid–it’s an important measure to deal with an ugly reality.

          1. Observer**

            This is true. But the truth is that it’s almost impossible to run a business and NOT have “confidential” information, even if it’s not *legally* protected.

            If you have employees you have lots of personal information that you have an obligation (moral, even when not legal) to protect. If you have customers, you probably have information that you had better protect because if you don’t people won’t shop with you. (When Target had a major breach, it really did affect their business – especially when it came out that they had badly messed up their their basic protections.) If you want to accept Credit Cards, you need to show that you are protecting access to the relevant information.

        19. Sedna*

          Nope! I work in medical research for a large university. Our office floor requires keycard access because we work with protected health information. I have visited other research groups and universities that are even more strict – we could not go on the records floor without an escort, both because of PHI and potential pharmeceutical company agreements.

        20. Twix*

          I mean… I work for a defense contractor. Some of the data we have on site is literally classified and mishandling it is a felony. But also this is a very, very normal thing even at “normal” jobs for a whole bunch of reasons. Other than hourly jobs as a student, I’ve never worked somewhere that didn’t require a badge to access the building.

        21. Roland*

          You don’t need to work for the CIA not to want random people walking through where you keep the computers and your personal items? This is a very weird take to me. Struggling to think of workplaces where anyone is just allowed to walk through at 3am without a key or badge.

        22. I Have RBF*

          Absolutely. Every IT job I’ve ever had has had security and/or card locks on the doors. It’s a safety issue, as well as a “keep the public from doing a smash and grab on the equipment” thing.

          Also, it helps prevent DV from spilling over into the workplace. A “paranoid office”, with security and access control, doesn’t have to worry as much about some nutcase going through a messy divorce coming in and shooting up their ex-spouse and coworkers with nothing to slow them down.

          1. Observer**

            Also, it helps prevent DV from spilling over into the workplace. A “paranoid office”, with security and access control, doesn’t have to worry as much about some nutcase going through a messy divorce coming in and shooting up their ex-spouse and coworkers with nothing to slow them down.

            Or even just coming in a making a ruckus, trying to beat people up, and general mayhem.

        23. steliafidelis*

          I work in a medical office and once someone is a former employee, they cannot be in the office unsupervised, regardless of if they left on good terms or not.

        24. JujuMcLefty*

          Unfortunately work related violence is a real thing, especially if someone has been involuntarily separated. Not to mention former employees may choose to take materials and proprietary information if they are disgruntled. Most companies will disable access to the network and property upon separation and there’s nothing paranoid about it. It makes sense.

        25. Berkeleyfarm*

          Turning off badge access/email access when termed is pretty standard. Someone up to no good can do a lot of damage – either cringey stuff (causing letters like this to AAM) or harmful.

          I suspect that nobody had notified whoever needed to do the turnoffs in time.

          1. Berkeleyfarm*

            Looks like she used her personal accounts to mail, and wasn’t super supervised when she came in to get her stuff. Not as much of a big concern but I’d mention it up the chain to just ensure that folks don’t wander around when they are getting their stuff.

        26. MCMonkeyBean*

          Huh?? There are a zillion reasons not to let random people walk through your office. Basically any company that works with any kind of private information probably has some kind of security in place. I work in finance and our building has 24/7 guards in the lobby and you can either just go right in with an employee badge or sign in with the guards at the front desk.

        27. Bitte Meddler*

          I’m another person who has never worked anywhere (other than a retail establishment) where the office space was open to the public. Badge or key access was required.

          Now that I work in Finance / Accounting, badge access to my floor in the building is limited. Meaning, not every employee in the company can get past the elevator lobby (or open the door from the stairs in the middle of the building).

          And email as well as other system access are turned off at the end of an employee’s last day with the company.

          (Though I’m assuming Bridget emailed everyone from her personal email address).

        28. Eff Walsingham*

          I (in Canada) have worked for 2 different companies (1 hospital, 1 resource sector) where I was one of the few employees who would know someone was fired before they did. I was the admin person who would (1) prepare the official documentation, (2) arrange for our external IT to rescind your computer access, and (3) have the locksmith standing by to rekey your office before EOB. All of this, without a word or a sign to anyone that anything unusual was happening that day. My understanding is that it’s important for both safety and legal reasons that this all happens at the same time.

          I’m a Scorpio: I like secrets. ;) No, but seriously, I was proud that they trusted me with highly confidential matters. The tea: I performed this service for a VP of Corporate Development once. He was very unhappy about the situation, even though he’d been vocal about his dissatisfaction with his role. His replacement is now the CEO, so I think the company was comfortable with its decision.

        29. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          When I worked downtown in a large city, with a company that had two floors of a multi-story building, one of the downstairs security guards explained how the floors that I worked on had come to require a building keycard (separate from the company keycard) to access.

          One fine day, two men who were already intoxicated walked into the downstairs lobby (not secured, there was a coffee shop down there) while the afternoon security guard was on his rounds. They had rifled through the security desk, drank the cologne he had in one of the drawers, and then gone on an elevator exploration of the building to some of the unsecured floors. When they made their way up to the floors my company was on, they wound up terrifying my predecessor at the reception desk before the security guard could get there.

          She at least had access to a silent alarm and might have been able to retreat inside the door to the part of the floor with the offices, which was keycard access controlled (the security guard didn’t give details beyond the fact that they’d scared her silly) but that was the point that Facilities decided that they’d prefer to have the elevator up to our floors locked down. I was instructed to leave all valuables inside a desk drawer and to leave it locked except when I had to access it, because I was likely to be called away from the reception desk at any moment to deal with various other office manager tasks.

          Random people who had business on different, less locked down floors were still able to occasionally show up on our floor when someone called an elevator and the rando was still in the car, but it wasn’t much of a problem overall during my time there. Though the guard did tell me that if the guy who wore ski pants as a scarf showed up again, I was to pull the silent alarm and call him to escort the guy down to the floor he was meant to be visiting rather than escorting him there myself.

        30. Observer**

          I’m glad I don’t work in one of these paranoid offices. They seriously try to control who can even walk through the office space

          I’m sorry you work with companies that are so sloppy about security. One of the biggest sources of problems for companies is fired employees. And given this person’s behavior, the company had good reason to worry!

          In fact, what she did was off base enough that if something like this happened at our organization, I (as the head of IT) would be getting an immediate call to check all of her email activity in the last couple of days, and to make sure that there is no back door through which she might still be able to access files or email. And the folks managing the access control system would be getting a call to make sure that her access to the building was TURNED OFF.

      2. Ama*

        I will say that I worked some place where our Bridget emailed everyone from her personal email, as she had a paper copy of our directory. (It was a slightly different situation as she wasn’t fired for performance, her job was always a temporary assignment and she knew that but she was still upset when it came time for it to end. That said I always thought it was weird they didn’t throw her a going away party and treated it more like a layoff than just a “you are moving on.”)

      3. I Have RBF*


        When someone is fired, as opposed to laid off, they should only be allowed back in the building with an escort to retrieve their possessions. They should not be allowed to place items on their former coworker’s desks unless they are literally returning books, etc, and even then it should be given to HR to return it.

        Email and access to computer systems is usually turned off by IT while they are in the termination meeting.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I would flag it to the manager – and give them the note and card – because it was the second instance of a now fired employee getting access to the building after their termination. At my job – there would be an investigation as to how they kept gaining access.

      And if Security was told to let her into her area to get personal belongings- why was she allowed to visit all those other desks that didn’t belong to her?

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I don’t think it’s a second instance – the email was presumably sent from home, probably from a personal device.

        She probably told Security she wanted to leave a parting gift for colleagues when she collected her things and they let her (church card wasn’t visible at first glance). They shouldn’t have, but there’s a low likelihood of her getting access again.

        Still, there’s not much to be lost by reporting it, and it will hopefully lead to the next termination being handled better (disabling email, not allowing parting gifts).

        1. OP1*

          Email was also sent from a personal email address, so not sure disabling email would have helped in this situation. I don’t know if she asked permission to leave stuff, but it’s possible. She left stationery for people too, so possible that it wasn’t immediately clocked. But in general most other people don’t seem to be as outwardly bothered by this as much as I was.

          1. Crockett*

            It might be worth taking a cue from the other folks in the office. It was weird and unpleasant, but there’s nothing really to be gained from dwelling on it.

          2. Leave Hummus Alone*

            I’m also not Christian and I would be bothered too that she left you and other non-Christians a church card.

          3. The Other Dawn*

            Considering she used her personal email, I’d just roll my eyes, delete the email and throw away and papers left for you by her, and move on. No big deal. She’s not there anymore, she didn’t use her company email, and she had permission to be on the premises to get her personal items. There’s nothing else to do here.

            The only way I could see saying anything at all to someone higher up would be if the emails were sent using her work email, because IT should have made sure her email was locked down if it hadn’t been already.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            I would think it’s very weird, but I don’t think I would be “bothered.”

            While her actions are quite strange, it would generally be normal for a departing coworker to send a personal email saying goodbye and how to keep in touch and maybe what they are doing next. Most of what you have described seems like *almost* that.. except obviously quite a bit less professional than usual.

            If you decide to think of the email and the church card as like “here’s where you can find me and how to keep in touch if you are so inclined” then maybe that would help?

          5. Observer**

            But in general most other people don’t seem to be as outwardly bothered by this as much as I was.

            I get it. Based on what you are saying, I think that it’s highly inappropriate. But not something I would worry about.

            Now, if she shows up again, or starts doing other stuff, then I might worry. But as it is, I don’t think it rises to the level of something management needs to be alerted to, at this point.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Agreeing – it’s more the access to the offices than the card/notes themselves.

        The card/notes are off-side and unprofessional, but then again, Brenda sounds pretty clueless. And the content isn’t something that the company can police, now that they have let her go.

        However, the company should be able to control who enters the offices.

    3. OP1*

      She was allowed to collect her things on a day when staff wasn’t in office since she was let go on a remote day. She hadn’t done anything objectionable to get let go, so I assume they let her in to get her things that way

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        That’s what I figured. Let her into the office, give her some privacy to pack her stuff and be upset. She couldn’t hurt anyone or make a scene since no one else was there. As long as the stationery and stuff wasn’t a security risk, whatever she planned on doing with it was Not Security’s Problem.

      2. Smithy*

        The last job I left was in September 2020, at a time when very very few people were in our offices at all. When I went in to pack up my cube, I was 10000% alone and had I wanted to leave anything “odd” (i.e. overly personal notes, brochures to a place of religious worship, business cards for my aunt’s catering company, etc.), that definitely would have been possible.

        I wasn’t terminated and wanted to maintain a good professional relationship, and my workplace would have no reason to change the terms of my 24/7 access to the building. And I’m sure with this terminated employee, the assumption of a time and date when no one was around was being helpful. But whether security just let her in and then she was alone, or the person in the office was sitting at their desk/the front desk as opposed to being with her is perhaps worth flagging as a change for the future.

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

      It sounds like she was allowed to come collect her stuff. Not that she broke in. Like maybe someone in HR (or the boss) had her come before everyone else in the morning or in the evening when everyone left. I don’t read it as she broke into the office. And I could see if whoever allowed her in was sympathetic and she said she wanted to leave a note on her coworkers desks

    5. Lizzo*

      It’s also completely possible that someone from HR met her after hours and let her in to gather her things (though that doesn’t explain how she had time to go around to other colleagues’ desks).

  4. Yoli*

    #2: It’s kind of you to want to help, but I think there’s too many ways for this to go sideways since you have positional authority over this person. If he sets up a Go Fund Me I think it’d be fine for you to contribute, but ultimately a sizable personal monetary gift (with inherent strings attached) isn’t appropriate given the basis of your relationship (work).

    1. Skippy*

      I’d think about encouraging him to set up a GFM and contributing, or find out where thru go to the vet and make arrangements with the vet up to a certain amount. (I gave a bit to a colleague’s vet to chip in for surgery. It was anonymous and she wasn’t my employee, but the vet didn’t seem surprised.)

    2. OP2*

      That’s a great idea! I never thought about a GFM. Maybe I’ll mention it to him today and see how he feels about it.

      1. Magpie*

        A GFM still has the problem Alison mentioned where he might decide to take the money and use it for something other than vet care for the cat. There are no requirements that money raised in a GFM be used for the cause described. If you’re not ok with him potentially using the money to fix his car instead of caring for the cat, you might be better off paying the vet directly as suggested above.

      2. Snarl Trolley*

        I was coming here to suggest even offering to set up the GFM -for- him, just to cut an extra stress out of the way. Especially if you do it while acknowledging how horrifyingly high vet costs are, and maybe even fudging the truth a bit on using GFM for something yourself, just to even the playing field a bit? And in donating to any future GFM, I’d suggest breaking up the sums of money into a few smaller amounts so it’s a bit more inscrutable if you’re hoping to stay anonymous.

        You’re a lovely person for wanting to help him, OP2. My dog is my entire world, and I live in fear of the day a vet bill is too much for my meager paycheck to handle, so you’re an angel in my book. <3

      3. Sparkle llama*

        I have had some friends us Waggle which is a vet care specific crowdfunding site that pays the vet directly. One benefit is they don’t take out fees, which are quite high on GFM.

        1. Betsy*

          I didn’t know about Waggle – good to know. I also wanted to mention CareCredit. I’ve used them 2 or 3 times. You pay the vet bill with the CareCredit card, and as long as you pay them back by the specified date, there’s no interest. I think, technically those are “special offers,” but it seemed to be pretty standard for vet bills that the “offers” would apply. Sometimes the length of time you had to pay was different. And of course you have to apply and get the card first, but it might be helpful for the OP’s colleague’s situation.

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

            Yes to care credit! I think the Vet has to choose the term, like 6 months, 12 months, etc. They should talk to the front desk workers at the vet. They know everything and what they can and cant do!

            1. Not my real name*

              You are correct, the Vet’s office staff runs the card and selects the terms – I think it has to be more than $200-$300 to qualify.

    3. Grumpylawyer*

      As someone who’s rescued several cats, I tend to view this more as contributing to the rescue and support of a cat by a fellow rescuer and less as helping out the rescuer personally. It sounds like it’s not (yet) a matter of the cat needing long-term or expensive treatment, but an initial vet visit to diagnose and determine the course of treatment for currently undetermined health problems. I’d offer to cover the vet visit (which would be less than $100 in my area) and make arrangements to pay the vet directly, then suggest the GoFundMe option for treatment if it’s needed.

      1. OP2*

        I’m a little hazy on the details at this point, but I think he had already taken it to the vet and they found nothing wrong with it and said the symptoms would clear up after a few days. He’s saying the symptoms haven’t cleared up after a few weeks and is very convinced it’s something more serious. He said the next step is for the cat to have some tests done ranging somewhere in the $500 area.

        1. Nomic*

          I understand there are some risks here, but I think a fellow pet-owner would see it as just that — a pet-owner helping a pet-owner. In the grand scheme $500 doesn’t sound like that much.

        2. Cat and dog fosterer*

          One thing you can look into are charities that help people with vet bills (although in my neighborhood those charities focus on the unemployed), or see if you can find a practical vet who is used to working with low-income. If it was a simple spay/neuter then there are places that offer discounted services to strays, and doing the research to find those places is a big help because often people don’t know they exist. It’s harder if the cat is sick and not recovering, because that can often get much more expensive (the tests are the tip of the iceberg). There can also be situations where the owner becomes worried about a small chronic problem and thinks that it’s much worse and so wants to do testing as a way to offset their worry. Asking around to find a practical vet can often be really helpful. For example I had a cat who was losing weight, and my vet discussed all the potential problems, explained that testing would be more expensive than the treatments, so we tried a few options and one of them worked. Friends were told by one vet that they needed to visit a specialist ophthalmologist vet for an eye problem, and yet when they visited my practical vet he said that either the cat had a chronic upper respiratory infection that would resolve in time or a big problem that medicine couldn’t fix, so indulge the cat for a couple weeks and if things didn’t get worse then the cat would be fine. I know we expect to visit vets and spend a lot of money on testing and identifying problems, but there are some good vets that are practical and used to working with people who are low-income so they will offer expensive options if it is the only way to really help the animal but they try to be mindful of how best to spend money.

          Thank you for wanting to support a rescue cat!

      2. monana*

        Reading the comment from the vet below, I’m not sure if this is a good idea in the case or not, but I once paid for a friend’s immigration lawyer, and told her the money came from a charity associated with another friend’s church. We’re both perfectly aware of where the money came from, but this was a polite fiction to avoid introducing weirdness into a friendship that is very important to me. In your case though, I’d be tempted to go the direct route – ask him if he’d like you to pay, and make it clear that “no” is perfectly fine if he’s uncomfortable with it.

    4. 2024*

      Please help! My 17 year old cat was just put to sleep Monday night. The owner and I – I was the caregiver – simply ran out of money after the 2k ER vet bill. The well being of an innocent life is more important than any notions of professionalism or awkwardness. If you have the money, be the decent human your instincts want you to be.

      1. Snarl Trolley*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. <3 17 years is a blessing of an age to pass on at, thank you for loving him/her through to the end.

        1. 2024*

          thank you. I am having a hard time with it. Although in her case I don’t think more money would have helped, she just had too many conditions to properly manage at her age. It was just time.

          1. RC*

            We spent way (way) more money than that to give our 18yo little guy the best chance he could, and we would have spent even more if it would have made him better, but sometimes there’s just nothing medicine can do, especially if you value their quality of life. (I value our disposable income the most for things like this more than anything else.) But I’m glad we tried and I think Allison’s suggestion to offer it straightforwardly is a good one. Every kitty should have the chance to get better.

            Sorry about your cat, too. I’ve been there, clearly. <3

    5. Sloanicota*

      I am also on the fence about this. One of the families in my neighborhood has a puppy that, to my eyes, should have medical attention (not emergency). I have thought about offering to pay for it. However, in my case, I don’t know the family or the circumstances well enough … and in addition, even if I did offer to pay for the vet bill, am I also going to pay for a resulting surgery? All the other medical needs this dog may have? (have they spayed it, has it been vaccinated, etc?). Rather than playing white-knight myself, I am trying to figure out how to connect them with the community vet services in my area, which would empower them to make their own decisions and be in control of the process. Some of the same issues may arise with this employee. That said, it is very generous and I believe it was the dalai lama (?) who said you should never resist a generous impulse.

    6. Butterfly Counter*

      Another suggestion is to contact a nearby rescue.

      I’m part of a dog rescue and, luckily, we have had a lot of success in fundraising. Every month, we look for good causes to donate to. It’s very common that we pay vet visit costs for people who need the money. It helps our cause because 1) the animal gets help, 2) the human doesn’t feel compelled to put down an animal that could be saved, 3) keeps an animal out of the shelters and off the streets (it’s common for people to think the animal will find a better home on their own, even if that is very much rarely the case), and 4) if a sick animal is re-homed, that’s one less home for another shelter or rescue animal.

      You may look into cat or other animal rescues that are close who might have the funds to help.

    7. Alli*

      I agree. It’s a kind thought, but what if another employee needs money to pay for their grandmother’s medicine? Their child’s surgery? A new tire so they can get to work? Where do you draw the line, and how would you ever determine which needs are worthy and which aren’t? I think this could create a really uncomfortable situation.

  5. Pink Sprite*

    Re: letter 2: It’s very kind and generous of you to want to help your coworker with his vet bills.
    What if you gave money directly to the veterinary clinic? You could try to do so anonymously, but he may figure it out or the vet office might tell or perhaps not allow anonymous help.
    No matter how you go about doing so, it’s a wonderful kindness we need more of these days. :)

    1. Properlike*

      I assume the LW has a vet who sees her cat. Talk to that vet, explain the situation, ask if the vet can “see the cat as a favor” — the favor being the vet will not mention that LW is paying the bills, or at a heavily “discounted” rate.

      That way, there’s no expectation of long-term discounts – vet can make sure it’s “favor for a long-time cat parent” or similar.

      But, to be clear, LW paying for the care, because vets are significantly underpaid!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        My vet (and others in my town) works with an animal rescue charity and as such gives discounts to people with rescues. It’s pretty common in France apparently. I had no idea until I got my sweetie rescue dog. It’s worth looking into whether such a system exists where you live

    2. MK*

      I had the same idea. Does the coworker have a specific vet? If not, OP could tell them they know a vet who would do this pro bono, and then strike explain the situation to the vet, so that the bill gets sent to OP. It’s certainly better than putting cash into this person’s bag, which would frankly be a really weird thing to have happen to you.

    3. AnonyVet*

      I’m a vet and while I have had clients have a friend pay for their medical care (one case comes to mind where they had a friend offer to cover an ER surgery, we had sent an estimate for $2000, so the friend made a $2000 payment that was a credit on the acct and we could use for payment until it was gone) I think it’s tricky to do anonymously? I can’t say why but it feels sketch. I also think it’s easy to say you’ll cover the vet visit but depending on what’s going on…to what extent? Like a couple hundred dollars would be fine but what if after initial exam/diagnostics something is recommended that’s more than OP would be comfortable spending…then coworker is kinda back in the same spot? Although they’ve had the initial exam? Or if it’s something that needs multiple rechecks or chronic medications? I think that’s where anonymously paying the vet just gets difficult as compared to somehow giving the coworker a lump sum, but I agree slipping it in the bag is also awkward!
      Sorry if this was a bit stream of consciousness…just got off a long shift.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        Also a vet, and we’ve had this kind of thing go badly sideways a couple of times as well. The best way to do it is contribute a single $XXXX directly to the coworker.

        (Hope you got some rest, Anonyvet! I’m hurtin’ this morning from a couple of killer shifts too.)

      2. Enginerd*

        This is the situation that came to my mind. If you are going to donate money I think it’s important to go in with a plan for when you stop. There’s no way to know how long-term or expensive the cat’s medical issues are. If you cover this visit but your employee can’t afford more treatments in the future will you cover those too? It’s good and admirable to want to donate now, but you should have an exit strategy as well for when you need to stop.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Former veterinary assistant here and, yeah, I would try to keep this all as in the open as possible. We had several instances were a friend or relative offered to pay but they were picturing pennies on the dollar (because it’s just a dog, right?) and balked when they found out how much it was actually going to cost, or there were some weird family politics at play and things got messy.

        I get that you don’t want to make things awkward but I think you should at least try to frame it as supporting someone who is trying to do well by a rescued cat, from someone else who also loves cats.

    4. glt on wry*

      I’d advocate more transparency for this solution. I’m much more supportive of Yoli and Skippy’s idea above, to set up a GFM. Or if the idea of a gift feels uncomfortable, perhaps suggest a long-term, low interest, personal ‘loan’ – but that also might get sticky. Given that the OP is also a cat person, I hope the co-worker would understand the empathetic place this offer is coming from.

      I think the problem with all the secret-pay suggestions is that it may be too difficult to continue the lie (the more quotation marks you have to use around words, the more convoluted the explanation becomes). If the co-worker is aware of any normal vet costs (I am), it might be pretty hard to believe that any vet would do an exam/ procedure “pro bono” or “as a favour”.

    5. Jill Swinburne*

      It’s a very nice idea, but giving the money anonymously seems…almost paternalistic? Make the offer in a kind, well-meaning, one-cat-lover-to-another kind of way, and give the coworker the dignity and agency of deciding whether to accept or not.

    6. OP2*

      Thanks so much for the comment and the suggestion! I guess I’m not sure how this would play out logistically. I know which vet he goes to and that he’s good friends with most of the staff there. So I feel like calling them and telling them that he his cat is sick and he can’t afford it bring it in might be sharing more with them than he’d like.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is why I’d just go to him directly and say, “I know this is a rescued cat and an expense you weren’t expecting, and I have some extra in my pet-care budget; please let me, as a fellow cat lover, help out here.”

        I’ve rescued several kitties off the street and so far none of them needed anything that was beyond my budget, but I regularly give a bit here and there on behalf of other rescued pets, and my collective family has paid in the past for bigger pet expenses (heartworm treatment, knee surgery, etc.) for friends’ pets.

      2. Bitte Meddler*

        Can you frame it as you helping a stray/rescue cat, in general, versus helping a co-worker who doesn’t make as much money as you do?

        Explain that you regularly give to cat rescue charities, but in this instance it’s nice because you’ll know the specific cat who is getting tests/treatments.

        So it’s less about co-worker’s finances and more about helping cats.

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          Should have read Dust Bunny’s comment before posting mine, and just replied to theirs with “Good advice! I have done the same thing.”

    7. bamcheeks*

      I strongly feel you *shouldn’t* do this stuff anonymously. I think it puts people in a weird position– at the positive end, they want to thank someone but can’t; at the weird end, they don’t know who they are beholden to or who to tell that they would like to refuse; at the less-likely-but-not-impossible end, there’s an abusive family/ex/whoever situation and they don’t know whether this is a means for that person to hold something over their head or exert control. If you can’t offer something openly, that’s a sign you shouldn’t be offering it.

      (much lower stakes but: fifteen odd years or so ago, someone anonymously bought me a permanent LJ account, which was about $150 at the time. I am 80% sure I know who it was, and I know he meant well and was just trying to be kind, but I am still kind of annoyed about it. It was more about him and his own self-image as A Giving Person than it was about me, and I do not like being the object of someone else’s self image like that. I would *always* prefer to have the option to accept or refuse a gift, and thank someone if I don’t want it. If you want to give anonymously, that’s what charities and GoFundMe are for.)

    8. borealis*

      OP1, I understand wanting to explain what happened to coworkers, but I think simply letting your bewilderment show is fine. It looks like her pamphleting came as a complete surprise to you, too, even though you had been working more closely with her and training her… so just shrugging and saying that it is always hard to be dismissed from a job, and that this was a weird reaction that you did not see coming but that it’s kindest towards Bridget to ignore it, will probably minimise the drama.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I can think of a lot of situations in which a call from the vet to say “So an anonymous donor has agreed to cover Smudge’s bills up to $10,000–their name is a secret” would land as creepy and alarming.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        There are definitely situations where that would be the case, but if this person has been talking openly with people they’re close to about the vet costs I think the risk is closer to discomfort than alarm. I’d want to know who to thank, or pay back, or whatever made sense with the relationship and situation, but I wouldn’t assume anything malcious.

    10. Community resources?*

      In my community there are a couple funds out there for help with vet care. Vet offices refer clients, funds have some screening criteria that include diagnostics & the payment goes straight to the vet. You could call his (& your) vet office to inquire about financial support options within the community without naming your colleague, then share any useful info with him.

      If there is a local fund, your making a donation to it would be an indirect way to help your colleague & others.

  6. Very Sensual Salad*

    OP3 (Mardi Gras): I am a member of a religious minority group and therefore VERY sensitive about religion at work, but I really think this is fine. Mardi Gras is so culturally divorced from any sort of religious context in most parts of the US that it would never occur to me to even be concerned about this. If anyone at your job complains, you’re more than welcome to bring your king cake to my office!

    1. SameHere*

      yes, this. any type of religious thing at work usually gives me hives, but my reaction to this was “wait, Mardi Gras, the party in New Orleans? that’s supposed to be religious?”

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I am fascinated by the different reaction to Mardi Gras than to Christmas. I agree that New Orleans style Mardi Gras runs far afield from anything I recognize as a Christian observance. (Mine are a somber people: Shrove Tuesday pancakes rather than Mardi Gras bacchanalia.) But the same is true of the vast majority of Christmas schlock, which mostly is done during Advent and is shut down when Christmas (twelve days, beginning December 25) finally rolls around.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think a lot of the difference boils down to the fact that Mardi Gras celebrants are focused on themselves and just having a good celebration. Sometimes Christmas is used almost as a mass cultural invasion or non optional measure of your conformity. I adore Christmas, but when people get all concerned about others not celebrating it, I wonder how much fun they’re actually having themselves. OP is just wearing beads and offering cake to those who want it. I doubt it’s occurred to them to get all teary about the fact it’s someone’s “first Mardi Gras” and is patronisingly trying to add other people’s religious symbols onto their beads, a la Hanukkah Balls.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Nah, your idea reminded me of a Muslim colleague who used to bring in a hot food buffet to celebrate Eid. Even more low key than that. It was blinking awesome and the whole vibe he created was simply was “this is a happy day for me and I made a lot of happy food!” A completely different vibe to the person with a neighbouring stall at the Christmas market I was working one year, (we were handing out branded merch) who asked me to swap badges with her to wear on our jackets: “we can promote each others stuff!” in a way that totally implied we were on a similar type of promotion task from our employer, only to find out that her badge said “Christmas is Jesus” and while she was saying defensively: “Well! It is what Christmas is really all about!… my Pagan self’s eye roll was like that Jessica Jones gif.

        1. madhatter360*

          Also the Christmas celebrations in the office tend to go on for a while.
          If someone was bringing in King Cake every day for a month leading up to Mardi Gras, with the dominant conversation for a month being “what are you doing for Mardi Gras?” and office wide encouragement to wear beads that would be very grating.
          Similarly Christmas would get a lot less push back from those of us who don’t celebrate if it was just a single day (or even just the week before the holiday) of people wearing ugly sweaters and bringing in cookies.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I agree, but the key may be in your word choice “bacchanalia” – just doesn’t feel very much like Christian observance, while the Christmas stuff sort of pretends it is?

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          It’s the Catholic tradition of doing all the things you’re not allowed to do during Lent (drinking, eating fancy food, sex…), so the excess is associated with Christianity.

          1. Dek*

            I mean, associated with, but not technically instructed. Religious teachings (even Catholic ones) would say not to sin/indulge in debauchery and excess regardless of the time of year. I guess that’s why I can’t wrap my head around the idea of Mardi Gras as a religious holiday. It’s a response to a religious holiday, but not really something that the Church technically wants, so much as just condones.

          2. Lab Boss*

            Just adding a little flavor here, the idea isn’t supposed to be “let’s be naughty before we have to be good,” it’s “let’s eat up all the food we can’t eat for the next few weeks so it doesn’t go bad, and have a party.” Ideally that’s a perfectly licit, non-excessive party before you get extra-severe for 6 weeks… of course, in the execution it’s expanded a bit.

        2. Random Dice*

          Wait if Christians stopped observing pagan holidays they stole, I’m not sure there would be even one holiday left!

          New Years – Babylonian
          Valentine’s Day – Roman
          Mardi Gras – ancient European cult & Roman
          Lent – Mesopotamian & Assyrian
          Annunciation – pagan
          Ash Wednesday – pagan
          Easter – pagan & Roman
          St Patrick’s Day – pagan
          May Day – pagan
          Nativity of John the Baptist – pagan
          Mother’s Day – Greek & Roman
          All Saints’ Day – pagan
          Christmas- pagan & Roman & Norse
          Birthdays – Egyptian & pagan & Roman

          If so the pagan gods were removed from the roll of Catholic saints (including Jesus and Mary) there’d only be saints from the last 200 years!

          Jesus was a mix of Zoroaster, Tammuz, and Roman gods, among others.

          Mary was based on Semiramis (Tammyz’ mom), Isis, and countless other fertility goddesses.

          St Bridget is the goddess Brigid. Demeter became St Demetrios. Aphrodite > St Aphrodite (I swear!), Venus > St Venera.

          Proto-Indo-European god Yama became the Catholic saint James.

          The Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda > St Ahura Mazda.

          1. HannahS*

            It is so bizarre to me that you don’t think that any of the holidays or practices are in any way related to/appropriated from Judaism, the actual religion that Christianity emerged from.

            In an utterly fascinating total coincidence, Jews celebrate a festival in the spring, then count 50 days, and celebrate another holiday. Christians also celebrate a festival in spring, which in many languages has the EXACT SAME NAME as the Jewish one, then count 50 days and celebrate another holiday with, again, the SAME NAME in many languages.

          2. SnackAttack*

            Agreed that many holidays have pagan origins, but I do think that there have always been overlaps in holidays around the world throughout history, no matter the religion. They all have such long, continuously evolving histories that constantly borrow from and morph into each other that I’m not sure it’s fair to say that anyone “stole” anything.

          3. Emily Byrd Starr*

            Jesus and Mary were real people, though. We know this because in the New Testament there are at least four different women named Mary and three different men named John. If it were all made up, then the author(s) would have given each character a different name to avoid confusion.
            That being said, many of the legends/myths attributed to the historical Jesus and Mary have their roots in other religious traditions.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I wonder if this is partially because there has been no “war on Mardi Gras” in the way that there has been for Christmas that tries to shame people for celebrating secularly or not celebrating at all.

        1. Silver Robin*

          I cannot tell if you are actually claiming that there is a War on Christmas or if the quotation marks are meant to indicate sarcasm.

          Certainly conservatives have not latched onto Mardi Gras as “family values” and it is not used in the “well anyone can do the tree if they want to, don’t you want to have a fun family holiday????” the way Christmas is. And that makes sense because the literal point of Fat Tuesday is logistical: use up all the stuff you cannot have during Lent. Add carnival from pagan roots and it really has little to actually do with the tenets of Christian theology. Therefore, it is less of a vessel for it and so less uncomfortable for non-Christians.

          Christmas, however, is about the birth of their messiah. It is very much a vessel for Christian beliefs and is absolutely used that way, which gets obnoxious.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I wasn’t intending sarcasm at all, just theorizing why there’s a different reaction to Mardi Gras than to Christmas. Since the so called religious right in the US loves to claim there’s a war on Christmas and therefor scream at people who don’t celebrate it at all or who celebrate it secularly, so it’s realllllllllllly hard to exist in America and not be aware of the Christian ties to Christmas (the pagan traditions which have been incorporated through the centuries notwithstanding). Since no one on Fox News is yelling about “putting the Christ back in Mardi Gras” it’s not surprising to me that people would be unaware that it is related to Christianity. Plus, like you say, the frivolity and lack of restraint makes puritanical Christian people uncomfortable and less likely to try to reclaim it (cause then you’d have to do away with those features…which actually have a point even if you’re partaking from a religious perspective!).

            Or it could also be that lots of people don’t know the liturgical calendar of the Western church and are unaware that Mardi Gras is part of the Shrovetide festival season that happens during the season of Epiphany (which is not just a day!), right before Lent begins. Lots of Christian traditions don’t follow that liturgical calendar, so may be unaware of the connection too.

            I’m a Christian and think people who claim there’s a “war on Christmas” are full of crap :)

            1. Silver Robin*

              Yeah, the holiday has not become a cultural flashpoint, and I agree that its logistical/party nature is why. It does regularly surprise me how little people know of their own religious traditions that I *do* know even though they are not mine. And I mostly know because 1) I like asking questions but 2) their stuff forms the default assumptions in the society I live in so I kind of cannot avoid knowing if I do even the least bit of societal reflection.

            2. Emily Byrd Starr*

              “I’m a Christian and think people who claim there’s a “war on Christmas” are full of crap :)”


      4. amoeba*

        I think we had this topic before, but at least in my part of Europe, Christmas time is indeed very much celebrated in Advent (decorations, wreaths, candles, “Adventskalender”…) by the church as well, and basically ends with the “2nd Christmas day”, as we call it, or December 26th. So not that far removed from the “secular”/commercial celebrations, although these of course start much earlier.

        Karneval (our Mardi Gras equivalent) is very much mostly associated with the pre-Christian tradition of scaring away evil spirits/chasing away winter, if it has any connotation at all besides, well, getting very drunk in fancy dress. There’s also a political element of poking fun at higher-ups that mostly comes out in the parades and speeches, again, very secular there. Not sure the church where I live even does anything for the occation, on the other hand, and it’s very clearly celebrated by people of all (and no) religions.

      5. doreen*

        I think the difference is because Mardi Gras , Fat Thursday, Carnival , Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day etc. aren’t days that anyone celebrates in a religious sense. Which is not true of Christmas – you or I might observe a completely secular Christmas but many people do not. People who have religious traditions associated with the day of Mardi Gras generally call it Shrove Tuesday , not Carnival or Mardi Gras. Shrove Tuesday might include eating pancakes or jelly donuts but it does not include drinking, parades, masquerade balls, beads and so on while Mardi Gras doesn’t include burning palms for ashes or going to confession. It’s a different observance on the same date and although I suppose some people might celebrate both, they seem far more separated than religious Christmas and secular Christmas.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Mardi Gras , Fat Thursday, Carnival , Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day etc

          That’s a very wide statement.

        2. anecdata*

          Hmmm I’m not sure I’d say that. I’m Catholic, and I observe mardi gras kind of religiously – agree, it’s not like Christmas or Easter but it’s different than eg. a birthday party or 4th of July

        3. Emily Byrd Starr*

          “Mardi Gras…..etc. aren’t days that anyone celebrates in a religious sense”

          I beg to differ. The Catholic church I attending growing up had a Mardi Gras celebration.

      6. Critical Rolls*

        Ubiquity probably contributes. Unless you’re in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is probably not right in your face everywhere you turn for months. Christmas is so thoroughly inescapable for such long periods of time that it’s too much even for many people who actually celebrate it.

        1. amoeba*

          And even if you are in New Orleans and it is indeed in your face, I’m pretty sure the religious connotations aren’t, unlike for Christmas…

      7. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’m not sure I understand how it’s more acceptable to celebrate Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day at work than Christmas or Easter. All of them have religious histories. I don’t think participation should be mandatory, but after reading comments on this site I’m less certain about an employee decorating their desk, wearing certain colors, or bringing treats associated with the holidays.

        Note, I’m not religious but I was raised celebrating these days as cultural holidays. I didn’t learn about many of the religious connotations until I was older, and there’s still a lot I don’t know.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think Alison put it well. Personal observance (e.g. wearing beads, decorating your desk, wearing certain colors) is fine. Low-key sharing your culture (bringing in King Cake or Christmas cookies) is fine.

          Expecting or forcing your coworkers, particularly ones from different religious backgrounds, to take part in the celebration is not okay. Do not hang a “Baby’s First Christmas” stocking next to a Jewish employee’s desk. Do not hang up “Hanukah Balls” around the office or hang a dreidel or menorah ornament on the Christmas tree. Don’t pressure anyone to participate in caroling, gift exchange, tree decoration, etc. Don’t justify pressuring the employee by insisting that the religious holiday is secular/cultural. (All examples are taken from past letters!)

      8. Friendo*

        Even for Christmas, are individual workers not supposed to bring in like, a plate of cookies to share? That seems pretty different than work organized formal celebrations.

      9. Jimmy Allston*

        Do you mean different reactions here on AAM? I don’t know how representative this commentariat is. I think most offices are fine with holiday festivities in December, or wearing red/green clothing and so on.

        Even here there are entire posts about wackiest holiday party, who can we bring to the annual holiday party, etc.

        We talk about how Christmas isn’t really secular – but it may as well be when it comes to workplace acknowledgement

      10. new old friend*

        Mardi Gras is also celebrated in very specific parts of the world– hell, even in very specific parts of the country– so I think it feels like less of an overbearing juggernaut, vs Christmas, which Christopher Moore once aptly described as “a creeping thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe”.
        I think it’s apt to describe it, as was done in the letter, as a cultural exchange. I think a closer comparison would be bringing in chocolate and oranges for Nikolaustag, or bringing in saffron buns for Santa Lucia. Are these still Christian holidays, and still associated with Christmas? Yes. But are they part of the overwhelming cultural norms that so many non-Christians are so sick of? Probably not so much.

      11. Cedrus Libani*

        I think it’s the sheer inescapability of all things Christmas. If you don’t wish to observe Mardi Gras, you can simply…not observe Mardi Gras. At worst, there might be a break-room conversation about who sells the best paczki, or co-workers looking a bit rough the day after. It’s not going to take over the world from increasingly early in November until New Year’s.

        FWIW, I was raised atheist, but my family leaned in for Christmas. As far as I was concerned, the Christians appropriated Yule from my ancestors, so…turnabout is fair play, it’s my holiday too and I have every right to celebrate as I see fit, pass the eggnog. Then I married someone who was also raised atheist, but in a culturally Buddhist immigrant family. Christmas was never a holiday for him growing up, just a month of uncomfortable reminders that he was different. I get why that level of over-exposure would create a sore spot, while the much less pushy Easter season wouldn’t.

        1. SnackAttack*

          Mardi Gras is also only one day (at least, it is in most places in the US) and there aren’t tensions around time off, lots of decorations, and people going absolutely insane for it despite the presence of those who don’t celebrate it. I say this as someone who loves Christmas and is not Christian at all, but Christmas lasts a LONG time and is completely inescapable.

          Though, incidentally, last night I was watching the game at a bar, and a man next to me asked what I was giving up for Lent. I told him I’m not religious, so…nothing, lol, and he told me I was taking the lazy way out. Still not sure if he was referring to lent or my afterlife…

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I’m in an area that doesn’t celebrate Mardi Gras, but we do love our Pancake Tuesday. The traditional work celebration goes like this
          Happy Pancake Day everyone!
          Oh, is that today? I could go for some pancakes for dinner.
          Yes, it is definitely Christian, but the fact that it’s only one day and the whimsy of breakfast foods for dinner seems to make up for that.

    3. getaway_grrl*

      My boss grew up in the area and has brought in king cake in the past. We love it. For us, it’s not any different from everyone hitting local bakeries to buy packzi this time of year (boss brought those this year), or Lenten fish frys (fish fries?), regardless of roots or religion.

      1. SnackAttack*

        King cake is DELICIOUS. I remember one time when I was little my family bought a king cake at a restaurant and instead of the “baby Jesus” thing I found a staple in my slice. The restaurant was so freaked out and afraid we would sue that they gave us our meal for free and let me pick out one of the gorgeous extravagant Mardi Gras masks on their wall, along with a bunch of beads. It was the best Mardi Gras ever, haha.

    4. ariel*

      Someone at my office, in a non-Mardi Gras place, brought donuts in to celebrate the day – I’d much prefer a king cake! I appreciate your thoughtfulness, OP, and it says to me that if you notice anything about your colleagues’ responses, you’ll find another way to celebrate.

    5. BKB*

      As a non-Catholic who went to Catholic schools, I read Mardi Gras as a purely religious occasion. I wouldn’t mind someone bringing in a King’s Cake and Mardi Gras beads to work, but it certainly wouldn’t feel secular. Paczis also have heavily religious vibes.

      1. MG*

        Another non-Catholic who went to Catholic schools (in the northeastern US) chiming in. It’s absolutely wild to me the number of people in this thread saying they didn’t know Mardi Gras was a religious thing. I’ve always seen it as a religious holiday that’s become somewhat “secularized,” but still strongly connected to its religious roots.

        1. Random Dice*

          It’s a deeply secular holiday – or rather an ancient ancient ancient religious practice that formed subsequent cultures – that was stolen by Christians who pretended it had nothing at all to do with sex and fertility and partying and tried unsuccessfully to make it tamer. So I’m honestly not sure if that counts as religious or not, given that it’s been washed through 4 or 5 religions by now, and all but 1 are dead religions by now.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            That’s how Christianity works, though. It takes rituals and celebrations from other religions and declares them Christian. While I think the history is really cool, the holiday of Mardi Gras is still a Christian religious holiday. If pagans still celebrate the original fertility rite, *that* is a pagan religious holiday. A holiday/tradition having Pagan roots does *not* make it secular; paganism is a religion too!

            Since they are both religious holidays, they should be treated as such in the workplace: personal observance (wear beads) and cultural exchange (share King Cake) are fine, but never expect a colleague of a different religion to take part.

            (I highly recommend the “Jew Who Has It All” social media account for a hilarious explanation of what it’s like to live in a Christian hegemony; I definitely didn’t understand beforehand how much we treat Christian traditions as secular.)

        2. Martin Blackwood*

          I do think it is a regional thing, though! I was raised catholic, went to a catholic school for some time and catechism for another few years and Mardi Gras was *never* brought up! Like, I live in the part of Canada with publicly funded Catholic schools (weird constitional thing), and there’s a lot of them! And yet I’ve never naturally heard about any local Mardi Gras *anything*.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Do you do pancake day where you are instead? I’ve always assumed that the general protestants in power history of Canada and our famed maple syrup make sweet treats for dinner the focus rather than Mardi Gras per se.

    6. iglwif*

      This is where I land, too. I’m happy to eat people’s Christmas cookies / moon cakes / baklava / etc. at work, because they generally don’t come with a side of religious tracts, and I’m happy to share my homemade hamantashn and honey cake. I would totally participate in the eating of a king cake, too.

    7. Susie*

      It’s an interesting discussion. I’m in Canada and I know Mardi Gras mainly as Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Tuesday which is very overtly a religious celebration — usually at work it’s manifested in coworkers mentioning they’re going for pancakes at their church tonight and what am I doing to celebrate?

      It does make me uncomfortable, a bit, the same as it does when a coworker asks me what I’m giving up for Lent (nothing, I’m an atheist).

      So for me, Christmas feels more secular and Mardi Gras more religious.

      1. Clisby*

        You actually have co-workers asking you what you’re giving up for Lent?

        I’d be so tempted to reply: Temptation.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          My usual answer is meat, and then I wait a moment for them to remember that I’m vegetarian. But now I want to say that for Lent I’m giving up Lent.

        2. Susie*

          Yes, I work in a library which tends to skew more religious somehow, especially among the older crowd (I’m 40, so people a decade or so older than me). There are lots of folks who are very active in their church communities so Lent is a common “fun” conversation starter.

          Now that the demographics are changing and people are retiring, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but Shrove Tuesday feels very religious to me because it feels tied to Lent and Ash Wednesday (even if they’re not tied together — I’m fuzzy on the relationships, ha).

    8. LW3*

      Thank you! Part of why I wrote in was to get perspectives of Jewish folks and other religious minorities, since Christian hegemony is a very different kind of monster for you than it is for atheists (especially atheists from traditionally Christian backgrounds, which I am.)

      1. A Nu Start*

        Observant Jew here. I’m very sensitive to Christianity being presented as secular in the workplace, and I honestly don’t think Mardi Gras is an exception to that. (The “king” in king cake is baby Jesus, is it not?) I also don’t celebrate Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays that are widely seen as secular but have pagan and/or Christian origins/observances. All that being said, bringing a cake into the office and issuing a general invitation to partake feels harmless to me, regardless of the holiday. Seems like you are being thoughtful and sensitive, while providing cake — a win-win!

        1. Observer**

          This is mostly where I come down. Although, maybe leave out the “baby”. That’s a bit more overt and I think could be uncomfortable.

    9. BabyElephantWalk*

      Enh, I take a different take. I know that southern US Mardi Gras has taken on a life of its own, but it’s a part of Lent/Easter and I would not be any more comfortable with this than I would be with Christmas stuff. In fact, the relation to Easter makes it somewhat less comfortable.

      That said, I don’t mind some holiday festivity around the office. But bear in mind for people who are removed from the southern US, this may actually feel much more religious than OP realizes. Which isn’t to say don’t bring in king cake, but be sensitive to the fact that people from other backgrounds may find it off-putting.

    10. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Same here. If someone isn’t pushing or creating an exclusive environment but instead is sharing a part of themselves that gives them joy, I’m all in. Especially if you’re bringing king cake. Or hamantaschen, preferably with apricot or dulce de leche. Or mamool. Or kheer. Just warn people if you’re celebrating Holi. Or if they need to bring a wine vase for Purim.

    11. Bethany*

      As a Sydneysider I had no idea mardis gras was religious, for us it’s a big gay pride celebration.

    12. OMG, Bees!*

      I love if OP3 did it as a cultural exchange! To me, I know so little about Mardi Gras that it is only a party “holiday,” another excuse for partying like how St Patrick’s Day is often treated.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      In this particular situation there is a chance that the LW will be working with this clown show again, but absent this danger I agree.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        OP could at least block the email from whoever is doing the pushy marketing. That way, unless it would be the exact same person working on whatever project they might be doing with OldCompany, they would still get project emails but stop getting marketing emails. Or OP could set up a rule that any emails from that marketer’s address get immediately archived or something. Or even this: block them or set up the rule now, then if/when OldCompany’s project requires working with them, unblock/unrule them. Presumably OP would have some warning from OldCompany that they will need to be in touch with Vendor in time to unblock them.

        OP, I actually would suggest even firmer wording to get them to stop than AAM’s answer. Not just “I’m all set” or “The fit isn’t right,” but “I don’t actually work with vendors at all so you can go ahead and take me off your marketing list” (even if you do work with vendors sometimes, they don’t need to know this) or “My clients choose their vendors themselves and I have no control nor influence over who they choose, so you can go ahead and take me off your marketing list.” They will undoubtedly ask you who your clients are so they can market to them directly, but of course you will tell them that’s proprietary/private information and cannot tell them any of that. Hopefully that’ll get them to knock it off, but I think that any softer response than these will keep you on their list of possible leads to keep following up with. And wow, do I feel your pain because I haaaaaaaate being bothered by persistent marketers, regardless of how I feel about their product.

        1. MsM*

          Or just “I know how to get in contact with you if I need you; additional advertising isn’t necessary, and I’d like it to stop.”

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Yeah, I would just send them to the junk folder and ignore further contact attempts. If you have to work with them thru Company freelance work, you can unblock their email or require all communication come thru Company.

  7. Turanga Leela*

    I’m not religiously affiliated and I was very, very happy that someone brought a king cake to my office today. It’s pretty much always fine to celebrate a holiday yourself and bring in treats for the break room, so long as you don’t proselytize or pressure anyone else to participate.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      This is how I feel. It’s the same in my mind as bringing in a box of Easter candy or Christmas cookies and letting people eat them or not as they choose, as long as you don’t try impose the religious aspect on anyone.

    2. Random Dice*

      Agreed! I bring in mini cheesecakes on the Jewish holiday of sweet dairy products (Shavuot), and honey cakes shaped like beehives for Jewish New Year. I’m not preaching, just sharing treats in the same way as Christmas cookies and chocolate bunnies.

      1. LW3*

        Thank you! Part of why I wrote in was to get perspectives of Jewish folks and other religious minorities, since Christian hegemony is a very different kind of monster for you than it is for atheists (especially atheists from traditionally Christian backgrounds.)

    1. Little Sushi*

      Agree! I was in Oxford Street Surrey Hills today and it’s vibing nicely.
      I’ve always related mardi gras with LGBTQIA+ celebrations, and had no idea there were religious origins. I was, however, totally surprised when I ended up in New Orleans during Southern Decadance…to me, that was mardi gras! (I believe they have a separate mardi gras?)

      1. LW3*

        Yup, it’s different. New Orleans basically just takes any excuse to go big. Even the straights don’t see a conflict between conservative masculinity and flamboyant pageantry when the celebration calls for it.

    2. AustralianUnderARock*

      That moment when you, as an Australian, discover that that big Sydney Pride Parade thingy is actually a Catholic thingy. Mind blown.

      1. LW3*

        It’s actually kind of a giant middle finger to the Catholic church! Not sure if it’s in direct protest (props to them if so) but having it during Lent is deeply offensive on top of the whole unapologetic queer debauchery thing.

    3. Awkwardness*

      I never knew Mardi Grass was a religious festival or that it was celebrated outside of New Orleans too. I only learned about it in the context of women flashing (as some commenter above).

      This is so interesting.

      1. amoeba*

        It’s widely celebrated in Europe – but it’s a very, very different kind of celebration (and even varies within Europe). We have fancy dress, a parade, and lots of drinking, mostly, and call it Karneval or Fastnacht. No real religious connotation here, either, although it does of course mark the beginning of lent – it’s literally in the name “Fastnacht” (night before lent)!

      2. Tau*

        My understanding is that Mardi Gras is a Carneval variant, which is a celebration with local variations in many places in the world. It’s definitely very connected to Catholicism, though. In Germany, where I’m from, it’s really noticeable that most of the historically Protestant parts have 0 Carneval traditions while in the historically Catholic Rhineland it’s huge.

        1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

          I’ve Keane so much in this thread – I really thought Mardi Gras was like pride, so reading through all the comments has been really insightful.

          I am atheist and would have no issue with someone sharing cake in any and all circumstances.

            1. Silver Robin*

              honestly my brain thought you were going for kenned, Scottish for “to know”, and it fit close enough XD

          1. Emmy Noether*

            It may interest you to know that king cake is also a tradition with many variants throughout Europe (France, Spain, Belgium, parts of Germany and Switzerland at least). It is usually associated with Epiphany, not Carnaval, however. It is my understanding that it got extended in New Orleans to be eaten from Epiphany to Mardi Gras, and go out with a bang just before lent. The Euro culinary traditions around Carnaval are usually more of the sweet-fried-things variety (beignets, Krapfen, churro- and donut- type things).

            I am also of the opinion that offering to share simple carbs is pretty much always appropriate.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              In traditions that follow the church calendar, Epiphany is not just a day (January 6th for the Western church, the 12th day after Christmas, which ends the season of Christmastide) but also the season between January 6th and Lent. Mardi Gras is the last day of the season of Epiphany, with Lent beginning in Ash Wednesday. So eating king cake for Mardi Gras is (if one wants to follow that calendar) eating it during Epiphany :D

              And yeah, is someone offering simple carbs? I would like to have some, thank you!

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I did not know that! It’s definitely not available that late here, it’s for Jan. 6th with a week or two on either side.

            2. amoeba*

              And I always thought it’s because the Catholics like to party more…

              (As an aside: there’s also the Swabian-Alemannic Fasnacht – to make things even more complex, celebrated one week after Karneval, and with quite different traditions. Pipers, drums, scary masks and no fancy dress. Very confusing for a Rhineland girl like me. That one’s quite big in Switzerland, anyway, which is quite Calvinist!)

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Alemannic more than swabian (source: am swabian, Fasnacht is at the normal date and not a big thing).

                I’m also in Switzerland right now! Have you been to the Morgestraich? Is it worth it?

                1. amoeba*

                  I haven’t but have heard it’s definitely worth it, maybe I’ll finally go this year! It’s actually the city I live in, so I should :)

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  Oooh, I thought you might be from your description of Fasnacht. I actually also moved here. Hi amoeba! *waves*

                3. amoeba*

                  @Emmy Noether that’s so cool, welcome! Let me know if you’d ever like an AAM-themed coffee, I’m sure we can figure out a way to get in touch :)

          2. allathian*

            Carnaval is associated with parades and so is Pride, so I’m not at all surprised that there’s a connection between the two in many areas, especially in places where the Catholic population is a small minority.

            Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the last day when people were allowed to eat fatty and delicious foods before fasting for Lent.

            I’m in Finland, and here parades aren’t a thing, but kids often celebrate by going tobogganing. We also have Mardi Gras buns, sweet buns filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam or almond paste (and some people are very vocal about their preference, I prefer the almond paste).

        2. münchner kindl*

          Although nobody asks your religion when you participate in the street Carnival.

          And even in the Rhineland, there are people who are “Faschingsmuffel” – dislike it, and are not forced to take part. They do get the day off, too, though.

          Here in Bavaria, a common workplace tradition is to bring Krapfen (a fried yeast sweet) to work for your coworkers to share with. Because most people like eating sweet stuff as treat.

          1. Phryne*

            Nobody will ask your religion, but here, in the Netherlands, the catholic component is very much part of its history. The Netherlands is nominally Calvinist, but has always had a big Catholic population. Most of these however, live in the southern provinces ‘below the big rivers’ as it is called, which are provinces which were historically less powerful and at some point even had much less rights. In essence, this calvinist north / catholic south divide goes back to the reformation (like in Germany, but that has been a single country for much less long), and it is still massively visible in things like cultural differences and speech.
            In the south Carnaval is a massive week long celebration that brings all of society to a halt until it is over, and what happens during carnaval stays with carnaval. In the north, there are some small pockets of celebrations int towns with historically slightly higher catholic populations, but it otherwise goes by completely unnoticed.
            Of course the kicker is that the country is about 60% not religious these days, but the resulting cultural differences of the centuries long divide along those religious lines is here to stay.

            1. amoeba*

              Eeeh, mostly the big party is in the Rhineland, if you go further south, it becomes much less prominent again! (Speaking as somebody from near Cologne who’s always disappointed in the south…)

              1. Phryne*

                Well, yes, and the Rhineland is right next door to the south of the Netherlands! So that is the very carnaval tradition they have there too. :)

          2. Tau*

            Oh yeah, I figure most people in the Rhineland aren’t going to ask you when was the last time you went to confession or anything! Just that it’s really noticeable how the divide goes – I vaguely remember celebrating Fasching when we lived in Bavaria when I was a kid, I hear about the celebrations in the Rhineland, but everywhere in Germany I’ve lived since (Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Berlin) it’s just a day like any other, zero traditions whatsoever.

            Pity! I could go for some Krapfen :) especially when I can tease the Berlin folks by calling them Berliner.

    4. Bethany*

      Yes as a Sydneysider I’m reading this letter like…Mardi Gras is religious? I had no idea. I thought it had always been about gay pride.

  8. Viette*

    OP# 2 – you can go miles with sincerity. It’s for you to judge if this is too likely to create a problem with your work relationship, and you do need to think about the logistics of the thing (vet sends you the bill directly? venmo?), but I think your best way of convincing him to accept your financial help is to say you want to and to really mean it.

    Make it your choice and own it. He didn’t ask you to do this; you dearly want to. You would love to be able to use your money to help someone you respect and value to take good care of their beloved pet. To be sincere about your desire to help takes away the concern that this is driven by pity or obligation. It acknowledges that this is his cat and he can decide if you can help — but gosh, you’d really like to.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree with this. Don’t hide, don’t go third party (GFM), don’t involve third parties (the vet), don’t fudge. I’d be so touched by your generosity and mostly by your caring about my cat. Own it; share the concern. I just cannot see any downside to doing this. Honestly and forthrightness are your friend–and his, not to mention Rex’s.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, and also it’s something you offer ONCE, with a sincere, “offer remains open, do come back to me if you change your mind” and then never mention again.

      His automatic response will almost certainly be, “Oh no, that’s too much, I couldn’t possibly.” Let him know the offer stands and that he can think about it and come back to you if he changes his mind, but also respect the no. Because, “My boss keeps trying to give me money for my ill cat and won’t let it go” is another AAM letter.

  9. Jade*

    I think it’s better to offer to pay for the cat directly to the vet. He may not use any found money on the vet bill, as much as he loves his cat.

    1. CB212*

      Yeah, I could see using it to pay down a credit card, and then still feeling like they don’t have $500 (because they don’t!) to spend on a vet. It needs to be clear what the money is for.

    2. Former Gremlin Herder*

      I see where you’re coming from, but if you’re going to give a gift it shouldn’t have strings attached, especially when there’s already a work relationship involved.

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        In this case, though, the gift is to the cat. The gift is medical care for the cat, not a stack of cash.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          Yes, that’s how I saw it. The medical care for the cat has no strings attached, like they’re not asking for cat photos or cupcakes or help at work in return. But they’re also not intending to give a gift of money, per se.

  10. Reality.Bites*

    I would tell my manager about the emails and notes – I can’t see any downside to it. It’s not as if she can be hauled back in and fired again! And it’s definitely worth knowing.

    1. Not on board*

      Yeah, probably best to loop the manager in. On another note – it’s possible this person was raised in a fundamental religion – which would explain a lot about their behaviour, from the bad fit with the job, the immaturity, the religious notes, the email, etc. If you listen to a few Leaving Eden podcasts, it starts to make a lot of sense and explain a lot of behaviours from religous fundamentalists.

      1. lilsheba*

        And these fundamentalists wonder why they are hated so much. I am so SICK of these kinds of people forcing religion down people’s throats. Just stop it.

        1. Not on board*

          I agree that people really hate this kind of thing – but understanding why they do what they do and their thought process has really helped me feel more kindly towards them. If they’ve bought all in or have grown up only knowing this life, the idea of saving people from hell really drives them. They really believe they’re trying to help you. And they’ve usually been taught that not doing everything in their power to save others and lead a Christian life will lead directly to negative things happening to them, like someone they love getting killed in a car accident, for example.

    2. ferrina*

      Agree. I’d mention it, not because I expected action, but because I think it’s good info for the manager and HR to have. If anything happens later, you don’t want them to be blindsided.

      Plus, as a manager it would help vindicate the decision to let her go.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        At a minimum, letting HR know that there needs to be a closer eye kept on people who have been let go and are allowed back to collect their belongings would be a good idea.

  11. bishbah*

    I view Mardi Gras to be precisely as religious as Halloween. It’s a cultural celebration that happens the day before a religious one (Ash Wednesday and All Saints’ Day, respectively). And while you *could* go to church on those days, that’s not normally a part of the observance.

    And who doesn’t like cake?

    1. Higgs Bison*

      I would modify that to precisely as Christian as Halloween. I know some people who celebrate Halloween as a non-Christian religious holiday while I’m not aware of anyone who does that with mardi gras.

      I agree with the core concept of your argument, though. Mardi gras tracks with a sequence of religious holidays but it is not typically part of the religious observance.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I tried to imagine how someone could go wrong in celebrating Mardi Gras in the workplace.

        Pushing treats on people who don’t want them or can’t have them (for various reasons).
        Leaning in to the NSFW aspects of some Mardi Gras celebrations.
        Using it as an excuse to proselytize.
        Pushing others to form a krewe and parade through the workplace disruptively/loudly.
        Throwing necklaces/trinkets unsafely or into others’ workspaces with no warning.
        Full costume, instead of a few necklaces and thematic colors.
        A costume that would cause a safety hazard in some way (necklaces near heavy machinery that it could get caught in, lack of proper protective gear around chemicals, glitter in a food service area).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Not warning co-workers there’s a toy in the king cake. (See nnn* ‘s comment above!)

            1. anon504*

              New Orleans resident here! One of the biggest and oldest Mardi Gras parades here (and one of the few that actually parades on the day itself, not a day leading up to it) is the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Almost everyone in it is Black. During the parade people riding on the floats wear blackface. It’s a very longtime tradition and I have no idea how it started but no one bats an eye at it here (except at the club’s few white members— it is insane to me that they exist).

              I would bet money that that’s what was on the invitations.

              I would also like to ask your coworker what they were smoking when they decided it was a good idea to spring that on people outside of the one tiny area where it’s an understood cultural tradition.

      2. BubbleTea*

        In the UK we call it Pancake Day and it’s absolutely a secular celebration for a lot of people – many won’t even know it’s connected to Lent and Shrove Tuesday.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think pancake day is very secular for most people in the UK and pretty disconnected from Lent and Christianity. I was in a meeting with 3 non Christian colleagues yesterday and they were all discussing the best pancake toppings and what they were going to do with their respective families. I had actually forgotten it was pancake day because it isn’t something I bother with, but they all thought it was terrifically good fun. I have a Catholic colleague who observes it as a religious occurrence and does Lenten fasts quite seriously but she’s in the minority.

          1. Beth**

            My Muslim (immigrant) colleague asked me (Jewish) if I was having pancakes for dinner last night. He was shocked when I explained that I don’t celebrate Shrove Tuesday. He had no idea Pancake Day was religious and said he thought it was “just a day to celebrate pancakes”.

            For the OP, I think bringing in foods to celebrate your culture is almost always appropriate. Where I draw the line is when people expect me to spend my money/time outside of work to celebrate *their* holiday.

            1. HannahS*

              Yeah, that’s where I land, too. Bringing food and sharing stuff is fine, but wishing people a happy holiday that they don’t celebrate is odd and for this Jew, unwelcome. It implies that I am also celebrating your holiday. I’m not.

              Also, as a member of religious minority, I am WELL aware that Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras are Christian holidays, because they aren’t traditions that I participate in. I’d encourage those who are commenting that they are atheists who had no idea that these were anything other than cultural practices to reflect on whether or not they have cultural backgrounds whose practices are read as inherently neutral and secular in their home countries.

              1. LW3*

                Thank you! Part of why I wrote in was to get perspectives of Jewish folks and other religious minorities, since Christian hegemony is a very different kind of monster for you than it is for atheists (especially atheists from traditionally Christian backgrounds.)

                1. HannahS*

                  That’s very reflective of you, and I’m sure it’s a real JOURNEY going through these comments lol. For the record, if we ever meet in real life, please feed me King Cake, because we don’t have it much in Canada.

              2. I Have RBF*

                Yeah, to me Mardi Gras is a Catholic rebellion holiday – Catholics acting out before they have to be pious for Lent, et al. Some pagans celebrate it to reclaim it, but I don’t.

                But cake, cookies, candy, etc? I’m happy to share food, because in my religion that’s just being neighborly even to people with different religions. So I see it as a essentially secular practice of being willing to share food in friendship, because friendship doesn’t revolve around religion.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            I was raised Catholic, and even if you’re getting ash on your forehead the next day, and planning on a strict Lent it’s still a pre-religious day rather than a religious one. The idea is to use up all your eggs and flour before Lent because you won’t be doing any baking for a while. It’s about as religious as stock taking your pantry.

          3. Jam Today*

            Pancake Day is very much tied to Lent, its the day you use up the last of the “luxury” goods (eggs, sugar, etc.) before the days of fasting.

            1. UKDancer*

              It may be tied to Lent in religious terms but in UK everyday life (which is increasingly secular) it really isn’t. An awful lot of non Christian people do pancake day and don’t think about the original significance. People like pancakes and it’s fun especially for people with children. I mean I spent time yesterday listening to 3 colleagues (all belonging to non-Christian religions) discussing the best pancake toppings and what they were going to do last night. They don’t think of it as a religious thing or a precursor to Lent, they just think pancakes are fun.

        2. Sharkie*

          Yep. Thats how I celebrate it growing up and I was raised Christian.
          I view Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday / Pancake Tuesday like St. Patrick’s Day in Boston or Chicago . Technically it is a religious holiday or day of observance but it has morphed to more of a cultural celebration.

        3. londonedit*

          Totally – so many people here don’t even know that Pancake Day is also Shrove Tuesday and was originally the last day of feasting before Lent. I would say it’s almost completely secular for an awful lot of people.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            The idea was to use up fat and dairy products before fasting during Lent, so pancakes were an easy way of doing that.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep, I know that and I went to a C of E primary school where we learnt about Lent (even though it’s not quite such a big thing as in Catholicism) and had pancake races on the village green etc. But most shops here market it as ‘Pancake Day’ and I think most people just see it as Pancake Day and not Shrove Tuesday.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Every year I get a humiliating flashback to being 7 and the teacher saying, “And what’s another name for Pancake Day?” and me putting my hand up and saying, “Jif Lemon Day!”

  12. John Smith*

    re #5. Another aspect to consider is that background checks can be delayed which results in no source of income if you have left your job. My enhanced background check took nearly 4 months (target time was supposed to be 6 weeks max) to come through and I found out that I had mistakenly been listed as having someone else’s offence on my record to boot which took additional time to sort out. I’d have been in a right financial mess if I’d have left my then current role before getting a firm offer.

    Please don’t leave your current job until you have a firm offer in durable form. If you’re looking to escape a toxic/dysfunctional environment, just tell yourself you will be leaving (hopefully) and hang in there.

    1. Ashley*

      Even routine checks can get delayed. I had one slowed down because the person in HR got the flu so everything took longer.
      When you are ready to leave it can be hard, but don’t say anything.

    2. ferrina*

      I also had a background check that took 4-5 months. I was able to work the job while the background check was being completed, but I had to be supervised (i.e., have someone else in the room with me at all times). Being out of income for all that time would have been absolutely untenable.

  13. Coverage Associate*

    As a person of a religion that takes Mardi Gras seriously and literally (we have other terms for the season that precedes it), I would ask that those celebrating in a non religious way at least not delay their celebration, especially not to the next day, Ash Wednesday. This actually happened to a friend of mine, whose work threw a potluck Mardi Gras party a day late. She brought bottled water. The following Friday can be a special problem too.

    I have also had to navigate an early Easter potluck at work. It might have even been Good Friday. (I was early career and the office had other problems. Now I would opt out with confidence.) I have mixed feelings about the winter holiday parties that take place before December 25, too. And February 14, 2024 is a religious mess I wish I could sleep through rather than watch my co religionists in their confusion.

    1. Dorothy Zpornak*

      Hmmm… in that case, we should all avoid having any kind of work celebration during Ramadan, right? Yom Kippur as well. And Maha Shivratri.

      1. Bryce*

        It’s not an unrelated party that happens to coincide, it’s part of the way it’s observed. “We’re doing your thing in a secular way so it’s fine to exclude you” is not a good look.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. I mean some of my Muslim colleagues in my company often want to arrange a work ifthar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) to share understanding of what Ramadan means to them, but it’s for them to decide if they want to do and if so how and we will go along with it. We don’t go organising a Ramadan party at work, because that would be culturally insensitive.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, I don’t even celebrate it in any kind of religious way but coming from a region that takes carneval extremely seriously, celebrating it on Ash Wednesday would just feel completely wrong to me. Like, in a “this is not how Carneval works!” kind of way, not in a religious way.

      2. mango chiffon*

        I mean I would not encourage all staff food events during times when a portion of staff may be fasting. I think it’s just not a very nice thing to do.

      3. MsM*

        Most of the places I’ve worked do avoid scheduling things on Yom Kippur because people won’t be there and will be upset about it.

      4. Sleve*

        No, but if you were planning on having a big lunch specifically to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast, it would be a bit of a dick move to hold it one day early so that none of the people observing Ramadan could join in.

    2. NotActuallyEostre*

      Secularish Easter egg hunts that happen during lent have become a hazard now that I have kids…

    3. Zzzzzz*

      How about… no holiday parties? Eliminate all of this at a work environment.

      Stop bringing holidays into work. Separation of “church and state.”

      Maybe instead: “It’s Tuesday! Let’s celebrate.”

      But really, employers should just offer plenty of benefits that all employees can enjoy regardless of affiliation: fair wages, robust time off if you want to also use PTO for a holiday, sick leave, fair pay, health insurance, etc.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        While I think there are many, many pitfalls to celebrating religiously-associated holidays at work, there are also benefits to sharing one’s culture…especially if the tradition is not the dominant one (obviously if you feel comfortable and want to field the questions that may come with it).

        Also – this has nothing to do with separation of church and state, unless a) you work for the state and b) are actually trying to establish/force participation. Bringing a baked good into the break room is very far from that.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, also a lot of people like parties and celebration and fun things to eat. We spend a lot of time at work so people want to enjoy themselves and share things when they can. It also helps understand different cultures and customs. So I really enjoyed painting Divali lanterns and eating Indian food for Divali, I love Purim because one colleague brings in Hamantaschen and I also really enjoy anything involving doughnuts.

          Also most of the time it’s not the company organising these things where I work, it’s individuals or staff affinity groups who want to share culture and food. There would be ructions if the company tried to stop them and accusations of being the “no fun” police.

        2. ErinW*

          I agree, there are a lot of celebrations from religions that are not dominant in the US that people enjoy. My alma mater had a riotous Holi color festival every year. Doesn’t hurt sheltered white American kids to learn how awesome Indian celebrations can be.

            1. ErinW*

              I don’t agree that the Indian students welcoming white students into their celebration is cultural appropriation. It’s literally the definition of cross-cultural understanding, which is a good thing.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I have mixed feelings about the winter holiday parties that take place before December 25, too. ”

      No, these are not Christmas parties, even if they call them that which less places are doing. The biggest centering of Christmas typically has to do with timing them so that they don’t take place when everyone is on vacation, meaning they’ll often be before Christmas day or after Epiphany. These are end of the year celebrations for a year of hard work. Also there are winter holidays that place before December 25th.

      1. DenimChicken*

        Some of us also celebrate the solstice or Yule, you know… several days before December 25th. I can’t help that all of December is overtly christian.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Yours may not to be a Christmas party, but a lot of them are, even if there’s a token menorah in a corner pretending that Hanukkah is “Jewish Christmas” (search this site for “Hanukkah Balls” for an example of that going wrong). They often feature Christmas trees (sometimes with empty boxes wrapped in colorful paper) and Christmas carols, including explicitly religious ones.

        A genuine end-of-year party would be called a New Year’s party, and people wouldn’t be asking their coworkers about gifts given/desired, they might be asking about New Year’s resolutions. (That could also be problematic, but “I’m going back to the gym” or “start learning French” is different from “I’m hoping for a new laptop” or “I’ve asked for jewelry this year.”)

      3. Coverage Associate*

        The issue for my about the parties before December 25 is that they are this strange confusion of a religious thing turned secular and then turned around with the parties at the wrong time. We don’t have religious festivals turned secular outside Christianity, so it’s hard to present an analogy. Maybe if Israelis started having Yom Kippur parties or Passover bake offs (of not Passover food).

        You can’t avoid secular parties when any religion might be fasting or abstaining, but like maybe avoid them when the religion you’re scheduling around is abstaining?

        After all, the idea we don’t have the work parties between December 24 and January 2 is because people are celebrating Christmas. I mean, maybe there’s a culture with a big lead up to New Years apart from Christmas, but I haven’t heard of it.

        1. Who am I today*

          I hear what you’re saying, but it might help to remember that MANY devout and sincere Christians (especially in the US) do not observe an Advent/Christmas split.
          So while it feels off to you to have what amounts to a Christmas celebration in the austere Advent season, it is perfectly in line for many sincere believers.

    5. Sue*

      This happened to my office this year. We were supposed to have fastnachts delivered yesterday, which I thought “weird, but I guess Mardi Gras is pretty secularized now, and sure I’ll have a donut”. But then it snowed, and an email went out “Due to the snow, fastnachts will now be delivered on February 14”. Now I won’t eat them… oh well.

    6. LW3*

      re: literally – I laughed. Calling the whole season Mardi Gras does cause a pedantic eye twitch for me, but that’s actually what my family called it growing up? And I was already way too into my own head about phrasing and how much I should explain for the “boobs and bourbon street” crowd so I left it.

      But yes, Mardi Gras day is the LAST day to celebrate. Hard stop. The commenters the other week who suggested the conference theme tonight’s dinner for Mardi Gras had me screaming a little. (I’m an atheist, not an asshole! Or I try not to be, at least.)

  14. Brain the Brian*

    I can’t be the only person who was reminded of the bananapants temporary replacement coworker who prosthelytized clients in song while I was reading about Bridget leaving church advertisements on her former coworkers’ desks… right? They’re in different levels, of course, but that’s where my mind went. This site never ceases to amuse and amaze.

    1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      Weirdly, I just watched Legally Blonde last night and the vibe I got was First-Act-Elle-Woods-But-For-Jesus. Sweetly clueless about professional norms, doesn’t understand what the culture is here, may ultimately decide to return to culture of origin where comfortable.

      (Of course proselytizing is nonetheless unacceptable at work, but this is a great opportunity to think “Oh, honey,” and move on with life.)

  15. Lilo*

    The one question I have about the background check is, is this an unusual situation like government. I technically didn’t fully complete my background check until I’d already been working there about 4 months.

    1. bookmark*

      Yeah, some government jobs can be a weird outlier in this. In some parts of government or government-adjacent fields (some parts of academia, nonprofits) where it’s common for people to shift in and out of political appointee roles in government as administrations come and go, it can be fine to give a heads-up to bosses or teams about a pending appointment conditional to a background check or confirmation or something. On the way out of a government job with procurement responsibilities you may have to disclose job offers you are considering accepting to an ethics office to ensure you’re not violating rules around conflict of interest and quid pro quo. But you’ll generally know if you’re in one of these fields, because you’ll have seen someone else give this kind of notice before you and seen it go well, or you’ll have had to sit through annual trainings about what’s required. Definitely never give notice with a conditional offer unless you have prior evidence that you won’t get pushed out as a result.

  16. Festivus for the Rest of Us*

    We should be sensitive to cultural dominance of certain religious and religious-adjacent practices, but I think we can also risk overthinking it a bit. I would no more view someone bringing a king cake and beads into work as inappropriately religious than I would someone sharing apple cake around Rosh HaShanah, cookies for Christmas, or jalebi for Diwali. Offering to share a favorite, otherwise-work-appropriate tradition can be a means of fellowship and connection and those whose own preferences, traditions, or guidelines don’t let them partake in that offer must be given the space to opt out. Leaving a king cake in the break room and having beads up for grabs at your desk, with an email or note that they’re there and a piece of your own culture, is pretty inoffensive.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I tend to agree if there is no proselytization with it.

      Sharing special food on religious or cultural holidays is found in many cultures, and very few religions have “you have to sell the religion with the food” strictures.

      A classic example: I am pagan. I have a family recipe for Jule Kag (a type of stollen) that I will fix around Yule. It’s theoretically a “Christmas” item, but the title is literally “Yule Cake”. I share it because it’s tasty, not because I want to sell a religion, or even expect people to care what religion it’s from.

      IMO, apple cakes, latkes, cookies, cake, challah, jalebi, are all cultural food, and appropriate to share, with or without holidays mentioned.

  17. Delphine*

    For the longest time I (a first generation American) had no idea that Mardi Gras was a religious festival. I’d only ever heard of it in the context of Bourbon Street and women flashing people for beads. Wasn’t until college that I learned about the Catholic tradition. But I don’t know if that very secular impression of the celebration is more work appropriate!

    1. TMNT*

      I am today years old when I first heard that Mardi Gras was considered a religious festival. I have lived in the USA all of my 40something years, albeit not in or near New Orleans.

        1. Random Dice*

          That was my thought – few people outside of Louisiana has any idea it’s a religious holiday (ahem – adopted by Catholics from ancient Roman fertility orgies). They just think drunken bare breasts. That’s why I’d avoid Mardi Gras at the office.

      1. Lacey*

        Yup. I live in a VERY Catholic part of the midwest (though I am not Catholic myself) and had no idea that Mardi Gras was a Catholic tradition.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is so odd to me. Do you know it’s also “fat tuesday” and what that etymology is? I’m not giving anyone shit I’m just surprised. I grew up completely not Catholic or surrounded by Catholicism and this was just a given to me – like it’s one of the more obvious ones and so contingent on Lent, which everyone talks about.

            1. Purpleshark*

              It is movable because Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter. Easter is based on the Jewish calendar for Passover. For the record, I am not Catholic either but my grandmother was and she was also from New Orleans. My mother grew up Methodist and they also participated in Lent. The festival that is Mardi Gras is the whole time frame that culminates in Fat Tuesday before the time of fasting during Lent.

              1. SpaceySteph*

                This year Easter and Passover are out of phase because Easter is not based directly on the Hebrew calendar (which has a leap year this year, in which an entire month is added to the calendar in early spring) but on a similar lunisolar cycle.
                Easter = Sunday after first full moon in Spring
                Passover = 15th of Nisan, which the leap year ensures stays somewhere in the springtime.

              2. SakuraFan*

                I believe that “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday”.
                Easter is not based on the Jewish calendar, it uses a calculation that is intended to get to a similar result, but doesn’t always. For example, this year Easter will be March 31 and Passover will start on April 22. Passover is late this year because this is a Jewish leap year, which means that we add an extra month.

        2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I was raised Catholic (but don’t celebrate) and it’s very well known in my neck of the Midwestern woods that it’s a religious celebration- probably even amongst non-Catholics since they talk about it on the news in the context of Mardi Gras, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Fish Fries, Good Friday, Easter, etc. (It’s still a common thing here that people take off of work to go to Church for Ash Wednesday services and you see a lot of people with ashes on their foreheads throughout the day.) I guess if you only know Mardi Gras from the party aspect, it makes sense that you wouldn’t know it has religious connotations, but it seems like if you look into any of the traditions, you’d discover the religious roots really quick.

          1. Jamjari*

            Yeah, I grew up Protestant religious in Canada and was aware that Mardi Gras was a religious holiday, though we celebrated the day as Shrove or Pancake Tuesday – which was apparently yesterday and I missed an excuse to have pancakes!

            1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

              Pancake Tuesday is not a thing we did in my area and I didn’t know about it until my late 20’s/early 30’s. It is a crime that we didn’t devote one day a year to pancakes. In fact, I probably need to reach out to my favorite brunch spot- their whole thing is specialty pancakes and they probably need to jump on this. (Unless they’re opposed for religious reasons but I could probably get over religious objections if their pancakes are involved, especially if it’s just “Let’s have Pancake Tuesday!” and not, “Let’s honor Christ by eating a lot of pancakes!”)

              1. Al*

                I think historically Pancake Day was about taking the last chance to indulge before the Lenten season of fasting began (just like Mardi Gras was). But nowadays it’s common to treat it just as an excuse to have pancakes.

              2. Random Dice*

                To be fair it’s honoring the Mesopotamian god Tammuz (on whom Jesus was based, among other gods), and the Roman god Bacchus.

            2. Paczki Day*

              Right – Shrove Tuesday and Fat Tuesday are the same day, aka the day you use up all the things you can’t eat during Lent so they don’t go bad, aka the day to feast before the famine / religious observance.

              But now I live in Chicago, so it’s paczki day.

              I’m not religious anymore, but was raised protestant, and honestly am a little shocked to think of mardi gras NOT having religious conotations? I’ve never been to Louisiana, which I’m sure is part of it, but it feels very religious to me, and as hard to separate from Lent as Christmas from Jesus’ birth.

              (also – it’s out of sync this year, but Easter and Passover are usually linked, and biblically speaking…the Last Supper was a seder…)

          2. RussianInTexas*

            I am a not Catholic, and I’ve known it for many years as a Catholic festival, just like the various festivals around the world at the same time. Because Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, etc.
            In fairness, Mardi Gras is fairly big where I live, because we have a huge NOLA diaspora here.

          3. PrivateFaith*

            In a work context, the King Cake and beads would make me uncomfortable. I am a Protestant Christian, but I follow a lot of Catholic practices around Lent. These things have some religious significance for me, and I would rather they not be introduced in a work context.

            A lot of times we worry about introducing faith-based materials or content into the workplace because we (rightly) don’t want to be proselytizing in that context. At the same time, I often wish that faith-based content stayed outside the office because it is so meaningful to me.

            I am an attorney, and I always cringe at the Ten Commandments being on courthouse walls when all too often justice and goodness have very little to do with what happens in that space.

            1. JustaTech*

              That brings up an interesting question about cultural celebratory foods.
              (I’m an atheist raised Episcopalian, for context.)

              If I brought in King Cake yesterday, it’s a Mardi Gras thing. If I brought one to work in July, it’s just a cake with a plastic baby in it (though I would have to make my own, since it’s a seasonal food).
              If I make hamantaschen in September, they’re cookies. If I make them at the end of March for Purim, they’re religious cookies.

              For you, PrivateFaith, would you be more comfortable with sharing celebratory foods from other cultures/religions if they are offered out of time context with that holiday? Or is the fact that they’re celebratory food enough for you personally to not want them in the office?
              (I’m just curious, not at all critical!)

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I was (half heartedly) raised Catholic and *I* didn’t know it was supposed to be religious. My super Catholic grandmother celebrated it, but I don’t think in a religious way, she just really liked colorful beads and feather boas. I’m guessing people only know it’s a religious thing in the deep south?

        1. penny dreadful analyzer*

          I’ve barely ever even been to the South, but I was raised reasonably devoutly Catholic, and have pretty much always been aware that Fat Tuesday aka The Day Before Ash Wednesday was traditionally the day to finish eating up all the stuff you weren’t supposed to eat during Lent and kind of ballooned from there.

        2. Former Red and Khaki*

          The deep south is not primarily Catholic, though. It’s generally baptist or southern baptist, with the obvious exception of Louisiana due to it’s Franco-Spanish roots. I’ve always associated the northeast more with Catholicism.

        3. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

          I grew up in the deep south and only knew it as the beads and boobs holiday. I didn’t know it was a religious festival until I married someone from New Orleans who celebrated every year (despite being raised as an atheist Unitarian). That it was religious didn’t really sink in until we moved to a city that was heavily Catholic where there were big Mardi Gras celebrations followed by everyone coming in to work the next day with ashes on their forehead.

        4. Sparkly Tuxedo*

          Grew up Methodist in Southeastern Ohio. I knew it was a Catholic thing, because it happens right before Lent starts, and it’s the day to cut loose and eat a bunch of sugar and stuff before you have to give it up. I guess there were enough Polish Catholics in my area that Packzi Day was a well-know thing.

      3. My Useless 2 Cents*

        Really the day after is the religious holiday (Ash Wednesday/Start of Lent). I’d be more worried about the secular associations (heavy drinking, flashing for beads, etc.) in a work setting than the religious ones. But as long as you keep it low-key I don’t see a problem. Nothing wrong with sharing a king cake with coworkers, yum!

        1. lyonite*

          Yeah, I think of Mardi Gras as more akin to Halloween–the day before the actual religious festival when the fun stuff happens. There’s definitely a religious connection, but as long as you keep it to cake in the break room I don’t think anyone is likely to be bothered.

      4. Dek*

        Honestly, I wouldn’t really call Mardi Gras itself a religious holiday. It exists *because* of religious reasons, but the holiday itself isn’t particularly holy or prayerful. There are some cultural “IS WINTER OVER YET, WE NEED TO GO NUTS AND GET DRUNK!” holidays that do also usually involve a religious aspect of some kind (say, Purim?), but Mardi Gras really doesn’t.

        Mardi Gras is basically a last-gasp of wild abandon before the somber season of Lent, so there’s the religious origin, but “Get debauched before asking for forgiveness” isn’t really a suggested religious practice so much as a condoned one for SOME Catholics (iirc, Irish Catholics don’t really do Mardi Gras)

      1. amoeba*

        Not just in the alps, I’d say all of Europe? (Most certainly also the very flat part of Germany where I’m from, we’re big on Karneval!)

        1. münchner kindl*

          I just thought about how I prefer that the European tradition of dressing up is connected with Carnival, which has not only elements of “driving winter out” pre-Christian festivals, but also the Roman festival Saturnalia, where roles of servants and boss were swapped and people poked fun at the bosses – the big floats in Düsseldorf (and Köln and Mainz) were great at lampooing political topics and figures this year; whereas US culture connects dressing up with Halloween, so it’s all about scaring kids and fear.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            If I remember correctly, Halloween actually also has similar roots about confusing or driving off evil spirits etc. And it wasn’t for kids either.

            It’s all quite fascinating for a Wikipedia deep dive. There are *lots* of different traditions along those lines.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              Yeah, Halloween is from Samhain, which marked the beginning of winter. (The Irish word for October literally translates as “end of Autumn” and the word for November is Samhain, so Halloween was “Oiche Samhna,” the eve of Samhain.)

              Now, the Irish at least didn’t begin writing stuff down until the arrival of Christianity (or at least, they used Ogham writing on stones, but they didn’t write down the laws, traditions, etc) when Samhain had presumably become Halloween/All Hallow’s Eve, so there is likely a bit of bias in descriptions of pre-Christian festivals, but yeah, the information we get is that people believed that at the turn of the seasons, the other world was at its closest and that people dressed up to look like spirits themselves so that the spirits would leave them alone.

              We don’t have Mardi Gras or Karneval in Ireland, by the way. We just prefact Lent with Pancake Tuesday.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            Are you European? Because you make Halloween sound mean-spirited in a way I’ve never seen it be, as an American. It’s about pretending, and scariness in a fun way, and originally yes the roots are about spirits (depending on whether you take All Souls Day or Samhain or both as the origin. It was primarily for kids for a while, but adults have increasingly been celebrating in recent decades.

            1. Magpie*

              I don’t see anything mean spirited in any of the descriptions of Halloween traditions. What are you referring to?

              1. Cabbagepants*

                “it’s all about scaring kids and fear” seems a little harsh to me! Some people do get into the fear/horror aspect but they are the minority! I’d say that in the US, Halloween is about dressing up and candy!

                1. bamcheeks*

                  yeah, I was *so* surprised when I found that that the US version of trick-or-treating was about small children, usually accompanied by adults. In my part of England in the 80s (it varies a lot regionally), it was more like unaccompanied teenagers going around and I remember my grandma talking about being scared to open the front door for a week either side of the 31st because she found it really intimidating.

                  I don’t think it was intended as “mean-spirited”, it’s just a genuine cultural difference in what it signifies IME.

                2. amoeba*

                  Hm, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “fear” but it is supposed to be (mostly) about spooky costumes, right? Which would be in contrast to Karneval, where it’s anything from animals to specific jobs to horribly politically incorrect depictions of other cultures (*rolls eyes about last one*), but spooky would actually be rather uncommon.

                3. Gemstones*

                  Yeah, what I like about Halloween is that it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be adorable/nostalgia-inducing (kids in ghost sheet costumes, cutesy decorations)…it can be scary (the Halloween film franchise)…it can be about candy…it can be about elaborate costumes (like the NYC Village Parade). You do you!

                4. bamcheeks*

                  @amoeba, I think that is part of the US/Europe difference! AIUI, spookiness is part of the US tradition, but people dress up as all sorts and it’s a much broader “fancy dress” day than just cats, pumpkins, ghosts. skeletons etc. Here in the UK, it’s definitely not a Hallowe’en costume unless it’s spooky.

                5. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  @bamcheeks It also varies a lot regionally in the US, too. Where I grew up, it was IMPORTANT that if you were not giving out candy, you turned off ALL the lights, because Halloween was also Mischief Night, and there would be roving bands of teenagers prepared to egg (throw raw eggs at) houses or toilet paper (throw rolls of toilet paper in such a way that the long strings of toilet paper wind up all over everything — they’re really hard to get down because you can’t just pull on them) trees and bushes of any houses where the residents annoyed them, either by being someone they didn’t like, or by having the lights on (and thus being home) but failing to provide adequate candy when the doorbell was run.

                  Where I live now, the “roving bands of teenagers” are more like 13-15 years old than 15-17 years old, often have at least a nominal mask or cape, and are just trying to get candy from as many houses as possible within a 2-3 hour span. Sometimes I’ve been sitting on the porch and have to flag down 12-year-olds to get them to stop and take candy, because just the porch light and some minimal decorations isn’t enough to prove that we’re open for business. I’ve never had anyone ring the doorbell.

                  It’s possible that some of this is time-based, as well, but I know that my parents are still careful about turning off all the lights if they aren’t giving out candy.

                  That said, I don’t remember anyone ever talking about Halloween being a multi-week season in which one is scared to open the door to strangers.

                6. Rocket Raccoon*

                  Where I live it’s about little kids getting to be the scary ones instead of being scared – they dress up to scare the spirits away from the village.

          3. Trice*

            Halloween decorations are fear-themed, but I think that in practice the holiday invites kids to dress up as alter egos and demand candy (and threaten mayhem if they’re denied). It’s also a kind of upending of the social order, though missing opportunity for such social commentary.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          This is so goofy but I was talking to my German immigrant (in the US) dad on Sunday and asked him how my uncle in Germany was doing and he mentioned that it was Mardi Gras this week. I then had to ask (I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know this already) if Mardi Gras was a big deal in Germany. It’s a shame that I don’t know more about my German ancestry, but my dad is not a big talker and I have been quite shy until recent years and didn’t think to connect more with my relatives there until the last few years.

        3. RussianInTexas*

          Russia has the whole Maslenitsa (Butter) week pre-Lent, with eating all the blinis and butter, having games, parties, ritual visiting of ancestral graves, etc and it ends with burning of the straw Lady Maslenitsa, aka Lady Winter.
          Blinis represent the Sun.
          It’s very, very, non-Christian in origin.

        4. Random Dice*

          It spread across Europe, from an ancient pagan cult that was assimilated into Roman Catholicism and then spread globally.

          History Direct:
          “Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday” as it is translated from the original French) most likely began as the pagan festival of Lupercalia (or Februa), a fertility celebration dating back to the 6th Century BCE, held each February 15th dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.

          Essentially a Roman New Year orgy, Lupercalia was a bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration rampant with animal sacrifice, random sex, and hedonistic debauchery aimed at warding off evil spirits and infertility.

          In 313 CE, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting Christianity—along with most Pagan religions—legal status. Christianity did not replace traditional Roman beliefs; it simply joined the pantheon.

          When the Rome Empire formally became Christianized by the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 CE, most traditional Pagan holidays were retained for the sake of societal continuity but sanitized of their immoral nature.

          But since the Roman Empire enveloped most of the Mediterranean region at that time, variations of Lupercalia had already spread to other countries and took on regional variations.

          By the time Pope Gregory XIII made Mardi Gras an official Christian holiday in 1582, it little resembled Lupercalia of antiquity—except, perhaps, in those countries that had retained the orgiastic elements in defiance of the Church. As it turns out, many of those elements found their way to America.”

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Yes, but that’s true for Christmas (midwinter festival!) and Easter (spring and fertility celebration!) also, no?

        It’s very hard to divorce a festivity from Christianity once it has been integrated. And they all have been.

        1. Cabbagepants*

          I think it depends on the culture and the balance of Christian stuff vs secular stuff. Valentine’s Day is arguably Christian (the feast of St Valentine) but I don’t know a single person who celebrates its religious aspect.

          1. amoeba*

            I mean, same for me for Carneval, but as I’ve learned today, that’s apparently different in other countries, so might explain some of the confusion!

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Basically, people who observe Lent often have some sort of celebration beforehand to get out all their inclinations that they can’t indulge during a season of fasting and introspection. (However, the way Carnival, Mardi Gras, etc., are celebrated does go back to ancient times and pagan celebrations like Saturnalia.)

              In it’s simplest form, a lot of people eat foods that aren’t traditionally allowed during Lent (which used to be much stricter about when and what you could eat). I grew up with Paczki Day, and I brought Paczki (a kind of filled donut) in to work yesterday. I don’t expect my coworkers to fast, but I do know they enjoy treats and people sharing their cultural traditions.

          2. Random Dice*

            Valentine’s Day was another pagan holiday that was added wholesale with a Saint-washed name.

            “Juno Fructifier or Juno Februata
            The Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. In one ritual, women would submit their names to a common box and men would each draw one out. These two would be a couple for the duration of the festival (and at times for the entire following year). Both rituals were designed to promote fertility.

            Feast of Lupercalia
            On February 15, Romans celebrated Luperaclia, honoring Faunus, god of fertility. Men would go to a grotto dedicated to Lupercal, the wolf god, located at the foot of Palatine Hill and where Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf. The men would sacrifice a goat, don its skin, and run around, hitting women with small whips in an act which was believed to promote fertility.”

        2. Sloanicota*

          Yes, my personal take is that it’s great to put out a king cake and maybe have some beads around it on the table, but greeting people with “happy mardi gras” is a bit too much for me, as it requires them to acknowledge and respond. Just my personal opinion. And as a somewhat religious person I always find it odd that fat tuesday is “happy” given ash wednesday and holy week coming right behind it. I’m not sure I’d know what to say really.

          1. Over Analyst*

            As someone who grew up Catholic I considered Fat Tuesday “happy” because it was the last day of celebration and to let loose before a more solemn season with introspection and withholding.

          2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            You can’t really wish a happy Ash Wednesday, but I think a happy Fat Tuesday makes perfect sense. (Maybe wishing a delicious Fat Tuesday would be more to the point, but it also sounds awfully debauched for work….)

          3. On the couch, under the cat*

            I–a Jewish person–agree with this. I have never celebrated Mardi Gras or eaten king cake and it would weird me out if someone greeted me with “happy Mardis Gras,” especially if they knew I was Jewish (as my coworkers do). I’ve always considered Mardi Gras a Christian festival and I associate it strongly with New Orleans, though I have Christian friends in other parts of the country who celebrate, though not in their workplaces.

          4. Katie A*

            A few people have said things like this, but I think it’s overthinking it. Someone wishing you a “happy X” doesn’t actually require anything from you except a smile or other simple acknowledgement that someone said something vaguely positive to you. You may *feel* like it requires something, but that’s probably just because you’re a well-adjusted social person and you want to be polite and acknowledge that they said something, since they greeted you enthusiastically.

            If it helps you in the future, I’m absolutely sure you can just say “thanks!” or “good morning!” just like if someone said “Happy Tuesday!” or “Good morning!” to you.

            1. On the couch, under the cat*

              I disagree when it comes to holiday greetings, where people get downright angry if you don’t reply in a way that indicates that you also celebrate. “Thanks” by itself isn’t enthusiastic enough, “thanks, but it’s not my holiday” is offensive and is often replied to with, “but it’s secular! _Everyone_ celebrates,” which negates your own lived experience. plus, if you’re a member of a minority faith and dare to wish a Christian “Happy Passover,” nine times out of ten they react as if you handed them a rattlesnake.

              1. ErinW*

                I have never had this happen to me, even when I accidentally wished “Merry Christmas” to an orthodox Jewish coworker. This is how it went: “Merry Christmas!” “Thanks.” “…You don’t celebrate Christmas, do you?” “LOL, no.” “Then have a great winter break.” “You too!”

                Are you deep in the Bible belt?

            2. SpaceySteph*

              (Jew here)
              I think you are underestimating how often members of minority religions have to politely thank people for forcing the dominant culture on us and missing that we might be quite tired of it.

              Secular/atheist people in the US are still culturally Christian in a lot of ways and the insistence that these holidays are secular is both tiresome and factually incorrect. Just because someone (or even a lot of someones) celebrates a holiday in a secular way doesn’t absolve it of its religious roots.

              It would be more inclusive to consider not wishing people happy [holiday with roots in Christianity] when you either know they are not Christian or don’t know their religion.

          5. Dek*

            I mean, I would find it weird to wish someone “happy Mardi Gras” in an area that didn’t have a large active Mardi Gras celebration.

          6. SpaceySteph*

            As a Jew who spent many years on the third coast, I love king cake and see no problem bringing some for the office. I might hesitate on the beads, especially as a woman, given the cultural association with flashing people but that’s probably an office culture thing. Please don’t put the baby in the cake though.

            Similarly, I like to bring traditional jewish baked goods to the office for my holidays. I absolutely consider it a cultural exchange, I would usually explain to people who asked about the holiday but otherwise just be like “here’s a honey cake!” or whatever. (And yes there’s a different power dynamic as a member of a minority religion but I think food is a great cultural bridge and nobody ever was forcibly converted by a king cake, even the really good kind)

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Carnaval (mardi gras etc.) is an interesting one, because while it is tied to the church calendar, it’s roots are so blatantly not Christian.

      The thing is, for Europeans or people of European ancestry, there are very few truly secular traditions. The church had it’s hands in every aspect of people’s lives, dictated the rythm of their days, weeks, and years. (There are, of course, also non-Christian traditions, for example Jewish traditions, but those are obviously also not secular. There were times when things not being tied to one religion or another wasn’t conceivable.)

      For example, there’s a one-week festival/fair in the town where I was born. It’s mostly secular, but there’s also a church service tied to it, and the official song is a hymn. It also used to be separated into a catholic and a protestant part (people didn’t mix) until the 1930s. So, not *truly* secular.

      So, truly secular traditions… there’s like, new year’s, and national holidays. I’m probably forgetting something, but there’s not much.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        yes, I agree with that.

        Until about the last 100 years or so, it was mostly impossible (hyperbole!) to have any sort of celebration/festival/tradition that did not have a religous aspect, be it Christianity (last 1000 years or so in my region), Norse religions (pre-Christianity), pagan/folk religion or any other sort of earlier worship.

        For me, it’s more important how it is celebrated today, and what meaning it has ascribed today. For me, it is perfectly possible to separate celebration of some values or things (secular) from the religous celebration. I suppose this is the humanistic approach; plenty of things have value in and of themselves separate from religion, even if they are shaped from originally religous texts or philosophy or whatever.

        So, for Christmas I celebrate a highly secular Christmas (I’m in a very secular country), focusing on family and friends, and being kind, and gifts, and having lights and cheer during the darkest time of the year. These things have value to me separate to what religous aspects others may tie to Christmas today.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I think celebrating for oneself is perfectly ok. That’s why there are lots of atheists that are culturally [insert religion]. Traditions are fun, and make us feel connected to our community. If we let go of all the religion-affiliated ones, there’s just not much left.

          It’s pushing things on other people because it feels secular to us that takes it too far. That’s the line.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Agreed. I’m an atheist who loves Christmas and was raised Christian, so all my family members celebrate it too. I had a Jewish coworker who was really into Christmas too and others who very much did not celebrate it (and who I suspect would have taken issue with overtly Christian holiday displays in the office, and reasonably so). We all found it pretty easy to just celebrate our stuff on our own time, talk about/share our traditions, cover each other’s work so we could all celebrate our respective holidays, and avoid being pushy or offensive about any of it.

        2. Sharkie*

          Yes this! An other example of this – on a smaller scale is St. Patrick’s Day. Technically a religious holiday, but has morphed into more of a cultural event. While the cultural celebrations are not work appropriate, people still wear green to work at least in Boston.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My best friend was half Irish but was told by her mom to NOT wear green. “She said if anything we should wear orange.” That was how ~7yo me first learned of the strife between Irish Catholics & Irish Protestants. (I have misty memory of my dad giving me more background, and pointing out that having so many inter-religion marriages are in my family tree is a bit unusual in many places.)

            1. Jackalope*

              I have some friends who deliberately choose to wear both green and orange on St Patrick’s Day to show that they aren’t partisan.

            2. Sharkie*

              Oh interesting, I am not Irish but raised Protestant by 2 people who were raised Catholic, dating an Irish Catholic. I knew about the Troubles, and the divide between the Protestants and Catholics , but I never realized they wore different colors! I love facts like this

              1. D*

                It’s not just wearing different colors. Green was a political association with Catholicism and pretty synonymously with the Irish Republic. Orange was a political association with Protestantism from England.

              2. Dek*

                There’s a whole song about it: “The Orange and the Green.” (I mean, there are several songs about it, but that’s the one that’s more funny than depressing. “The Wearing of the Green” is…kinda upsetting.)

            3. Sloanicota*

              My irish side of the family dislikes saint patrick’s day because of the heavy association with drinking is, in their opinion, a stereotype that they don’t want to be a part of, FWIW

              1. JustaTech*

                Ah America, where we take any holiday celebrating another culture and make it a drinking thing! (St Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras.)


            4. Michelle Smith*

              That’s super interesting for me to learn! Are you in Europe or the United States? I always had to wear green in grade school, not because of any connection to Irish heritage but because I would get pinched by classmates if I didn’t.

              1. My Useless 2 Cents*

                Same, You would think with older brothers I would have remembered to wear green but I never did.

        3. UKDancer*

          Yes. I can’t think of many major celebratory events in the UK that don’t have some Christian or possibly pre-Christian origin. I mean possibly there are some linked to other religions such as celebrating Lunar New Year (a big thing in some cities) or Holi (likewise).

          Carnival in Germany always felt very secular to me as someone growing up attending it but not being German. I used to have German family friends in a carnival celebrating area near Cologne and while they were Roman Catholic, the carnival never felt like it was a religious event. I mean they went to church at the start of it and we usually joined them (which was very boring for me as a child) but the processions, cutting men’s ties off, singing funny songs, dressing up and sitting in the bar drinking schnapps never felt in any way religious. They were just a celebration and having a good time as a community.

          The roots absolutely are religious but the way it’s observed doesn’t particularly feel it.

            1. bamcheeks*

              That’s actually quite surprising to me! I’m Anglican, but fairly high Anglican and Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday were always a package deal for me growing up.

            2. Clisby*

              Today is the first time I’ve ever heard Shrove Tuesday referred to as Pancake Day. (I get it, since for some reason, at least around here, it’s traditional to have pancake dinners on Shrove Tuesday.)

              1. Random Bystander*

                That’s going back to an old discipline (no longer in effect) which had people, in essence, going vegan for Lent–so you needed to use up all those eggs and dairy products, and what better way than in pancakes.

                That’s no longer the discipline–I was certainly glad when my children were younger because pancakes for a family of 6 is a relatively inexpensive meat-free option for dinner (and no one ever seems to object to “breakfast for dinner”).

                1. Clisby*

                  Oh, I’ve heard of that – just that it’s not at all obvious to me why pancakes would be the go-to. Why not doughnut day? Cinnamon bun day? Pie day? How did pancakes become so ubiquitous? (I’m in the US South – maybe they’re not ubiquitous all over.)

                  I remember not looking forward to Lent – my parents periodically went on diets, so they were likely to decree no dessert during Lent.

                2. RussianInTexas*

                  Clisby (can’t reply to you), at least in the Easter European tradition, pancakes (blinis, which are really more like crepes) became the go-to because they are in the shape and the color of the sun.
                  The week before the Orthodox Lent is already non-meat, but the dairy is still allowed, so this is another reason – you indulged in a stack of blini with butter and sour cream. For the whole week though, not just Tuesday.

              2. Sloanicota*

                Pancake day in the UK and Pączki day in Michigan*! (a pączki is a doughnut). These are “fats” for fat tuesday – ‘mardi gras’ is literally fat tuesday in french.

                *And presumably many other places, such as Poland, but I only know it from Detroit so I can’t comment on that!!

                1. ScruffyInternHerder*

                  Agreeing with Detroit ;)

                  It seems to have filtered out state-wide at this point, or at least to the lower penninsula.

            3. CB212*

              Yeah, most Americans (at least) don’t fast so much during Lent now, and honestly we can just freeze our butter – no need to blow through it all on a fattened feast.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Although around where I live, plenty of people do fish fridays during lent, and the churches by me hold literal fish fries.

                1. Michelle Smith*

                  Yep, my Catholic grandfather only eats fish on Fridays during lent. None of the rest of us follow his lead though.

                2. CB212*

                  I’m jealous of the fish fries!

                  I think Friday fasting is still pretty common among baby boomers and some of their descendants who grew up with that. (My parents had fish on Fridays year round!) But the concept of ‘blowing out all the eggs, milk and butter before forty days of privation’ is pretty foreign to most American catholics.

                  That said, I personally think of Mardi Gras as a religious festival – but I didn’t grow up anywhere that has parades etc for it. Here it’s more like you get a lot of paczki and you buy them from the Polish Catholics.

      2. münchner kindl*

        Even New Year’s Eve has a Church tradition in my culture, because we call the 31st of December “Silvester” – not after the cat, but after the Pope who started it.

        And when studying history, our calendar system itself is tied to Catholic vs protestant/ Orthodox religion – no, not just BC/AD, but that the second reform after Roman emperor Julius was the Gregorian reform, done by a Roman pope, so Anglican England refused it for some time, and “lost” 11 days when switching over because it was more sensible; and Russia under Orthodox tsars refused until… the Russian revolution (hence the november/ october naming).

        (Even as protestant) I have heard of how the RCC tried to make everything about the Church and stop secularisation, going as far as to make 1st of May, the festival of Joseph – claimed to be a carpenter based on one phrase in one of the Euangelions – so catholics would be required to attend mass instead of going to the May Labour demonstrations. (May 1st is international labour day, when people demonstrate to show they want better conditions, worker’s protection etc. It’s not connected to what colour shoes people wear, and not in the autumn).

        1. Emmy Noether*

          oh, good point about Silvester, and the whole calendar. The structuring of our work week, as well!

      3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        There’s also a desire to connect stuff to pre-Christianity where that doesn’t really exist: the 19th century was a hell of a time. (Thank you, Bede, for your one off mention of Eostre around which a whole cargo-cult has been created)

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. The assumption is that any festivals that occur at more or less the same time of year must be the same.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            As ever, my heart goes out to the one man on X, formerly Twitter, who dedicates time to correcting people and also came up with the Leopards Eating Faces meme.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Also true, especially since the timing of festivals is not random, it is often informed by the seasons. Celebrating the same thing at the same time in similar ways seems natural. Traditions also merge and morph over time, in ways that aren’t always traceable.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            And there were so many different pagan traditions around Europe that no matter what date was chosen for a Christian holy day, there would probably be some god or goddess with some festival conntected to him or her within a week or two at one side or the other somewhere in Europe.

        2. New Mom (of 1 6/9)*

          Thank you. I just scroll/ed past the threads about “pre-Christian” origins of Halloween, Christmas, etc. We know sooooo little about pre-Christian paganism because they wrote very little down and Christianity so thoroughly wiped it out. Attempts to reclaim those roots are…”reconstructions” at best.

          These types of discussions always pop up on this site and they are so tiresome. The whole “Easter/Eostre” thing ignores the fact that the word for “Easter” is based on “Passover” in many many languages. The dating of the Sol Invictus festival *post-dates* the dating of Christmas to December 25. Etc.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            We know tons about Greco-Roman paganism, but for some reason that isn’t the flavor that people latch onto. (Or, more cynically, people don’t latch onto it precisely because we actually know a lot about it.) The Celtic or, less often, Norse paganism that is so fashionable is not quite a blank slate, but a mostly blank slate with a few disconnected scribbles. Neo-pagan runs very heavy on the “neo-” part. Which can be fine. I have neo-pagan friends who are totally comfortable with this, and it isn’t as if my religion runs back to Neolithic times. But the ones who insist that this is real true pre-Christian Celtic religion are tiresome.

      4. allathian*

        Indeed, and even NYE is basically a Christian celebration without religious elements simply because the global business world follows the Christian calendar. This year, Muslims celebrate their New Year on July 6 and 7, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah on October 2-4, the Lunar New Year was on February 10, etc.

        I can only think of May Day and Finnish Independence Day (December 6) as annually recurring holidays that have no explicitly religious connotations where I live. Walpurgis Night (April 30, May Day Eve) is pretty much the only pre-Christian festival that hasn’t been Christianized, even though in Finland at least the witches are a marginal thing and it’s generally an excuse for students and young people in general to party all night, given that May Day is a national holiday and they can nurse their hangovers in peace.

        Midsummer was a Catholic festival to honor St. John before the Reformation, but current celebrations are basically secular or have gone back to their pre-Christian roots. One tradition is burning bonfires on the beach or in any largish open area, as long as open fires aren’t banned by grass and forest fire warnings.

        1. bamcheeks*

          OMG, Walpurgisnacht was a thing when I lived in Saxony in 1998, but hasn’t been in any other parts of Germany I’ve lived in. Memory unlocked!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Maiennacht (not called Walpurgis) is a thing in southern Germany, with maypoles and general mischief!

        2. Modesty Poncho*

          Honestly though this attitude toward New Years baffles me…I know and respect that for some people it feels Christian, but growing up Jewish, Rosh Hashanah and New Years’ had nothing to do with each other. It would never have occurred to me that I shouldn’t celebrate the new year in the calendar I actually use in day-to-day life just because my religion has a different one.

    3. JSPA*

      That’s my reaction. The beads are understood by some as being traded and worn for sexual favors, and by others as pro-drunken-to-blackout-behavior-with-attendant-mild-public-debauchery, and by some as religious, and by some as all-of-the-above. Whether that’s what you want as the perception of you at work to be will be dependent on you, and on how your workplace generally reacts to those things. (If they’re all-in on St Patty’s, Mardi Gras, as perceived, is likely no problem.)

      A king cake with a hidden hard / inedible object inside (as a real one would have) is a chipped tooth or choking risk for someone who has no idea that it’ll be in there. And it references the 3 kings and christ.

      I’d say this is a sign to get close enough with non-work friends, and with work friends outside of work, to have a better outlet for one’s Mardi Gras spirit?

    4. Fabulous*

      I came here to say the same thing. I’ve lived in the U.S. my entire life, and just learned it’s actually religious thing TODAY. I’ve only ever known it as a New Orleans/Bourbon Street thing.

      Granted, I’m not Catholic, though I have dated several Catholics throughout the years, got married to a non-practicing Catholic – within the Catholic church no less. How did this one get by me?!? LOL

      1. nona*

        Midwest (recovering) Catholic. I think we focused more on the Ash Wednesday part than the Fat Tuesday part? Because Ash Wednesday has a church service and Fat Tuesday does not. Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras is only “religious” because it’s association with Lent. It doesn’t actually have church ceremony pieces to it.

        Also, it’s always a weeknight, so if there’s isn’t a wider cultural piece to celebrating it (like in New Orleans), it’s more complicated to celebrate in modern life.

        1. Ama*

          In Chicago you do have packzi (Polish filled donuts) for Mardi Gras, although I don’t know if that’s something that generated in Chicago or is a traditional Polish Catholic thing (I’ve only lived here a year, my New Orleans born husband and I were delighted to discover we’d moved to a place with its own Mardi Gras traditions).

          I did know about King Cakes when I was a kid because a family in our elementary school was from Louisiana and used to bring in king cakes for Mardi Gras (one of the kids was in my grade and another was in my brother’s grade so we got them a lot). But it wasn’t a huge tradition in our area and we grew up Catholic.

          One thing about Catholicism in the US, because it was brought in from many different immigrant communities, you can have a wide range of regional Catholic traditions depending on the immigrants that settled in your area.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      When I was a kid, in the 1980s, we lived in Colorado where Mardi Gras was not at all a thing. My best friend’s hip young aunt used to send her literal garbage bags full of beads and we had a blast covering ourselves in them.

      It wasn’t until years later when I learned how young women sometimes acquire beads that I went, ” . . . wait a minute.”

      (I don’t actually care how she got them. I assume that at least some of them were scooped up because there were so many of them, but some of them possibly weren’t. Who knows.)

      1. Parade Maniac*

        At least in New Orleans, you can get a garbage bag full of beads at a single parade just by standing there and waving your arms. Flashing isn’t a thing at the parades, which are very family friendly.

    6. Parade Maniac*

      I can’t speak for other cities, but in New Orleans, most of Mardi Gras is very family friendly, especially the parades where all the beads are thrown. There might be some drunk college kids flashing for beads somewhere, but I’ve never seen it happen at a parade, and the parades don’t even go through the French Quarter.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      While I knew the connection between Mardi Gras and the fact the next day is Ash Wednesday (start of Lent,) it’s quite understandable for the disconnect between what goes on along Bourbon St on that day (or any other day for that matter %-P) and any religious connotations. I don’t think OP would be in the wrong to have the king cake and throw a few bead bracelets. As this comment thread shows, most people don’t think of Mardi Gras as a religious ceremony.

      That said, if there is pushback from a colleague or manager citing religious reasons, OP shouldn’t do it again.

    8. Picked Beets*

      I grew up in an area with a significant Catholic presence. It was common to see people step out on Wednesday and return marked with ashes. We all knew the story of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, but it wasn’t part of any real religious preparations for Lent, maybe because it wasn’t a culture strong in fried foods. Some people might have a last bite of a food they’d abstain from afterward on Tuesday, but there were no king cakes or beads, just sort of a sad personal farewell.

      Honestly, the regional perception was probably that Mardi Gras was for the irreligious folk (“Gone Wild” videos were popular at the time I was there).

    9. lilsheba*

      Hmmm I never knew Mardi Gras was based in a catholic tradition at all. But I guess it’s not surprising, Hoodoo and Voodoo have catholic traits as well. But I don’t see why the secular version is now would be a bad thing.

    10. Miso*

      I’m from a region in Germany where carnival is a big thing (we get 1,5 days off specifically to celebrate it!) and while, yeah, technically Ash Wednesday is a religious thing, absolutely nobody here considers carnival a religious celebration and I’d wager that the vast majority even think of Ash Wednesday only in carnival terms.

    11. Lucy P*

      Carnival means “farewell to the flesh”. So you live it up from January 6th (King’s Day or the 12th day of Christmas) through Mardi Gras day (Fat Tuesday). Then on Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) everything changes for 40 days–including fasting and abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during lent.

    12. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Removed a lengthy “it’s Catholic/it’s not Catholic” debate here, as well as someone calling another commenter a “pervert,” and am closing this thread.

  18. BackgroundChecksAreHard*

    OP5, I wouldn’t give notice until the background check is passed. You don’t know how long it will take. I once had a background check so onerous that it took me over two weeks just to complete the paperwork (it was designed for a time when folks worked directly for companies only and stayed in each job for many years, not for my layoff-laden, have taken lots of short term contracts between jobs both through agencies and directly, and have had contra cfd ts that started and ended in the same month which broke their system entirely and required me to enter false information to move forward which (for obvious reasons) I did not want to do – I ended up getting a waiver in writing directing me to enter the false info). Had I been employed at the time I wouldn’t have been able to do their check without taking unexpected time off that kept expanding. Then it took them almost six weeks to check everything, so I didn’t get the go ahead for >8 weeks after the initial offer.

    That was an extreme case, but I’ve had other checks take 2-3 weeks.

    Ironically, this is all for corporate jobs. The government/government contract jobs requiring some type of clearance or background check all have you start first with the understanding that you’ll be unceremoniously quickly let go if something they don’t like shows up (usually without a chance to counter and often without being told what it is they don’t like).

  19. Tumbleweed*

    OP3: my view is people celebrating their holidays/festivals at work and sharing food(/whatever appropriate thing) with people who want to is all fine but (culturally) Christian people insisting that their religious based celebration is ‘secular actually’ is deeply annoying at best and I think it’s good to recognise when observances you currently think of as secular actually aren’t as you have done :)

    (the comment section is a bit more disappointing on this front unfortunately. But as long as you aren’t force feeding people cake or taking non-christian people eating the cake you share/attending mardi gras celebrations in general as confirmation it counts as secular etc then I think you are all good. Definitely with cake and wearing stuff yourself being wished ‘happy [Christian holiday]’ can sometimes come off as a bit aggressive but it’s more of a grey area imo.)

    1. amoeba*

      I’m always a little confused by this – do you say the same about Halloween or Valentine’s day? Because yeah, they’re also both originally Christian in origin (Valentine’s day is literally named after St. Valentine! Halloween is derived from “all hallow’s eve”, so the day before All Hallows!)

      At least in my experience, Carneval is quite similar to those two and celebrated in an extremely secular way, not like Christmas or Easter. But it’s of course possible that it’s different in the US. I guess I would just find it weird to stress the Christian origins of a holiday that’s actually completely secular for the vast majority of people hereabouts…

      1. Silver Robin*

        because it is just further evidence of Christianity as default. And that is really really frustrating. Secular, to me, is supposed to mean “not tied to religion”. These dates are, in fact, tied to religion. Just because y’all have chosen not to make that the focus of *your* observance, does not untie that connection.

        There are people who only mark, say, Rosh Hashana by having apples and honey in the house and do not go to services. There is no way RH gets termed a secular, or secularized holiday, even the majority of Jews celebrated that way. At least not in the US. Perhaps in Israel, where Judaism is the default, but not here, where the default is Christianity.

        So I actually do have some ~feelings~ about St Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Halloween double so because pagan roots =\= secular actually!

        Mardis Gras is logistical, like the same way that Jews have a final leavened bread meal before Pesach, Christians are using up their eggs and butter or whatever. Plus syncretized pagan stuff. It is food and partying and not deeply integral to Christian theology, which makes it easy to share with non-Christian folks (love me some paczki!). But that does not make it secular.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yes, THIS. We’re so steeped in Christian supremacy that we don’t see it; I can’t think of ANY other religious observance that gets the “but it’s secular!” treatment.

          And Valentine’s Day celebrations in-office strike me as weird, but that’s a different discussion altogether.

        2. Not on board*

          I would argue that nearly every holiday celebrated is tied to religion in some way (4th of July, Labour Day, Thanksgiving excluded). Many of these holidays have become secular – Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc. but the holidays tied directly to Jesus obviously are not (Christmas and Easter). So many people who aren’t religious celebrate pancake Tuesday – because pancakes! – as well as many other holidays. I think the manner in which you celebrate determines whether or not it’s religious for you – and as long as you don’t impose religion on anyone else, it’s fine.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            I would actually call Thanksgiving a religious holiday, though it’s a bit weird in being a somewhat generic and nationalized one.

            Juneteenth is a good secular holiday, though.

            1. Silver Robin*

              Yeah Thanksgiving gets weirder (and more awful) the more you look into its history, but I do think it leans secular enough. It is tied to the history of the nation, not religion; the nation just happened to be Christian so observances of it get Christian flavorings depending on where you are.

          2. Silver Robin*

            “As long as you don’t impose” is the tricky part when all of society is built around *Christian stuff*. It is always imposed on me because it is all based on that. I have Sat-Sun off because Sunday is the Christian day of rest. Jews do Fri-Sat. Muslims might do Thurs-Fri or Fri-Sat, but definitely not Sat-Sun because their day is Friday. Other traditions do not even necessarily use a seven day week!

            And “this is not religious FOR ME” is a different statement than “this is not religious”. The former is not actually implied, which is kind of what I was trying to get at. And it continues to contribute to this assumption that what Christians do is accessible to and *therefore should be celebrated by* everyone when, in fact, it is not. Christian norms become an opt out rather than an opt in. Folks assume I celebrate St Valentine’s or Christmas and I have to tell them that I do not. If I want to do Shabbat properly (for me, which would mean not being at work when the sun goes down at minimum and having the whole day to prep at best), I have to ask for an accommodation at work to get an adjusted schedule rather than being asked “which 5 days of the week would you like to work?” Is this the worst thing that has ever befallen humanity? No, but being othered on the regular is also not exactly my preferred mode of existence.

            And yes, nearly every holiday IS tied to religion. The origin of the word is “holy day”. That is totally fine! But folks insist that this is not actually the case, or that this does not matter, when it does.

          3. Coverage Associate*

            And if your religion involves taking direction from the government about festivals, as mine does, even government holidays turn religious. My church observes Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Labor Day and the Navy’s birthday, and probably others.

        3. Roland*

          Israeli here – “secular” is a complicated term but certainly no one would insist that Rosh Hashanah isn’t Jewish in Israel! In fact we call the Gregorian new year “the new civil year” to separate it from “the new year” (ie Rosh Hashana, the specifically Jewish new year). No Jew would be surprised that a Muslim friend or coworker doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah or Passover on their own time.

            1. Roland*

              Of course. I wonder what it’s like in other countries with a single dominant majority religion. Many mostly-areligous Americans and Europeans go hard on the “well Christmas isn’t even religious really”, I wonder if that’s unique to cultural Christianity or if it’s found in other religions as well.

      2. House On The Rock*

        Perhaps it’s because Mardi Gras is so tied to Ash Wednesday and the overall Lenten season that it’s viewed by many as quite different from the others you mention. For me growing up Mardi Gras was intertwined with Lent and Catholicism to the point where my Quaker parents disliked references to celebrating it specifically because we didn’t observe Lent. I only started seeing it as secular when, as an adult, I learned that for many it’s a fun time and an excuse to party without the other stuff.

        Still, I sometimes feel a little weird partaking in Mardi Gras traditions because, as an atheist, it reads as disingenuous. I realize that’s not rational, but nothing is preventing me from eating Paczkis from now until Easter, and beyond, so why make a show of doing so for one day.

        1. amoeba*

          It’s funny because where I’m from, it’s more like the exact opposite – basically (almost) everybody celebrates carneval and very few people actually care about lent. As was mentioned abovethread somewhere, even ash wednesday is much, much more associated with “the end of carneval season” (which officially goes from 11.11. at 11.11 h because well, funny number, I guess, until ash wednesday) than with lent or anything Christian. We even burn a little figurine symbolising carneval on ash wednesday instead of, you know, going to church and doing religious things.

          We’re a special region though, obviously.

      3. lilsheba*

        Actually all holidays that are christian based are ACTUALLY based on paganism, including christmas trees! They are for Yule. Christians stole all the pagan holidays and claimed them as their own.

        1. al*

          …And so what is your position in this thread? Your comment paints with an enormously broad brush, so oversimplifying as to be outright inaccurate, and “all the pagan holidays”? Still not “secular, actually.”

          1. lilsheba*

            Holidays that are labeled as having christian origins are not accurate. None of them do. Pagan origins can be secular.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              I think the point they were trying to make though is pagan is not automatically secular, it depends on specific context of the specific celebration. And even if the original celebration that would eventually become Well Known Christian Holiday *was* in the truest possible sense of the word secular during “pagan times” (don’t know a specific timeframe to put here, the quotes aren’t intended to be snarky) many people’s most recent exposure to that will be due to the Christian use of them, and from a practical standpoint “Christmas trees come from Yule trees and therefor are not religious at all” just…doesn’t work.

            2. al*

              “Pagan origins can be secular” the same way Christmas can be secular. Yeah, loads of people celebrate Christmas without ascribing any religious significance to it, but that does not make Christmas secular. Tumbleweed started this thread with the objection to the “but it’s secular” attitude used to pressure people to partake in religious celebrations. amoeba responded with some “but it is secular” sentiment, and now you’ve responded to that with, “this Religion A observance is actually a Religion B observance!” Paganism isn’t secular, that’s kind of the whole point.

        2. Tumbleweed*

          This idea is a) mostly bollocks and b) not making the point you think it makes

          pagan traditions are also neither universal or secular, and most pagan traditions are not older than most religions that aren’t Christianity or Islam anyway

      4. Tumbleweed*

        sorry I didn’t check back on this comment earlier in the week! I absolutely do feel exactly the same way about Halloween and saint valentines day they are equally celebrated in a secular way by mostly people who are culturally Christian specifically. Christmas and Easter are also observed secularly by people that doesn’t make them secular.

        similarly major and minor holidays from other religions are also observed secularly by people from those cultural backgrounds but you probably don’t do those ones (and it isn’t hard to know what the difference is that explains why you and/or most culturally Christian people don’t)

        and I’m not in the US I’m in the UK

    2. iglwif*


      I enjoy participating in other people’s food traditions (as long as I’m not allergic to them) and enjoy sharing mine, and if you want to tell me all about the other traditions that go with it and ask me about same, awesome! I’m a curious person!

      Just leave out both the proselytizing and the insistence that it’s not actually religious, please.

    3. Friendo*

      What do you say to people who aren’t Christian and celebrate? Isn’t it sort of exclusionary to tell them they’re wrong?

      1. Ccbac*

        I think the point is, regardless of whether the person celebrating is Christian or not, Christmas is not a secular holiday.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        I’m not sure the celebration of a holiday by folks who don’t share the religion makes it secular, though? Silver Robin has an excellent point elsewhere in the comments about how Rosh Hashanah never gets identified as secular, even if many nonobservant Jews are only celebrating it by eating apples and honey. Similarly, if I (as a Christian) eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah and remind my atheist Jewish husband to call his mom to wish her a happy new year, that STILL doesn’t make it a secular holiday.

        I think the reality is we have very few truly secular holidays. We need ways to make room for people to celebrate their holidays at work, including holidays that aren’t our own, while acknowledging that they aren’t the default and carry religious or cultural baggage, and giving everyone the opportunity to opt out respectfully. And, for Christian holidays in the US, maybe taking the extra step of remembering Christian holidays tend to be omnipresent, so maybe we need to make a little extra space for others.

    4. LW3*

      Yeah, I think I’m gonna chill out with the “Happy Mardi Gras” greetings in future years. I really appreciate your perspective on this!

      1. Silver Robin*

        Definitely do not have to chill out on bringing cake though! Seriously, celebrating it yourself and inviting your coworkers to join via food and/or your clothing is lovely and an important avenue for cultural exchange.

        Greetings can get tricky depending on a lot of factors (societal and personal) so I appreciate your consideration there, and I also want to acknowledge that “Happy _____” is not inherently a bad thing to say.

        Hope your Mardi Gras was delightful this year!

      2. Tumbleweed*

        (hi letter writer! sorry i didn’t check back on comments section earlier in the week)

        appriciate this response and mindfulness :) as I said I think the greetings can go either way so might be person dependant (which makes it really hard to work out when it’s a good/bad idea :/) but it’s also one of those things that is not big enough for anyone it bothers to tell you they don’t like it!

  20. OP2*

    Thanks so much Alison and commenters for responding to my question! I’m not sure yet what I’ll do, but I’ll weigh these suggestions in my mind and write back with an update soon!

  21. FashionablyEvil*

    #5–background checks can take a lot longer than you think. A friend of mine was running one for a position that worked with children and the job candidate came back as a registered sex offender. It was definitely not him (he was three years old at the time the crimes were committed), but they shared a name and a past address and it took quite some time to clear up.

    1. Llama Llama*

      It has taken as long as 5 months for people to pass background checks at my company. My company has lots of boxes to check and won’t let us move forward without all of them being checked. Heck they handled a rehire because they couldn’t confirm her degree in a position that didn’t require a degree!

    2. Emmie*

      I always recommend waiting until your background screening is clear or complete before starting a job. I handled these for a company for quite some time. There are inaccurate “hits” like this which take time to clear up. It is becoming increasingly common now that an isolated number of states have taken away an employer’s ability to search by social security number. (It makes it harder to identify the real John Smith, for example.) A person can still dispute the results, but it is very stressful to handle a dispute when one has already resigned from their last position.

    3. Ama*

      I was doing a google check to test how my side gig’s website was pulling up, and discovered that someone with my first and last name has recently been convicted of child abuse, thankfully her middle name is different (and in the way of legal reporting, it usually gets used in articles about her crime) and she’s in a state I’ve never lived in but I imagine that will now make any background check I have to go through a touch more complicated.

    4. Siren of Sleep*

      This is why I highly suggest if you can afford it do your own background check. Look for discrepancies/errors and work on getting it cleared ASAP if there are any. There’s so many horror stories of people being rejected on the background check and the person found out they were labelled as a sex offender, terrorist, etc. all on accident.

  22. melissa*

    I wish we as a society were much better with accepting money. My husband and I have a high income (his!). I often hear at work colleagues say things like “My car broke down again so I have to save up $500 to fix it before I can drive it.” I always always wish I could say “Here let me give you 500 bucks.” But that would be so outside the norm of behavior, people would be uncomfortable that I even offered, and I’m sure they’d refuse. (I do donate a lot when there’s any type of an ask, like a GoFundMe).

    1. Snarl Trolley*

      God, intensely agreed, albeit from the poor-person side of things. Fwiw, most of us desperately wish we could just accept financial help without feeling like it was committing a mortal sin. (GFMs are very YMMV, but for me, getting anonymous donations so I couldn’t obsess over who I owed what for the next thirty years was a huge blessing when I needed lifesaving care I couldn’t afford on my own. Meanwhile, as soon as I have an extra $20, I’m clamoring to sneak it into someone’s bag who could use a pick-me-up, etc. Which….yeah. Proves your point 100%; social money exchange is such a bonkers cultural taboo that has no logical reason to exist. SIGH.)

  23. No name Username*

    The fired coworker in LW1 is a prime example of why email access should be cut off when an employee is going to be fired.

    1. OP1*

      Email was sent from a personal email address, so that wouldn’t have helped. Our org has email addresses that are easy to type if you know a first and last name and know the formatting we use.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        The company I’m currently contracting with specifically has ZERO standard formatting for the login/email, and I think this is part of why. It also avoids the issues of having to add digits to the end for common names, which is a plus. My login is lastnamefirstinitial but other people’s are firstnamelastname or partialfirstpartiallast or anything else at all, I think.

  24. You never know*

    LW5…I worked in police/fire dispatching for many, many years. When I was more involved in hiring, about 15 years ago, we interviewed someone for an admin job. They interviewed very well and had worked some temp jobs at various local police departments. (Think “Alice is on maternity leave and we need a receptionist for a few months”, which was the sort of work the person would be doing.) We had to rescind the job offer because they were a convicted felon, homicide of all things. The temp agency had hired them because they had fulfilled their parole terms but they never told any of the police departments and they relied on the temp agency’s background process, which actually was very thorough. A felony conviction didn’t always exclude someone from hiring. It depended on the charge and how long ago it was. Point being you just never know what comes up or how something might be viewed from the new job’s perspective!

  25. Llama Llama*

    Ha. You may offend more than you think. I grew up in a heavy Baptist area but raised Catholic. Mardi Gras (the religious version!) was sinful/offensive to many of them. So was Lent. I had many ‘arguments’ with classmates.

    1. Llama Llama*

      Oh to clarify, not even doing anything around them. Just there mere idea. If I would have brought a king cake to school, I think heads would have exploded.

    2. Devious Planner*

      I actually think that is different. If their disagreement with Mardi Gras is a religious one – i.e. that they think it is not a good religious practice, than I think somebody else bringing in a king cake is just something they have to deal with and not partake in. For example, a monotheist might say that praying to multiple gods is sinful (and according to their religion it is!) but that doesn’t mean that somebody else can’t practice their religion. Either person trying to convert the other (subtly or overtly) would be over the line. Of course, there is a gray area where some people might perceive a conversion attempt and other might perceive private religious practice or sharing their culture.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. The issue isn’t “we need to avoid offending everyone”, it’s “religion doesn’t belong in the workplace”.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Hah, yes to the Baptists-taking-offense thing at how holidays are celebrated. I’ve known Baptists who are virulently anti-Santa or anything Christmas-related that isn’t explicitly about Jesus.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      You can look forward to a story about Puritans, Strangers and St. Patrick’s Day if we have that thread.

      Yes, just because sociologists lump Baptists, Puritans and Catholics under a “Christian” umbrella of course doesn’t mean they’re the same religion. A Puritan objecting to Mardi Gras, Lent etc. for religious reasons is the same as objecting to Ramadan or any other religious practice they disagree with.

      (I grew up around a type of Reformed Christian / Calvinist / Presbyterian that really did preserve a lot of Puritan practices, like no Christmas or religious art, very different from my parents’ PCUSA Presbyterianism, so I use that word.)

  26. OP2*

    I should add that he’s not talking about a standard initial checkup of $100 or so, but more like a round of testing closer to $500. He had already taken it to the vet once and they couldn’t tell anything without some costly testing.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think you should offer to cover the tests, either directly with the clinic or by giving him the money.

      However, you should think now about how much you are ultimately willing to spend here–like you would cover the $500 in tests and an additional $2000 in treatments, but not $10,000.

    2. Rachel*

      Follow up question: are there other people who do a comparable job as Rex’s Dad? For example, are there 3 administrative assistants and he is one of them? Or 5 paralegals and he is one of them? Or is he the only person who has a job at this level?

      The reason I ask this question is that it can be a bad look to give one person a cash influx but not the rest.

      Some people would see this as a gift from one person to another to benefit an animal. Other people would see this as a bonus for something unrelated to work. Both are correct, it’s a matter of perception.

      I am not saying to not give the money, I am saying this requires a lot of thoughtfulness about the rest of your work environment.

    3. Not A Manager*

      This changes things a bit for me. As my mother used to say about tests, “What are you looking for, and what will you do if you find it?” If the likely outcome of bad test results is going to require an expensive treatment protocol, be aware that it’s a lot harder to stop helping once you’ve started helping. When Fluffy turns out to need chemotherapy, or brain surgery, are you really prepared to then say, no, I’ve done all I can you’re going to have to put the cat down? Because if you are prepared to say that, then you should think hard about what information your colleague *could* get from these tests that would be useful to him.

      Sometimes people have to live with uncertainty. Either Fluffy is very sick, or Fluffy is not very sick. Unless you’re prepared to continue to intervene if the cat needs it in the future, I’d think twice about intervening now.

      It’s possible that whatever they are looking for has a cheap and simple fix. In that case, my advice changes. But I would definitely game that out before offering to help.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, testing doesn’t actually help the animal. It just lets you know how (and if) the animal can be treated. So if you aren’t prepared to spend significantly more money after the testing, I wouldn’t bother.

    4. tinyhipsterboy*

      Please offer to help if you can, especially if you’d be able (and willing) to help with at least some of the other bills in the course of the cat’s treatment for specifically what’s going on. My fiance and I almost lost our dog a bit over a year ago and the vet bills have been a huge burden, but having our pup still here has meant the world. If we had generously given help, it would have made such a hard situation that much easier to handle.

    5. Bitte Meddler*

      I know people are saying, “But what if the tests reveal that the cat needs expensive care??” and, yeah, they could. But they could also reveal that the cat is diabetic, which means your co-worker would spend ~$30/month to treat the cat. Or the cat has high blood pressure, which costs $20/month to treat. Or chronic kidney disease, which costs $30-ish a month to treat with some higher expenses for lab work thrown in every 3-4 months.

      Regardless, at least the co-worker (and you) would be able to make an informed decision about the cat’s future care.

  27. Les*

    …mentioned that she was writing the email at 3 AM while crying…”

    Is this some sort of strange victim flex? “Everyone look how upset I am over how I’ve been wronged?” I wouldn’t be able to delete that message quickly enough.

  28. Anon for this*

    I finally got a pushy vendor to stop calling me, after they ignored my indirect “not at this time”, my blunt “sorry, we’re good now”, and my honest “look, I have no influence over what vendors we go with” by telling them that based on how absolutely rude and pushy they were being, if I ever DID get into a position where I COULD choose to hire them, I wouldn’t, because people who don’t know that no means no don’t deserve contracts. They have not called me since.

  29. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1: I’m pretty sure your former coworker employed the following line of reasoning: “Why would God lead me to this job, if I wasn’t meant to stay here? … *ponders etc* … It must be to spread his word. I’ll do that when I go in to get my things.” If none of you contact her, she probably believes her role is now done.

    I would lean toward telling a manager about the proselytizing because of targeting the non-Christians–like, if she were in your office, any version of this action would be a huge deal. So they will have the context if any other weirdnesses pop up around her departure, or she applies for another position in the company. The email on its own I would have been more inclined to shrug off as a rather naive person who doesn’t understand who it’s okay to trauma dump on–but is now gone–though you are certainly allowed to mention it. And if you think it adds context to the next act, I’d include it. Because it’s a pattern now.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Either that or “I can’t possibly have been fired because I wasn’t doing the job well. They must all be out to persecute me!”

    2. Not on board*

      Most of what was in the letter says “religious fundamentalist” to me but I’m obviously just guessing. I also don’t mean that in an insulting or negative way – just that the thought processes of fundamentalists lines up with what Bridget did. Based on the Leaving Eden podcast which talks about fundamentalism, religion, and cults, based on the experiences of the host and her guests.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Another possibility is that it’s a “forgive them” thing. If she is very religious and taught you should forgive those who have wronged, she may want to show how forgiving she is and how she does not hold being fired against anybody at the company and think that inviting them to her church is the ultimate in showing how much she loves them and how she doesn’t have any hard feelings towards them for firing her.

      Depending on what the Bible quote is, it could also fit into this category. “I’m really upset and hurt that you fired me, but I won’t retailiate because I’m a good person and God loves you.”

      1. OP1*

        Email quote was John 16:33, the quote in the note was Colossians 3:14. I don’t know much about the Bible but seemed very much on this train of thought

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Those are at least pleasant “I’m doing fine” lines in most contexts. If she’d left you something about vengeance, or from the extended mildew instructions in Leviticus, that would be more worrisome.

  30. Minor Lurker*

    Don’t give notice until your background check clears. The company who handles background checks at my job has found all kinds of things that applicants didn’t think would matter, and that ultimately resulted in the offer having to be pulled. Alison is spot on.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    OP2, doing stuff anonymously removes the context. And how we feel about actions depends on the context in which they occur. Much better to have the awkwardness of the conversation, than the extra weirdness of a secret donor who he knows is you, or who he suspects is that creepy guy who keeps dropping in, or he is now wondering how this person is watching him and what else they know.

    Also people might be happy to accept help from Sal, a pleasant and reasonable person who respects boundaries, but not Hal, who will use the accepted help as a grappling hook to clutch you close.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I absolutely agree with this. On a recent snow day, I was startled to discover that someone had impeccably cleared my car of snow. But just mine; none of the surrounding ones were touched.

      I have recently started using a cane and felt kind of… surveilled? There are a couple of neighbors who could be responsible and I would be happy and grateful to receive the help from. But their are others on the possibility list whose actions I would consider condescending or creepy in this context.

  32. Gemstones*

    “I’m a more senior member of our job role but I am not a manager and have no real authority here, but this whole situation was incredibly uncomfortable and awkward and put me in situations with other colleagues where they started asking me about what happened.”

    But you weren’t Bridget’s manager. Were you mentioned in the email particularly or something…why do you feel you’re in an awkward position? It sounds like another colleague just brought it up because it was weird, not because you were expected to answer for it. Couldn’t you just have said, “I don’t know why she said all that”?

    1. OP1*

      I was being asked by colleagues about what happened, why did Bridget get let go suddenly, etc. and I felt that her email made people think something unfair was happening and they asked me because I worked with her and trained her. We were on the same team and had the same manager so they assumed I knew more (I did know more). It doesn’t matter what I said to those colleagues, but I was being asked about her departure by people who saw an emotional email and wanted to know more.

      1. Czhorat*

        Even if you know more, there’s no reason not to tell a little white lie and pretend you don’t.

        There’s nothing to be gained by talking about it, and it’s rarely appropriate to share outside of those with a need to know.

        I’d probably say something non-commital like “I wish I knew more about what was happening behind the scenes!”. This is technically true, while giving the impression you don’t know and shutting down a non-productive discussion.

        1. OP1*

          I didn’t say I did know more and I know it’s not appropriate to share the information, but I felt I was still in an awkward position by being asked. And then when I don’t say anything, people will speculate. It’s not a great position to be in.

          1. Czhorat*

            Oh, I totally agree and sympathize with you.

            IT sounds like you’re handling it as well as you can, giving the situation.

          2. Venus*

            Alison has had great wording in the past about how “I can’t speak to a specific situation, but our workplace would never let anyone go without having discussed problems with them previously and giving them the opportunity to improve their work”. You aren’t saying that she did bad work, but it’s implied because people who do good work don’t get fired, yet it’s also clear that you won’t say anything specific about her because that would be inappropriate. The idea is that you want to reassure people that there is a reliable process to give feedback so they don’t have to worry themselves about suddenly being fired, and also that the details of someone’s performance are completely private and not for discussion.

      2. LCH*

        if the teams she was supporting had to work around her, it seems there would be enough people at this work place who knew she wasn’t doing very well to not be too surprised that she was let go.

      3. Gemstones*

        Ah. I guess this is just one of those “Yep, life is sometimes awkward” moments. There isn’t really anything you can do, given that Bridget is gone. People will likely stop talking about it soon enough. Someone getting fired, especially if they’re sending an email like that, is strange, but soon enough people will forget.

      4. RagingADHD*

        When in doubt, restate what people already know / reflect the emotion, in a sympathetic tone of voice.

        “Yeah, wow, it sounds like she was really upset and took it personally. It’s always difficult when someone gets let go.”

        Just because people ask you questions doesn’t mean you have to give them a substantive answer. You can answer the way they feel.

      5. Winstonian*

        I mean it sounds like the question was just basic/standard office gossip after someone gets fired, everyone is trying to find out if anyone knows the inside scoop and if you have more longevity then they probably think you might have more insider info (which is the case at every single job I’ve ever had).

        1. ABC*

          Great point. If this is the first time that OP1 has ever been close-ish to a firing, she may not realize that other employees approaching anyone and everyone to get more info is a very common occurrence. It would be helpful to develop a standard line/reaction that she can use in the future for the next time this happens (no matter what the fired coworker’s reaction is).

    2. kiki*

      It can feel weird when people ask you for more information about somebody’s departure and you do know more, but it’s really not appropriate to share. It can feel like you’re withholding something from coworkers. And not answering can lead people to fill in blanks incorrectly.

      In this situation, I could see coworkers assuming that something really bad or dramatic had happened with Bridget leading to her departure because of her really odd email. LW knows in actuality, Bridget just wasn’t a good fit and was let go in a very normal circumstance. It might feel weird for LW not to be able to clear that up for folks.

  33. Lily Potter*

    OP1 – I think you should let this go. I don’t know what “reporting” Bridget to your manager accomplishes. What would you expect them to do with the information? She’s already been fired, and what she has done (sent a goodbye email from her personal account, left a personal goodbye note with a little card advertising her church) isn’t something that comes remotely close to harassment. Even if she were to continue to contact former co-workers in an unwanted manner, you’d contact law enforcement, not your employer (hopefully only after you told Bridget directly to cease contact). Bridget’s method of saying goodbye might not be how you would do it, but it’s how Bridget chose to do it given the circumstances. Have a little grace; she’s going through a lot right now.

  34. Falling Diphthong*

    OP3, offering simple carbs from our cultural traditions is one of the most welcome ways to share them.

    Just be aware that you might need to add more context–warn people about the baby hidden in the cake, give a chipper one-line “Mardi Gras! :)” explanation if the plastic beads are unusual with your business outfit.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      OP3, offering simple carbs from our cultural traditions is one of the most welcome ways to share them.

      ^^ Love this. I bring in hamentaschen for Purim and apple cake for Rosh Hashanah, but then, as a Jewess, my love language is feeding people anyway.

      1. iglwif*


        My cultural origins are Ashkenazi Jewish and Italian. There is no part of my wide extended family in which feeding people, and especially feeding them culturally traditional carbs, is not a huge part of showing affection and care.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          *waves in Sephardim/Italian*

          My biological imperative is to constantly try to serve people large bowls of pasta. :D

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes I love hamentaschen. I am currently buying a house in an area with a reasonable sized Ashkenazi minority and I must admit the Jewish bakery 10 minutes walk away from the new home is something I’m really pleased about.

    2. Roland*

      Cosigned. A coworker from NY brought paczki in for us one year and explained what they were about since they’re not widely known in our part of the States. I enjoyed learning about the cultural tradition and I enjoyed eating a donut, and did not feel like he was proselytizing.

  35. Caro*

    OP2/ please do privately and in a totally straight-up manner offer the money to your colleague. Don’t be awkward, do the ”paying it forward” thing and totally breezy about it.

    Also, bless you very much for your kindness and generosity.

  36. bamcheeks*

    LW4, I have found, “unfortunately we don’t have budget for that” to be a really helpful phrase when getting rid of unwanted vendors. As long as you are talking about quality, opportunity, or whether or not you personally rate their product, they see it as a sales opportunity and a matter of persuasion, and I feel like I have to come up with better or different arguments to counter their tactics. But “Unfortunately, we don’t have budget” has the kind of objective reality ring to it– even if you’re the person who sets the budget — and for me, it has a good track record in getting the more sensible sales people to back off, and with the less sensible, I feel quite comfortable repeating it broken-record style until they get the message.

  37. MechE31*

    OP5, hopefully the background check doesn’t reach out to your current employer.

    In a previous job, I was going through a pretty extensive background check for a new job that was still ~2 months away from a start date and they reached out to my current boss. That was quite an awkward conversation and a pretty awkward 2 months. He was ok with it and wanted to keep a good relationship with me because the new company was a client. He actually expressed his desire to go to the new company but his skillset was not a match.

  38. Phony Genius*

    In #1, if you were the manager and informed about this, what would be the thing to do at this point?

    1. Czhorat*

      That was my first thought; that the person was already fired makes it a moot point.

      Still, it’s odd enough behavior that just casually mentioning it to the manager is probably a good thing to, as Allison, said, give a heads-up. This is *probably* the only weird thing she’d do, but there’s always a chance she’d do something else strange.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Encourage anyone to report if she’s pestering them via email or phone, or trying to get into the building, and ponder what to do if she makes a habit out of it. About all anyone could do.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      To a team member who expressed concern: “Huh. That’s all very strange behavior, I’m sorry to hear that. Feel free to ignore, delete, and/or throw away anything you get from Bridget. I can’t think of any reason we would be letting her back into the office in the future, and if she continues to email or otherwise contact you in ways you’re not comfortable with, please let me know. Otherwise feel free to block her email and any other contact information at any point – if you need help figuring out how to do that, let me know and we’ll see what we can find as far as instructions.”

      To actually do: Based on just this so far, I wouldn’t do much. The above, starting with “Feel free to ignore […]” could be sent out as a team email, if multiple people were concerned about it, but it sounds from what the OP says that nobody else is near as worried about Bridget as they are. If Bridget CONTINUES to send dramatic emails and try to get into the office and leave people things, then (depending on the size of the organization) either I or (preferably, IMO) HR should reach out to her and reiterate that she no longer has a work relationship with (organization) and needs to stop harassing the team members about the circumstances of her departure, we wish her the best, please move on.

    4. iglwif*

      1) If the building has security, let them know she’s not allowed in and who to inform if she shows up.

      2) Have IT put her personal email address on the email server’s block list.

      3) Ask everyone to let you know if they hear from her again.

  39. kiki*

    The Mardi Gras question is so interesting! I would definitely consider it more along the lines of a cultural exchange. I also think that bringing in a snack or treat for a holiday you celebrate is generally well-received, even if it’s a religious holiday. The key is to keep things short and completely opt-in. Don’t insist everyone take cake– just have it available in the break room for anyone who’d like a slice.

    1. Billy Preston*

      Same here, but I’m in the South so Mardi Gras is more well known here, I guess? I’ve often had coworkers bring in king cakes and/or wear beads and hat to work and it was fine. But people are generally (in my experience) aware that it’s related to Christian holidays & observances, too.

  40. Fabulous*

    #3 – I’ve only ever known Mardi Gras as a New Orleans/Bourbon Street thing. Celebrating it outside of that area isn’t unheard of, but I’ve lived in the U.S. my entire life and never knew it’s a religious thing until TODAY. Granted, I’m not Catholic, but still…

    I wouldn’t necessarily think twice about someone wearing beads out on the street, but (without the religious context) might side-eye it in the office.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m Catholic and in the US. I tend not to see it as religious, but a feast day. In NE Ohio, Paczki are extremely popular.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Yup, definitely the same where I am. Big fun, lots of donuts.

        But I also knew from forever that it was about Lent…I think I learned that in high school, back on the east coast. Or even earlier, because Diary of the Last Grand Duchess (kids book about Anastasia Romanov) mentions Maslenitsa, aka butter feast, and my mother explained the Lent thing to me and I slotted Mardi Gras into that category when I learned of it later.

      2. Fabulous*

        See, I am familiar with packzis and Fat Tuesday/Ash Wednesday but had no idea these were related to Mardi Gras!

    2. Lapsed Catholic*

      Catholics are about 23% of the US population. “Granted I’m not catholic, but still…” — not sure what you mean by this?

      There are a fair number of people all over this country who call the Catholic Church “the whore of Babylon,” and who will try to covert Catholics to Christianity.

      1. Fabulous*

        I mean that Mardis Gras is something that is known and recognized beyond Catholicism, and Lent/Fat Tuesday/Ash Wednesday are well known in all sectors of Christianity. I only just now learned they are all associated; I’d never made the connection.

      2. JustaTech*

        It seems like Fabulous is saying that “not being Catholic” is the reason that they did not know that Mardi Gras is a religious holiday.
        I don’t think they meant anything else by it.

  41. Jimmy Allston*

    Other than concern about Bridget having building access, I don’t really see what else there is to do about it. Who cares if she sent a sappy goodbye email? The church thing is weird but she doesn’t work there anymore, so not your problem.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Yes, I see the religious quotes/music as overall harmless and a bit of a red herring, but the fact that she was able to freely leave things on others’ desks could be a security concern. Many companies do not permit terminated employees to wander around the office unaccompanied and certainly not to others’ work stations.

  42. ZSD*

    I have to say, I’m amazed by all these people saying they didn’t know Mardi Gras was religious/connected to Lent. I had no idea there were people who *didn’t* know it was religious! (I mean, I knew there were people who wouldn’t *observe* Lent who nonetheless will enjoy king cake, but I didn’t know that some people didn’t know that Fat Tuesday was the day before Ash Wednesday.)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Eh, it’s still something I have trouble connecting and have to think about. I’m Jewish and grew up in the mid-Atlantic. Mardi Gras wasn’t a big thing where I lived, though Ash Wednesday was, and it took a long time for me to connect the dates. As an adult, my Catholic friends have been more focused on Ash Wednesday and Lent in general– I always separated that from Mardi Gras. I do enjoy some king cake (I made one a couple of years ago, it was really good). As a side note, I would find it nice if someone brought in king cake on Tuesday and super weird if they brought it in on Wednesday.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s just not a religious thing in most areas of the US. Half my family was Catholic, and did nothing for Fat Tuesday, ever. They went to mass for Ash Wednesday, gave up something for Lent, didn’t eat meat on Fridays, etc. But I didn’t find out that Mardi Gras, which is much better known more for its debauchery, parades, partying, etc. was even a religious-adjacent celebration until French class in high school covered it as a cultural event.

      To a lot of people, Mardi Gras is beads, flashing, formal balls, and booze, none of which are typically associated with Christian celebrations.

    3. Gyne*

      Same!!! I grew up in the Midwest and very much did not celebrate Mardis Gras but it was always “oh that’s a Catholic thing *shrug*” with the understanding that the public festival wasn’t SO MUCH about the Church but it had a religious core of “get all the wild stuff out of your system before you have to temporarily give it up for Religion”

    4. doreen*

      I’m in the NYC and Catholic and didn’t know Mardi Gras had any religious connection until I was an adult. Of course, I knew about Fastnacht and Carnevale/Carnival and Pączki Day because I grew up in a neighborhood with Germans and Italians and Poles but the only thing I knew about Mardi Gras was it was a season of floats, parades and beads.

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      It wasn’t until reading the comments that I understood how divorced it is from religion for a lot of people, because my initial reaction to the letter was “This is definitely a religious observance, how is this a question?” I went to Catholic schools so Shrove Tueseday was always a religious thing, and because we learned French in school, Mardi Gras was thought of as French Shrove (Fat) Tuesday, not a separate thing.

    6. Roland*

      Same! Really surprising that people wouldn’t be curious about what all that hullabaloo is about. And I’m Jewish so I definitely didn’t learn it at church, I just asked “hey what’s mardi gras all about”. I can’t think of any holiday or public celebration where I don’t know anything about what it’s meant to signify.

    7. Head sheep counter*

      On the west coast… very broadly speaking… carnival and mardi gras are akin to spring break and are trips folk make to other places to see the parades and costumes. Given that per the last census population broke out as:
      Northeast 56,983,517 17%
      Midwest 68,909,283 20.6%
      West 78,896,805 23.6%
      South 130,125,290 38.9%

      Is it really surprising that the commenters here see the world differently region to region? Further the increase of the religious nones is pronounced in all of the US but on the West Coast we sit solidly above 40% and in many cases above 50%.

      I love the idea of cultural exchanges with full context given about what is being exchanged.

    8. Hrodvitnir*

      I’m an atheist raised atheist from Aotearoa, where religious study *cough*Christian education*cough* was opt-out in school in the 90s. Me, the one other atheist, and the Muslim kids hung out in the library instead. It’s constantly fascinating to me what areligious people here think is common knowledge rather than Christian education.

      My partner was raised Catholic and did not know it was a religious holiday either. We both associate it with Brazil and New Orleans, and associate it with sexy costumes and flashing for beads.

      It makes sense now I’ve read this thread! But I think it being obvious is entirely cultural, and another interesting example of how culture and religion are intertwined.

    9. Parakeet*

      I (atheist Jew with moderate participation in Jewish communities, grew up in mostly Protestant areas, now live in a very Catholic area) theoretically and vaguely know that they’re connected, but 1) I didn’t know that until I was an adult, and 2) to be honest, I forget off-and-on. I was also confused about the ashes-on-forehead thing when I was new to this area. I had heard the phrase “Ash Wednesday” before and knew that it was a Catholic holiday (only because my non-Jewish parent was raised Catholic), but I didn’t know what it was. I did know what Lent was, but that was about it.

      I’ve also never had king cake, but after reading all the comments in this thread about how good it is, I would probably take a piece if someone offered it to me. This thread is the first time I’d heard of something called Pancake Day and I rather think that more countries and cultures should have a day celebrating pancakes.

    10. nodramalama*

      well I’m Australian so I didn’t even realise mardi gras wasn’t basically a Pride event everywhere else until I went to New Orleans and saw a Mardi Gras exhibit.

  43. CommanderBanana*

    FWIW I’m Jewish and I really do not like dragging Christian holidays like Christmas into the office, but for some reason I love Mardi Gras. Probably because of the glitter, booze and cake. :)

  44. blupuck*

    For many years, our Michigan office had a cultural exchange with our Louisiana office. They’d send up a King Cake and we’d ship them some Paczki. Though both foods are associated with the start of Lent, no one felt burdened by the religious aspect. It was just a fun and interesting new food and a window into the local culture. It certainly boosted good will between our offices and led to many very successful projects together.

    1. iglwif*

      That’s excellent.

      And now I want some paczki. Forgot to check for them at the grocery store on the way to rehearsal last night. (I’m Jewish, so as long as they’re not cooked in lard [I don’t eat pork], I can eat them whenever I want lol.)

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        My partner is a Michigander and misses them dreadfully here on the damp West Coast. I’m planning to bake some tonight (they have given up Catholicism for Lent, as well as the rest of the year, so it won’t be interfering with a fast or anything) and they freeze well enough that I’m planning to save half the batch for the next craving. Along with some meringues, because it’s a very egg yolk kind of pastry and I’ve got to do something with the whites!

  45. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 3 – Grew up in the Western US (no Mardi Gras) and now live in the New England (definitely no Mardi Gras). I’d be thrilled if a Southern colleague brought in a King Cake and shared a bit about their experiences celebrating Mardi Gras.

    Also, like…… understanding is that it’s about getting all the partying and gluttony out of your system before Lent, right? Isn’t it already something of a religious workaround? It’s not exactly like you’re performing baptisms in the office.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “now live in the New England (definitely no Mardi Gras).”

      Really because I have a hard time avoiding it/Ash Wednesday/Lent in general

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

        I think what they mean is that in New England there are no large Mardi Gras parties. yes there’s going to be Ash Wednesday and Lent. But that’s not anything that is being forced on anyone, its usually just people who are observing who may mention it.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        In my experience, the Northeast has lots of Ash Wednesday and Lent, but not so much Fat Tuesday (except a variety of donuts and pancakes, if you go looking for them).

        Having moved out of the region, I desperately miss the Lenten fish fries. They’re just not a thing in my part of the Mid-Atlantic, unless they’re being run by an actual Catholic church.

    2. GreenDoor*

      I am a midwestern, life-long Catholic. A Catholic! And I only just found out last Sunday that Mardi Gras has roots in the faith. For us it’s mainly a one-day holiday where you wear the beads and just enjoy pigging out a little. And I’m in the Milwaukee area, so you know we make it about drinking, too. The faith-based aspect really doesn’t come into play much at all. I think you’re fine bringing in treats, wearing your beads/colors and enjoying it as an upbeat day.

  46. vox*

    i love the response to say it’s a pay it forward situation. that makes it less of a ‘charity’ type feeling and also creates a bit of a boundary that it’s a one time thing, discouraging him from coming to her for other issues.

  47. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I agree with the advice. It would be awesome for you to make the offer, but do so personally and don’t try to slide the money to your coworker anonymously. I’m sure we’ve all had situations in which we’ve been helped financially – amount of money doesn’t matter – and it would be a kindness to make the offer. Worst case, he turns you down but best case you help the guy and his cat out. It might be a bit awkward, but less so than him figuring it out since you really don’t know who else he’s told.

    That said, if you can do a little asking around to see if others know, and they do, I would make a call to his vet and make the payment directly. Then they can call him and let him know that the treatment is on the house…

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

    #2, besides all of Alison’s advice I would also add that if you are in the US their might be low cost vets in the area or pet charities that might be able to help him out. Maybe you could help find resources.

    There is also a credit card called Care Credit where you can use it at most vets (and also many dentists and eye doctors). The great thing is that many procedures will have a 6 month to 2 year option where there is no interest. This is how I was able to afford care for my cats before.

    If he does not want to take money (which I can understand) maybe you can help him in this way.

  49. Jimmy Allston*

    Wearing beads on Mardi Gras to me is like bringing in a few Cadbury Creme eggs around Easter.

    You’re not forcing religion on anyone or insisting they celebrate. I’d say go for it – completely harmless.

  50. misquoted*

    Paying for the vet: Is there/should there be a concern that the coworker takes the cat to the vet and ends with a much larger bill than expected? Then what? Or if the vet gives some expensive options to the cat owner, and then he’s got another huge unaffordable decision on his hands.

    I’m not opining here — the thought/offer is lovely — I’m just listing a couple of other things to think about.

    Mardis Grad: Just a data point. I’m from Chicago and I’m a Christian. I absolutely think of Mardis Gras in a secular way, in addition to how I think of the religious aspects of the season.

  51. Sparkles McFadden*

    For #1 – When someone gets let go, many people will wonder why that happened. Very often, the departing employee’s exit behavior will provide an explanation. This is one of those times.

  52. OMG It's 2024*

    For LW2: That is such a sweet and generous offer, but may I offer a couple of caveats? Has the coworker mentioned the cost and/or the diagnosis? Or is this still in the “she’s sick but we don’t know why” phase? As someone who lost 2 beloved pets in the past 7 months, I would caution you that depending on what it is, are you sure you know what you’re signing up for? Sure it may be a one time “she needs X and is good as new” but it could be that she’ll need ongoing care, potentially for years of meds, test, shots, etc… So before you offer, think about the extent to which you’re willing to extend yourself. And, also, what if one of you leaves the company? At what point would you have to bow out and say, “Ok, I’ve done all I can,” etc… In other words, don’t sign a blank check of “I’ll cover your vet bills,” because as anyone who’s had a sick pet knows, it can easily go into the thousands of dollars to take care of them. It’s totally WORTH it, when it’s your pet…but this isn’t your pet, so think about what is YOUR limit on giving. Thank you for being a kind human.

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

      I don’t think that the OP is giving a blank statement that they would cover ALL the vet bills. I think the OP is saying they would cover the initial vet visit cost and maybe some medicine. I don’t get that the OP is signing up to take over the care for the cat. And obviously if this was going to be on going care that would be expensive, then they would need to have a conversation.

    2. Bitte Meddler*

      It sounds like OP2 is offering to pay for the testing to find out what’s wrong with the cat. Once a diagnosis is made, then the costs of treating whatever it is can be discussed (and maybe the cost is something the co-worker can easily afford, like switching brands / flavors of food).

      But right now Co-Worker is in that scary gray area where they know something is wrong with their cat but don’t know what it is and therefore can’t do anything about it. Concrete answers, even if they’re bad news, are so much better than living in limbo.

  53. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: You could also encourage him to put up a GoFundMe. I’d contribute to something like that in a heartbeat (and did for a friend’s cat that sadly didn’t end up making it). There’s also CareCredit he might qualify for that would allow him to pay over time.

      1. HomebodyHouseplant*

        We had an unexpected 3k surgery for one of our cats in 2021 and needed to use Care Credit because we didn’t have the liquid cash immediately and it was an emergency situation- we only had a few months to pay the balance before the interest rate of like 30 percent kicked in. We paid it but for someone that already can’t afford a vet bill it can be a really ruinous long term option even if it’s the only one. Also my credit is great- if someone has poor credit they may not be able to get enough credit to cover much and the interest may be even worse.

        1. Gray Lady*

          I would have thought that it would have been 12 months for a bill of that size. I’ve used Care Credit a lot which is why I still have teeth.

          But the real kicker is that if you don’t pay it off 100% within the grace period, the interest goes back to the first dollar of the charge!

          It’s a good option for people who can afford expensive, needed things over time but don’t have mounds of cash to pour into things all at once; it’s really not a good option if the expense is truly beyond someone’s means.

    1. Oh yeah, Me again*

      Please don’t so GoFundMe! Save begging for desperate situations. You instincts are good, but don’t be anonymous- that just makes it a bigger deal, MORE embarrassing. Call the vet, find out how much, pre-pay it. Then tell him to take the cat. If he protests, tell him to pay it forward.

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

    I don’t know what happened to my first comment so I’m sorry if it double posts.
    For LW 2 and the cat. If the coworker doesn’t feel comfortable with taking your money, can you help them find other resources. There are sometimes low cost vet clinics or pet charities that can help with costs. You can check with local vets, sometimes they even have their own fund that people donate too.
    Another route is there is a credit card called Care Credit (if you are in the US) that you can use at vet offices (along with dentists and eye doctors). It is great because many times the vet office can set it up so that you can pay overtime without interest. It was a amazing when I had to use it for my cats. So you could always help him apply. It also gives you an instant card number so there is no wait until you get the card in the mail.

  55. Serious silly putty*

    Re: Cat
    Do you have enough people that are at or above your level that you could put out a call for donations from the office, without them feeling pressured? To them, it would be “hey Bob’s cat Rex is sick, and I love cats so I’m pooling some funds to contribute to his care, here’s my Venmo if you want to contribute.”
    If anyone else chips in, you can then honestly say to your colleague, “I coordinated an office fund for Rex, here’s the money”.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I would caution this one – LW2 doesn’t say they’re a manager or anything other than a caring peer, but it could put a bad taste in people’s mouths if LW chose to pool a fund for one person but not another in a similar situation.

  56. Disgruntled Pelican*

    OP3, I agree with others that you can view it as a cultural exchange and offer cake in a low key manner. However, I will caution you that most people outside of NOLA do not understand that a) MG has lots of family friendly components and is not pure debauchery (including but not limited to Barkus, the best of all parades), and b) you do not need to flash to get parade throws the vast majority of the time. So, you might consider how to talk to people about it so they understand the broader context of MG beyond “get wasted and narrowly avoid arrest.” Laissez les bontemps rouler!

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

      Yes! I’m betting that the majority of people do not associate Mardi Gras with religion. Especially if the OP is from an area (like New Orleans) that is KNOWN for Mardi Gras most people would just assume you are celebrating something cultural from your home town. I would see it no different that someone from Hong Kong celebrating the Chinese new year by brining something in to share with the office.

  57. WorkerDrone*

    Am I the only one who REALLY wants to hear the fired co-worker’s music?? I feel like it would be completely wacky, considering how she behaved, and I am here for it.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Based on her attitude, I would guess contemporary Christian music. (and I question that it is music.) But, then I am one that thinks contemporary Christian music reached its peak around late 1600’s and early 1700’s. GRIN

  58. Sue*

    I was surprised when my office calendar from HR indicated we’d be getting fastnachts for Mardi Gras – and its secularization was obvious when there was a snowstorm yesterday and they sent an email out indicating they’d be delivered today instead. As a practicing Catholic it’s a little weird, honestly (and annoying, since I won’t be enjoying the fastnachts on a fast day). But I realize I’m in the minority!

  59. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, I am leaning toward saying something to management, on the grounds that any one strange thing can be let go based on how she doesn’t work here any more. But this is two things, that you know about, both occurring after she was let go. There could be third and fourth things that happened to other people that you don’t know about.

    I think the most likely explanation is that she is sad, and bad at professional norms, and the only things that happened are the two you know about. But a whole bunch of people could be telling themselves that, each about a different corner of the pattern.

  60. Purim basket*

    At a prior job, one of the fellows brought in a Purim basket to share with all of the staff. Please note that he was the only person of the Jewish faith who worked there. None of us felt that he was proselytizing us – we just enjoyed celebrating his special day with him. He would wish us a Happy Rosh Hashanah and we would wish him a Merry Christmas. And it wasn’t a big deal either way.

    Why do some people at work insist on making this such a big deal when it is just celebrating?

  61. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I don’t think you’re obligated to bring anything up with the exception that it might be worth asking the boss to settle some concerns if there appear to be lingering morale issues. The religious quotes/notes/music don’t really need to be brought up at all unless Bridget left harassing messages or continues to try to advertise her religion to the office. They’re a weird choice for the situation, but I think it’s pretty clear that she wasn’t speaking on behalf of the company.

    However, you may want to inquire about why an employee who was let go was permitted to wander around the office to others’ workspaces. Many companies prefer to have some kind of security escort with terminated employees because there is a chance of retaliation.

    #5 – It’s possible that an offer could be rescinded because you chose to wait until the background check cleared, but that would likely be a company you don’t want to work for because those kinds of company’s don’t respect their employees’ livelihoods Most companies will willingly wait the extra time and understand that you want for potential barriers to employment to be cleared first. And while I wouldn’t say that false positives are common, they happen. Some searches operate on name and birthdate information, and if your name is more common, it’s possible to receive another person’s results on your check.

  62. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I grew up Catholic. Learned that Mardi Gras was connected to Lent, although I didn’t totally connect the dots. No longer Catholic but I personally observe Lent because I just do for my own reasons and I don’t have to explain myself so don’t ask.

    I’ve been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras season and it is spectacular. The feeling I had was that although it’s connected to Lent, it’s really about its own thing and it is very much also a celebration of the different traditions in the city. So OP could very easily be wanting to celebrate something from home because it’s home, not because it’s religious. If she wants to share a king cake, just warn folks there’s a baby in there, and don’t force it on anyone.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      For the people in south Louisiana who celebrate Mardi Gras are well aware it is connected the Catholic Easter celebration. The Mardi Gras date moves each year because the date of Easter moves each year. Now that Mardi Gras is over the news is providing links to the list of the Friday Fish Fry fundraisers, mostly offered by religious schools and churches. I am no longer a practicing Catholic but it very nice to be back home where we do celebrate Mardi Gras and eat fish or crawfish on Fridays during Lent because that’s the culture I grew up with.

      But I am aware that people outside of Louisiana may only envision Mardi Gras as the Bourbon Street debauchery and be unaware of any religious connection or the fact that Mardi Gras celebrations and parades are family friendly (not on Bourbon Street, though).

      I would think that the average coworker would think more the debauched Mardi Gras than the religious Mardi Gras when wished “Happy Mardi Gras.” And I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it for that reason, but I would totally bring king cake because it is delicious and coworkers love free food in the kitchen.

      And once Mardi Gras is over you should not eat king cake again until the next January 6th (Epiphany / King’s Day) because King Cake is only for consumption during Mardi Gras season.

  63. Nea*

    I am blaming this conversation for my checking my favorite New Orleans king cake shipper and discovering that they’re *still taking orders* if you’re in the US and willing to receive a king cake during Lent. (They freeze!)

    Randazzo King Cake dot com; medium traditional (the best cinnamon roll you’ll ever eat; king cake is an iced bread and not cake-cake) and they put the plastic baby on the bottom for you to find.

  64. Jimmy Allston*

    I don’t think I would offer the money for the cat – just seems too much can go wrong given it’s a work environment.

    I wonder if the colleague’s vet would accept a payment plan – I don’t have pets so not sure if that’s common.

    1. HomebodyHouseplant*

      It is extremely uncommon. Vets have to make money to stay open and most require payment in full up front. They’ll push you towards something like Care Credit- which is helpful in a pinch but has a very aggressive payment schedule and ballooning interest. For someone already struggling financially it is a ticking time bomb. It’s really terrible but I also understand that vets have to have cash flow to stay open like any other business, they can’t sustain themselves on gratitude alone. The only other option in a lot of cases would be to surrender the animal which is absurd to ask of someone that otherwise takes good care of their pet and meets their needs, all because everything has gotten way too expensive to be sustainable.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. :( There are also some community vet care funds that rescues will put together to try to avoid people being unable to get their pets the care they need or feel like they have to surrender or euthanize them, but in an emergency, that’s not really helpful as most of these rescues are volunteer-run and it’s not easy to get an immediate answer from them.

        My dog needed immediate – as in, within the next few hours – surgery for a hemangioma on her spleen and it was thousands of dollars. I ended up taking out a second credit card to fund that and some cancer care she needed at the end of her life, but it was really hard to dig out from under that debt.

        Vet care in my area is BANANAS expensive.

  65. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Don’t say anything about the email/music/bible quotes unless it becomes persistent or there was some malice towards someone that could be considered harassment. The music/quotes are weird, but irrelevant. It’s a weird choice, but it seems clear here that her values are not reflective of the company’s values.

    If you want to address the notes/fliers on everyone’s desk, I would do so as a concern that she had access to your workstation when she was no longer an employee. Many companies do not permit former employees to walk around the company unaccompanied in the event of retaliation.

  66. HomebodyHouseplant*

    I hope the “don’t adopt a pet you can’t afford” people don’t brigade here…people’s circumstances change. Heck, my spouse and I have 3 adopted cats that are well loved and cared for but the cost of everything has gone up so much- I can see how difficult it could be for people in worse situations to have a well loved pet that they can’t afford emergency or even routine care for, even if they previously could. We recently had to switch vets because our previous vet is now out of our price range- and we make more money now than we ever have. The first appointment at the new vet for our elderly cat still ran us 300 USD because she needed a vaccine and some bloodwork. And things like Care Credit aren’t easy to get, and the interest rates are absurd. It’s not an option for everyone. What do you expect people to do? There are people out there that get animals that they aren’t financially equipped to care for and that is a conversation to have (about general responsibility) but if you expect people to just dump their pets because their situation dictates they simply cannot afford to get Fluffy’s minor sniffles checked out immediately that’s just cruel. Also most vets require payment upfront, don’t do payment plans, etc. I feel awful for this person and hope he can find a way to get his cat on the mend. They bring us so much joy and it’s our job to care for them, and I am sure this is weighing heavily on this person and making them feel terrible for something out of their immediate control.

  67. AlwaysEditing*

    I ran up a large vet bill a few years back. When I went to pay, the vet’s office told me someone had “taken care of” the balance. I was extremely relieved and grateful. I have a feeling it was the vet themselves, since I have been going to the same office for decades.

    Maybe LW#2 can put some money into their coworker’s account at their vet, if they know which doctor they use. Also, local shelters/rescues sometimes have low-cost clinics.

  68. Oh yeah, Me again*

    Sounds like your sub-par vendor is a big organization with a lot of turnover. So, or won’t be personal if the next time you are solicited by them, you are frank: “my experience wasn’t good”or I wasn’t happy with the service I got from you company.” Be ready with one or 2 examples – the things you stated here (a year late with assignments, continually change in contact) are sufficient. They may write you off as a prospect a d quit bothering you, or they may explain how/why the problems are fixed, which might be useful to know if you are out of options someday, and forced to try them again. (The good thing about high turnover is things might be improved. Of course they also could be worse. But a few years down the road, this vendor may be a completely different company, and your feedback may help with that. Or not. but you might as well.)

  69. House On The Rock*

    OP 2, you are so kind and caring and I applaud your instincts to help care for your coworker’s cat! As someone who bit off more than they could chew with a special needs animal when I was young and underemployed, this is so touching (my spouse and I had a support network and a great vet, so our dog the care he needed and I’ve never regretted the time we spent together, but it was a lot).

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on – simply make the offer and let them know that you are open to helping. Best of luck to Rex!

  70. Liz HD*

    OP 2 – I am sorry, that’s a hard situation. I’m sure this will sound terrible, but I would avoid offering to pay for the vet bill, and I say this as someone who loves animals. This to me is no different than any other situation when an employee might be struggling financially. It’s tempting to help out of your own pocket, but what if this happens repeatedly? What if they feel indebted to you or awkward around you thereafter? What if others find out and it creates issues? It’s too fraught, unfortunately. I think there are ways to help though – could you offer to research low cost vet clinics in your area? even offer to drive them to one further away if there isn’t one close by? I’ve read on this site that EAPs can often help with things that people would not expect – if your company has one can you find out if they’d be up for helping this employee find some resources? it’s hard for animal care, I know, but maybe they can find other financial help for this person that helps their situation overall and enables them to then afford the care – I don’t know but maybe worth checking out. I think there are ways to help and be supportive without actually giving them the money outright. That said, I would totally understand if you did. Just go into it with eyes wide open about potential pitfalls you may have to manage down the line.

  71. Trippedamean*

    I’ve been in OP2’s position almost exactly, and can confirm that directness is probably best. My coworker had an unfair ticket that she needed to pay for within a short time frame in order to avoid a warrant being issued for her. When she told me the story of how the ticket was issued, I took the direct route of offering to pay it for her. She insisted she could pay it herself and seemed mildly offended but I reassured her that I offered out of concern for her and wanting to prevent any further harm to her. Neither of us brought it up again. She seems to have figured out how to pay for it (our community is small so I would have heard otherwise). That was over a year ago and we still have a very friendly relationship. I think leaving an anonymous gift would have been frustrating for her because she wouldn’t have been able to express the fact that being able to pay for it herself was a source of pride for her.

  72. Alice*

    Re the poor cat – if you want to not be involved, could you arrange for a vet’s office to call the cat ower and say, an anonymous friend wants to cover your vet bill? Ideally if you know who their actual vet is…. Kudos to both animal lovers!

  73. Dawn*

    I’m not certain that anybody outside of the geographic area you speak of is even aware that Mardi Gras is a religious holiday, honestly.

  74. Coverage Associate*

    I hadn’t even thought about the movable part of Easter and therefore Mardi Gras. Of course, if Mardi Gras is a season, it’s less movable in a way. All my European travel books don’t mention Carnival moving. They just put “February.” But most do say “March or April” for Holy Week and Easter.

    Anyway, I have always assumed that the lack of secular accommodation of holidays based on Easter, unlike Christmas, is that this part of the United States doesn’t accommodate any movable holidays, Christian, Jewish, Muslim etc. The planning seems too hard.

  75. Elizabeth West*

    #3 — I’m no longer Catholic, but I will always accept king cake in the office. #yum

    #2 — Since he mentioned it to you, it can’t hurt to ask, OP. I like Alison’s wording. And it’s kind of you to offer.

    1. Dinwar*

      I spent the first 20 years of my life Catholic, and I’d never heard of a king cake until I moved to the South. The idea of indulging one’s self on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was discussed, but mostly from the perspective of “People do this, but they totally miss the point.” So I tend to think of it less as a Catholic thing than as a Southern thing. (Others obviously will have different experiences.)

      1. Rainy*

        Uhhh…so the discussion you grew up with about the Tuesday before Lent is completely wrong. Historically, the point was not to “indulge yourself before Lent,” the point was to *eat up all the fat in your house* before Lent, since you would not be able to eat it during the Lenten fast, and throwing away food would be wasteful. In the industrial age the idea of having to eat things up before a period of fasting may seem silly due to things like supermarkets and refrigeration, but the historical roots are sensible and comparable to many feast days celebrated before or after fasting periods.

        I’m guessing whoever told you that didn’t have a Jesuit education.

        1. Dinwar*

          The idea that you’d eat up “all your fat” is nonsense biologically. Historically fat was the thing you saved–and often saved WITH, as many meats were preserved in fat for longer than modern people would think possible. Further, things like butter, cheese, and the like were essentially ways to preserve milk fats (and entire cultures used these as the basis of their diets). You CANNOT go 40 days without fats. Full stop. ESPECIALLY in an agrarian society where the majority of your diet comes from grains. (As an aside, look at the popularity of eels through time. You’ll note a spike during the Age of Faith [for reasons other than theology].)

          Further, the idea of indulging one’s self prior to privations being counter to the intent goes as far back as AT LEAST the Middle Ages. I’ve read (translated) letters from Roman Christians on the subject.

          I’m guessing whoever told you otherwise didn’t have much understanding of Benedictine monasticism. Or the Church Fathers, who wrote on this subject.

  76. Kt*

    I disagree with the caveat for LW1. Informal team lead = person not being paid or given a title representative of their work. If a company is not paying you to be a team lead then you aren’t one. Full stop.

  77. Dinwar*

    #3: Mardi Gras is one of those things that started out religious (grew up Roman Catholic, so I know all about Lent and the Easter Season and whatnot), but has become VERY secular where I am. In Bama it’s a point of pride that the first Mardi Gras parades were here, not New Orleans. So every city, town, village, and cluster of houses big enough to warrant a cop car has a parade just to prove that point.

    In that context, no one would think twice about you bringing a King Cake in to share. The only issue would be who’s King Cake gets eaten when, because unless you organize it there will be multiple.

    Secondly, there’s a huge difference between rubbing religion in someone’s faces, and engaging in a common cultural practice that happens to have religious origins. I mean, would you worry about sayin “Bless you” when someone sneezed? How about the phrase “Knock on wood” (a pre-Christian reference to the fay)? Something like a King Cake is even less in-your-face, as it’s merely a pastry that you’re offering to people–they can take it or not, and there are so many reasons to take a slice or not to take one that religion isn’t going to be a significant factor. (As an aside, the whole “put something hard in the pastry” ritual is firmly pre-Christian in origin. Plus, there’s something of a running joke in my family regarding cherry pies and cherry pits. I’d take a slice with a clean conscious.) Think of it like putting a tin of round, iced sugar cookies in the break room in early December. They’re Christmas cookies, and everyone knows they’re Christmas cookies. But the important thing for most people is going to be the “cookie” part.

  78. Head sheep counter*

    Every time the religion question comes up here I’m fascinated. Its so regional. Did you know that per gallup: Two thirds (62%) of respondents around the world say they are religious, with one in four saying that they are not religious. Atheists account for 10%. The rest are not sure.

    For info on non-religious in the US:

    For a breakdown by state (note this is as of 2016 and current studies say the numbers have grown):

    I personally find the umbrage about holidays to be informative but my context is wildly different out here on the left coast than it might be for someone else where.

  79. OP2*

    Small update – I texted my coworker after work offering to cover the cost. I thought this way it would be more detached from a workplace setting. I specifically told him I wanted to help pay for the bloodwork or whatever was needed for a diagnosis, and I was comfortable with anything under a thousand dollars. I also offered that if he’s not comfortable with it, he’s welcome to ignore the text completely. He texted me back and was very grateful, saying he helps people and animals all the time and is rarely offered help when he needs it, and he feels so sorry for his cat being so miserable. I suggested that maybe depending on when the appointment is, when it comes time to pay, he can call me and I’ll give the vet office my credit card over the phone to pay. Thanks so much for the advice Alison and everyone else! I will write in again when I have an update on how the cat is doing.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      This is such a wonderful update and so kind of you – I’m glad he took you up on the offer! Definitely tell us how Kitty is doing.

      (And how sweet of him to always help people and animals, too.)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Thanks for this mini-update! I’m glad you reached out, and a low-pressure, “you can ignore this if you want to” text is a great approach for this sort of thing.

  80. Ex-prof*

    LW 1: I have often noticed that some people will evangelize seemingly to compensate for failure. It’s a way to leapfrog from inferiority to superiority.

  81. Xero Deficit*

    I had no idea Mardi Gras was a religious holiday, in fact, i’ve only just realised Mardi Gras is French. Words I know in French but never read in French.

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