Celebrating Religious Festivals
What do we do when Christians complain that Christmas is being watered down with messages such as 'happy holidays' or not sending any messages at all? At the same time we have people with non-Christian beliefs who object to us celebrating Christmas, but not celebrating or sending out messages for their festivals? We can't win.
Christmas is now associated with a variety of images as diverse as the Nativity, "winter wonderland", "robin redbreast", and Santa Claus. Some of these themes have little rooting in historical fact or religious belief, and they change over time - many of today's images are, for example, centred on notions of family values persisting from Dickens and the Victorian age. Indeed many commercial and secular influences have increased the relative importance of Christmas: many Christians would place Christmas behind Easter in actual religious significance. Relatively few depictions of Christmas are per se religious; even when they are, the accompanying messaging need not necessarily be Christian (for well over half a century UNICEF, for example, has used neutral multi-lingual greetings in its festive cards). But it remains a fact that in the UK the overwhelming majority of the population classes itself as Christian and Christmas remains a significant religious festival for many.
But as society changes it is open to question as to whether an employer should espouse a one dimensional slant on a celebration which might offend or alienate minorities for whom Christmas may be of little or no importance.
Unless Christian values are an intrinsic part of the organisation's ethos an employer might therefore wish to examine using secular language for Christmas greetings and consult with employees more generally on appropriate ways to mark and celebrate festivals of importance to other religions.
Members can read our Guide to Christmas for employers here.