December Dilemma With Office Holiday Displays

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Dear Miriam,

I work in a small department for a public-facing organization. For the first time ever, my boss put up a Christmas tree for all to see. Since there’s also the requisite menorah on the desk, I’m not sure I can get away with complaining. Is there anything useful I can say in this situation to express my discomfort appropriately? 


Dismaying Displaying


Dear Dismaying,

The good news is, Christmas will be over before you know it, and with the normal passage of time, the tree will come down, the menorah will be put away, and we can put these particular struggles behind us for another year. The bad news is, in the meantime, you’re going to have to go to work every day with a Christmas tree. 

If your office has some level of public display for any combination of Halloween, Valentine’s Day, MLK Day, Pride, Women’s History Month, July 4, or local sports teams, I’m not surprised that the Christmas tree was added to the roster this year. If there have never been any decorations of any sort, now is the time to speak up and help shape what these seasonal displays include moving forward. 

I don’t think there’s any chance of the holiday displays going away sooner than January 1, and I don’t think you can say anything to make the tree (and don’t forget the menorah!) go away. What you might be able to do is say to your boss something like, “I see that there are Christmas and Hanukkah displays this year. Since we certainly have some clients/customers that don’t celebrate these holidays, I’m wondering if we can add some general winter decorations, an acknowledgment of Solstice, and a kinara for Kwanzaa.” You, of course, might get roped into helping expand the display, but that process could be a useful one to situate yourself for offering feedback on future holiday displays.

Whether or not you do the above, in January, you could reach out to your boss and say, “In light of this year’s Christmas tree in the office, I’d love to have an office-wide discussion on what holidays we decorate for throughout the year to make sure a variety of cultures are represented.” You could take this approach a step further and say, “I’m wondering if we could poll our clients and get their input into the holidays they’d like to see represented when they come to our office.”

December can certainly be a difficult time of year for anyone who identifies outside the Christian mainstream, and I don’t mean to imply that including more holiday iconography diminishes the particular symbolism of a Christmas tree in your place of employment. However, given the direction things seem to be heading at work and given the majority culture in which we live, adding additional holiday imagery may be a more likely path to finding some definition of success, rather than hoping that this particular tree will go away.

Be well,