Ask the Expert: The Office Christmas Party Makes Me Uncomfortable

How can I make this gathering less Christian and more ecumenical?

Question: Every year my office hosts a Christmas party that is emphatically Christmas themed, with no nods towards any other religion. I want to suggest to the person in charge of the party that it be a little more pluralistic, but if I do that I want to offer specific suggestions, and I’m not sure what to suggest. What are some good ideas of ways to make Christmas parties a little less Christian?
–Andrew, Norfolk

Answer: I totally know what you mean, Andrew. I’ve been invited to some heavily Christian Christmas celebrations before, and it’s hard to know how and when to suggest that the festivities be made a bit more ecumenical.

To help answer your question I consulted with my friend Laurel Snyder. Laurel is a children’s book writer, poet, and maker of a mean kosher for Passover Easter basket, so I thought she might have some great ideas about making a Christmas party more Jew-friendly. Here’s what she said: “I’m not sure I’m an expert in this, but I’ve certainly played the ‘holiday season’ game before. I think the easiest way to add Jewish content to a party is around the edges. Add some klezmer to your party playlist, and some latkes and gelt to your feast. Anything that reads as ’Jewish’ will make most Jewish guests feel attended to.”

Laurel also suggested that there’s a big difference between a red and green color scheme and a live Nativity scene. Most Jews are pretty relaxed around Rudolph and Frosty, but get uncomfortable around Jesus himself, be he a little plastic baby or a man nailed to a cross. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask that the explicitly Jesus-related things be downplayed, and the more generally festive things–mulled wine! Twinkling lights! Let It Snow!–be highlighted.

When you’re talking to the person in charge of planning the party, it’s a good idea to emphasize that you’re not trying to be a party pooper, and you’re not asking for an 18-foot high menorah, you just want a little less Jesus. You should be fine.

Good luck!

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