8 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at Work

By Emma Hickey

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The window displays are in full swing, it’s impossible to leave your home without hearing Christmas carols, and the trees in town are all lit up. The holiday season is about reflecting on the year passed and looking forward to the year ahead. It’s the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for the people in your life, especially your team at work. After all, if you’re a people manager, then thanking your team and building enthusiasm for upcoming projects is something you should be doing anyways. The holiday season is a great excuse to do just that on a larger scale!

While it can sometimes be tricky navigating holiday celebrations in the workplace, don’t let that stop you from celebrating. Your team deserves it and it’ll mix things up in the office and infuse some extra fun into the atmosphere. There are plenty of ways to bring the feelings of festivity, merriment, comfort and joy that are so associated with this time of year into the office without being wrapped up in any one specific religious holiday. Here are 8 way you can celebrate the holidays in your workplace:

Holiday Party

Throw your office a holiday party! Decorate your office or rent a venue, provide drinks, or food, or both, and celebrate your team in style. An office holiday party is a classic end of year event for a reason: it’s a splashy way to honor the work everyone did and celebrate the team. Allowing plus ones can also be a nice way to show appreciation for the people who support your team outside of the office. Some workplaces opt for team dinners instead of parties if that better fits your office culture. Either way, giving people a space to be celebrated is the perfect way to cap off the year.


Potlucks are always fun, and they’re inexpensive. You could even give it a theme and ask everyone on your team to bring in a dish that reminds them of the holidays, or of their family, or of winter. Each dish will be a great conversation starter. You could even make it a true family-style event and break out some board games!

White Elephant

Sometimes called a Yankee Swap, a White Elephant is a gift exchange that’s also a game. Everyone brings in a wrapped present to the event and then draws a number out of a hat. In numerical order, each person gets to choose a gift and open it. People can also choose to steal an already opened gift from people with numbers before theirs, and the person who has the number one can steal from everyone. It’s a lot of fun to participate in a White Elephant, and everyone walks away with something. Keeping the price limit low is a good way to help inspire creative gifts, too. A White Elephant is sure to be a hit in your office.

Secret Santa

The name of this isn’t exactly non-denominational, but you can definitely rebrand the activity to something more neutral that reflects your company name or an office joke. If you have a small team, you can pull names out of a hat, but with a larger team definitely consider using an online Secret Santa generator, like Elfster. This tool will help you keep track of everyone participating and ensure that no one draws their own name. A fun twist on this gift exchange is to have all participants point their Secret Santa to a friend in the office who knows them well and can give the Secret Santa  ideas. This allows people to talk to teammates they might not normally interact with and get to know each other better.

Cookie Swap

In a cookie swap, everyone makes 2 dozen cookies and brings them to the event, where they then get to make up a bag of other people’s cookies. This is a family-friendly event so definitely encourage your colleagues with children to bring them. It’ll be a sugar rush for everyone.

Day of Volunteering

What better way to celebrate the season of giving than by giving back? Schedule a day, or a half day, where your team takes time away from work to volunteer. While working in a soup kitchen is a classic choice, there are so many ways to help. You could open your office to local students and teach them a skill, you could hack a problem for a non-profit, you could even clean up trash at a park near your office. Think outside of the box and bring your team together to help the community. Besides giving back, it’ll also be great team bonding.

New Year’s Resolutions

Encourage your team to write up New Year’s Resolutions and put them in a fishbowl in the office, or in an envelope to revisit next year. While you don’t want it to feel like school, make it ceremonial so that it truly feels like your team is closing a chapter and starting something new. Both honoring the past and looking forward to the future: isn’t that what this time of year is all about?

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