'Holiday,' 'evergreen trees' too religious for TWU

A Texas Woman’s University prof. advises that the word “holiday” is no longer inclusive enough, and recommends that office parties should instead be called “end of semester parties.”

Texas Woman’s University is offering tips for an “all-inclusive, multicultural” Christmas season, warning that the word “holiday” is no longer inclusive enough and advising that office parties should instead be called “end of semester parties.”

“When planning December office parties that coincide with the Christmas season, it is a challenge for event organizers to make celebrations ‘all-inclusive,’” TWU explains in a news release. “Not all faith traditions have holidays in December, and not everyone identifies with a particular faith tradition.”

[RELATED: Harvard placemat serves up social justice for Christmas]

Hence, in “The Festivus for the Rest of Us” TWU release, Mark Kessler, professor of multicultural women’s and gender studies, provides tips to avoid “missteps” when planning a “secular celebration.”

First, he says, party planners should avoid using the word “holiday,” even though it’s often been touted as a safe alternative to “Christmas,” because it “connotes religious tradition and may not apply to all employees.”

Instead, parties scheduled for December should be called “end of semester” parties, or for business-oriented offices, “end of fiscal year” parties.

In addition to inclusive nomenclature, Kessler suggests avoiding any “religious symbolism, such as images of Santa Claus, evergreen trees, or red-nosed reindeer." Snowflakes and snowmen, however, are good alternatives for party decorations or invitations.

Party planners, the prof. says, also have to be cautious of pesky holiday references sneaking into party treats, such as “red and green sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees.”

[RELATED: Universities say mistletoe, secret santa, red and green colors aren’t politically correct]

In order to be multicultural, “don’t forget to consider menu items that reflect dietary preferences and requirements of non-majority groups in your organization (e.g., halal or kosher).”

Finally, a diverse party planning board can help avoid anything that becomes too Christmas-centric, so those in charge of parties have to employ the help of “non-Christian employees of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and other religions, as well as non-believers.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey