Winter Holiday Decorating Guidelines

Between November 1st to January 15th there are about 30 holidays celebrated by numerous religious and spiritual traditions.   Grand Valley State University strives to be a place where everyone can practice their traditions safely and authentically.  Because of that the Division of Inclusion and Equity has put together the following guide around decorations and other events during this time.

For many reasons, when people say “the holidays” our minds often jump to December, there are holidays throughout the year.  These guidelines are especially for the “December dilemma” but can also be used for anytime during the year.  


  1. Make sure any event (ie luncheons, gift giving, etc.) is voluntary.  Depending on religious/nonreligious traditions not everyone may feel comfortable participating in these events or their tradition may prevent them from doing so.
  2. If someone chooses not to participate in an event, they should not be treated or viewed negatively.
  3. Managers must make sure to stay neutral with regard to decorations.  A manager can not allow one person to put up their religious symbols, but not allow someone else to put up their own.  
  4. Managers shouldn’t be perceived as endorsing one religion over another or religion over nonreligion. 
  5. Managers cannot force employees to decorate their workstation.


In your work station you are allowed to have any holiday decorations you choose.  It may have religious symbolism (examples might be a nativity scene, a menorah, or a Bodhi tree).  

In public work areas (copy rooms, lobbies, bathrooms) the symbols should be more neutral and focus on winter (snow, lights, snowpeople, etc.) instead of specific holidays.  


  • One way to think of winter decorations is to consider what you would still be okay having up in January or February (so more generic winter versus a specific holiday) 
  • If you are having lunch or dinner, think about what you are serving.  Some traditions have dietary restrictions.  Major things to think about include having a vegetarian and vegan option and having non alcoholic drink options. Also know that some holidays might require fasting.  
  • Remember that some major holidays fall outside of this time period (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.)  Think about how you recognize holidays that are outside of December. 
  • Learn new phases.  Many holidays have specific greetings.  Feel free to use these, if you know someone is celebrating a certain holiday on a certain day.  

Page last modified July 26, 2023