Five excellent excuses for a secular staff party this winter

Office Christmas parties traditionally follow the same format. Everyone turns up at the venue (a local hotel), awkwardly consumes some food (a sit-down roast dinner) and then kills a few hours (with awful dancing that we’d rather not think about) before escaping home.

Not only is this arrangement horribly overdone, it no longer matches up to the modern workplace. This is neither seen as luxurious or exciting, and many staff would rather the budget was spent on something a little more inspiring. Besides, there’s the fact that a lot of these parties are completely tone-deaf when it comes to including any winter holiday beyond the Christian Christmas.

If you’re looking to shake up your staff party this year with an event that doesn’t necessarily involve copious amounts of booze and regret, here are five ideas that are both interesting and inclusive.

Sweet treats

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy all of the delicious food that’s available over the festive season, so how about throwing a party that celebrates the seasonal delicacies from every culture? Talk to your team about their favourite traditional foods and make your party about sharing cultures with each other.

You may struggle to find a venue that isn’t brimming with Christmas trees and nativity scenes. If this is the case, consider hiring your own location and speaking to an events company that can transform the space with Christmas themes like these, without relying on worn-out conventions.

Ugly holiday sweater day

The beautiful thing about horrible jumpers is that they’re not exclusive to a particular holiday. Sure, you do get a lot of designs focused around Christmas, but that’s only really because it’s chilly outside.

In honour of these wonderful garments and as a way of making sure your staff stay cosy (and cringey) this December, why not have a specific day in dedication to them? Whether you simply announce a non-workwear day and close your office in the afternoon, or arrange a festive meal for your whole team so you can parade your sweatshirts in public, this should be a party that everyone can get on board with.

This event goes particularly well with a finger food buffet, nostalgic party games and trivia quiz – the epitome of good ol’ fashioned fun.

Winter solstice

The winter solstice is marked by the longest night of the year and the point at which the sun reaches the lowest apex in the sky. In the northern hemisphere, this is on the 21st of December – perfect for throwing a little celebration while everyone else follows more religious ideals.

Although lots of cultures incorporate the solstice in some way (it’s particularly associated with pagans), it’s more deeply rooted in tradition and a connection with the earth. The traditional winter solstice party involves feasting and drinking, staying up late into the night (until sunrise if you can make it). Throw an evening event with lanterns, warm clothes and lots of seasonal foods.

Hot drinks party

Whether you’re a sucker for cider or have a penchant for pumpkin spice, there’s no arguing that one of the best things about winter is the abundance of delicious warm drinks. It doesn’t matter what somebody’s age is or what background they’re from, they’re bound to have a favourite hot beverage. Turn this passion into your own office-based festival and embrace the cold season by stocking your staff kitchen full of every type of drink you can, from hot chocolate to a non-alcoholic mulled apple juice.

You may (or may not) be surprised to know there are guides to throwing the ultimate pumpkin spice party. So, if you need inspiration, simply take these ideas and apply them to other comforting beverages too. If you want to introduce a little competition, have staff nominate their favourite concoctions, share them throughout the office and hold votes about which should be crowned the ultimate winner.

Boxing Day

Although many of us associate Boxing Day with Christmas Day, it’s not actually a religious holiday itself. In the UK, Boxing Day was traditionally the day when employers would distribute money, food, cloth and other valuable goods to their employees, to show their gratitude for the hard work over the year.

Modern traditions vary around the world, and it’s a bank holiday in most countries. Although this means you probably won’t be throwing your party on the 26th December, it doesn’t mean you can’t use Boxing Day as inspiration for your event. Arranging for your staff to spend the day doing charitable work – such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, shelter or helping a local non-profit is a great way to boost morale without bringing religion into it at all.

Organising an event that keeps everyone happy is never easy, but there’s no reason to let different religions and cultures get in the way of participation. After all, everyone can agree that winter is the time for coming together, celebrating our achievements and making sure the New Year starts on the right note.