March 2, 2021
September 17, 2020

The 8 Best (and Worst) Employee Holiday Programs

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Celebrating holidays at work is an important way to cultivate company culture, foster friendships, and encourage teams to get to know each other. In fact, Gallup has shown that having a good friend at work can actually improve performance, increase innovation, and reduce workplace stress dramatically. There are few ways better to foster good workplace friendships—and thereby enjoy the benefits of such—than a good holiday celebration.

There are a lot of holidays in each calendar year, but not all need be celebrated (looking at you, Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day). In fact, there’s nearly a holiday for every day of the year! With so much cause for celebration it can be a challenge to know which holidays to celebrate at work and which ones to judiciously decline. Not everyone will be overjoyed by Saxophone Day, right?

Disclaimer: When you have remote team members, it can be challenging, but perhaps never more important, to include them in holiday celebrations. With a little planning, ingenuity, and maybe an employee reward and recognition platform, you can make all of these holiday programs inclusive for everyone! We know because we’ve done it and helped others do it too.

The 8 Best Holiday Programs to Celebrate at Work


Listen...do you smell that? It’s the scent of autumn—falling leaves, hot cider, and of course pumpkin spice. Though not everyone enjoys ubiquitous pumpkin spice, there are always things to enjoy about Halloween that don’t include a flavor that can somehow be both in cereal AND your latté. Costume contests, department decorating contests, team costume challenges, and family trick-or-treats are a delightful way to invite the spooky season into your workplace.

Veterans Day/Remembrance Day

Recognizing those that have sacrificed so much for our safety and freedoms is an important way to say thank you. While it may not seem like it has much to do with your job or workplace, being grateful for those who have sacrificed all will lead to greater appreciation of the things we have. If you have employees that have served in the military, be sure to show your appreciation with recognition of their service and sacrifice.


Giving thanks is a universal thing, no matter if you do it with moon cakes in October or turkey in November. In fact, gratitude can actually rewire your brain for better moods, better performance, and increased happiness. Consider a “Give Thanks” campaign and think about ways you can thank your employees for everything they’re doing, even if it’s just a free meal. And speaking of gratitude, a donation program is a wonderful way to provide opportunities to serve, express gratitude, and give back.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

While it’s not entirely appropriate to loop these three together as they are distinct holidays for different cultures around the world, we’ve put them together because they all happen close to each other during the calendar year. These holidays are a fantastic opportunity to recognize how people in your workplace celebrate seasons differently. They're a chance to show all your employees that you care, no matter if they celebrate with lights on trees, menorahs, or a Kwanzaa feast. As you plan around these events, consider a few ways to celebrate:

  • Secret Santa gift exchange
  • 12 days of Christmas event where employees can donate time or funds to people or organizations in the community
  • Sponsor a family in your workplace or community in need.
  • Celebrate and encourage a day of meditation for Kwanzaa
  • Sponsor an office potluck with latkes, sufganiyot, and bimuelos

New Years Day

New years is a great time to reflect, reset, re-engage, and all the other “re” words (not rewards—that’s a different thing that, coincidentally, we’re pretty good at too). Providing opportunities to reflect on previous progress, recognize and celebrate past achievements, and set goals for the future will catapult the good holiday vibes into the new year. It’s a great time to have a year-in-review party to highlight some of the best accomplishments of the last year in celebration—even if that accomplishment is that your sales team ate a total of 1,000 lbs of M&M’s while selling more than they ever have.

Employee Appreciation Day

You should never miss an opportunity to celebrate and thank those people that make your organization what it is. Showing appreciation and recognizing people for their efforts can lead to way more than just a few smiles—it can actually improve engagement and workplace culture. Use this holiday to celebrate and recognize your employees specifically. Maybe a surprise day off? A gift in your recognition platform? Company swag? Celebrate every team member with recognition and appreciation. You’ll be glad you did, and your employees will thank you with renewed focus.

Donut Day

There are very few people in this world who don’t like a hot, sugary donut. How should such a delicacy be celebrated? With donuts, of course! Everyone has their own idea of which local bakery has the best donuts...why not settle it once and for all with a donut taste test? Glazed pastries, chocolate covered delicacies, maple bars, and sprinkles can make for a really great day at the office as you all enjoy a crazy sugar high together and remember what it means to share good food with good friends.

Day of the Ninja

While not everyone is a ninja, you can still celebrate the code ninjas, sales ninjas, accounting ninjas, and all other kinds of ninjas that work at your company. Without them, you wouldn’t be walking the hallowed path of success you now enjoy, after all. Maybe you could celebrate it by being a ninja yourself and thanking your employees without them noticing who did it. That would be the true path of the Recognition Ninja.

The 8 Worst Holiday Programs to Celebrate at Work

Any chance to celebrate is a good thing, but some are less awesome than others and should probably be left out of workplace celebrations. If you want to celebrate Tell a Lie Day on your own time, that’s great, but maybe not at work, yeah? These eight holidays are our picks for those that truthfully shouldn’t be celebrated at work.

Polar Bear Plunge Day

Not everyone wants to see Mike in marketing do the plunge. We love you Mike, but some things must remain unseen. Also not every office is located near a body of water, so there’s that.

Static Electricity Day

Thanks, but no thanks. Scooting around the office in your socks just so you can mildly shock someone and provide a bit of fun doesn’t sound like the best time. Though, in the right circumstances, maybe a contest of static shock could be fun!

Toothache Day

Clearly whoever made this a day has never had a toothache. If anything, this day should be “The Celebration of the Cessation of a Toothache Day” and should accompany sugary treats. Maybe you could pair it with Donut Day?

Tell a Lie Day

Not sure about you, but the idea of celebrating falsehoods doesn’t sound like a good time to us. There’s enough of that in daily life and politics—why bring that to work? A storytelling festival, though, might be a great way to turn this one around.

Haiku Poetry Day

We celebrate things
Holidays of note and joy
Some should not be so

Pizza Party Day

Actually, on second thought, this should always be celebrated. Can Pizza Party Day be once a week?

Talk Like Yoda Day

A great idea this is not, hmm? And would make meetings very challenging!

And finally…

Push Button Phone Day.

Not sure why we’d still be celebrating this, especially since push button phones are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Maybe it’s that special rush of nostalgia? *Boop Beep* “Ahhh...yeah. I remember the good old days of push button phones.” *Sigh*

No matter what you celebrate, let’s remember that at their core celebrations are about connecting with those around you and lifting them up. So, even if you DO celebrate National Push Button Phone Day, remember, it’s about those people pushing those buttons that connect us all. And those people are definitely worth celebrating.




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