Nov 17, 2021 Culture

Celebrating Holidays Inclusively


Increasing representation of underrepresented talent and creating a space for all employees to thrive continues to be an industry challenge. As we strive to build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities within our company, industry, and cities, we are committed to sharing best practices, learnings, and insights through an ongoing series. Below, you’ll find our first issue of this series, the DEI Digest.


The winter season is upon us and so is the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day when many U.S. employees celebrate several religious and secular holidays. There is no doubt a lot to celebrate, but it’s also a time of year that can leave many employees feeling isolated and excluded. As we head into Q4 and hopefully take some well-deserved time off, there are several easy ways to make this season feel more inclusive and ensure employees feel seen and supported regardless of their background, religion, upbringing, or culture.


Here are a few important considerations that can help you better understand what your employees may be experiencing this season.

  1. Holidays can be emotional and triggering especially for those who have suffered loss or trauma. Remember that the definition of family may look and feel different for everyone.
  2. Employees come from a variety of faiths and observed traditions throughout the year. Don’t assume that everyone on your team celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, some employees may not recognize or celebrate holidays at all.
  3. Historical context matters and plays a significant role in what and why many choose to celebrate or not. Educating yourself on why certain holidays can be especially challenging for underrepresented employees can help you and your team build empathy and understanding. Read more about Halloween and Thanksgiving in the next section.


  • Thanksgiving [Canada]: 10/11/2021
  • Dussehra [India]: 10/15/2021
  • Diwali [India]: 11/04/2021
  • Remembrance Day [Canada]: 11/11/2021
  • Thanksgiving [U.S.]: 11/25/2021
  • Native American Heritage Day [U.S.]: 11/26
  • Hanukkah [U.S.]: 11/28/2021 – 12/06/2021
  • Christmas Eve and Day: 12/24/2021 -12/25/2021
  • Boxing Day [Australia]: 12/27/2021
  • New Year’s Eve and Day: 12/31/2021 – 01/01/2022


Halloween is a fun opportunity to dress up as someone or something other than yourself, but it’s also a holiday riddled with racism and cultural appropriation. So what exactly is cultural appropriation? 

Cultural appropriation is when a more dominant (often white) culture adopts or exploits another culture for their own benefit. For example, dressing up in a “Native American costume” wearing feathers and braids, or “Mexican costume” in a sombrero and poncho. 

Appropriation disproportionately benefits the dominant culture with no intent to direct resources or support back to the appropriated culture. Appropriation fuels misrepresentation, stereotypes, and distortion because we often see inaccurate interpretations without any true understanding, education, or awareness of that culture and its history. 

If you plan on encouraging your team to dress up during Halloween, please also use this as an opportunity to remind them that costumes should never turn a person’s identity into a stereotype. If folks aren’t sure whether their costume is offensive, they can start by asking themselves the following questions (if the answer is yes to any of these, then it’s not a good costume choice):

  • Does my costume include makeup that would make me appear to be part of a marginalized race or ethnicity that is not my own?
  • Is my costume depicting another culture in a way that is stereotypical or condescending?
  • Does my costume involve sacred garments, images or themes from a religion that is not my own?
  • Does my costume demean, belittle, or make fun of any group of real people? 
  • Does my costume refer to or make fun of real people’s suffering?


Growing up, many of us were taught a peaceful story of Thanksgiving that included English pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to break bread and celebrate a successful first harvest. 

However, in reality, the first official mention of a “Thanksgiving celebration” is in 1637, after the colonists brutally massacred an entire village of Pequot people. What followed was 200+ years of genocide of Native peoples and theft of Native land. 

For many Native and Indigenous employees, Thanksgiving is a painful and devastating reminder of a history that is not often accurately told and the racism and oppression Native peoples continue to experience today. 

Many Native peoples participate in the National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving or celebrate Native American Heritage Day which honors and celebrates Native history, ancestors, and culture.

So how can you honor Native peoples on Thanksgiving this year? Try these four things:


Q4 is still a time to acknowledge and celebrate the team’s hard work and commitment to DoorDash throughout the last year. Small adjustments to your communication and approach this season can go a long way in making all employees feel welcome and connected.



  • Refer to this period of time as the “Christmas season” or “Christmas break” or ask what everyone’s Thanksgiving plans” are (try “What are your plans during our time off?”
  • Center the celebration activity only around alcohol.
  • Share images or Zoom backgrounds that are specific to only one holiday, religion, or tradition (try winter/snow or year-end confetti/balloons themes).
  • Assume everyone will require the same days/time off. Discuss preferences in your weekly 1:1s and be respectful of each individual employees’ needs.


  • Ask employees which holidays throughout the years are important to them and how they celebrate.
  • Make all social events optional and emphasize that there will be other opportunities for connection if employees choose not to participate.
  • Use “end-of-year celebration” in communication and messaging.
  • Share this information with your team!

*”What is cultural appropriation? Here’s why the practice is so harmful – and how you can avoid doing it;”; August 2021

**”The true story behind Thanksgiving is a bloody one, and some people say it’s time to cancel the holiday;”; November 2020