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4 Non-Traditional Holidays to Celebrate at Work

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

AA 2018 calendar and a pair of glasses.

Most of us know where to find Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and Veterans Day on the calendar. And perhaps you even observe these occasions by gathering with colleagues, planning a related email campaign, or enjoying a day away from the office.

But what about the nontraditional holidays like International Picnic Day on June 18 or International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19?

These “holidays” may not be on every calendar, but they can be great opportunities for building camaraderie in your office and for advancing your organization’s mission.

Here are a few holidays you may not have thought of, along with suggestions for how to celebrate in the office. Or, as you might say on September 19: “Here be some holidays an' ideas fer celebratin' them at work” (h/t pirate translator).

February 22: Single Tasking Day

While the origin of Single Tasking Day is unknown, most of us can appreciate the value of single tasking (as opposed to multitasking), even if we often opt for multitasking as a work strategy.

While our brains are designed for single tasking, we hardly ever let them work that way. Instead, we fool ourselves into thinking that multitasking makes us more productive when it actually does the opposite; exhausting our brain power as we struggle to focus enough to get things done.

Interrupt the cycle of never-ending multitasking by observing Single Tasking Day on February 22. The goal of Single Tasking Day is to simply commit to working on only one task at a time, for the entire day. For example, commit to focusing entirely on writing that grant report instead of trying to write it while listening to a podcast, monitoring your Twitter feed, and diving into your inbox each time you hear the chime of a new email.

If it feels like single-tasking is easier said than done, try one of these tips to minimize distractions (or any day, for that matter):

  • Close your email or switch it to offline mode so you're not interrupted by incoming messages.
  • Schedule a work block for a single task on your calendar and treat it as though it’s a meeting you have to attend.
  • Speaking of meetings, leave your cell phone or laptop at your desk the next time you attend one so you’re not tempted to scroll through emails, news articles, or social media. If you often have conference calls instead of meetings, take the call away from your desk so you’re not tempted by your computer.
  • Try the Pomodoro TechniqueⓇ, by breaking your work into 25-minute sessions (each one is known as a “pomodoro”). Set a timer for each work session, taking a five-minute break in between sessions and a longer break after four sessions. A set of four sessions is called a pomodori. The trick is to focus on only the work for that pomodoro in each session and nothing else.

May 4: Star Wars Day

The timing for this holiday has nothing to do with when the Star Wars movies came out and everything to do with what it sounds like to say this date aloud.

I’ll wait here while you give it a quick think.

If you're thinking that May the 4th sounds a whole lot like the opening of one of the movie franchise’s signature phrases (May the Force), you're right! If you're still not sure, “May the Fourth be with you!" Get it?

For the uninitiated, the Force is a metaphysical power in Star Wars that can be used for good (by the Jedis) or evil (by Darth Vader and others on the dark side). On the good side, “May the Force be with you” is a way to wish someone good luck.

Around the world, fans celebrate Star Wars Day by watching the movies or dressing up as their favorite characters. Those activities may not fly at the office, so some other ways to celebrate the day:

  • Send a Star Wars-themed email to donors and supporters reflecting on how your organization is being a force for good, thanking them for being a part of your mission, and, of course, wishing that the Force be with them this day and always.
  • Channel your inner Yoda as you tackle a difficult project. As the Jedi Master said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
  • Bring a Star Wars-themed snack to share with coworkers.

August 19: World Photo Day

Founded in 2009, World Photo Day simultaneously celebrates the positive impact of photography while also using the art to create change. On this day, photographers around the world submit their best photos to be considered for inclusion in a photo book, the proceeds of which are donated to nonprofit organizations.

But you don’t have to be a professional photographer to observe World Photo Day:

  • Ask your organization's social media followers to share a photo related to your work and mission.
  • Share photos on social media throughout the day of volunteers creating positive change. Give your volunteers a heads up about the campaign so they can join in by posting photos of themselves volunteering.
  • Encourage colleagues to share inspiring photos. In addition to sharing on social media, you can ask coworkers to include photos in their email signature or to post printed photos on office doors or cubicle walls.

November 27 (or Tuesday following Thanksgiving): Giving Tuesday

For many nonprofit organizations, Giving Tuesday has become the kickoff to the end-of-year giving season. Held on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is an annual day of global giving, focusing on donations of both money and time.

If you work in development, Giving Tuesday is surely already on your calendar. But you can mark Giving Tuesday as a non-fundraising social-impact professional by:

  • Organizing an office-wide volunteer activity on or around Giving Tuesday. Check out our holiday volunteering ideas for creative ways to give your time.
  • Amplifying your organization’s #GivingTuesday social media efforts on your own, if you’re comfortable doing so.
  • Exploring ways to formalize giving at your organization through initiatives such as paid volunteer time as an employee benefit or an employee giving program.
  • You can also mark Giving Tuesday as part of your job search!

Some of these holidays may seem silly or random, but they all started because someone wanted an occasion to connect with people over a shared interest or goal. Whichever nontraditional holidays you choose to celebrate—or start!—at work this year, we wish you a happy and meaningful day.

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Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.

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