Ah, the office party. It’s that time-honored tradition of getting together and tipping back a few glasses (but not too many) with your co-workers. It’s a key part of maintaining morale in an office setting, but it’s becoming a bit of a lost art. For far too many workplaces, office parties are unimaginative and quiet affairs that feel too much like obligations and not enough like fun. Maybe that’s partly because the parties themselves seem to be thrown out of obligation. Once a year, the boss feels like he or she has to let the employees have fun, so the holiday party is born. That’s not a very pleasant way to look at things.

And it’s not how you look at things, though. At your office, things are different. You recognize that the holidays are not the only reason to throw a good office party. And you know that some less traditional choices will make your employees feel more welcome and help them recognize that these parties aren’t just traditions or obligations. They’re real opportunities to mingle with and enjoy the company of fellow workers. Here are a few occasions that deserve their own office parties.

Independence Day

Summer is a tough time for offices, because so many people are taking vacations. You may not be wise to throw a party on Independence Day. No one wants to go to a work function on a holiday. But throwing a party for the Fourth of July a bit before or after the actual date could be a savvy move. The summer season allows for outdoor parties, which can be a nice change of pace and scenery for employees. And smart party planning could help you tempt employees to avoid vacationing during the week of the party. (Good for you if that happens to line up with a key deadline.)

As with any other office party, just remember the basics. Use your whole budget to be generous with the offerings, and make expectations about drinking and behavior clear.

Mardi Gras

Yes, Mardi Gras began as a religious holiday. It’s the last day before the start of Lent, the period before Easter during which some Christians give up certain vices. But in our modern culture, Mardi Gras has become a secular celebration of all things excessive. That makes it ideal fodder for an office party.

Naturally, you’ll have to strike the right balance.  Certain Mardi Gras traditions are inappropriate for an office setting, to put it mildly. But the right tips for organizing a Mardi Gras office party will get you pointed in the right direction.

Just because

Nothing shows your employees that you appreciate them like not needing an excuse to throw a great party. Yours is a hard-working office, after all, and it’s impossible to celebrate each birthday or other special occasion for each person who works in your professional space. So you owe them something big. Show your appreciation with a spur-of-the-moment, just-because type of party.

Throwing a party for no (official) reason allows you to plan it for whenever you want. It could come after a big deadline or a big deal. Or it could happen whenever you have the budget, giving you the flexibility to throw the party when it is most likely to be a big success.

Plan those parties!

Office parties bring people together. They help employees learn how to interact and collaborate without crossing the line with their behavior. Throwing an office party once a year is OK, but it’s not ideal. It feels obligatory, and going a year between office parties can leave employees woefully out of practice in managing their party behavior. Regular parties are the way to go. Throw one for Independence Day, Mardi Gras, or just because!