Celebrating Winter Holidays

Our family celebrates Christmas and occasionally Three Kings Day on January 6th. I live in New York City where many people celebrate Hanukkah, so come December, if I know what you celebrate I say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Hanukkah!” accordingly. I don’t personally know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa. If I’m in doubt or I’m just not aware what or whether you celebrate, I simply say “Happy Holidays!”

Christmas and Hanukkah Representations

“Happy Holidays!” is fine when it comes to the holiday greeting and most would agree it’s a safe way to go. This year, however, I’ve been thinking about how safe we tend to play it so as not to offend, and whether playing it safe serves our inclusion goals. To be genuinely inclusive, we actually need to put ourselves out there a bit. For example, do I really not know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa (December 26th – January 1st) or Bodhi Day (December 8th)? Maybe I don’t, but perhaps I have missed an opportunity for someone to share that with me.

Traditional Kwanzaa Display

When it comes to holiday celebrations at work or school, playing it safe is inhibiting real inclusion.

I don’t show respect for your beliefs (inclusion) by hiding mine. When we share about ourselves and invite others to share too, we get connection. And isn’t that what the holidays are about – connecting with others? Yet when it comes to the holidays and particularly Christmas and Hanukkah, I find that we share less for fear of offending or making others uncomfortable. I suggest we share MORE.

Encouraging holiday presence that doesn’t call for participation in its practices can be inclusive without putting a hush on holidays.

After all, a celebration is a joyous acknowledgment of something. It is not a call to believe-in or even participate. The presence of holiday-specific decorations and presentations of their respective stories, songs or traditions are ways of sharing about ourselves with each other. As long as we remember to invite ALL to share their holidays and incorporate them into our celebrations as well, we would all do better by sharing more.

The LESS we share these things, the more uncomfortable it becomes to be our authentic selves.

I will stick to my holiday greetings as described above, but I’m making a more conscious effort to promote sharing about all our holidays at work or school. How will you be more inclusive in your holiday celebrations outside the home?

  • In the spirit of the “12 Days of Christmas”, I developed a super quick, 1-question survey ranking different aspects of diversity and inclusion. Please take the survey – it literally only takes a minute! I’ll start posting the rankings of our top 12 choices on my Instagram page on December 25th – the first day of Christmas. I’ll also post the full list here on the “Research Results and Surveys” page on January 5th. Thank you for participating!

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