It’s that time of year again when I feel like a little kid. I am anxious to decorate my Christmas tree, listen to the Holiday station from Classical MPR playing 24/7, drink out of my favorite Christmas penguin cup, and celebrate the birth of Jesus. But, what about those who don’t celebrate Christmas?
Living in the Midwest, where the media is consumed with promoting this upcoming Christian holiday, it has never been on the forefront of my mind that some people don’t celebrate Christmas. In fact, it sounds almost illegal - how can you not celebrate what many people deem the best time of the year?
In my corner of the world, we recently added another member to our team at work. She is a previous Refugee who is Muslim, and is also a beautiful human, inside and out. We are so lucky to have her on our team. Our team always celebrates the Holiday Season (which is a cover up of what it is truly based around, Christmas) at work by doing something nice between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That quickly made me ask the questions: what can we do to include our newest member without ousting her? How do we handle this situation?
Create events that are truly welcoming to all
To answer my questions above, we decided to have a cultural feast where everyone chooses their favorite dish from their country during their favorite time of the year. We are also creating a quiz where you must match the nickname of “Santa Claus” to the correct country. Technically, Santa Claus is not affiliated with the Christian Holiday, so, this created a great way to include diversity, learn about different cultures, and make sure everyone feels included.
The premise is this; if you say you’re going to be welcoming when it comes to holidays, then truly be welcoming. Easier said than done - believe me, I know. As a society, we are trained to automatically think about Christmas as the biggest holiday time of year. What about Hanukkah? Kwanza? Diwali? Chinese New Year? And of course, Ramadan? Which brings me to my next point...
We naturally expect everyone to know about Christmas. But, we should know just as much about the other holidays those around you celebrate. I don’t know everything about the Muslim faith, but I have taken the initiative to learn more. I talk to my co-worker about Muslim traditions, and we make it fun! Today we talked about wedding traditions in Christianity and Muslim faith. How interesting it was to learn about their traditions.
Another thing we do is explain random slangs that come naturally to me, but for many where English is not their first language, they don't make sense. For example, we were explaining to a client that saying “oh, that poor woman” doesn’t necessarily mean she is poor. It’s more an expression of remorse. Learning about other cultures creates an inviting atmosphere where both parties can benefit from it. So......
Ask about traditions.
Ask about holidays.
Ask for explanations for the reasoning behind a tradition.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll learn new things!
Don’t resist change, embrace it!
The reality is, we are living in a world where we are quickly seeing more diversity than ever before. Unfortunately, people are resistant to change. Don’t resist change, it will always win. Embrace it with open arms. Change is hard - we become comfortable in our own ways, and when something shakes that known routine, it can bring animosity, nervousness, and vulnerability to our lives. These are hard emotions to overcome, but if you think back to change that has happened previously in your lives, hasn’t it brought goodness in the end? I personally can’t think of a time where the result from change wasn’t good.
In conclusion, as we approach this holiday season, think of those who don’t celebrate Christmas. You’ll be surprised at how it didn’t cross your mind at first. Let’s embrace all the different religions that celebrate the God we choose to worship and love. Until then, I’ll still be enjoying my Christmas decorations, humming along to my Christmas carols and looking forward to learning about my dear co-worker’s Muslim faith.