Here's what you can do:
In today's multicultural world, and office, there will likely be many faiths represented during the holiday season. You can't assume any longer that everyone's celebrating Christmas, or even Christmas and Hannukah.
Familiarize yourself with all the holidays coming up: Bodhi Day or Rohatsu (Buddhist), December 8th; Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican), December 12th; St. Lucia Day (Swedish), December 13th; Hannukah (Jewish), December 12th-19th; Winter Solstice (various-Shabe Yalda in Iran, Dong Shi in China, Yule), December 21/22; Christmas, December 25th; Kwanzaa (African American), December 26th; Boxing Day (Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland), December 26th; and Omisoka (Japanese), December 31st, Hajj begins (Islam); Eid al Adha, Islam, 31st; Christmas in Russia, January 7th.
E... mphasize education
It isn't an either/or thing, nor is it a matter of who's right or wrong, or which is better. If we approach it as learning about other people's celebrations, and other cultures, then everyone wins. I'm reminded of my small friend Emilio who heard about Hanukkah at preschool and decided 7 nights of presents was a better deal than Christmas, "Can we switch?" he asked. OK, that's a bit materialistic, but I liked his enthusiasm and inclusivity.
There's a reason why many cultures have a winter religious or cultural celebration. It's because we need it in the depth of winter. Apparently it all began with the Winter Solstice celebrations (lunar, around December 22nd) when early people were dreadfully concerned that the dying light meant the end of things if they didn't do something about it. They would burn Yule logs, dance and decorate their dwellings with evergreens in the hopes the sun would return one day.
Many of the December holidays are religion-based. Ecumenical comes from the Greek word oikoumenikos meaning the inhabited world; worldwide or general in extent, influence or application, and more particularly representing the whole body of churches, or shall we say institutions of worship. Having chaired the Development Board for the Ecumenical Center in San Antonio, TX., which was designed to focus on what the different religions have in common, rather than what they do not, I can assure there are commonalities. These December celebrations focus on celebrating life and goodness, family, kindness, comfort in the cold, darkness of the winter season, and, in some cases, the deity.
M... enorahs next to Christmas trees?
Charles Haynes, executive director of First Liberty Institute at George Mason University says neither imposing one's faith on others, nor removing all traces of religion should be the goal. "Neither position makes sense in a multicultural society," he says. "And significantly, neither approach has successfully resolved the 'December dilemma.' What is at stake is far more than a school nativity pageant or Christmas concert in December. At issue is an urgent question that runs through modern experience: How will we live with our deepest differences in an increasingly pluralistic society?"
B... liny (Russia), Black and White Pudding (France), Biscuits of Gingerbread (Germany)
Food is an integral part of any celebration. If you have a multicultural office, or want to bring this out and encourage it, include different national festive foods at the Holiday Office party. But remember, it's counter-productive to ask the Hungarian to bring goulash, etc. Make a list of different foods as suggestions; then ask people to volunteer. If Alexei then wants to bring bliny, he can. If not, he can choose something else. The spirit is openness to having fun, learning something, tasting some fabulous food and celebrating community together! This is a long tradition in many offices because of the cost of different items. Just as you have things on the list such as paper plates and plastic ware, leave your multicultural party list open to accommodate for different culinary skills, preferences and budgets.
E... nlightenment comes with celebrating.
Mary Baldwin, who is a Volunteer Director at a Homeless Shelter says "We celebrate Christmas and any other winter holidays, in all their diversity. With decorations, stories, food and music, we share our traditions of Santa, the Nativity, the dreidel, Kwanzaa, ski trips, cruises to the Bahamas, or hunting trips."
R... ituals and traditions
It's our traditions and rituals that shape us as a people and as a society. The more we know about, understand, and respect one another's rituals, the better chance we have of living in harmony.
Susan offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success, anger management, relationships, leadership, career, resilience, and stress management. Learn more about the Coach Certification Program - fast, affordable, no-residency, training coaches worldwide. Email for a free ezine: firstname.lastname@example.org.© 2009 Susan Dunn, M.A.
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