How to be Inclusive Around the Holidays

It’s that time of year again: snow is falling, temperatures are dropping and people all over the world are coming together with their loved ones to celebrate the season, albeit virtually this year! Unfortunately, the holidays are not joyful for everybody. All too often, people are subject to exclusion because the holiday(s) they celebrate go unrecognized and unacknowledged, often while the celebration of Christmas is practically impossible to miss. In the spirit of the season, let’s remember that celebrations are for everybody and be a little more inclusive this year.

Know Your Holidays

The more you know about each holiday, the more you can support people in your life who celebrate each of them. Do some research on the different holidays that happen throughout December, from Christmas to Kwanzaa. Don’t forget about the many festivities that happen earlier in the season, such as Diwali. Be sure that this knowledge includes talking to your friends, family and colleagues about the traditions they celebrate so that you can be mindful of their holiday experience. This will also give you a better sense of which gifts would be appropriate to give them for their celebration, as well as when to give them.

Be Respectful

Once you know about these holiday traditions, respect them! Learn which actions are meaningful for each person’s tradition and take the time to follow through on those actions. It is especially important to take this time for holidays outside of Christmas because our Westernized society is so heavily centred around this one holiday that others often get shortchanged. Those who celebrate Christmas typically receive time off work and school to celebrate without a second thought – in fact, most of our calendars are centred around Christian traditions – a privilege of which those celebrating other holidays are often deprived. For true inclusivity, we must elevate traditions that have become minimized, especially given the personalized nature of most traditions. By respecting someone’s culture, we are showing respect to an aspect of who they are as a person.  

Not Everyone Celebrates

As much as celebrating with others is a wonderful means of inclusion, recognizing those that do not celebrate is just as important. Many people struggle around the holidays for a variety of reasons, or simply do not ascribe to a religion with an accompanying tradition. As such, remaining respectful of those who choose not to celebrate will help those who do not or cannot celebrate feel loved and valued. Continue to spend time with friends outside settings of holiday gatherings to remind them of their importance just as they are, without any tradition attached. Better yet, form your own holiday tradition together, like marathoning your favourite movies every first week of December.

COVID Cautions

This year, the holidays will be especially challenging for the countless families who cannot gather together in person in effort to stay safe. While many families are still hosting virtual gatherings, the reality is that the holidays will look much different for most people around the world. This can be difficult to cope with for many people who look forward to reconnecting with their family, especially when many people don’t see certain relatives outside of the holiday season. As such, part of inclusivity this year is remaining sensitive to people’s situations and understanding that the holidays may be a difficult topic for some. Be respectful, don’t force conversations around the holidays and be compassionate about each person’s circumstances.

Through this season of celebration, one of the most important things to celebrate is our differences. We can respect and honour diversity by taking the time to understand other cultures, talk to the people in our lives about their family traditions and stay open-minded when others do things differently than we do. No matter what you celebrate, here’s wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons!