All I Want for Christmas is…Inclusion!

Dec 20, 2022 | Culture

I’m writing this on the second night of Hanukah, and the nineteenth day of non-stop Christmas music on my favourite local radio station (spoiler alert: it is not yet Christmas).

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music, and Christmas movies, and Christmas lights Christmas is wonderful. It’s magical. It’s a time that brings warmth and light to some of our darkest and coldest Canadian winter days.

But Christmas is also a time when it can feel a little bit uncomfortable being Jewish. Because at every turn and tiny interaction, I’m reminded that I’m just a little bit different from everyone else. Best case, no one sees it (the well-intentioned ‘Merry Christmas’ or Christmas office party); worst case, everyone sees it (the colleague who says, in front of our whole team, that I’m depriving my children by not giving them a Christmas tree, the spectre of antisemitism that Jews today are feeling more and more).

The other day, when I took my daughter to a shopping mall, we marvelled at the giant, beautiful Christmas tree. She turned to me and said “Mommy, why is there a tree here? Is the mall Christian?”

Again, don’t get me wrong. We loved the tree. It was great. But a small part of her saw that giant, looming, beautiful symbol and thought maybe this mall wasn’t for her. Maybe the mall was for Christians.

The holidays can be a tricky time to practice inclusion, at work or otherwise.

More and more organizations are professing to be inclusive places where people are seen and appreciated for their whole identities. But how can you ensure the holiday season is inclusive at work?

Ask and Listen

I wish I had a laundry list of tips to share with you, but it really boils down to two simple steps: ask and listen. Don’t assume that you know how people celebrate or that your way is the only way. When in doubt, turn to blanket statements like “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas” but better yet, take the time to ask people questions about their holiday traditions and truly listen to their responses.

I love it when my non-Jewish colleagues wish me Happy Hanukah – it makes me feel included and seen. Even better is when they wish me a Happy Rosh Hashana, which I’ve told them is a much more significant holiday in the Jewish calendar.

This principle applies to all kinds of inclusivity. Think of the difference between a jolly “Merry Christmas!” and a sincere “I hope this holiday season is alright for you; I’m here if you want to talk” delivered to a colleague who recently lost a loved one.

We all have stories, identities, and experiences that impact how we experience the holidays (and how we show up at work!). Being inclusive doesn’t just mean avoiding generalizations and stereotypes – it means taking the time to ask and listen, so we can adjust our interactions with people to show them they are seen and appreciated.

Here at MacPhie, we took the time to ask about our team’s favourite holiday traditions. No one shared the same thing. How cool and wonderful is that? Click through below to read our stories.

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