All I Want for Christmas is…Inclusion!
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.
“Each year, my family (all five of us) heads out on a tree cutting adventure to choose the perfect Christmas tree! What’s most important to me is that we wait until all five of us are free, even if that means a few days before Dec 25th — this is sometimes the case due to travel or other weekend commitments. We always pick up hot chocolate on the way home. This has been our tradition for as long as I can remember; my siblings and I are all in our 20s, so it’s been many, many years!”
“Every year over the holidays the Space channel has a marathon of the Harry Potter movies. My mom, my brother and I watch one Harry Potter movie a day between Christmas and New Years.
In addition, the World Juniors Hockey tournament begins every year on Boxing Day, and it’s become a tradition for my dad, my brother and I to cheer on Team Canada! We even had tickets when the tournament was hosted by Canada.
These are my two favorite traditions and something I look forward to every year!”
“My favorite holiday tradition is the family Christmas dinner we do on my side of the family. Every year the mix of people sitting at our table looks slightly different as my family is deeply involved in the community and we often include those who have lost family members, are struggling with addiction, or do not have anyone to eat with in our festivities.
About 7 years ago, we had a young man at our table who had never experienced a Christmas dinner before. The look on his face when he walked in and saw the food still sticks with me to this day.
I am grateful to have been raised in a family that saves a seat at the table for those in need.”
My favourite holiday tradition was started by my brother when we were university-aged.
Because we celebrate most holidays with moms side and dads side separately, one of the two celebrations is always a day or two off from the official holiday date. This means that our peers are much more likely to be available – as a result, our tradition is to bring a handful of friends each into our family dinners to bring down the median age of these events from 60ish to 30ish.
Our family really enjoys getting brought into the fold of our social lives, hearing perspectives from an interesting and eclectic group of young people, and seeing their development over the years. And our friends love being involved in spaces typically reserved for family and partners. It’s a really fun community-building tradition. We now have full-blown brainstorming sessions about what new additions can add something special to the vibe.
“My favourite holiday tradition is the Passover Seder. I love to sing, but it’s not so cool to burst into song with your aunts, uncles, and cousins, and this definitely isn’t something that happened much in my family once we hit a certain age. But, at the Passover Seder, we all sing together. Being with my family, eating delicious foods and singing the same songs that my people have been singing for generations makes me feel so happy and so deeply connected to my culture and traditions.”
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