In gearing up for December holiday celebrations, it’s important to remember that we live in a rich cultural environment. Our employees and students represent many beliefs and cultures. At this time of year, it’s a good time to look beyond Christmas trees and Santa Claus, and embrace the diversity of holidays that Americans celebrate.
Here are some of the major religious and secular holidays at the end of the year:
- Hanukkah – December 8 (sunset) through December 16 – also known as the Festival of Lights, this Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. One candle on the Menorah is lighted each day of the festival. Small gifts are exchanged and special foods are served.
- Bodhi Day – December 8 – on this day, Buddhists commemorate Siddhartha Gautama’s (the future Buddha) enlightenment under a ficus tree at Bodhgaya, India. Colored lights and candles mark the 30-day period, along with decorated ficus trees.
- Los Posadas – December 16 through December 24 – this Christian holiday memorializes the harsh journey experienced by Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. Celebrants reenact the journey in a colorful pageant, followed by music and fireworks.
- Christmas – December 25 – on this day, preceded by Christmas Eve on December 24, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus with religious ceremonies, gift exchanges and special meals.
- Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1 – African Americans celebrate their heritage through seven core principles. Candles are lit each day, and participants enjoy feasts and gift giving.
- New Year’s Day – January 1 – this is the first day of the new year in most countries. All reflect on the past year, and make resolutions for the upcoming one, celebrating with get-togethers and fireworks.
In planning your holiday decorations and celebrations, think beyond red and green, and Santa Claus, to create a welcoming, inclusive environment:
- Communications: use Intranet, newsletters and table tent cards to share holiday information and traditions. Include dates and facts on holiday origin and cultural significance.
- Decorations: try adding splashes of blue and white, colors traditionally associated with the Jewish faith. Add an electric Menorah, lighting one more candle each night of the holiday. Kwanzaa colors of red, black and green are represented in candles lit on each of the celebration nights. An alternative to complicated and expensive decorations is to decorate simply, and donate the unused funds to a local food bank.
- Cafeteria: work with your food service to highlight celebratory foods each week.
- Holiday party: consider broadening the music, decorations and food selection to encompass diverse holidays. For the children, in addition to an appearance by Santa, add someone to distribute and teach the dreidel game.
- Management greeting: encourage your President or CEO to send a year-end greeting to all employees. Employees can be congratulated on this year’s successes, and offered best wishes for personal and professional achievement in the New Year.
Lastly: a bookkeeping reminder to publish your organization’s holiday calendar well in advance. Review personal day, floating holiday or days off for religious observances policies with managers, and make sure they are visible and available to your employees.
In your holiday decorations and celebrations, take care that no one is excluded. Believers and non-believers of every culture will appreciate your efforts in providing an inclusive atmosphere so all will enjoy this festive time of year.