Seize the opportunity to be curious and get to know your co-worker or peer better—deepen your understanding of their cultural traditions.

As the end of the year approaches, so does “the holiday season” which often includes a variety of celebrations. While 93% of Americans report celebrating Christmas, the reality is not everyone celebrates the same holidays.[1] We live in an age full of richly diverse cultures and religions, each with its own festivals, holidays and traditions.  While the holiday season can be a joyous time of fellowship and team bonding, resist assuming someone celebrates the same holidays as you or even celebrates in the same ways.

Before sharing well-intentioned wishes of “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas,” consider the following:

Do I know what holidays this person celebrates?

If you know a friend is celebrating Hanukkah this year, it’s perfectly fine to wish them a “Happy Hanukkah,” even if you celebrate something else. However, if you’re not sure what a friend or co-worker is celebrating, wishing them the catch all “Happy Holidays” works just as well!

Don’t make assumptions.

Don’t assume everyone celebrates the same holidays. Seize the opportunity to be curious and get to know your co-worker or peer better and deepen your understanding of their cultural traditions.

Try asking, “What holidays do you or your family usually celebrate?”

Most people will appreciate you wanting to know more about them and their culture. Even if someone does recognize the same holidays as you, this time of year can spark grief and loneliness among some.

What do our traditions have in common?

While you may celebrate different holidays than your co-workers, try to look for commonalities and points of interest between holidays, rather than focusing on differences. Even though someone’s traditions may be different from your own, their beliefs and festivities are relevant to them within their own social context.

Kindness is universal.

In a perfect world, cultural clashes wouldn’t exist, however since many holidays revolve around faith-based or cultural beliefs, people can feel uncomfortable or belittled when certain celebrations receive greater attention than others. Be kind, courteous and gracious to your friends and colleagues, recognizing and respecting whatever their cultural traditions may be.

Companies that value cultural diversity and inclusivity should recognize their role in validating and celebrating the various values, beliefs and customs among all employees, especially around the holidays. It’s important for employers to provide a safe space to collect employee feedback on their preferences and backgrounds to learn what cultural celebrations or holidays are meaningful to them.  Click here to learn more ways employers can celebrate the holidays while embracing every employee’s unique background, culture and faith.

Whether you celebrate Diwali, Bodhi Day, Ramadan, Las Posadas, Kwanza, Lunar New Year or any holiday you find meaningful, it’s important to acknowledge and be respectful of other celebrations. So, no matter what holidays you recognize or how you celebrate, the one thing all these traditions have in common is togetherness.

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Weekly Recipe

Creamy Italian White Bean Soup

Cultural Awareness Around the Holidays

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Kayla Hsu

Authored By

Kayla Hsu, MPH, CHES®

Kinetiq Health Program Manager

As a Kinetiq Health Program Manager, Kayla provides businesses with customized health and wellness solutions to better manage and improve the overall health and well-being of their employees.

Prior to joining Apex in March 2022, Kayla worked at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center on a statewide grant initiative integrating evidence-based tobacco treatment services into behavioral healthcare settings. She also has experience as a quality improvement advisor with a nonprofit healthcare quality improvement consultancy and Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO).

Kayla is a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS) and earned the National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice (NCTTP). She is a member of the Indiana Society for Public Health Education (InSOPHE) and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®).

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