The holiday season is in full swing. In the month of December, there are countless holidays, but the five main celebrations are Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year's Eve. These events are important in many different ways to different groups of people, and in order to address all the seasonal festivities, as a unified culture, many of us have started to just say "Happy Holidays" to everyone. But is this really the right route? What's wrong with saying Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah?
Instead of repeating just a blanket statement for the sake of covering our bases, we should consider taking time for some cultural exposure and let ourselves learn a bit about the different holidays and what they mean to different groups of people around Canada and the entire world. Taking time to connect — authentically — with the people in our sphere is crucial to developing good working relationships.
What does cultural exposure mean?
Cultural exposure is defined as "experience related to a region that aid in developing a familiarity or understanding of the norms, values, and beliefs of that region." Exposure to these new experiences increases our knowledge of another person's values and culture and helps us find a common ground and learn to trust each other. Exposure to new things helps us look at life from a different point of view and allows us to establish different thought patterns and problem-solving skills.
We get so wrapped up in our day to day, taking the "Happy Holidays" approach, which is really the easy way out. We assume that all of December's holidays are somehow each culture's form of their own "Christmas," when nothing could be further from the truth. In doing this, we diminish the Christmas holiday for Christians, and we lump everyone who isn't Christian into a big pool and tell them that whatever they are celebrating doesn't really matter.
It's time for our society to start standing up and telling Christians "Merry Christmas." Then we should tell the Jewish "Happy Hanukkah," the African Americans "Happy Kwanzaa," and so on, as each culture has different holidays that are engrained in their traditions.
How can exposure to a new culture be an advantage?
Exposure to different cultures benefits you in a variety of ways. It may start as a shock, but through the process, you have a chance to learn more about who you are, learn new skills, and learn different traditions. You have the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge and grow as a person. Your emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence expand, and you become much more interested in and appreciative of other cultures.
By taking time to learn about and experience the different holidays this season, you'll come to have a new respect for these events and what each individual person in your sphere is celebrating. For example, did you know that New Year's Eve is one of the most important holidays of the year to the Japanese?
Being intentional about learning more about others and growing as an individual, naturally helps you build healthier relationships both personally and professionally.
What is exposure to diversity?
Exposure to diversity involves an active effort to expose children and adults to people of different shades and cultures via trips to multiethnic neighbourhoods, taking in events in multicultural centers, or simply spending time with people who celebrate different customs than you do, at home or abroad. As we purposely expose ourselves to new cultures, we start to understand how we are much more similar than different. That we are all motivate dby the same things: love, family, success, quality of life, etc. Once we recognize that all of these differences have been used to divide us for someone else's gain, we will finally be wise enough to come together in our diversity and create one functioning society where everyone is valued and belongs.
As we roll through this holiday season, let's have some of these tough conversations with our neighbours, coworkers and employees and show them that even though we're all celebrating different holidays, we owe each other grace and respect.
Let's find time to learn which holidays are being celebrated within our walls and find a way to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" to those that will cherish it the most. If you're looking to learn more about multicultural events, check out our monthly tough conversations where we tackle real DEI issues that are affecting your life and workplace.