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An INclusive Holiday Season by Nesreen Ali

The holiday season is around the corner. You may begin to hear the Christmas music ringing in my ears every time you go buy groceries, and the night sky is more brilliant with lit-up trees. 

It’s a complicated time for many – the holidays can bring up memories of holidays past good or bad, this may be the first time you are celebrating New Years Eve without a dear loved one, or this is the first time with a new addition to your family (human or pet!). 

The holiday season as we know it in Canada refers to the time just before Christmas (December 25th) and extending shortly after January 1st (New Years). Many organizations either enhance these holidays with dedicated office shutdowns or vacation days. 

As many groups move along on their equity, diversity, and inclusion journeys the topic of holidays and what they mean may have come up. Due to the often-religious nature of statutory holidays, the conversation naturally focuses on how to enhance, support, and include the diversity of religious beliefs and practices. 

Christmas for example, for some, is a deeply spiritual time, that may or may not include visits to a place of worship, connecting with family, acts of service, or purchasing gifts for family members. Additionally, many Canadians may not recognize or celebrate Christmas at all, participating in other holidays that align with their religious beliefs or choosing other activities to enjoy this time of year. Folks who celebrate Christmas form the diversity of religious affiliations, as the celebration of this day in Canada has become more cultural over the years instead of specifically religious. In a 2021 report, Statistics Canada reported that the level of religious affiliation in Canada has declined 70% of Canadians still identify as being religious. The religions that are most prevalent in Canada are Catholic (39%) followed by Protestant (29%), Islam/Muslim (3%), Hinduism (2%), Sikhism (1%), Buddhism (1%), and Judaism (1%)[1]

How do we celebrate inclusively considering the range of beliefs in Canada? A few key tips are below: 

Reflect: Is your Holiday party actually a Christmas party?

It is possible to celebrate Christmas AND enjoy, acknowledge and support other winter holidays that occur within the same timeframe. 

Inclusive Party Planning: Can you employ a collaborative approach with your staff to      celebrate holidays? 

Work with your team to gather a diversity of perspectives of ways to celebrate this time of year. Get a sense of the religious practices that make up your office.

Inclusive Party Hosting: Can you include a diversity of cultural representations in at your party?

  • Foods that represent the diversity of the cultures that make up your team.
  • Provide the option to celebrate without alcohol.
  • Include a diversity of decorations beyond the typical ‘Christmas Tree’ that represent the religious, cultural traditions of your office.
  • Music that represents the diversity of your team. 

Float Holidays: Do you have fixed time off for specific holidays? 

Identify if you can offer additional vacation days or targeted days to celebrate religiously significant events. 

Equitable Gift Giving: Do you have a policy about gift giving?

Giving gifts is incredibly personal. The pressure to give gifts at work during the holidays can already burden staff who may also have to provide for their own families. It may be a good option to offer all staff a pre-paid Visa to purchase a gift for their colleagues or make gift-giving optional all together. 

Your EDI journey is ongoing. We hope you also don’t forget to celebrate your milestones as you move through this important work. Enjoy the winter season!