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Diversity During The Holidays: Not Everyone Celebrates

    That's right. Not everyone celebrates the holidays. The Christmas fanfare can easily overlook diversity when the holiday season is marketed and materialized as a Christian holiday and is ever-present at stores and malls across America. Millions of people all over the United States don't celebrate the conventional Christmas. Many non-Christian persons, such as Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews - among others, or as individuals with no religious affiliation - possible atheists or agnostics, see the bustle and make the season a manageable situation. 

    This year presented a different kind of holiday environment. Many employees were still working remotely and have been doing so for the last six to eight months, while others are reporting to work on a daily basis or when expected to work on a hybrid schedule, yet still, a lot of greetings and warm sentimental messages have been and will be exchanged.

    How can HR help to build awareness of diversity and create an inclusive holiday environment? 

    Mark your calendars with holidays like Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and Diwali, for example. Find out the dates and record them as reminders. If you send out greetings about Christmas, send one out for other holidays too. If your company's email or software program allows it, add calendar dates for celebrations from different parts of the world. Doing this implies that as a company you appreciate diversity. 

    Make no expectations. Realize that people celebrate a variety of holidays during this time of year, and some people choose to celebrate none. Don't make assumptions about people, but on the same note, don't be afraid to ask people what holidays they celebrate. Asking the general question, "What holidays do you celebrate?" can open the line of communication and awareness. Let it be an opportunity to learn about different cultures, religions, and the traditions that are followed. 

    Another way employers can appreciate diversity is by making all employees feel included and respected in the workplace. Below are several extra things employers can do to make their workplaces more inclusive during the holidays: 

    • Make sure that your holiday party isn't a Christmas party in disguise. Make the decorations and food general and not specific to any religion.
    • Consider having a New Year's party instead of a holiday party. This type of party can get everyone on board with the company's mission and vision for the New Year. Some companies elect to skip holiday parties and hold a party during the company's birthday month or during a less busy time of the year so that more employees and their spouses and partners are able to attend.
    • Post your holiday greetings on your webpage and intranet for many religious holidays.
    • Practice respect for these special dates and plan events and meetings around various religious holidays. Don't serve a holiday luncheon on the day when some employees may be fasting for Ramadan. Serve vegetarian options at the company hot dog lunch and for that matter, whenever the company orders and serves food. 
    • Display a multi-cultural calendar to help all employees stay aware of important cultural events for the rest of the year.
    • Treat the needs of different employees about religious or holiday celebrations with flexibility. Consider offering floating holidays are part of your paid holiday schedule.
    • Encourage employees to share their celebrations through stories, decorations, and foods that they can bring to their workplace. In one workplace, to celebrate his Polish heritage, an employee brings Pączkis to work on Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the day to indulge before Lent begins.

    Note: This blog post was inspired by and adapted from The Balance Careers, Human Resources, the Work/Life Balance by Simma Lieberman. Other contributions added by S. Charles-Garza, SHRM RGV Blog Contributor, Diversity Director, 2020.