While watching a baking competition on TV, I was amazed that the only Muslim contestant, wearing a hijab, by the way, was given demerits for “not putting her personality into the Christmas cookie challenge” and then voted off.
It is just as difficult to find the balance in corporations. These days, the conversation regarding which specific dates should be made on company-wide holidays is a difficult one. More often than not, specific dates are passed by for the more favored PTO days (paid time off or personal time off) for employees to use on any day of the employee's choosing. While certainly providing flexibility and individual choice, this is happening at a time when a vast majority of Americans are using about half of their eligible vacation time (54% on average) according to Glassdoor (survey is in 2019, pre-pandemic). Only 23% of employees take all of the time they are entitled to — and 9% take no paid time off at all. That’s more than 768 million days of vacation left on the table!
Without the company shutting down and recognizing a day off for everyone to step away, make merry, and get a refresh, employees become more burnt out and resentful of how over-worked they feel. It also sends a strong message to their families and children that there are no special days - no days to be remembered, no people to be honored, and no religions to be cherished.
Have we gone too far? In an effort to not offend anyone and appease everyone, have we lost the true meaning of our sacred holiday celebrations? This “All-The-Day” approach homogenizes the cultures and religions represented around the world into generic meaningless celebrations. I believe the lack of acknowledgment of specific holidays also creates an environment where people are afraid; afraid to say Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah as they do not want to offend or be ridiculed.
As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I would rather use the holiday season as an opportunity to connect, explore and learn from each other. Here is a simple and different approach to reaffirm our ability and responsibility to revel in the holidays season, be S.H.U.R.® For if we do not recognize the differences of our holiday's celebrations, we remove the very essence that makes them special and sacred.
- See and share the variety of cultures, religions, and beliefs from around the world. Teach your children about the richness of our differences so they grow up tolerant and grateful of those around them.
- Hear the stories, traditions, and joy that your colleagues and neighbors have as they celebrate their holidays, whichever ones they find important and meaningful.
- Understand by being curious and courageous in your conversations; learn how others pray, celebrate, rejoice and sing.
- Respect all the global backgrounds and nationalities so we can raise our collective appreciation of each other.
This holiday season, I plan on taking some days off to be with my family, to relax, read a book, go to the movies, and take a long walk. I will share a Merry Christmas, receive a Happy Chanukah, and remain curious about Diwali and Kwanzaa. I will strive to be open-minded and learn about the customs and celebrations of others. Finally, I will embrace the differences and celebrate the joy of sharing and caring for everyone.
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