3 Ways to Practice Cultural Awareness During the Holidays

December 14, 2018

Happy Whichever Holiday You Celebrate! 

Christmas is just around the corner, as is Hanukkah; also Kwanzaa, New Years, Winter Solstice, and even Mardi Gras isn’t too far away either, to name a few. Whatever you celebrate this year, we want to say, happy holidays!

For the last few years, a piping hot political climate has been pressing on some of our most contentious cultural fault lines, and it’s left many of us feeling as divided as a nation as we’ve felt in our lifetimes. As the holidays approach in masse, even when we might not celebrate the same holidays, and even when we may ascribe to different systems of belief, we want to remind ourselves that there is no one right way to celebrate our gratitude.

We’ve suspected for some time that gratitude is a benefit to a person’s overall health, and in recent years many studies have proven it true in many ways. Did you know that gratitude improves mental and physical health? It’s also been shown to reduce aggression, increase empathy and self-esteem, and even to help you sleep. However, you choose to focus on your gratitude is the right way.

Read on for three thoughts on bringing communities together during the holiday season, and what you can do to help.


Don’t presume

If you know a friend is celebrating Hanukkah this year, then wish them a Happy Hanukkah. If for another possibility, you’re not sure what a friend or peer is celebrating, it’s perfectly fine to wish them the catchall “Happy Holidays.” It doesn’t need to be a big deal! Wishing someone a happy whatever they may celebrate, even when we may celebrate something else, doesn't undermine our traditions or systems of belief; it only demonstrates our willingness to acknowledge someone else’s experience of this life and the values they choose to navigate it by.


Be curious

It is a happy chance when we meet someone who comes from a different religious, cultural tradition. You already know all about your traditions anyway—what else is there to learn about your family’s holiday tradition? This season is a chance to learn about how life looks for someone else, and to deepen your understanding of what it means to be human.


Look for what our traditions have in common

Even when we celebrate different holidays, we observe many of the same things! This winter, instead of our differences, let’s look for all the ways that holidays reveal just how alike we are. We all celebrate our gratitude, don’t we? We celebrate the people in our lives, family, friends and everyone we care about during these special times. We celebrate cultural heritage and good old hokey fun. There may be songs and merriment, and there may be dishes and meals we save for just once a year. While all the winter’s holidays have their differences, and while they go by different names, a celebration of joy is a celebration of joy, and it is always a blessing.


When you celebrate with the people you care about, what are you celebrating? How do you practice cultural awareness during the holidays? Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere






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