Celebrate Diversity this Holiday Season

With Christmas fanfare in full blast on the radio, at the mall and on advertisements everywhere, it can be easy to overlook the depth of diversity in the U.S. this holiday season.

In reality, there are millions of people across the country who do not celebrate Christmas because they follow non-Christian religions, do not have a religious affiliation or choose not to celebrate for personal reasons.

This season, take time to celebrate and embrace diversity by building a greater understanding and awareness of others’ holiday traditions. You can learn about their customs and beliefs by:

  • Searching online for resources
  • Going to your local library and checking out a related book
  • Making a special dish that is served during the holidays in a culture other than your own
  • Finding different celebrations going on in your community

Take a look at some of the December holidays celebrated in the U.S. and around the world:

Advent (Dec. 3-24) – This is a happy time to prepare for the annual festive remembrance of the incarnation of Christ’s birth. Wreaths and Advent calendars are hung, and it is a time of prayer.

Bodhi Day (Dec. 8) – This day is observed by Buddhists to commemorate Gautama’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India.

Feast Day at Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) This day commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531.

Eid Milad Un Nabi (Dec. 12) This Islamic holiday celebrates the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Homes and mosques are decorated, large parades take place, and those observing the holiday participate in charity events.

Chanukah (Dec. 12-20) – Also spelled Hanukkah, this is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.

St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13) – This day honors St. Lucia. In Sweden, St. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred for her faith. She secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome. She wore candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. These stories were told by the monks who brought Christmas to Sweden.

Las Posadas (Dec. 16-24) – This is a nine-day celebration that commemorates the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy and the trials Mary and Joseph endured during their journey to Bethlehem.

The Winter Solstice/ Yule (Dec. 21) – For Pagans and Wiccans, the shortest day of the year represents a celebration focusing on rebirth, renewal and new beginnings as the sun makes way back to the earth.

Pancha Ganapati (Dec. 21-25) – This day was created as the Hindu Christmas. It is a family-focused, five-day festival in honor of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed Lord of culture and new beginnings.

Christmas (Dec. 25) – This is the day Christians associate with Jesus’s birth. It is also known as Pakistanis Quaid-e-Azam’s Day.

Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26) This holiday is celebrated as the second Christmas day.

Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan.1) – Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration that honors African heritage in African-American culture. It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67.

Remember, do not make assumptions about others’ religious or holiday celebrations. It’s OK to ask your friends, co-workers and neighbors what holidays they celebrate, but be respectful of these differences and make them feel welcome by taking an interest in their traditions.

It’s also important to remember that the holidays aren’t always a happy time for everyone. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, hopeless, isolated or on edge, don’t deal with it alone. Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center Counseling and Psychological Services can help. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 402.472.5000. Follow the prompts for after-hours assistance. Help is available 24/7. For non-crisis matters, schedule an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services by calling 402.472.5000 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.