Though holidays from various cultures, religions and traditions occur all year long, they seem especially concentrated in the late fall and early winter. For many, this can be a stressful season as the realities of limited time, money and energy collide with expectations about how the holidays should be. It can also be difficult for those not recognizing holidays during this season, as ongoing festivities and celebrations may cause feelings of exclusion.
Experts advise that retaining curiosity about others’ traditions and maintaining mutual respect can help overcome these feelings.
“When individuals are open to sharing their own traditions, or asking more about the customs of others, it can lead to really meaningful conversations,” says chaplain John Breding, supervising coordinator of clinical pastoral education at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “Sometimes, people aren’t even completely sure of the meaning behind their own holiday traditions. Being asked about them could spur a curiosity to learn more — ultimately making them even more meaningful.”
There are many ways to honor diversity among individuals of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures. In the workplace, this may appear as a potluck celebration during which individuals are encouraged to bring a traditional comfort food based on their own experience and culture.
“This creates a chance for conversation,” says Mica Togami, manager of spiritual care and education at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “Unless we dialogue about our individual points of view, it’s hard to honor differences. I see it as an opportunity to better understand each other.”
Children may have a hard time negotiating differences between their own family’s values and beliefs and those of others. Being asked to share about their families’ traditions can be helpful.
As for finding more meaning in your own holiday celebrations, Togami advises looking to the rituals that are part of your tradition. Rituals like baking cookies each year with grandma, visiting a special restaurant on a holiday or displaying a significant decoration — though not necessarily religious in nature — can provide comfort and connection.
“These are markers of a day where we’re asked to reflect on an aspect of our inner life,” says Togami. “In doing so, our rituals help make our holidays more meaningful.”