Tolerance: Holidays besides Christmas

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Christmas is not the only holiday this festive season. In fact, tens of millions of Americans either celebrate different holidays or celebrate no holiday at all. Here’s a quick refresher on a few of them.

Yule is a winter festival that is always observed on the winter solstice. It’s celebrated by Unitarian Universalists, Northern Europeans, Neopagans, and more.   Jordan Beard, Network Specialist, described the way he observes the holiday. “Our tradition includes the tree, making cookies, and many other elements of an American Christmas, but where it differs is that on the night of Yule we gather around a bon fire, stay up late singing carols, and share ‘works of the hands and heart,’ (things we have made ourselves). I always make mead and bake bread.  A close friend makes beer, and another makes clothing,” said Jordan.

“Then we share a cup to celebrate sharing and community. In the morning we get up early, before the sun rises to drum as the sun comes up—a tradition from much of pre-Christian Europe to ‘pray’ for the return of the sun and of spring. Then we have a big breakfast and lots of coffee since we are sleep-deprived at that point,” said Jordan.

Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that spans eight days and eight nights, is celebrated from Dec. 12 -20 this year. This holiday honors the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Each night a candle on the Hanukkah Menorah is lit until all eight candles are burning on the last night of the holiday. Dreidel games are customary to play with the family after lighting the Menorah, and baking foods in oil is also a way to celebrate the miracle of the oil that kept the Menorah lit for eight days. 

Kwanzaa is celebrated for a whole week from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It is made up of seven principles which include Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. The holiday originated in 1966 as a way for African Americans to celebrate their heritage and study various African traditions. Those who celebrate the holiday often decorate their house with African cloth of assorted colors. They also participate in a ceremony is made up of dancing, candle-lighting, drumming, and feasting.

Practicing tolerance this holiday season

While your immediate environment may not appear to be culturally or ethnically diverse, there is no way to be sure. This makes this season a fantastic opportunity to practice tolerance and appreciation toward others. And the best part?  Here are four easy ways to do it:

  1. Don’t assume. It might be the most important one. We all know—assuming is always the first step in making a blunder. Just because someone looks like you or doesn’t look like you does not mean you know their story.
  2. Say Happy Holidays if you don’t know. This has been a point of contention in the past, but it does not have to be. If you don’t know someone’s background, then you can’t assume what they do or do not celebrate. Plus, there are plenty of holidays this season, why narrow it down to just one? Happy Holidays is plural, which just makes the holiday wish two or three times as big!
  3. Make an effort to learn. If you know someone who does celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or a different holiday, consider asking them how they’re going to celebrate it. This is a wonderfully easy way to make people feel included. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to try out one of their activities.
  4. Pass it on. Consider passing on what you’ve learned to family and friends. Inclusion works best when more people are in on it. Conversation is just about all we have when it comes to sharing ideas and beliefs, and everyone is exposed to different ones in varying degrees. So consider telling that relative of yours about what you’ve learned this holiday season.

Written by Michael Wanta

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