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Build Bridges with Other Faiths By Acknowledging their Holidays

Are you a Christian who has team members from different faith traditions? Taking the time to learn about and acknowledge their holidays builds bridges, destigmatizes Christianity, and spread love.

Faith and cultural diversity are a reality on our global teams, and one of the simplest ways to make colleagues from different cultures feel valued is to recognize their holidays. If you are a Christian recognizing a non-Christian holiday, this also helps debunk the belief that Christianity is inward-facing and judgmental of other faiths. Acknowledging someone's holiday isn't upholding their gods or theology. It's simply recognizing something important to them, like congratulating them on their company anniversary.

Since we don't always know what a holiday means, how to acknowledge it properly, or how to plan around it, here's a simple guide.

How to acknowledge holidays

  1. Schedule thoughtfully. Be mindful of holidays when scheduling large events this holiday season. If you have to schedule an event during a religious holiday, acknowledge that by starting the meeting with a greeting like "Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating this week."

  2. Learn other traditions. Build empathy for others by taking three minutes to read about someone’s holiday tradition. If someone on your team observes a holiday, encourage them to teach the team about that holiday in a team meeting.

  3. Say the recommended greeting. Do you know the faith traditions of your colleagues? If so, don’t hesitate to name their holiday in a greeting. For example, say “Happy Hanukkah!” or “Merry Christmas!” Not sure? Feel free to announce in a newsletter or team meeting on a holiday date: "Happy Hanukkah to all who are observing."

  4. Remind your team they are safe to share: Let new team members know that they are free to let you know about any holidays they celebrate if they'd like (no pressure, of course). Explain that this helps you provide any kind of support they may need for those holidays, such as scheduling around certain dates, acknowledging holidays, or incorporating celebrations into team events.

Upcoming Faith-Related Holidays: Greetings & Accommodations

  • Hanukkah (Dec 10 - 18): Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Hanukkah celebrates the recapture of Jerusalem and the Temple from the Seleucid Greek Empire by the Maccabees and the subsequent lighting of the Menorah in the Temple. Hanukkah is honored by lighting a new candle on the 9-branch Hanukkiah, playing “dreidel”, and eating foods cooked in olive oil. Employees observing Hanukkah may want to end the day a little early to light candles before sunset. Common greeting: Hanukkah Sameach! (Meaning: Happy Hanukkah!)

  • Christmas Eve & Christmas Day (Dec 24 - 25): Christmas is an annual holiday celebrating the birth and surrounding events of Jesus Christ to a virgin in Bethlehem. The Christmas season is often celebrated throughout the month of December incorporating religious services, nativity scene reenactments, Christmas lights, gift-giving, caroling, and decorating the Christmas tree. Common greeting: Merry Christmas!

  • Gita Jayanti (Dec 25): Gita Jayanti honors the creation of one of the most sacred Hindu scripts, the Bhagavad Gita, within the epic Mahabharata. On this day, Lord Krishna rendered his philosophical teachings to prince Arjuna expounding the truth of life and the philosophy of Karma and Dharma. This day is celebrated through reading and discussing the Bhagavad Gita and often performing puja and distributing sweets. Employees in South Asia may request time off to observe these holidays and some regions have these days off. Common greeting: Happy Gita Jayanti!

  • Sankranti/Pongal/Lohri (Jan 15): Sanskranti or Pongal is marks the first day the Sun moves into Makara (Capricorn) immediately after the Winter Solstice as well as the harvest festival. This holiday is celebrated by Hindu employees, particularly throughout India as they express gratitude toward the Sun. Employees in South Asia may request time off to observe these holidays and some regions have these days off. Common greeting: Happy Makar Sankranti!

  • Bodhi Day (Jan 20): Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, to honor the Buddha, or bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali. This day marks the day of enlightenment for the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Employees may request the day off. Common greeting: Blessed Bodhi Day!

  • Imbolc/Candlemas (Feb 1): Also called Brigid’s Day, this holiday is a Gaelic traditional festival to commemorate the start of spring. This date falls between the winter solstice and spring equinox and is generally celebrated throughout Europe. Pagan observers may honor this holiday with a hearthfire for purification, divination, a spring cleaning, blessing the home, and praying for health. Common greeting: Blessed Imbolc.

  • Tu B'Shevat (Feb 10): Jewish employees celebrate Tu B’Shevat to mark the date of the new agricultural cycle and the beginning of the biblical tithing cycle for Jews who were living in Judea when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. This day is known as the New Year of the Trees or Arbor Day. Those who celebrate may participate in the Tu’Bishvat Seder or tree planting on this day. Note that some employees also fast on this day. Common greeting: Chag Sameach! (Meaning: Happy Holiday!)

  • Maha Shivaratri (Feb 21): Maha Shivaratri is a famous Hindu festival celebrated each year in reverence of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. A

  • Shivaratri is celebrated on the 13th night and 14th day of every lunar month. Employees in South Asia may request time off to observe these holidays and some regions have these days off. Common greeting: Happy Maha Shivratri!

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This content is excerpted from a LinkedIn article, which contains content repurposed from internal Faithforce blog posts. See the LinkedIn article (first link under Related Posts) for more details.

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