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Scheduling, greetings, décor, oh my!

Dear Friends,

As the winter months are fast approaching, we look forward to the light and joy that comes with celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. All three holidays begin within days of one another this year and also may bring challenges that impact the workplace.

Whether it’s concerns of scheduling, greetings, decor, or associated stressors, this busy time of year can be complicated to navigate. To help you feel more prepared, we have fact sheets on each holiday that you can refer to for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the December Dilemma.

If you have any questions or concerns, please be in touch and we can talk through potential solutions to support you and your workplace.

In peace,

Mark Fowler,
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

 


 

Holidays in the Hospital

As the end of the year approaches, whether you are decorating a tree with colorful lights, lighting a menorah, or burning a Yule log, it’s important to keep in mind that while holidays are an opportunity to celebrate culturally and religiously significant events, they are also an opportunity to learn more about traditions that are unfamiliar to us.

Tanenbaum likes to call this stretch of holidays the “December Dilemma,” as this convergence can often result in misunderstandings, miscommunication, and marginalization of less familiar traditions. There is no space in which this is more important than the hospital, where patients and their families may adhere to certain celebratory beliefs and practices that impact their care. For example, when observing Yom Kippur, which usually falls in September or October, many Jewish patients engage in fasting, prayer, and reflection. This could impact scheduling appointments, medication intake, and other dietary needs or concerns. Similar considerations also apply to Muslim patients observing the holy month of Ramadan.

Additionally, hospital staff and co-workers may also have certain religious and cultural practices that could impact scheduling, diet, and religious/cultural expression. In 24-hour workplaces, it is already difficult to try to schedule meetings with staff, provide food that everyone can eat, and ensure that requests for time off are accommodated. The holiday season can further complicate this when workplaces often have holiday celebrations and many staff members request off to celebrate with their friends and family. In order to better navigate these situations, Tanenbaum has put together some recommendations and resources, so you can proactively and respectfully address issues and conflicts that arise!

First, it is important to be aware of the holidays that may fall in or around December.

These include:

Eid al-Fitr, a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan in the Muslim faith. The Eid has shifting dates, and although it has fallen over the summer during recent years (it will fall in early-June in 2019), it can fall much later in the calendar and is, therefore, a holiday to consider in thinking about the December Dilemma.

Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. This five-day celebration usually falls in October or November. In 2019, Diwali begins on October 27th and ends on October 31st.

Bodhi Day, a Buddhist holiday celebrating Siddhartha Guatama’s (the Buddha’s) realization and presentation to his fellow seekers of the Four Noble Truths. Bodhi Day is traditionally celebrated on December 8th (the 8th day of the 12th lunar month).

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. This eight-day holiday can fall in late November, December, or occasionally early January. In 2019, Hanukkah will start at sundown on December 22nd and end at sundown on December 30th.

Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th by Christians who use the Gregorian calendar. Christians using the Julian calendar—many of whom are Eastern Orthodox Christians—celebrate Christmas on December 25th on the Julian calendar, which translates into January 7th on the Gregorian calendar.

Kwanzaa, a week-long secular holiday honoring African-American heritage. This holiday is observed from December 26th through January 1st each year by some African-Americans in the United States.

The Lunar New Year, a traditional Chinese holiday marking the end of winter that falls sometime during January or February (in 2020, it falls on January 25th). The Lunar New Year is an East and South East Asian celebration. In China, it is known as the “Spring Festival” and marks the end of the winter season.

Yule, a Wiccan or Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, will occur (in the northern hemisphere) on December 21, 2019. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun, the beginning of the time when the days will become longer, and welcomes the bounty of spring.

Second, it is also a good idea to download an interfaith calendar, like the one provided by Harvard Divinity School, so your calendar can make you aware of upcoming events and celebrations. For more recommendations and tips for navigating the December Dilemma, please refer to our December Dilemma resource, our religious factsheets, or our Tips for Respectful Communication.

May you all have a safe and happy holiday season!

Warmest regards,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team

 


 

Dilemma? Opportunity? Get ahead of the Fall & Winter Holidays!

Dear Friends, 

The winter holiday season often raises questions about workplace inclusivity and accommodation. Perhaps your office is considering which holidays to address, which holiday decorations are appropriate to use, or how to create a holiday or Christmas party inclusive to all. Whatever the case may be for you and your company, this is an opportunity to be prepared for the season and practice inclusion by addressing the December Dilemma head on!

Our December Dilemma Fact Sheet will help you address you and your colleagues’ questions about time off and scheduling, decoration and holiday greetings.

There are plenty of opportunities for education and celebration, beginning with Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas (both on the Julian and Gregorian calendars), Kwanzaa, and then the Lunar New Year in February 2020!

In peace,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

Photo: Ludmila Crigan-Mihajlovic


 

The December Dilemma – An Opportunity for Inclusion!

Dear Friends,

The winter holiday season often raises questions about workplace inclusivity and accommodation. Perhaps your office is considering which holidays to address, which holiday decorations are appropriate to use, or how to create a holiday or Christmas party that is inclusive to all. Whatever the case may be for you and your company, there’s an opportunity to practice inclusion by addressing the December Dilemma head on!

Our December Dilemma Fact Sheet will help you address your questions about time off and scheduling, decorations and holiday greetings.

There are plenty of opportunities for education and celebration, beginning with Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas (both on the Julian and Gregorian calendars), Kwanzaa, and then the Lunar New Year in February 2019!

Warm regards,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

The “Holiday Tree”

Credit: Flickr

In a recent speech, President Trump announced: “we’re saying merry Christmas again.” This statement started the yearly conversation about what Tanenbaum calls the “December Dilemma.” Every year, we get questions from clients about different aspects of December Dilemma (the period roughly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s), including decorations, parties, gift exchanges, and greetings. As companies strive to become more inclusive, Christmas poses a challenge: how do you make the holiday season more inclusive without alienating employees who have come to expect and enjoy overt acknowledgements of Christmas?

One trend that I have noticed over the past couple of years is the emergence of the “holiday tree.” Sometimes when we ask a client if their offices are decorated for Christmas, they reply, “No, we don’t have Christmas decorations, just a secular holiday tree in the lobby.” The first time I heard this, I made a note to look up “secular holiday tree” after the call. After talking to my colleagues, I realized that what the client meant was essentially a Christmas tree without religious or overtly Christmas-y (red and green) decorations.

I think the “holiday tree” is a good example of the balance that many companies try to strike during the December Dilemma. Take something that used to be a company tradition, like an office Christmas party, and make it more “secular” by turning it into a “holiday party.” But is a holiday party really any different from a Christmas party if all that has changed is the name?

To me, a holiday tree is a Christmas tree, whether you call it that or not. Is there a difference between a towering Christmas tree with an angel on top and a nativity scene nearby and a smaller Christmas tree with subtle silver decorations? Yes. The former is more closely related to the religious roots of the holiday, while the latter is more in line with a secular celebration and is likely more appropriate for the workplace. But they are both Christmas decorations.

According to Pew, 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That means there are plenty of people who celebrate Christmas but don’t necessarily identify as Christian. Additionally, 32% of Americans say that for them, Christmas is more of a cultural holiday (as opposed to a religious one). It follows, then, that it isn’t just Christian employees who would be happy to see Christmas decorations at work. At the same time, there are non-Christian employees (and some Christians, like Seventh Day Adventists) who wouldn’t be so happy. And I am not convinced that having a silver Christmas tree instead of a red and green one makes a big difference for that group. What would be more significant would be decorating, acknowledging, and celebrating diverse holidays. It is okay to acknowledge Christmas, as long as it isn’t the only holiday that is acknowledged throughout the year.

[Click here for more tips on how to handle the December Dilemma]

By Liz Joslin,
Workplace Program Senior Associate, Tanenbaum

Turn the December Dilemma into an Opportunity – Resources for Teachers

Dear Educators,

December is a time of celebration and family togetherness for many Americans – and not just those who celebrate Christmas as a sacred holiday or cultural event. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, many African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, and cultures across the world celebrate the Winter Solstice.

For educators, however, the convergence of so many holidays can create The December Dilemma: how to acknowledge and respect the wide variety of traditions students and their families hold dear without implying that some are more important than others.

Turn this dilemma into an opportunity for promoting inclusion and religious literacy. Teach your students about the many ways people celebrate in December – and throughout the year. Use our holiday planning template to create a yearlong schedule of holidays to explore in your classroom.

To learn more:
• Read our information-packed blog post, Teaching the Holidays: The December Dilemma
• Listen to Addressing the December Dilemma in Schools, a webinar created in partnership with Teaching Tolerance. (Complete the free registration to access the full recording)

• Download an elementary-level lesson on the Winter Solstice.

• Download an elementary-level lesson on Rituals and Traditions about Light: Hopefulness and Waiting.

• Check out Tanenbaum’s curricula for all grade levels.

Image credit: Painting by Manuel D. Baldemor

The Season of Inclusion – Navigate the December Dilemma!

Dear Friends,

What does your office look like during this time of year? Are there Christmas trees and menorahs in the lobby, or are decorations strictly snowflake-themed? Are departments planning Christmas parties or perhaps a holiday potluck?

Whatever is taking place at your office, the December Dilemma is in full swing. Hanukkah starts on December 6th and Christmas is coming up too (many will celebrate on December 24th and 25th, and some will celebrate January 6th [Armenian Orthodox] and 7th [Eastern Orthodox]).

Whether your company acknowledges specific holidays or takes a more general approach to the season, awareness about the holidays taking place during this busy time of year is key.
Use Tanenbaum’s tip sheets on Christmas, Hanukkah, and the December Dilemma to navigate decorations, time off and scheduling, and holiday greetings. Let’s celebrate the season of inclusion!
In friendship,
Mark Fowler,
Managing Director of Programs

Diversity and Inclusion Worldwide – A State Dept. Strategy Session

I experienced two things at my workshop in D.C. that confirmed the absolute urgency and human impact of combating religious prejudice, but more on that later.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State convened over 100 top diversity leaders for the first "Diversity, Inclusion and U.S. Foreign Policy" strategy session.  The day’s agenda focused on the impact of diverse professional environments and the way in which the diversity and inclusion agenda informs U.S. foreign policy.
 
Refreshingly, the session was much more than the same old conversations.  It was new.  Representatives of the State Dept., leaders in the field, and fellow presenters were saying that our global human rights agenda are directly linked to the U.S.’s success in foreign policy and global workplaces that thrive on diversity.  In other words, practicing what we preach will lead to a safer world. 
 
The range of issues discussed and diversity of thought was powerful, but I especially appreciated the opportunity to lead a workshop on Implementing Faith Based Diversity Initiatives.  The workshop’s conversation was lively and I was able to share a few of our better practices – including the importance of creating religious diversity policies in companies and governments.  Two things showed me that we moved the needle by getting key folks focused on this issue.  First, as a group, we discussed the core learnings that came out of our discussion.  Everyone agreed that addressing religion as an issue in the Diversity and Inclusion efforts of global companies is more than just a consideration – – it is key in the entire diversity conversation.  The second thing that proved the workshop was useful happened just after it ended.  One of the participants came up to me and said, “Joyce, I have to hug you.”  And she did.
 
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO