Christmas is celebrated by approximately 70% of the population in the US and Canada each year. This leaves millions of other people that do not celebrate or are of different faiths; Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Atheists and Agnostics to name a few. Sharing your Christmas celebration need not be offensive to those people who do not have the same beliefs as you.
Following these easy steps will ensure your guests will be visible, validated, included and respected for the values they hold dear. Inclusiveness is at the very core of the spirit of Christmas and here are some easy and fun ways to include others in your festivities.
1) Spread the love by including a few new guests at your table. Christmas dinner is always a huge feast – adding one or two more plates won’t make a dent in the offerings but will mean a lot to the person who is included. Think of elderly neighbours, newer residents to the country or newly single friends. Christmas is a time for togetherness.
2) Consider the barriers they may experience in accepting your invitation and address them preemptively. Help make guests feel comfortable by offering to pick someone up who doesn’t drive, give a brief overview of the order of events and be sure to serve foods they can eat. Introverted people may enjoy being given a task or role to perform at the event.
3) If you’re unsure which religion or traditions your guest practices, just ask! Celebrating diversity is really about using time with family and friends to understand their traditions and beliefs. The choice to not celebrate is a valid option too, but invite them anyway! Be respectful of differences. Do research in advance to expand conversations to include other traditions and religious celebrations at the dinner table.
4) Foods. Lights. Sounds. Celebrations across the globe share three elements in common: food, lights and sound. Allowing guests to bring and share a dish that has special importance or is a favourite recipe of theirs is an excellent way to bond at the table, share stories and learn more about the person and their beliefs. It is important to consider religious dietary restrictions when planning the menu. Decorating the party with symbolic candles or festive lights is an excellent way to create an inclusive event with a stunning ambiance. And finally, creating a music playlist that honours multiple faiths is easy to do and a welcoming gesture.
5) Be a thoughtful guide for someone’s first Christmas. All religions practice the fundamental values of love, compassion and kindness. If your guest is unfamiliar with Christmas traditions, it will be helpful to explain what to expect prior to the event. Make it clear beforehand if a gift exchange will be occurring, (keeping in mind that an exchange might be uncomfortable for a first-timer!). If your event will have a religious tone, it would be considerate to let your guests know ahead of time and honour all individuals present at the celebration with their blessing tradition before food is served.
Paula Presswood is a former teacher turned entrepreneur. She can mostly be found blogging, doing yoga, drinking tea, chasing around after her three teenagers and sampling delicious appetizers with her crazy magician husband. She is co-founder of Presswood Entertainment and The Thoughtfull Board. You can follow Paula on Instagram @paulapresswood.