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We Wish You a Merry Winter

November 3, 2000
Related Topics: Diversity, Featured Article
Diversity, a word for which everyone seems to have their own meaning, isall well and good.

Unfortunately, in an effort to achieve a "diverse" atmosphere, oneof the most ridiculous policies has been to continue holding fiestas during theChristian holiday season, but to rename them "holiday parties" in adesperate attempt at appeasing everyone. Yuck.

Look, I'm not against parties, especially in a labor market where makingemployees feel appreciated is more important than ever. Nor am I against allparties in December. But if "diversity" is one of the goals of ourbusinesses, and our means to the end of achieving that goal is to hold officeparties in December and call them "holiday parties," we're making apretty lame attempt.

After all, if diversity was as easy as finding a new name for something, weprobably wouldn't have diversity directors, diversity trainers, diversitypolicies, diversity committees, diversity consultants, diversity departments --even diversity software. Diversity would be handled by the marketing or mediarelations department, because that's all diversity is -- P.R.

Of course, that isn't true, but in lieu of doing the heavy lifting, we nowhave "holiday" parties celebrating "winter," or -- myfavorite --"the season."

If we really want to be diverse, let's all invest in a goodcalendar.

These parties were going on long before Kwanzaa even came into vogue, and the majority of African-Americans may not even celebrate Kwanzaa. If we want to have a holiday party for African-Americans, let's have it ona Monday in January, when we honor Martin Luther King.

Islamic employees, who constitute a fast-growing demographic group in theUnited States, do not "celebrate" Ramadan in the workplace (or atall). The last day of Ramadan, which is indeed celebratory, doesn’t normallyfall in December in the first place.

There are no major Jewish holidays in December. The only thing close isHanukkah, which is a relatively minor holiday. It is not in the Torah, but isbased on a much-later (164 B.C.) historical event which very ironically involved the Jewish people surviving an attempt to water Judaism down and blend it in to other religions.

Furthermore, Hanukkah belongs to a faith in which the vast majority of usbelieve that religion is for families and communities, not something to beorchestrated by employers at parties. For Jewish people, the holidays -- as wellas the holiday season -- are in September and early October.

In some of the same organizations where employers -- in an effort to bediverse -- hold "holiday parties" in December, major company meetingsare held on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Ridiculous.

One may argue that Christmas is a mainly secular holiday, and that putting a tree in the workplace and holding a 'holiday party' is a secular, not religious event with no harm to anyone. But to many Christians, Christmas and Christmas trees mean more than that, and diluting Christmas down to a vague celebration of a 'holiday spirit' is unfair.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with parties, and there’s nothing withparties in December. But if diversity is our goal, playing around withnomenclature is not the way to achieve it. If we really want to be diverse,let's all invest in a good calendar. We can circle all major holidays of ouremployees’ religions, and be reasonably sensitive to what these events reallymean to our employees’ lives.

We can allow for an extended lunch hour on Ash Wednesday to make room for achurch visit. If people bring in doughnuts for the breakroom every Friday, wecan change the menu to fruit or something else during the one Friday each yearthat falls within Passover’s eight days (when bread products are forbidden). We can encourage the investment ofour corporations’ community-service budgets in organizations supported by ouremployees, such as those that work to undo negative stereotypes of Muslims.

Such moves would mean a lot more to employees than does translating JingleBells into 19 different languages, or running around wishing people a"merry winter."

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