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Inclusion Column

Inclusion and Empathy for the Holidays

By Joe Stanzione, Elementary Principal

Celebrating diversity and inclusiveness is so much more than a change to titles or labels. Celebrating diversity and inclusiveness is about using holiday celebration time with friends and family to build understanding and awareness of others’ traditions and beliefs. As a learning institution and community, we each play a part in the development of its members, young and old. Keeping a diverse mindset is important in this time of year. After all, not everyone celebrates Christmas. Mexico and the greater Monterrey area do predominantly consist of Christians yet our stakeholders do have diverse beliefs. While we do not teach the religious portions of the holiday, Christmas and much of what it entails are part of our culture and history. 

At the same time, we each can realize that people celebrate a variety of holidays during this time of year, and some choose to celebrate none. Here is a list of specific events and dates that you might find interesting as you meet others this holiday season.

  • Yule, Winter Solstice: A Pagan event celebrating the point in the year when the earth is most inclined away from the sun. It is the most southern or northern point. It is a time of reflection, giving and cleansing. (December 22)
  • Hanukkah: This eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights starts at sundown on December 22 and ends at sundown on December 30.
  • Christmas: This date celebrates the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, on December 25.
  • Kwanzaa: This weeklong secular holiday honoring African-American heritage is celebrated December 26 to January 1 each year.

Inclusivity requires each of us to accept those for who they are and what they believe. That brings us to Santa. You might ask yourself, “Where does Santa fit in all this?” Santa certainly demonstrates many of the qualities of inclusivity: a focus on people, equality and a sense of belonging. Also known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle, Santa Claus has a vast history. Today, he is thought of mainly as the man in red who brings toys to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. In actuality, his story stretches all the way back to the 3rd century, when Saint Nicholas walked the earth and became the patron saint of children and others - inclusive from the beginning. This history can fill books. If we want to make sure that his legendary status continues, we need to be thoughtful about what children hear and how to help them when doubt creeps in. Children begin to question Santa's existence at different grades and ages. To be understanding, we need to be empathetic. It is not our job to tell them what to believe, rather, our job is to help a child figure this out on their own. If you do encounter a time when this comes up, consider these steps: 1) Reflect on your own feelings when this question came your way as a child. 2) Find out what inspired the question. It may help to know the source. 3) Ask what the child believes. This is what really matters. Follow their lead and see what happens.

Being respectful of differences and beliefs is important. By taking an interest in other people's traditions and remembering that we were each a child not so long ago, we bring a welcoming feeling of inclusivity and understanding. Asking people what holidays they celebrate is a good thing and one we each can try. Thinking about Santa as a central figure of goodness and generosity can bring new meaning to our holiday. Remember, diversity can be who we are, inclusion is how we show it, and knowing more can be powerful.