This year has been a difficult one for our nation. We have faced and continue to confront an insidious pandemic and a painful legacy of violence and inequity against men and women of color and traversed a great political divide that has threatened to fracture our democracy. Yet, despite strife, we remain a country with many shared ideals, dreams, and hopes for the future. The beauty of the United States is that our diversity allows those of us who genuinely seek unity to acknowledge and embrace our many unique and rich cultural and religious differences.
Over the next several weeks, religious and seasonal celebrations abound: Chanukah, a Jewish holiday, begins at sundown on December 10; shared by Christians and many Pagan traditions is the Yule Winter Solstice on December 21; Christmas, celebrated by Christians, is on December 25; the African American holiday of Kwanzaa begins on December 26, and New Year’s Eve; the Christian observance of Watch Night close out the year on December 31; and observed by Spain, many Latin American countries and Latinx communities is Three Kings Day, January 6.
As members of our community observe a variety of holidays, coming together (virtually) to honor their unique traditions and beliefs, this season offers us an excellent opportunity to learn more about our colleagues and classmates’ celebrations and acknowledge them with curiosity and kindness. During the days of Chanukah, you can say, “Chag Sameach” (happy holiday) and perhaps enjoy potato latkes. During Kwanzaa, use the Swahili phrase, “Habari Gani,” which means “What is the news?” and partake in foods like collard greens, mac and cheese, gumbo, or feijoada. For the Solstice, say, “Merry Yuletide” as you enjoy a meal of nuts, berries, spices, squash, and goose. Throughout the Christmas season, wish a “Merry Christmas” while enjoying roast turkey, goose, or ham.
Only when we step out of the comfort of our own traditions and celebrations to learn about others will we develop deeper understandings and relationships that can truly enrich our lives.
Sibby Anderson Thompkins, PhD
Special Advisor to the Provost and Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion/
Interim Chief Diversity Officer