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Celebrating all cultures’ traditions the key to happy holidays, experts say

Click to play video 'Celebrating all cultures is the key to Happy Holidays' Celebrating all cultures is the key to Happy Holidays
One Winnipeg psychologist says he'd love to see Christmas celebrated over the generic 'holidays', but thinks that doesn't go far enough.

At this time of year, there’s always a lot of talk about using the term “holidays” vs. “Christmas” and vice-versa, in fear of offending people.

One Winnipeg psychologist says he’d love to see Christmas celebrated over the generic ‘holidays’, but thinks that doesn’t go far enough.

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman of Clinic Psychologists Manitoba and the WinnLove project told 680 CJOB on Tuesday that Winnipeggers should be learning about and celebrating the tradition of all faiths, in an effort to build relationships.

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“I think celebrating Christmas is very important. It’s a part of this culture. It’s a part of so many people’s lives,” Abdulrehman said.

“But we can’t just do that. We need to pull in all of the other holidays as well.”

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Abdulrehman – who is Muslim – said he’s not calling for existing holidays like Christmas or Easter to be replaced by other traditions, but rather for the calendar to be augmented with more festive days. If that means more days off work, so be it.

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“I think it’s really always important to be mindful about having inclusive spaces where everyone can feel included regardless of their beliefs, whether it’s a religious belief or an agnostic belief or even one of an atheistic perspective,” he said.

“What we’ve tried to do in society is sterilize people – we don’t talk about religion and politics, and so we can never really become adept at talking about the interesting things that define who we are as people, and therefore we have conflict.”

Abdulrehman, who also works as a speaker and consultant on issues of diversity and inclusion, said leaders – whether that means politicians, media, community representatives or others – need to get on board with a more diverse holiday season, to make it easier for grassroots organizations and cultural communities to build awareness from the ground up.

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In a diverse community like ours, he said, it’s important that people’s stories have an opportunity to be shared.

“I think my goal is to try to make sure the city tries to be able to celebrate every holiday – or at least one representative holiday for different groups – in the same way we celebrate Christmas. I think that does a lot of things.

“Not only does that allow people to feel included if they come from a different background, but it also informs and educates those who are not, and I think that’s the way we reduce discrimination and intolerance.”

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Bishop Jason Zinko, with the Manitoba Northwestern Ontario Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, thinks it’s a giant task to incorporate more holidays, but not impossible.

“Having to recognize those holidays and to incorporate those as part of the fabric of Canada I think is going to be increasingly important and something that all of us need to be aware of and need to take part in.”

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Click to play video 'Ukrainian Christmas: Family tradition' Ukrainian Christmas: Family tradition
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Belle Jarniewski, president of the Manitoba Multifaith Council, echoed Abdulrehman’s comments, saying “celebrating outwardly” allows others a chance to learn more about traditions.

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“I believe that the rich multifaith traditions that make up our Canadian tapestry — including sharing in the celebration of the holidays of those whose traditions are different from our own enrich us,” Jarniewski said.

“If we use the word “holidays”, rather than using the specific name of the holiday in question, I think we turn it all into something generic which is the opposite of inclusivity.”

Jarniewski, who just returned from a conference in Europe, said our country is well known for tolerance and acceptance.

“I can proudly say that people from all over the world envy and admire the importance Canada places on inclusivity and that we embrace multiculturalism.”