Newswise — In a country as multicultural as Canada, the months of November, December and January are filled with cultural festivals and celebrations. While many of us look forward to our own traditions and celebrations, recognizing and respecting other cultures are important things to keep in mind during the holiday season.

1. Look beyond December 25: Many religious groups celebrate festivals in November, December and January. As much as possible, try to look for commonalities and points of interest between holidays rather than focusing on the differences.

2. Do not apologize for your special festivals: We live in a truly multicultural society which is enriched by the addition of cultural symbolisms from diverse groups. Embrace the diverse celebrations happening around you, and don’t apologize if your celebrations are different from those of your neighbours and colleagues.

3. Avoid being judgmental: All beliefs and festivities are relevant to the individual within his and her own social context. Avoid labeling traditions as ‘different’ from your own.

4. Find common ground: Be courteous, kind, gracious and empathetic – all religions believe in these values.

5. Don’t assume: Don’t shy away from welcoming others from cultures different than your own. Assuming others are not comfortable with joining your celebration means missing out on the opportunity to learn about other celebrations while sharing your own.

6. Kindness is universal: Reach out to marginalized and less fortunate individuals and families. A kind word or deed can make a big difference for many, especially those who are new to Canada and missing the traditions of home during a special time of year.

7. Some cultural celebrations happening this holiday season:o December 2 - 9 – Hanukkah Jewish Festival of Lightso December 6 - St. Nicholas Day Visit of St. Nicholas to children, celebrated by European cultures o December 16 - 24 – Las Posadas Mexican celebration of the Nativityo January 6 – Epiphany Christian celebration of the visit of the Three Wise Meno January 13 – Lohri Harvest Festival of Punjabo January 14 – Pongal Hindu festival, marking the beginning of the sun’s six-month movement northward

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