2017 has started, but it’s not the beginning of a New Year for everyone – just those of us who go by the Gregorian calendar (the internationally accepted civil calendar – also known as the Western or Christian calendar. It’s only been in use for a few hundred years – read more here.)
This is another example of thinking that they way we do things is the way everyone does it, or that the way we do things today, is the way it’s always been. Wrong on both counts. It’s a common issue, since we tend to look through the world through our own lens, and we often surround ourselves with people with whom we have things in common.
Other New Years…
But for some people, the New Year began in October (Rosh Hashana – Jewish New Year) and for others, it won’t happen for another few weeks: Orthodox Christian Christmas hasn’t even happened yet (it is this coming Friday, January 6th) and their New Year will be celebrated on January 14th. Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 28th this year. These are just two examples. Some celebrations change their dates yearly, because the calendar used is lunar, not static like the Gregorian calendar we are using to mark the arrival of 2017.
So what do we do when we are living in a country, city or community where there is diversity and some people are celebrating and others are not? I’m not suggesting we halt our festivities or not share the sentiment with others. I remember the school boards doing that years ago: the Christmas concert became the winter concert and no Christmas carols were sung. Predictably, those celebrating Christmas were upset. That’s not the idea of inclusion. What we need to be conscious of is that not everyone is celebrating the same thing (as was the case last week with three major holidays happening simultaneously), and acknowledge what is being celebrated (not just what the mainstream may be celebrating). Also, not everyone is celebrating at the same time (like New Years). In some countries (like Trinidad for example) every major holiday is acknowledged. It’s not that difficult – there isn’t a long list.
Practicing inclusion requires that we are aware, and that we use that awareness to let others know that we acknowledge them and what is important for them. To do that, we can start by knowing when significant holidays are happening and acknowledging them not only to the people who celebrate them, but to others so that they know too. A great resource for this is the Multifaith Calendar – available online as well as in print form.
So, Happy New Year for those celebrating the arrival of 2017 today.
And consider saying it again on the 14th and the 28th – even to people who aren’t Orthodox or Chinese. It’s a great conversation starter.