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Celebrating Community Through a Multicultural Calendar

As we work toward creating a more inclusive environment for everyone in our community, we’re striving to build our awareness and understanding of the events and celebrations everyone observes. At BCcampus, we’ve created a multicultural calendar to share with our team that features a wide range of holidays, celebrations, and observations to help us honour the people we work with. It’s not about diversity; it’s about inclusion. 

Post by the BCcampus editorial team

Regardless of your ethnicity, culture, or beliefs, if you live in B.C., chances are you know the stories behind Christmas, Easter, Hallowe’en, and other notable holidays across the calendar. Although much of this is due to commercialization, plenty can be attributed to the fact that we were told these were culturally significant events for a predominantly white, Christian society. But that’s not the only community around us, so it’s imperative we build our awareness of significant events in other cultures to enable the people we work with to feel comfortable celebrating what and how they want.

“There are people at BCcampus who come from a non-dominant background in what’s now known as Canada,” shared Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “We want the people in our community to feel comfortable celebrating the dates and events that are important to them, so they can be their whole selves at home, at play, and at work.”

Appreciation, not Appropriation 

We aren’t doing this to have a token celebration for every day of the year or to participate in different holidays to integrate them as our own. It’s to show our colleagues we respect and honour their beliefs and to make it possible for them to feel comfortable sharing a glimpse into their lives. 

At BCcampus, we want to be a team who honours, respects, and appreciates one another. By learning how to understand the significance of celebrations outside of our own, we can grow as humans and as professionals, respecting and learning about one another as we develop.

“There’s always the risk that we’ll appear performative,” said Mary. “There isn’t a lot we can do about that, except to engage more deeply with these events. Instead of saying ‘happy Kwanza’ because it’s on the calendar, we need to know what Kwanza is — understand its roots and why it’s important to our colleagues who do celebrate it. There’s a risk we’re going to say or do something in celebration of a particular holiday wrong — we don’t know the right words to say ‘happy Diwali’ just yet — but it’s a mistake I’m willing to make, because it might result in a learning opportunity that leads to a more inclusive environment for all. We do our very best to be accurate and consultative in doing these things, but we’re going to get it wrong sometimes, and we’re ready to learn and do better.”

Inviting Post-Secondary Institutions to Appreciate with Us

Many post-secondary institutions across the province are already doing some form of cultural awareness. Equity, diversity, and inclusion isn’t a simple act that can be accomplished by checking boxes on a to-do list. It’s the foundation on which we can build a more inclusive society and post-secondary education system. 

You can use this as an opportunity to inform and teach, inviting members of your community to share why they celebrate, leading to a stronger understanding of the people learning and working on campus and around us.

Check with your various communities to see how they’d like to celebrate their important events at work or in class. Should you decorate for Diwali and, if so, how? What can you do to make your staff and students comfortable celebrating Ramadan or Hanukkah? Is Cinco de Mayo a real celebration or just an excuse to party? Asking the community will lead to stronger inclusivity — we can’t know their events better than they do. 

Do it for the right reasons – don’t just celebrate because it’s on the calendar. Find out what’s important to your community, and learn how they’d like their special occasions observed. 

What Celebrations and Observations are Important to You?

For our team at BCcampus, we’ve created a holiday and events calendar informed by the people we work with, but we recognize there are many holidays that we don’t know of or don’t have the lived-experience to fully understand, so we’d love to hear from you: what do you celebrate, and how can we help you enjoy the occasion?

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The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by fauxels from Pexels