Christmas celebrators should foster inclusivity for others

December is the time of year when Christmas decorations start to appear, stockings are hung above the fireplace and stores bring out ornaments and cute figurines to advertise the “perfect” gifts for loved ones. At school, students begin whispering about Secret Santa while radio stations start to play Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey and Frank Sinatra.

While the time leading up to Christmas is great for those who celebrate, it can be overwhelming for those who don’t like me. After all, there is barely any representation for other holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

In stores, there are typically a few stands for other winter holidays featuring chocolate coins, dreidels and, occasionally, a menorah. Seeing these dingy stands in stores is extremely disappointing—I want to feel the same excitement and joy during these holidays, but I can’t because the atmosphere of wreaths and reindeers is so smothering.

To be fair, Hanukkah isn’t a materialistic holiday. While much of the basis and excitement for Christmas is buying presents, Hanukkah is about celebrating how the Maccabees, or Jewish rebel warriors, were able to get back the Temple of Jerusalem. Thanksgiving is similar to Hanukkah in that rather than presents, there are large amounts of decorations and tchotchkes commemorating the holiday. Even with this in mind, Thanksgiving is celebrated by many and representation is abundant; there’s no reason why Hanukkah should be any different.

Back in elementary and middle school, teachers used to throw holiday parties right before winter break. I would get really excited to see friends and relax. Once I walked through the door however, I looked around to see Christmas decorations, food and presents. I realized that it wasn’t actually a holiday party—it was really just a Christmas party, and the teacher just wanted to be inclusive by calling it a holiday one. Although these parties were fun, and I appreciate the teachers putting in the effort to throw them, I always felt left out. Even today, it’s isolating seeing peoples’ sad and concerned reactions when I tell them I celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas. It’s almost as if they feel bad for me.

School districts typically give time off for winter break so it aligns with Christmas or “local” holidays, and not for other religious holidays that require students to fast, such as Yom Kippur or Ramadan. While I love any time off, aligning breaks to non-U.S. traditional holidays would be beneficial to many students. They wouldn’t have to miss exams, school and extracurriculars, and they would be able to focus on their meaningful holidays.

Overall, Christmas can feel very exclusionary to people who don’t celebrate. Although holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa aren’t as widely celebrated, they should still be represented. If stores include more items that could represent these holidays and emphasize them as much as Christmas, it would be so much more inclusive. America is a diverse country that should represent those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Although it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s needs, school should be able to show a piece of everyone’s holidays and culture. By planning more school events as well as more media representation for those holidays, people will be able to feel more included in society during the holiday season.