Growing up in a Jewish family in the 60’s meant that I primarily knew about Jewish holidays and customs. Our new year came in the fall. We had Hanukkah, not Christmas, and our traditional meals involved family jokes and TMI.  I had limited exposure to other cultures, as the suburban school I attended was not diverse.

I didn’t know anyone who celebrated holidays outside of the Judeo-Christian faiths. I didn’t have a friend (that I knew of) who was not heterosexual and I had no friends of color. My cultural and religious lens widened after high school. I went to a liberal college and met friends from different backgrounds and faiths. I discovered my own hidden biases and did some soul searching. While I didn’t seek out differences, I enjoyed learning about them.

In listening to my clients talk the messages they learned about “others” while growing up, a familiar theme emerges. There was more preaching than teaching, more “them vs. us” mentality, and beliefs based on protection and ignorance.

There about 29 different religious and cultural holidays celebrated from November to January. As amazing as that is, it is only the beginning. There is a multitude of cultures, faiths and events that I have never heard of listed at www.interfaith-calendar.org.

To celebrate means to observe, keep, remember. In this holiday season, let us celebrate what we have in common, not what is different. Let us embrace our humanness, the fabric of our differences, our struggles, sorrows and joys.

Whatever ritual (tree, wreaths, menorah, foods) we engage in this time of year, let us honor each other’s reason for celebration. Let us remember that the family down the street, across the nation, or standing in line next to us has reason to celebrate in in their own way. Celebrate that we are all human and share the same urge to connect with what is meaningful and significant to each of us.

Celebrate the Season, but Celebrate Tolerance.