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Celebrating all cultures’ traditions the key to happy holidays, psychologist says

Global News logo Global News 2018-11-30 Sam Thompson
a man smiling for the camera: Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman of Clinic Psychology Manitoba. © Clinic Psychology Manitoba Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman of Clinic Psychology Manitoba.

At this time of year, there's always a lot of talk about using the term "holidays" vs. "Christmas" and vice-versa, in fear of offending people.

One Winnipeg psychologist says he'd love to see Christmas celebrated over the generic 'holidays', but thinks that doesn't go far enough.

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman of Clinic Psychologists Manitoba and the WinnLove project told 680 CJOB on Tuesday that Winnipeggers should be learning about and celebrating the tradition of all faiths, in an effort to build relationships.

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"I think celebrating Christmas is very important. It's a part of this culture. It's a part of so many people's lives," said Abdulrehman.

"But we can't just do that. We need to pull in all of the other holidays as well."

Abdulrehman – who is Muslim – said he's not calling for existing holidays like Christmas or Easter to be replaced by other traditions, but rather for the calendar to be augmented with more festive days. If that means more days off work, so be it.

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"I think it's really always important to be mindful about having inclusive spaces where everyone can feel included regardless of their beliefs, whether it's a religious belief or an agnostic belief or even one of an atheistic perspective," he said.

"What we've tried to do in society is sterilize people – we don't talk about religion and politics, and so we can never really become adept at talking about the interesting things that define who we are as people, and therefore we have conflict."

Abdulrehman, who also works as a speaker and consultant on issues of diversity and inclusion, said leaders – whether that means politicians, media, community representatives or others – need to get on board with a more diverse holiday season, to make it easier for grassroots organizations and cultural communities to build awareness from the ground up.

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In a diverse community like ours, he said, it's important that people's stories have an opportunity to be shared.

"I think my goal is to try to make sure the city tries to be able to celebrate every holiday – or at least one representative holiday for different groups – in the same way we celebrate Christmas. I think that does a lot of things.

"Not only does that allow people to feel included if they come from a different background, but it also informs and educates those who are not, and I think that's the way we reduce discrimination and intolerance."

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