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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

The spirit of the holidays:

A reason to acknowledge and celebrate

The holiday season is in full swing: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the New Year are just some of the major holidays that Americans will soon be celebrating in the company of their loved ones.

Here at Purdue, the holiday season is particularly important and relevant because of the diversity of our campus community. Purdue not only draws diversity from across the country, it also draws significant international diversity as well.

According to Purdue's International Students and Scholars Office (ISS), 126 countries are currently represented on campus. The holidays are indeed relevant and meaningful to our campus community.

As a supervisor, working for a public institution that attracts diverse students and staff, how do you make sure that the various cultural and religious observances within your department are equally acknowledged and celebrated? How do you take on the challenge of celebrating difference while promoting unity and respect?

When it comes to celebrating cultural and religious holidays at places like Purdue, a common misconception is that these celebrations are either discouraged or prohibited, either by law or by our institution.

At Purdue, "Launching Tomorrow's Leaders" calls for "A learning environment immersed in a rich and dynamic culture of diversity, equality, and inclusion for all people, with widespread support and a diverse educational climate for an evolving global society."

The challenge, it seems, is not the holidays we celebrate at work, but the need to do more to acknowledge and celebrate those holidays that all too often go unnoticed.

Following is a quick reference to some of the cultural and religious holidays that have become an integral part of the American experience. This list is not meant to be a comprehensive one, but a reference point that will hopefully generate an interest in learning more about these and other holidays.

In the spirit of the holidays, let's join in the celebration, whether it's our holiday or the holiday of our fellow Boilermaker next door.

Christmas (Christian)

A 2008 Gallup poll estimated that 93 percent celebrate Christmas in the U.S. To them, Christmas - celebrated on Dec. 25 - is the holiest day of the year because it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Diwali (Indian)

Known as India's "festival of lights" because of the candles and oil lamps lit around the home, Diwali signifies the renewal of life and marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Indian communities around the world celebrate Diwali between mid-October and mid-November.

Hanukkah (Jewish)

Often called the Festival of Lights, this eight-day Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.E., after a Jewish victory over Syrian-Green forces. The first celebration begins on the 25th day of Kislev, according to the Hebrew calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Kislev may occur anytime from late November to late December.

Kwanzaa (African-American)

This weeklong celebration honors and celebrates the African-American heritage and culture. Observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 annually, Kwanzaa celebrates the unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith of the African-American community.

Las Posadas (Latin-American)

Las Posadas have become important holidays in Mexico, Guatemala and Puerto Rico, and have been exported to other places around the world. Celebrated from Dec. 14-26, this holiday re-enacts Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter (posada). This nine-day holiday is also meant to celebrate Mary’s pregnancy.

Lunar New Year (Asian)

Also known as the Chinese New Year or as the Spring Festival, this 15-day celebration marks the end of winter and is considered the most important holiday in places like China. The Lunar New Year is observed across Asia, and by Asian communities around the world. The Lunar New Year will officially occur on Jan. 23, 2012, to start the Year of the Dragon.

Ramadan (Muslim)

Celebrated on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours as a way to purify the soul and refocus attention on God. Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days.

To find out about other holidays, visit:


Newport, Frank. In the U.S., Christmas Not Just for Christians. Dec. 24, 2008.

- Willie Cruz, cultural programs administrator
Housing and Food Services

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.