Interfaith Holiday Traditions That Bring Us Peace and Joy
Whether the celebration is in person or virtual, Faithforce creates a welcoming space to celebrate and learn about our diverse traditions.
December is a special time of year for much of the world, filled with bright lights, music, and holiday cheer. Throughout the year, our Salesforce community has many ways of celebrating special holidays. The diversity of our employees and communities makes us stronger, and our employee-led Equality Groups, or employee resource groups, recognize and celebrate the many aspects that make us who we are.
Faithforce is the interfaith employee resource group at Salesforce focused on celebrating, supporting and fostering understanding of our global faith and spiritual diversity. Our goal is to cultivate a culture of empathy, respect, and belonging at Salesforce for people from all faiths, backgrounds, traditions, and world views. All are welcome.
As a Sikh, December is a time for those who share my faith to gather together for Char Sahibzade Shaheedi Divas. During this time, we retell the stories of the four children of the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who willingly gave their lives in the fight against religious persecution. We have such lively celebrations in the Sikh faith so this probably sounds a little somber, but this tradition of being together outside on those cold winter nights and singing folk songs makes me feel connected to our history. Once indoors, we drink tea or warm milk and talk about how we can center service and justice in our plans for the New Year. The four children were aged 6-18, so their courage inspires both children and adults. It puts things into perspective for me and is a reminder to cultivate compassion with my family, teams, and clients.
Whether the celebration is in person or virtual, Faithforce creates a welcoming, inclusive space to celebrate and learn about our diverse traditions. From candlelight services to sharing sweet treats with neighbors, check out a few of the many traditions shared by Salesforce employees.
Suresh Daniel, Software Engineering PMTS, San Francisco, California
Though my family was probably the only Christians on our street in the small town in India where I grew up, we never felt we were celebrating Christmas alone. My mom would make lots of Christmas sweets, cakes, and savories, and my brother, sister, and I would carry them to our neighbors to celebrate and thank them for all the sweets we received during the Diwali celebrations. My brother and I would go out and cut a Christmas tree that in no way resembled the ones we see here in the U.S. and decorate it with colored paper. Then we would climb to the roof and hang a star at the highest point possible on our home.
Diane Bouaziz, Manager, Strategy & Program Solutions Engineering UKI, London, England
I’m from Paris originally (my family still lives there), and growing up, during Chanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, we would light candles each night in the house of a different family member. We also celebrated by baking and frying scrumptious treats. Since I’m in London now, and I can’t celebrate physically with my family, I’ve made a group of friends here with whom I bake sufganiyot (fried donuts) on Chanukkah. We fill the donuts with all kinds of fun fillings like chocolate and fruit jams. One year I decided to bring them into the office, and I put them in the kitchen with a postcard inviting everyone to partake. One of my Muslim colleagues asked me if the donuts were kosher because she only eats Halal, and they were! The more you talk about who you are and where you come from, the more people feel open with you.
Loren Madden, Admin. Assistant, Design + Research & Analytics at Slack, San Francisco, California
Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday rooted in the African tradition, acknowledges the “First Fruits” of the harvest. My family & I began celebrating Kwanzaa some 25 years ago after learning about it and loving all that it stands for. My beloved, beautiful mama, who passed away in March of 2019, was our guiding light around the holiday and cherished this special celebration. After I moved to California, she loved to call me from Missouri with the greeting of the day, “Habari Gani?” meaning, “What’s the news?” in Swahili, which I would answer with the principle of the day. We’ve celebrated Kwanzaa at home with family and friends, in quiet, individual reflection, and in community gatherings and galas. It is glorious to come together to celebrate life, love, connection, all of the blessings we’ve received, and all of the blessings to come!
Tom Eaton, Success Manager — Director, Ann Arbor, Michigan
One of our family’s favorite holiday traditions is the candlelight, Christmas Eve, service at our Lutheran church. The main lights are turned down low, the Christmas tree on the altar is brightly lit, and candelabras are spread throughout the church. It ends with the congregation singing “Silent Night” together by candlelight, and everyone wishes each other a Merry Christmas. The Christmas Eve candlelight service helps us to re-center ourselves on the reason for the season and not on everything else that comes with it.
Kimberly Roth, Director, Operations, Denver, Colorado
Growing up, my sisters and I would always wait at the top of the stairs while my parents went down to make sure that Santa had left. Then they would tell us that we could come down and we would rush down the stairs and into the family room. Last year was the first year I didn’t spend Christmas Eve at my parent’s house, so my husband and I were able to carry on the tradition for our kids. I’m looking forward to doing the same thing this year!
Sara Fares, Director, Services Leader, Casablanca, Morocco
In Morocco, Eid al-Fitr is one of the special celebrations of the year. After the holy month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is the celebration of all the good things we did during that month. First thing in the morning, we listen to the Eid’s prayer, led by the imam. After the prayer, it’s time for the great breakfast, with cookies and special Moroccan waffles. I do my best to prepare at least one type of cookie or cake. Then it’s time to visit family and friends, and children are offered money to buy candies and sweets!
Aruna Dhall, Senior Enterprise Architect —Business, San Francisco, California
I grew up in a melting pot neighborhood in Mumbai, India, and Diwali (the Festival of Lights) has always had special meaning for me. As an immigrant to this wonderful country (the U.S.) that I choose to call my own, it was very important for me to have my son experience at least one festival the way it was celebrated during my childhood in India. So I go all out for Diwali, and the house is lit up with string lights. I spend days planning, sometimes making all the goodies that go with Diwali from scratch. And we always have a huge dinner to celebrate with our closest friends and family.
Carla Lo Coco, Internal Communications Manager, San Francisco, California
We celebrate Epiphany (à la française) on January 6, the commemoration of the Magis (the three kings) arrival to meet baby Jesus. We take a more secular approach to the holiday and celebrate our having survived the holiday hubbub! We serve bubbly and the French galette des Rois, a marzipan and puff pastry wonder, with a little figurine hidden in the galette. I do like the idea of Epiphany: three people going about their day looked up and noticed something different. It’s a good reminder that taking time to look for inspiration can change your life.
Whether you celebrate with time-honored traditions or simply relax, everyone deserves to feel welcome when it comes to recognizing and honoring their faith. Prioritizing faith inclusion is the perfect way for companies to spread joy and encourage equality, this season and beyond.
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Janice Linden-Reed contributed to this article.