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Family Dinner


by Maureen Pollard,

Emotional Health Editor

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario.  Visit her online at:

Inclusivity can feel like a bit of a buzz word these days. The thing is, it’s really important for people to feel accepted and included in order for our communities to grow and thrive. With that value in mind, here are some ideas to consider to help everyone feel welcome as you plan celebrations throughout the year.

Be aware. There are different types of holidays and holy days with distinct meaning and unique ways to celebrate. Assess the needs of your group so that you can plan accordingly. Reassess regularly as the members in your group change.

Rethink everything. Think about what is considered “normal” for your location or your group, and then rethink the impact of any stereotypes around ability, gender, sexual orientation, family, culture, race, ethnicity or religion.

Select a neutral date. Check the calendar carefully so you can celebrate together in a way that doesn’t overlap or compete with important dates for any one group. 

Select a neutral theme. Choose a celebratory theme, such as winter, that doesn’t elevate one group over others. Keep any decorations in line with the theme. 

Involve everyone in planning. Consider creating a poll to invite people to express their preferences and offer suggestions as you organize the celebration. Try to incorporate this feedback as much as possible.

Location, location, location! Make sure the venue you choose is accessible for everyone who might want to attend, including partners.


Provide choices. When it comes to elements like food and beverages, be sure to offer a variety of options that will meet the various dietary needs of all participants. Examples include kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free or dairy-free.

Make activities voluntary and optional. Celebrations should be fun, which means people don’t feel forced into participating. If you want to plan a gift exchange, for example, invite people to sign up to join in. Have another activity, such as board games, available for those who choose not to give and receive gifts.

Make it educational. Invite participants to share some information about their culture or religion as a part of the celebration. If you plan a potluck, participants can bring one of their family’s traditional meals and place an information card by the dish that offers a bit of history or explanation about the recipe.

Celebrations are meant to be fun. It’s most fun for everyone if everyone’s included in the fun. Careful planning, consultation and a thoughtful approach will go a long way to make sure your events are welcoming and fun for all.

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