By Kristen Donia

The month of December is traditional for many of us. This means celebrations, togetherness, and honoring familial and religious traditions.

As we gear up this holiday season it’s easy to get distracted by the Black Friday and Cyber Monday of it all. What’s more important to remember is the kindness the holiday season brings.

Consumerism has begun to cloud this time of year and bring us even further away from the important meaning it can have if we could only pay attention.

In a time when our political climate feels like a roller coaster and we are being pulled apart by our differences, what if this holiday season we recalled all that makes us one? The ups and downs of life, the difficult, complicated, beauty that each day brings. The unknown of it all that makes this beautiful mystery worth it. What if we looked to our neighbor as a friend rather than a stranger?

Do you have a friend that celebrates Hanukkah? Do you know what a dreidel is? Are you familiar with the traditions of Kwanzaa? When we ask questions, we gain something, we learn something new. We display our vulnerability in the not knowing, which brings us closer together. There are tons of activities you could share with a new or old friend whose traditions differ from your own. You could learn a new traditional recipe, decorate gingerbread houses, frost cookies, watch holiday-themed movies, play board games, read something fun out aloud to one another, go on walks, anything that allows you to connect, share and care for another. That’s what this season is all about.

Regardless of our religion or belief system, we can all agree this time of year is in one word, special. Temperatures cool, calling for warm coats, sweaters, and brightly decorated scarves. The crisp air brings emotions not accessed in the summer. We begin to calm, bundle, and settle into the closing of another chapter.

As the year nears its end, we find ourselves cataloging the year. What challenges became triumphs, what joys carried us, who did we look to in the times we needed comfort? What will this next year have in store for us? We anxiously await a fresh start.

Now more than ever, what we need to consider is, it is possible to celebrate in different ways yet still extend our kindness and understanding to one another. We can honor the holidays together, regardless of our belief system and attempt to understand each other a little better. Diversity makes the world beautiful and this season is a great reminder of just that. So take this with you, consider if our gift to you this season – Go celebrate, ask questions, learn about one another and above all, be kind, it’s the best gift you can ever give someone.