December’s cultural and religious holidays make it a very a special time of year for gathering with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate and honor traditions. It’s also the best time of year to start new traditions and an opportunity to invite new friends to share your traditions with them.

Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration known as the Festival of Lights; Christmas which is both a Christian holiday and a cultural celebration; and Kwanzaa, the week-long celebration of African American culture and heritage, are commemorated in different ways. Special foods or a feast, music, storytelling, and the exchange of gifts may be a part of each tradition.

Along with an exchange of tangible gifts, there is also a spirit of giving, or “giving back” that denotes the intangible gifts of kindness and compassion.

There are countless ways to give back to the community. Helping an older neighbor with a task they can no longer take care of themselves; recycling or donating clothing or other household items; or contributing to a local food drive are just a few examples. Volunteering at a food pantry, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or nonprofit are other ways to give back and help to improve the lives of others.

Not sure where to start? Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) can provide guidance and resources. OCES has a volunteer program and engages people of all ages in volunteer opportunities at various nonprofits, town agencies, schools, and other community organizations. OCES, a nonprofit organization serving older adults and individuals with disabilities, also has volunteer opportunities available which range from assisting older adults through the Money Management Program (MMP) to delivering Meals on Wheels (including special holiday meals) to older residents.

When we give back, we play a significant role in helping to make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors and this in turn strengthens our community. Sharing our time, knowledge, and traditions with one another also strengthens our community. These gifts are priceless.