I’m just sitting down to watch Love Actually for the 20th time. It’s one of my favorite holiday movies, from the first moments when Hugh Grant shares that “love actually is all around,” through the funny, touching, and heartbreaking stories of these characters with their overlapping lives. By the end you find yourself agreeing with him: obviously love is everywhere, from your neighborhood to your church, office, and school. And this season is full of opportunities to feel the love in every one of those communities.
But what’s the best way to celebrate community during the holiday season? I asked some friends from my own community and I’m delighted to share their best advice. Here are 3 ways to celebrate your community this season:
Shop (and party) local
You know you can only get that handmade chocolate downtown, and those cute handmade ornaments? A one-of-a-kind offered by that local artisan alone. It’s no secret that local shops and fairs often have those beautifully quirky, unique items that people love to share, but that’s not the only reason to shop locally.
Jennifer Cornish, a buyer who lives in Maine, enjoys shopping at craft fairs and local shops. “I like to shop locally because I feel like I’m supporting my neighbors,” she says. “If I can help their business succeed it will help grow our local economy and community.” That’s worth celebrating!
Holiday parties can help grow the local economy, too. From family gatherings to company parties—in restaurants, resorts, or bowling alleys—keep that party local to share the love with community businesses this season.
Want to share even more with your community? Encourage party guests to bring a box or can and collect for donations to a local food bank.
Make room for one more
Or many more, as is the case for Marylou Riday of Bowling Green, Ohio. Marylou and her husband Robb are members of the international friendship program at their local university. Sometimes their holiday meals include an additional 10 or more guests—including students and their family members—since “friends bring friends,” Marylou explains. Her family enjoys spending time with international students at concerts and hockey games on campus, but she admits she likes Thanksgiving best. “We set a nice table and can just eat and visit,” she says.
Do you have room in your traditions and home for one more? Local universities always have students far from home who would love to share a meal with you. Don’t forget your neighbors, coworkers, and fellow parishioners, too. Many aren’t able to travel this time of year and would enjoy breaking bread with your family.
Lend a hand
Sometimes sharing the love in your community is about recognizing a need and helping to fill it. Kate Fagan, an employment counselor at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, is a founding board member of The Diaper Fund in Rockport, Maine. “We provide diapers to families in diaper need in Waldo, Knox and Northern Lincoln Counties,” she explains. The Diaper Fund’s mission also includes raising awareness of diaper need and providing education opportunities for families of young children in the community.
Interested in helping a diaper bank near you? The National Diaper Bank Network “works to meet the basic needs of all American children and families” through its work with local diaper banks and its fundraising. You can learn more about hosting a diaper drive, volunteering, donating, or other ways to get involved at National Diaper Bank Network.
There are countless local organizations that could use your time and help this season. Facebook is a great place to find local opportunities for giving back to your library, soup kitchen, or animal shelter.
These are just a few ways to celebrate community during the holiday season. I’d love to know how you support and enjoy your own community this time of year. We’re giving away $25 donations to the organization of choice for 4 participants. Please share a thought or comment below for a chance to be chosen!
This post is part of our Celebrating What Matters series, a countdown to the holidays. We’ve talked about health in Party Foods that (Almost) Anyone Can Enjoy and How to Make a Sparkle Bar, and last week we talked about How to Have a Calm Holiday Season. Please subscribe to receive updates as the series continues!