The upcoming holiday season has a lot to offer. In the United States, the two largest profile holidays just around the corner are Christmas and New Years Day (well, more like New Year’s Eve since that’s when all the celebrating happens!) One of the most important things that living in another culture affords is the opportunity to see life from a different perspective (and all the resulting benefits of that). While some holidays are celebrated all around the world, there are cultural differences in how these celebrations happen. Holidays are one of those times that can stretch us. Holidays bring people together in ways that normal day-to-day life do not and give us an opportunity to see different angles on how culture defines us.

'Global christmas tree' photo (c) 2009, Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

We strongly encourage you to take part in any cultural opportunities that you have access to. This could be through your host family if you have one. Communities and community organizations (such as churches) often have holiday events that are open to the public. Don’t worry too much about being a regular member of a group to join in. For example, you do not have to be a Christian to decide to go to a holiday event at a Christian church. Talk to people in your area to find out what is happening around you and what you can participate in. When you do, keep an open mind and be ready to have your own perspectives and ideas stretched. This stretching may be one of the most important things we can experience in our international travels. Being stretched beyond the paradigms that define us in the smaller communities we grew up in leads us to have a better understanding of the world and the other peoples that inhabit it. This cultural understanding is key to being instrumental in making this world the kind of place we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. As Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force it can only be achieved by understanding.”

Make your plans now for how you are going to jump in and participate this season!

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