It’s very easy to get so caught up in the whirlwind of gift-buying, lunch-planning and card-sending at Christmas time that you forget what this time of year is really all about. Often, we are too swamped with stress at the end of the year to be able to look past our own problems and think about what we can do to make this time easier for others. Christmas is ultimately about love, giving and helping out others. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to offer your love and assistance to your own family and friends, or whether you decide to reach out further, and help a stranger. Although it can seem like just another arduous task at Christmas, taking the time out to show someone that you love them, or to help out a person in need can is totally worth it. You will feel better about yourself afterwards, and you will have given a valuable gift to that other person that you’ve helped out.
There are plenty of things that you can do to get yourself into the true spirit of Christmas. Even if you are normally a bit Grinchy around the holidays, there are plenty of non-cheesy good deeds that you can do that will make a huge difference for someone else. It also doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of money or time to spare, any selfless act you can do counts.
Some things that you might like to try to revive the Christmas spirit include:
– Offer to wrap your mother’s/partners/friends Christmas presents for them. Most people hate wrapping, and will really appreciate it if you take this task off their hands.
– Bake a huge batch of cookies and take them into work with you. Leave them in the staff room for everybody.
– Make a care package for your neighbors, with a Christmas card, a little box of chocolates and some shortbread.
– Donate toys to one of the many toy drives organized by charities. Rather than buying for a toddler or small child, try to choose a gift for a teenager. Surveys of toy drives show that disadvantaged teenagers tend to miss out at Christmas, because people find them more difficult to shop for, and usually donate toys for younger children.
– On January 1, put a jar in your kitchen. Every morning, put $1 in the jar. At the end of the year, donate all of this money to a charity of your choice.
– Volunteer for a community project, like Carols by Candlelight or Christmas fetes.
– Hand-make Christmas cards for all of your friends and send them by snail-mail rather than email. Write a personal message in each one.
– Spend some time telling Christmas stories to your young relatives.
– Clean out your wardrobe and donate all your old clothes to a charity.
– Donate warm blankets to the Red Cross or Smith Family appeals.
– Don’t ignore homeless people on the street. Make sure that you have a pocket-full of change and give a couple of dollars to each homeless person you see.
– Make Christmas crackers for your family, with a personalized gift inside each one.
– If you are musically gifted, take your act to the streets. Get a busker’s license and play some Christmas tunes to brighten the mood of tired shoppers.
– Buy socially responsible gifts. Visit stores like Oxfam, which provide a range of fair-trade gift ideas. Lush is another good store for the socially-responsible shopper. All of their products are hand-made, using organic materials wherever possible, and come with minimal packaging.
– Smile. At everyone.
– Be patient with shop staff at this time of the year. Although you have a lot to do, don’t get snappish if they take too long to ring up your purchases. They are working really, really hard, so give them a break.
– Knit or sew some sweet stuffed toys and donate them to a children’s charity or church fundraiser.
– Make up a plate of cookies and candy and take it to your favorite store or restaurant to thank the staff for their good service during the year.
– Volunteer at your local hospital or nursing home. Many hospitals are on the lookout for volunteers to act as companions for patients. Some people aren’t lucky enough to have loads of visitors during their hospital stay, and will really appreciate a friendly face and someone to chat to.
– Offer to babysit for friends and family members who have young children, to give parents a chance to get organized or take some time out for themselves.
– Give blood.
– Do your housemate’s dishes for them.
Does anyone else have any ideas for spreading love and joy at Christmas time? If you do, I would love to hear them.