By Sara Paciaroni Sara is a freelance writer and aspiring photojournalist who loves yoga and cooking. She’s always on the lookout for ways to bring attention to causes she holds dear.

The festive period is fast approaching and we’re already busy trying to decide which scarf would suit our mother-in-laws best, getting the tickets for that pantomime, and the dilemma that has troubled mankind from time immemorial: what will we do for New Year’s Eve?

We try to live up to the image of a perfect, sumptuous Christmas and, of course, we cannot miss out on any of the traditions that our families have been passing on for generations.

The real Christmas spirit

Ever had a stress-free Christmas season? No, we haven’t either. We all want to experience the excitement of gifts, have our fill of turkey, and enjoy the spectacle of lights. But, can our affinity to consumerism lead us to lose sight of the true spirit of the season?

The awareness that we should be particularly kind and generous at this time of year hangs in the air. However, it is hard to conciliate these behaviours with the stress stemming from the countless errands and preparations. And once we do get those done, we need some well deserved rest before going back to our busy lives.

Regardless of how you spread the Christmas spirit, we should all take this occasion to reflect on our good luck. Though we all celebrate in our own, special ways, not everyone is able to spend a merry, jolly Christmas.

But we can all help to make this holiday season more about giving back to the community, and maybe even come away with a meaningful lesson. Here are 3 ways to do just that.

#1 Donate toys

Who didn’t have, as a child, feelings of happiness and impatience just at the sight of presents under the tree on Christmas morning? Now, as parents, we do everything we can to fulfil our children’s wish list and make sure that day has as much sparkle as possible. Sadly, not all kids have Christmases characterised by colourful, shimmering wrapping paper, but here’s how you can change that.

Many organisations make it their mission to provide as many children as possible with presents, so that they too can enjoy the excitement of waiting for Santa.

There are many organisations with special charitable missions during the holiday season. One of them being Samaritan’s Purse that every year organises the U.K. wide Operation Christmas Child. On their website, you can find all the instructions to assemble the perfect box filled with toys and trinkets, which will then be collected in designated locations and shipped to deprived areas of the world.

Another way to spread the cheer is through KidsOut, a charity providing support to children escaping domestic violence. Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for a child who had to escape home, parents, and everything that was familiar. For this reason KidsOut have started the Giving Tree initiative where companies can buy Christmas trees for children. It may be a small contribution, but, as the organisation stresses, it can actually give a child a Christmas to remember. As a holiday most of us remember fondly, wouldn’t it be nice to allow someone else to feel this way, too?

#2 Help the homeless

As everyone around prepares to celebrate Christmas in a warm and cosy home, it’s not an easy time for those without homes. For those whose first concern is where to spend the night, the festivities often go unnoticed, but there’s still a way to bring cheer to everyone.

Most charities welcome some extra help at this time of year, so it’s really your time to help out. It’s reality that most homeless people need help, anytime, anywhere, and in any amount. So, every year Social Bite organise Christmas dinners in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen open to anyone experiencing homelessness. They are already on the lookout for volunteers, so if you are interested do get in touch through their email.

If you would like to get involved but you don’t have much time off work this Christmas, Crisis is another homelessness-focused charity organising special Christmas support. All you have to do is reserve a place at Crisis at Christmas to provide someone with a way out of homelessness. With a £28.18 donation, in fact, not only you can offer a homeless person a proper Christmas dinner. You would also be paying for a bed for the night, a shower, clean clothes, and visits with a doctor; besides help with mental health and addiction problems, and advice on employability and benefits. Essentially, you’d be making the world of a difference.

#3 Keep the elderly some company

Christmas can feel particularly lonely for the elderly, as their family might have little time for visiting over the holidays.

To bring everyone together, Community Christmas is a charity aiming at connecting the elderly with the community and vice versa, to meet new people and form lasting relationships.

If that doesn’t suit, its just as impactful to spend some time chatting to the guests in your local care home. We can guarantee they will be delighted to have some company, more than you may realise. It could even turn into an alternative day out for the whole family, as older people are usually more than happy to be around kids.

There really is a myriad of ways to give something back to the community at Christmas. We know time off work can be limited and you want to make sure to spend as much of it as possible with your family. But maybe giving up just one of your festive activities to volunteer or help someone could actually bring the family together even more. There is always something to learn from these experiences, and especially for kids, it is a good lesson on empathy towards others. And, who knows, these might become part of your Christmas traditions! 

The world needs more happy

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