At Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in the seasonal excitement of buying and exchanging often expensive gifts we can’t afford and they don’t really need. We look forward to seeing the faces of our loved ones light up when they open our presents, the all-round smiles say it all. But sometimes it can be just a temporary happiness: the item breaks down, doesn’t fit, goes out of fashion or needs updating, it wasn’t the right model, they already have two… And then the credit card bill often provides one heck of a shock in January.
Many of us are feeling the pinch this year and Christmas can be a worrying time financially. But there are other ways of giving that bring joy and make a positive difference to the lives of the recipients which won’t almost bankrupt us when the festive season is over. There are savings we can make that could also allow us to help others in a small but significant way. (See later in the post for ways of helping others this Christmas).
Do we really need such a big tree, so much alcohol? How much do we overeat and drink only to bemoan the extra pounds on our bodies and the lack of pounds in our pockets? How much rich food gets thrown away?
How many of us buy and post cards and then also wish our friends and relatives ‘Seasons Greetings’ in person or by text or social media as well?! Stamps are expensive but most people have email or can receive texts, we can send our greetings for free with news and photos of the family, for example. There are some lovely animated ecards available, see my suggestions later
Here are some ideas for spreading some Christmas cheer that will hopefully last throughout the year, some can be given as Christmas gifts to those who already have all they need and introduce children to the real message of Christmas: the gift of kindness, compassion and consideration. (For US readers, Tamara at The Purple Almond blog has written a Post listing non-profit companies who sell beautiful gifts and give back to good causes).
- Apart from elderly friends and relatives, we are sending seasonal greetings by email and using the money saved on cards and postage to buy food for our local food bank.
- If you would like to send a more personalised greeting, for £9 a year to http://www.jacquielawson.com you can send as many beautiful animated cards as you like throughout the year.
- The cards we do send will as always be either homemade from recycled items or bought direct from charities so that they receive all the profits. Even if you buy charity cards from stores, they take their cut too so the charities only receive a percentage of the price of the cards.
- Years ago, we realised that colleagues who worked within inches of each other would wish each other a Merry Christmas *and* give everyone an individual card as well. This seemed crazy and we initiated a Christmas whip-round in lieu of cards that would be donated to a local charity which everyone voted on each year, Air Ambulance and the local hospice being favourites.
- This year I have been painting and découpaging rocks to leave on my neighbours’ doorsteps in lieu of cards – link here to see how.
- If you have access to foliage, you can make your own Christmas displays –much cheaper and more satisfying than buying them.
There are many people for whom compassion and kindness would be the best gift of all this Christmas. Often, all that is required is a little thought and some of our time. Perhaps you remember when you were in need but are now able to ‘pass it forward?’
SUPPORT THE ELDERLY & VULNERABLE
- An elderly relative or neighbour, or someone who has recently lost a loved one may appreciate a phone call or visit. Christmas can be particularly difficult for people who are isolated through immobility or having no family nearby or being recently bereaved.
- Perhaps invite an isolated neighbour for Christmas lunch or tea. Check that they have everything they need to see them through the holidays, do they need any shopping or cards posting? If the weather is icy or there has been snow, offer to clear their path.
- Help make a refugee family feel welcome and help them settle into the community.
In the UK, there are 2 organisations that provide advice and friendship for elderly people who could use volunteers and/or donations:
- Volunteers are also needed at food banks and shelters for homeless people.
- A donation will provide a hot Christmas dinner for a homeless person at
It costs £26.08 and they can also have a shower, haircut, health checks, clothes and advice that can potentially set them back on their feet. Even my mum asked me to reserve a dinner on her behalf this year when I told her what I had done.
- A microloan of as little as £15 to
helps individuals or groups in developing countries set up their own businesses. I was given this as a gift one Christmas and each time the loan is paid off, I roll it over so someone else can benefit.
- Oxfam and Good Gifts have catalogues and web sites with life-changing gifts which benefit individuals and small businesses at home and overseas, some at stocking filler prices:
HOMEMADE & HANDMADE
- Homemade gifts, especially from children, are always appreciated. Children learn about giving and not just receiving. For several years when our grandchildren were young, they would give us something of their own, many of which we still have, although one of my husband’s prize gifts from our eldest grand-daughter – a plastic microphone with a loud echo – is permanently hidden away!!
- Older children and adults can make gifts of homemade food: I used to make pickles, shortbread, petits fours, my husband made wine and beer. These days, nut butter, chocolate avocado mousse and raw chocolate truffles may be more likely.
- My daughter knits mittens and fingerless gloves, beanie hats, socks and sleeveless jumpers.
- My son has made kitchen chopping boards from offcuts and fallen trees, as well as belts, wallets and even clocks from discarded bicycle tyres and firehoses.
- Last Christmas, we all made food that contributed to an extended family dinner, which occurs only once a year and was all the more special for that.
How many of us watch the Christmas adverts, look at all the presents we’ve bought and all the money spent on food and complain about the over-commercialisation of Christmas? How many vow that next year we will do it differently?
Make next year, this year.
I wish you all peace, love, health and happiness.
Copyright: Chris McGowan