Stop the Chaos of Christmas: Sharing The Joy And Recapturing The Holiday Spirit

Image courtesy of Jo Naylor

Image courtesy of Jo Naylor

With the holidays here, this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year”. Still, many of us spend the rush of days from Thanksgiving to Christmas feeling more like Charlie Brown than post-ghost-visit Ebenezer Scrooge. Despite the constant media message that happiness can be found at the bottom of a shopping cart or with the swipe of a credit card, we can’t shake the feeling that it just shouldn’t be about stuff. While Charlie Brown ultimately learned that his forlorn little tree just needed some love to perk up, there are plenty of ways we can restore our own childlike glee that don’t require a lot of time or money, just some can-do Christmas spirit.

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Photo by Kevin Dooley

 

Adopt a Yard: Years ago, my then-husband and I were having a hard time at Christmas. His grandmother had died suddenly and unexpectedly the first part of December. We wanted to make the season bright for our kids, but it was tough. One night, we pulled into the drive to find the yard lit up with candy canes, snowmen and even a custom-made twinkle light sign spelling out our last name. While we had been out running errands, good friends of ours snuck over and made the yard a winter wonderland. It was the nicest surprise and it made us laugh, which felt so good in the midst of grief. If you think about it you probably have a friend, a neighbor, someone from work or church who has had a rough time of it this year. Maybe they’ve been ill, lost a job, lost a loved one, and don’t have it in them to decorate like they have in past years. No need to go full-on Clark Griswold: a simple inflatable snowman, a few plastic ornaments on a tree in the yard, or a poinsettia left on the front porch are simple gestures to let someone know they’ve got people who care about them. If you can do it without them ever knowing it was you, all the better.

Visit a nursing home or senior center: Many seniors spend their final months/years living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. While most of these places decorate in the common areas, a large number of residents rarely receive visits from friends or family and their rooms show no sign of the holiday season. Why not have your kids or a local club, church youth group etc. make some simple drawings, paper snowflakes and cards that they can deliver to these older individuals? Ideally, call ahead to make sure the facility is supportive of your efforts; set up a time you can come and visit with the residents for a while before leaving them with your parting gifts. They will undoubtedly enjoy the company and treasure the keepsakes left behind.

Photo by QUOI Media

Photo by QUOI Media

Donate winter gear to the local elementary school: In colder regions, there are weeks if not months where snow covers the ground. Most schools have a rule that children cannot play in the snow without adequate gear, such as snow pants, boots, hats and gloves. This means every year kids whose parents cannot provide those items miss out on the fun their friends are having. Take thirty minutes and sort your coat closet; round up any outgrown winter items and drop them off at your local school. If the budget allows, you could even spring for a few new items to donate. Knowing you took a burden off of some parents and helped children get the chance to play with their friends is a gift for you, too.

Take treats to police/fire/rescue teams: At school last week we had some officers come in to review our school safety policies, and they reminded us that if anything dire ever happened they would be there immediately, focused on keeping our kids safe and eliminating any threat. I was reminded how many police, fire and rescue workers voluntarily place themselves in harm’s way to protect people they don’t even know. The holidays are a nice time to show them they are appreciated. Make a basket or two of goodies and drop it off at their headquarters along with a note of thanks. It doesn’t take much to brighten a person’s day, and letting them know you value their efforts is a good idea in any season.

Photo by Kansas City District

Photo by Kansas City District

Go Caroling: Everybody’s doing Ugly Sweater Parties these days. Why not go old school and have a caroling party? As a wise elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Invite your friends, your kids, your friends’ kids–anyone you think would enjoy the experience. You can go a cappella, bring an iPod or MP3 player, or really go back in time and bring out the classic portable keyboard, provided someone knows how to play it. Have fun with it: come up with a playlist, create a jazzy costume, and maybe incorporate some jazz hands or other sweet choreography.

These are just a few ideas; there are many more you could brainstorm: volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry, adopt a child or family through a Love Tree or something similar, take some pet food and treats to a local animal shelter, etc. The larger point is that focusing on bringing a smile to others’ faces is likely to put a smile on your own. Instead of asking, “what can Christmas do for me”, ask yourself what you can to do make Christmas a wonderful time for others.