Christmas is a time when all of our hearts are warmed with thoughts of presents, decorations, great food and happy times.
But while these are all wonderful things, it’s important to teach our kids that Christmas isn’t just about ripping that wrapping paper open on Christmas morning, but about being kind to others. And investing a little time or money in giving some charitable Christmas gifts is a great way to underline the true meaning of Christmas.
We all lead busy lives, but a pocketful of spare change or a few hours of our time can make such a big difference. This is a great time of year to introduce some sweet Christmas traditions that involve giving to those less fortunate than yourselves or helping charities, all while making it a fun part of the build up to Christmas.
We’ve come up with some lovely ideas that will not only be fun for all the family, but will also help others and teach your children about the real spirit of Christmas.
Spare change Christmas jar
Throughout the year, encourage everyone in the household to chuck their spare change in the ‘Christmas Jar’ and let it build up. There’s no pressure to be contributing notes, but when you get some extra change from buying your Sunday paper or have some coins rattling in your pockets – pop them in the jar. At the end of the year, take a vote on which charity or cause you would like to donate to and go as a family to make your contribution. This is a a lovely tradition as it will remind you all to think about giving all year round and is super easy to do.
Operation Christmas Child
Every year charity Samaritans Purse runs its ‘Operation Christmas Child‘ campaign, which sees schools and families all over the country fill a shoebox with useful gifts and Christmas toys, wrap it in Christmas paper and have it sent to a child who needs it. Your child’s school may well take part in this, but why not do it at home as well?
You label each shoebox with the age and gender of the child you’re buying for, so each member of the family can imagine who their box is for and pick gifts for them on a family shopping trip. Then why not take an afternoon to sit together, pack and wrap the shoeboxes? The charity also encourages you to include a picture of yourselves along with a handwritten note, so that the child can get an idea of where their gifts have come from and learn about your culture – it’s a lovely thing for the whole family to do together.
Letters of appreciation
Giving back at Christmas doesn’t have to be to a charity – it’s just as important to do something nice for the people who are already in your life. A sweet way to help your children give charitable Christmas gifts, and think about others during the festive season, is to ask them to pick someone they are grateful to and write them a letter of appreciation. It could be Granny for always picking them up from school, or their teacher for helping them when they’re struggling – whoever it is that they feel they want to say a special thank you to, they can send or deliver them a letter just in time for the 25th.
Visiting a nursing home
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for elderly people living in a nursing home as they may not have any relatives or friends to visit them and might not be able to take part in the usual Christmas activities that you and your family will be enjoying.
Why not arrange a visit to a nursing home with your family? You could suggest that your children’s friends come along and spend some quality time with the people there too. Give your visit more of a focus by baking cookies to hand out, or arranging to sing carols with the staff. The residents will be thrilled to see some friendly new faces and it’s a great chance for your little ones to learn about the support elderly people need.
Community Christmas is a charity that encourages members of the community to support the elderly with visits or by hosting lunches – contact them if you’re looking for ideas or support.
Make lunches for homeless people
In the week leading up to Christmas, pick a morning to give back to the community and make some lunches for the homeless people in your area. Plan the meals as a family, deciding what sandwiches to make and snacks to include and taking a trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. Make the lunches together, giving everyone their own job in the assembly line. Once you’re done, go together to hand them out.
If you would prefer to help the homeless through a charity, Crisis offer volunteering options in most big cities in the UK.
Helping at an animal shelter
If your children are animal lovers, they’re sure to jump at the chance to lend a hand at a local animal shelter. You will need to arrange this in advance, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to do some good and teach your children about volunteering whilst playing with adorable animals in need of some attention. The RSPCA offers lots of opportunities to volunteer – you can find your nearest branch on their website.
An easy tradition to start with your family is to pop a certain amount of money in each child’s stocking as an extra gift and ask them which charity they want to donate it to. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money – even a few pounds will do – but giving them the choice and responsibility of deciding who they want to help will send a fantastic message.
Charity Christmas campaigns to get involved with this year
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals and needs to raise roughly £100 million every year for medical research, equipment and facilities to help all the families who need it. This Winter you can help by taking part in the London Santa Dash and doing a 5k or 10k festive run. The fundraising fun run will take place on 8th December in Brockwell Park and Santa outfits are mandatory!
FareShare take food destined to be waste and deliver it to charities and communities that need it most. From mid-October they’ll be collecting tins of food, store cupboard favourites and donations at Tesco stores to deliver some Christmas cheer to those in need.
Refuge supports vulnerable women and their children seeking refuge from difficult situations including domestic abuse and culturally specific issues. One of the ways you can help is to purchase a parcel for a woman or child in need, giving them the support they need to get back on their feet while spreading a little festive goodwill.
Save The Children
Save The Children is one of the world’s biggest children’s charities, offering global support to kids in need. This year’s Christmas Jumper Day will take place on Friday 13th December, and taking part is as easy as it sounds! Just ask everyone at work to don a festive woollie and donate £2 to this incredible cause. You can sign up for a fundraising package if you want some extra help to organise it.
Charitable Christmas gifts that give back
After a present that’ll bring a smile to a special someone’s face while giving a helping hand to a worthy cause? Then why not get a gift that gives back?
Buy Vivienne Westwood’s stylish Save the Rainforest T-shirt for the fashionista in your life and you’ll also be supporting Cool Earth, which has saved nearly a million acres of rainforest.
And if you’re after a fashion-forward accessory, remember that the profits from sales of UNICEF’s beautiful jewellery, handmade by local artists using striking stones and precious metals, go directly to people in need. A single Jade Elephant bracelet could vaccinate 19 children in developing countries against measles.
Foodies will love Pippa Middleton’s Heartfelt recipe book. It’s packed with more than 100 heart-healthy recipes and 100 per cent of profits go back to the British Heart Foundation!
Everyone loves a scented candle, and Save the Children‘s fantastic range of gifts, which includes pink peppercorn and plum scented candles and clementine saffron marmalade diffusers, don’t just smell great – they help children in need, too.
Furry pals will love the Dogs Trust Christmas reindeer toy – not only does it squeak; it contains 60g of chicken wrapped biscuit treats! Sales help care for 15,000 stray and abandoned dogs being cared for across 20 Rehoming Centres across the UK.
If you fancy making a more direct contribution to someone in need, why not give them the gift of clean water? £37 is enough to buy a WaterAid hand pump, which can provide clean drinking water for a whole community – what a bargain!
However you choose to do it, we really hope you and your family enjoy the gift of giving back this Christmas.