The Christmas Spirit - How to Spread It
Spirit of Christmas
Trying to get your Christmas spirit on? I rarely have a problem with this because I love the holiday. In fact, I think I could celebrate just about every day, but it wouldn’t seem so special then, of course. Most of us who are middle-class Americans really enjoy the Christmas season. We enjoy the shopping, the colorful decorations, and all the holiday foods. There are usually parties to attend, along with special concerts and other gala events. We usually have a few days off from work, so we get to spend a little extra time with our friends and loved ones. What I like most of all, however, is the spirit of Christmas. We Christians feel a special joy at Christmas because of the religious and spiritual aspects of the season, but many non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate Christmas, seeing it as a time to open their hearts to others. I’m a Christian, but you don’t have to follow any religion to want to help your fellow man, which I think is the true spirit of Christmas.
Sending Christmas cards is another way to spread the joy of holiday greetings. I think they’re especially effective for lonely people and shut-ins who won’t get to enjoy most of the holiday celebrations that most of us do. Getting a few cheery Christmas cards in the mail can really brighten an otherwise dreary day. Not only do these greetings help spread the Christmas spirit, they also let the recipients know that someone is thinking of them. Most Christmas cards are beautiful, too, and they look nice when displayed on a shelf or table.
Cards come in all sorts of styles and include all sorts of messages. If you know the person is religious, find a card that’s in keeping. If you know the recipient enjoys humor, send a funny card that will provide a smile or giggle. If the person is a dog lover, choose a card that depicts a precious pooch. Even if the person isn’t a Christian, they might still appreciate holiday greetings. In fact, the word “Christmas” doesn’t even have to appear on the cards you select.
Christmas cards come in a wide range of prices, from super cheap to fairly expensive. I can buy a box of ten at our local dollar store for just one dollar – that’s a dime for each card. Add in the price of a postage stamp, and you’re getting a great value for your money. At least, I’m sure the people receiving your cards will certainly think so!
Sending holiday greeting cards is also a great way to touch base with friends and family members you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. It reminds them that they’re still important to you. Cards that display a photograph of you and your family are especially well suited for this purpose. You might want to write a yearly update that tells what’s been going on with your family. You can make copies of the letter and include a copy with each card you send.
But what about those who aren’t as fortunate as we are? Do you ever consider what their holiday must be like, and do your Christmas ideas include helping? Many across the country aren’t so lucky. Some don’t have family and friends to share the joy with. Others are sick and bedridden. A lot of people don’t even have enough money to properly care for their families, much less buy them any gifts or cook a lavish meal. And this year, because of the jobless rate, U.S. families will be especially hard hit. What can you do to spread the Christmas spirit? Giving to those in need through charities!
If you have even a little extra money, you can help significantly. Many people donate to special Christmas charities during the season, which is a great idea, but I’m more of a hands-on person. I like to know where my money is going and what it went for, so last Christmas, my friend, Sandy, and I decided to adopt a family for Christmas.
I contacted our local DFACS office and told them I wanted the poorest family they had. The case worker quickly told me about a migrant farm family with ten children who were destitute. They were hard workers, but their meager wages just weren’t enough. This is the kind of family I was looking for! I didn’t think I could afford to buy for a family of twelve, but after Sandy offered to help, I thought we could do it together.
DFACS gave us the sex, age, and sizes of all the kids, and the sizes of the mom and dad. We didn’t want the parents to be left out. Then we went shopping. We bought all kinds of toys, books, and games for the younger kids, along with age-appropriate gifts for the teenagers. Everyone in the family got new clothes and a new pair of shoes, too. We found out that the kids had been begging for a Nintendo system, so we also purchased one of those.
It took us a couple of weeks to complete our shopping. When we did, we loaded it all up and took it to the DFACS office. After Christmas, Sandy and I both received hand-written letters from the father of the family. He told us it was the best Christmas his family had ever experienced, and you can’t imagine the warm, fuzzy feeling that gave me. Giving to charities is truly twice blessed!
Something else my family does at Christmas is volunteering. We always visit a local nursing home on Christmas Eve. So many of these people have been largely forgotten by their friends and family and have little cheer at Christmas. We get the grandkids all dressed up in their holiday outfits and take them to the home. You can’t imagine how happy the residents are to see children! Many of them never get to see or interact with kids, so this is a special treat for them.
Another thing you can do is to visit shut-ins during the season. You might want to take them a tin of cookies or some candy, but what they’re most interested in is just having a little company to chat with. Christmas can be a very lonely time if you don’t have any loved ones around, and you can spread joy by taking just a little time out of your busy schedule.
Other Christmas ideas for the purpose of helping others might include offering rides to those who lack transportation. You might offer to take the person to church, to a Christmas parade, to a Christmas play, or to other events. If you can afford the time, you might even want to help someone with shopping. Any type of shopping can be difficult for the elderly or the handicapped, but during the holiday season, it's even worse. The malls are always packed, and someone with any sort of physical limitations is going to have a hard time navigating all the crowds. If the person shops online, the actual shopping part of gift-giving won't be a problem, but wrapping the gifts might be. Gift wrapping is difficult for those with severe arthritis, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions. You could set aside an evening or an afternoon and offer to do some free gift wrapping.
Something else you might do is to consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Make it a family affair and take the whole gang! You’ll be serving as a positive role model for your children. Doing this type of volunteering won’t “ruin” your normal festivities – you can choose to volunteer for just an hour or so and then return to your holiday traditions. In that short period of time, you can touch a lot of lives.
The Christmas Spirit – What is it?
What is the Christmas spirit, really? It’s not about how many decorations you put up or how many gifts you buy. It’s not materialistic – it’s an attitude. And as I’ve already mentioned, one doesn’t have to be a Christian to possess this attitude. Christian beliefs aside, Christmas is about giving, sharing, and having compassion and empathy for others. I like how Dickens put it, in A Christmas Carol:
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.”
You don’t have to have money to help others at Christmas. Volunteering and visiting nursing homes, soup kitchens, and shelters won’t cost you a cent. If you do have some spare cash, donating to Christmas charities is a wonderful idea. You might be surprised at how much helping others adds to your own holiday happiness! Imagine how much joy could be spread if everyone helped just a little, and if we continued to do so throughout the entire year. Together, we could make a huge impact and keep the Christmas spirit alive and well not just in December, but for every day of the calendar year.
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