Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. ~Augusta E. Rundel
Somehow, not only for Christmas, But all the long year through, The joy that you give to others, Is the joy that comes back to you. And the more you spend in blessing, The poor and lonely and sad, The more of your heart’s possessing, Returns to you glad.
–John Greenleaf Whittier
There are many tales to be told of the original St. Nicholas, he was orphaned at a young age because his parents died. Though they left him a considerable inheritance, he was still alone, so with this money he was well-known for his generosity to children, which then led to the stories and legends of Santa Claus.
One such story told of three young girls whose father could not afford to take care of them and was about to sell them into prostitution. St. Nicholas secretly brought bags of gold to the man’s home so the girls would not have to be sold into such a lifestyle. The father was very grateful for the generous act.
Santa Claus began with many Myths and many countries, different names and changing costumes to arrive at the gift giving beliefs of today. But probably the closest traditions began in several European countries when the children would put their shoes in front of the fire place to get warm and the next morning the shoes would be filled with candy and small toys. They would sing songs and leave a carrot or hay for the horse who would accompany St. Nicholas during the night. In the Netherlands a loud knock on the front door would tell the family that “Sinterklaas” had arrived. Outside the door would be a bag of gifts on the doorstep.
Over time many things have changed from the humble beginnings of a Saint who was trying to help children, but we are grateful that the tradition of giving during the holiday season that has stood the test of time.
Thank you St. Nicholas.
Christmas is that time of year where the magic is seemingly everywhere. People are at their best and kindness and love seem to spread through the kind words and good deeds shared.
At our house Christmas means many things…finding the balance between the baby Jesus and commercial Santa Claus with his spirit of giving. I have heard many things from people who only give three gifts (like the ones baby Jesus received) to all out package riots and Christmas is done in ten minutes.
So, how do we find a balance between the spirit of giving and remembering the reason for the season? We do our best. We learn, we spread love and we enjoy every moment.
The Magic of Christmas has to be one of my favorite things…with the flying reindeer, the star of bethlehem, the stories, the fables, the magic elves, the symbolism within the season, the cookies and milk…everything. Everything is a good place to start!
But let’s begin with some wonderful things you can ‘SERVE’ for the holiday season.
-Deliver a special treat to someone who needs a little sunshine…go on a ‘cinnamon stroll’ and deliver a couple of cinnamon rolls to elderly neighbors for their morning meal, deliver a inspirational story with a plate of cookies, drop off a bag of bird seed and the Night Tree Story (under stories) to spread love.
-Help a sibling or friend to read a book, do a math problem, homework, etc.
-Pick up trash while out on a family walk
-Bring in your neighbor’s trash cans
-Write someone you love or appreciate a nice note
-Take a thank you note to each one of your child’s teachers at school
-Give something to say thank you to the people who are at your child’s school cross walks
-Provide a foster home for a needy pet waiting to be adopted
-Go to a local senior center and offer your services to play games, read books, just talk
-Take items to your local animal shelter…cat and dog food, clean towels and blankets, toys…
-Are there any low-income preschools or housing facilities in your community–
find out if they need toys, play equipment, dress-ups, bikes, socks, coats, etc.
-Offer to babysit free of charge for a working mother, busy parents of a disabled child, or a
couple who has their hands full of little ones—let them go out on a much needed date night.
-Find out if your local church organizations have humanitarian needs that need to be met
(ie: First aid kits, hygiene kits, newborn care items, school supplies, etc—there is a need–ASK)
-Collect all your spare change for a few months & then donate it to a good cause
-go to http://www.volunteermatch.org & type in your zip code to find local volunteer opportunities
-Find a local organization that helps–Foster Care Foundations, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, go to http://www.hospitalsoup.com to find local hospitals that need help & Volunteer
Service for one another in your family
-Helper’s Hints—On slips of paper, have kids write or draw a picture of a way to serve each
family member. Then place the slips in a decorated shoebox. For example, kids might
write, “Make Mom’s bed,” “Give a hug,” or “Do the dishes.” Each morning kids can choose a
slip of paper and use the “hint” to serve someone that day. Periodically have kids come up
with new ideas to add to their boxes at home.-Help a sibling or friend to read a book, do a math problem, homework, etc.
-Celebrate the love–Challenge everyone to complete one act of kindness for each family member during the week.
-Legacy Love Letter—write a loving note to express the many reasons you are grateful for someone in your life.
-No Whining! Have a whine free week(or day) together. Make a promise that each of you will work to not complain about homework, going to ballet, soccer, etc. Happily. Happily we go.
-Do something to help around the house without being asked—yard work, windows, etc
-Love notes—write a little love note and leave it in your child’s lunch, their mirror, your mom’s
computer, your dad’s car…a little note left somewhere to remind them they are loved.
-Turn off the television and talk…share highlights, help make dinner together…
-Find out about local charities and find out if they need holiday help (ie: Foster Care may need help gathering gifts, Medical center may have a “festival of trees”, Sub-for-Santa, etc)
-Take someone a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal (elderly neighbor, less fortunate family, someone you work with that needs a little help, a single mom/dad who works, etc)
-12 Days of Dinners—This is a great substitute for the 12 days of Christmas. Do you know anyone who is struggling during this economic time, surprise them with dinners.
-Shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway or walkway
-Donate your old coats to a shelter,Take blankets to the homeless shelter or transition house
-Decorate a small tree & take it to a lonely elderly individual, include a holiday cd of music, maybe something baked, a warm blanket, hot cocoa, a fun bag of ‘holiday must haves’
-Pick one or two people to do the twelve days of Christmas
-Decorate a tree in your yard, a park or the mountains that is for the animals—include: orange slices, birdseed pinecones, cranberries, string of popcorn, & make it a special tradition for your family. (Read Eve Bunting’s Book)
-Volunteer to do a fun holiday craft or special event with a local senior center
–Take hotcocoa to people working out in cold conditions—ie: light festivals, carriages, ice rink, bell ringer…
-Drop off hand warmers to people working fast food & are at a window all day in the cold.
Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. ~Janice Maeditere