Tuesday, 2 December 2014

#givingtuesday - Ways to Give More this Christmas

My favourite thing about Christmas, aside from the food and drink (of course!) has to be buying the perfect gift for friends and family.

I get far more excited about giving my presents to others than what I might find under the tree for myself. Finding that one thing which will light up a loved-one's face just gives me the best feeling in the world - nothing can top that.

Making someone's Christmas special is my aim every year - not just through gifts, but by helping my parents out with errands, wrapping gifts, tidying the house and putting up decorations. Making sure I see friends and family when I go home for the holidays, and just spending time with the people I love the most. Making memories, for me, is far, far more important than the presents (though of course, I do appreciate them!)

However, this year more than ever, I am becoming very aware of how different Christmas is for thousands and thousands of others. Too many people will spend this season cold, homeless, lonely, ill, or in pain. It happens all year, every year, of course. It's an awful thing to think about, when many of us are fortunate enough to be surrounded by loved ones, warmth, and plenty of food and merriment.

At a time of year when the focus is on family, fortune and food, somehow, people in need almost get forgotten, when it's probably the time we need to remember them the most.

When we gather around the family table each year, we remember loved ones who can sadly no longer be with us for this very special time. For my family, we remember the origins of Christmas, stay thankful, and remember 'absent friends'. This year, I want to spare a thought for many others who will not be so lucky as us.

There are so many ways to do this, and if you feel the same, why not make a little change this year too? It takes very little time to change somebody's Christmas for the better, and it'll warm your heart more than any mince pie or open fire ever could.

There are so many blog posts about gift ideas, wish lists and shopping tips - so I thought I'd write an alternative. 

Today is Giving Tuesday - a day set aside amongst the hubbub of the beginning of Christmas to raise awareness of the importance of giving to others. With the madness of Black Friday and 'Cyber Monday (whatever that was!) over, it's time to remember that buying a new TV or that perfect party dress isn't what Christmas is all about. Watching the news last week, I became so uncomfortable seeing people fighting over discounted goods, desperately pushing and shoving to get the best deals, as if their lives depended on it.

Giving Tuesday is a day set aside across the world to highlight the importance of taking a moment to give to others; whether it's your time, money, or simply raising awareness.

Like many things, giving is not just for Christmas - but it's a good time to start.


Here are some ideas for giving more this Christmas, though I know there are so many other options out there;

      A good friend of mine sent me a link to this cause, which sparked the idea for this post. Donating money to Crisis will reserve a place for a homeless person this Christmas, including three hot meals, a health check and a chance to shower and change, advice on employment and housing, and support when they need it the most. I can't imagine how awful it must be to feel left out in the cold when others are inside, warm and surrounded by comforts, and often these people struggle to get back on their feet. Giving someone this little chance could give them the start to 2015 they need to change their lives for the better. 

      Buy your Christmas cards from a charity shop
        Instead of going for something cute and quirky and (often) overpriced from the highstreet, consider buying a pack or two from your local charity shop. The money will go towards a good cause, and there are some lovely designs available. Spread the joy with a card in more than one way this year. I've bought mine from my local British Heart Foundation shop, and they're very cute! 

          Donate to a gift appeal
            In December, local charities and media teams often hold gift appeals to ensure the less fortunate families have at least one gift under the tree for their children this year. Whether it's an unwanted gift from last year, an extra treat you picked up in a 2-for-1 deal, or a little something from the local supermarket, you're bound to bring the smile to someone's face if you take part in one of these. Research your local collection points, or find a national appeal online- it might be something to get your class / office involved with.

              Donate your time and visit the elderly or alone
                So many older people remain lonely due to few relatives and friends, or a recent bereavement. Just a couple of hours could make them feel less alone; lend an ear and hear their tales, make them a cup of tea, or take them a couple of mince pies. Nobody should be forgotten - and if you live in a small village or community, there's bound to be someone who would welcome your company, even for an hour! 

                  Invite your neighbours over for Christmas drinks
                    This is not so much about charity than creating a sense of community spirit. Say thank you to your neighbours for their help over the last year, whether they kept the noise down, brought round your post, or fed the pets while you were away. It's a chance to introduce yourself too!

                    Give Blood
                      With so many things going on in December, it's easy to forget that some things carry on as normal. The NHS still needs blood donations, whatever day, month or season it is. One in five appointments were skipped over the Christmas period last year, and levels of donations can drop dramatically when people are so wrapped up in Christmas shopping and parties. Find out if you're able to donate, register and book an appointment, and give a much-needed gift this Christmas.

                        Save your spare change while you shop
                          Even if it's mainly 10ps, popping a little change here and there when you do your big Christmas shop means that you don't notice that you're 'doing good' - every little helps, even if it's just the change from your last purchase! In major towns and cities there are always people with collection buckets, choirs and live bands playing.

                            Give the gift that keeps giving
                              What do you get someone who has it all? Charities like Oxfam have gifts such as Oxfam Unwrapped, where you can give which help those in need; buy a goat for a family, or some books for a school in Africa! It's a little gift to make a change, and you can still wrap it up and put it under the tree. Prices often start at about £5 too - the perfect 'tree present'. 

                              Wear your Christmas jumper
                                Save the Children hold an annual Christmas Jumper Day across the country to raise money while wearing your best ugly jumper. With festive sweaters so popular at the moment, it won't take too much time to take part, and it definitely brightens up the office!

                                These are just some of the opportunities around - there are so many more ways to give, and so many charities to support. I hope this post gives you one or two ideas to give more this Christmas - let's make this time of year magical for everyone.

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