Whether you hang out for 11 months to sing ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’ out loud, or you’d rather never hear a carol again in your life, there is one thing that can always bring everyone together at this time of the year.

No matter your background, religion or feelings around ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, Christmas is an opportunity to give to those less fortunate than ourselves.

From volunteering on Christmas Day to donating your time, or helping local charities over the festive season, there are plenty of ways to uncover the true meaning of such a significant time.

Close to home or further afield

You may be wondering ‘well, where is it that people need my help the most?’ And it can actually be daunting to be met with a plethora of opportunities and ways to ‘give back’. But here’s the first way to narrow down your options ‒ do you want to help out in your local community, or would you like to see what programs are available overseas?

The Samaritan’s Purse runs Operation Christmas Child, which is a simple concept but an enjoyable way to reach out to those in countries where children have very little, even at Christmas time. You fill a shoebox with six items (for example ‒ a toothbrush, book, pen and paper, a piece of clothing, a little teddy bear and a pack of marbles) and they are distributed to those living in extreme poverty.

“Volunteer and experience in person the gratitude of those less fortunate.”

If you would like to see what is happening in your local community, The Smith Family organisation is always seeking help with wrapping, and delivering tens of thousands of presents to disadvantaged families at Christmas time. There is no doubt that the joy of giving will really be evident when you are able to experience the gratitude of others in person.

Giving that doesn’t involve shopping

The first thing that comes to mind for most people when Christmas rolls around is ‘shopping’. And there is little wonder, what with all the advertising and promotions that we are bombarded with in the lead-up to 25 December.

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But the truth is, there can be so much more to Christmas that doesn’t involve hitting the local mall or stressing out about what to buy family and friends. Instead of worrying about what to get the person who has everything, why not give to someone who doesn’t have much at all by donating your time? It really can be the best gift of all.

Plenty of charities offer a range of ways to get involved, depending on what it is you would like to offer. The Exodus Foundation runs a number of programs over the festive season, from helping in the preparation of a Christmas Day lunch to decorating the event halls, marquees and tents, and supporting the elderly and disabled so they, too, can participate in the celebrations.

“Donating your time can be the best gift of all.”

Meals on Wheels NSW always needs people to deliver dinners to those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. Providing companionship, as well as a warm meal, it is an opportunity to ensure no one misses out on what Christmas should be about.

Teaching children the true meaning of Christmas

It’s understandable that many children, when they hear the words ‘Christmas’, get excited about receiving all kinds of presents from Santa. However, one of the most important things you could do this year is teach them that not everyone is fortunate enough to receive gifts.

Sure, it’s nice to find lots of toys under the tree, but there are plenty of valuable life lessons to be gained through helping kids to understand that some people don’t have much and many may not even experience Christmas at all!

You could go shopping together so they can choose a present to put under the Kmart Wishing Tree ‒ an initiative in partnership with The Salvation Army. This allows them to get involved in the process of giving to others and have a better understanding that not everyone gets to have Christmas in the way they do.

Encourage others to give

Once you have decided what you would like to do to help someone less fortunate this Christmas, why not encourage family and friends to get on board, too?

Tell those looking to buy a present for you to ditch the trip and, instead, choose from Oxfam’s wonderful list of ‘gifts’ ‒ and you will get a card to tell you what they bought. From a $10 chicken for a family in Vanuatu to a $15 water tank for a family in Sri Lanka, there are so many easy and low-cost ways to spread the love this Christmas.

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“Encourage friends and family to get on board to create a more meaningful Christmas.”

You also can’t go past the magic of granting a wish for a child who is seriously ill. As a family, you could donate a collection of money to the Starlight Children’s Foundation who, every Christmas, organise once-in-a-lifetime Starlight Wishes for those children going through the toughest journey of their young lives.

Choose ethically sourced gifts that ‘give back’

Still need to do some Christmas shopping? Why not choose presents that will benefit the maker in a very special way. Go online to check out the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia store or Oxfam Australia to find some amazing, unique items. By buying from these amazing charities, you can give a gift that gives twice this Christmas.

A simple act of kindness

Remember, anything you are able to do this Christmas to help others, no matter how big or small, is something to cherish.

Volunteering and giving don’t have to be about joining nationwide or international campaigns ‒ you can make a difference simply by visiting your local hospital, nursing home or YMCA and seeing if they have any opportunities to help out with Christmas activities.

There’s no doubt that thinking of others and helping to spread joy is a fantastic way to spend Christmas ‒ for all the family.

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Jane Booty, Tony Didd and team

Jane Booty, Tony Didd and team

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