How to Share Christmas

Not everyone celebrates Christmas. But for those who do, but who simply can’t afford to fill up all that real estate under the Christmas tree, this time of year can really drag on the spirit.

Yet what a lift it can be if, on the other hand, others step in to help make Christmas a genuine season of joy. Programs like Adopt-a-Family and Share Christmas, often organized by neighbourhood centres and non-profit groups, work like this: A family in need is identified, maybe a single mom with her children, or a family coping with disabilities, or a low-income senior couple. A list is made up of specific items that they could not otherwise afford, like age-appropriate gifts and books for the kids, but also food, winter coats and even personal hygiene products.

Donors never meet or learn the names of the people they’ve helped. So they don’t get a hug, a smile of gratitude or even a mumbled thank you. Do they still get a buzz?

Ask people who’ve already decided to shell out for wool socks and canned stews and the Twilight Series. Every year my friend Anne’s book club adopts a family for the holidays through the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre in east-end Toronto. Book club queen Vicki, who organizes it, told me: “I believe it’s important to give back to the community, especially during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we tend to eat and live to excess.” Good point. Vicki also thinks getting involved this way is a valuable reminder to appreciate what we have.

Another friend, Lisa, is joining forces with her own fellow book-club members to support an elderly woman who, she says, “lives in poverty with her little dog and very little else.” She adds: “We’re happy to do it… Book club girlz rule again!” They sure do.

Happily there’s no written rule that you must be girlz in a book club to participate in a Share Christmas program. So even if you happen to eschew books and cocktails and gossip (although I personally can’t imagine a world without any of those things), you can sign up to support a family or lonely neighbour for the holidays. Find a program in your community through the magic that is Google.

What’s my pick? In the past I’ve supported the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario’s Holiday Fund, which provides gifts, groceries, and supplies to a family affected by spinal cord injury. Those who know a bit about me know why this hits close to home. But the difference is that my family is already anticipating loot under the tree and turkey for dinner. Share Christmas programs give a whole lot of other people something to look forward to, too.

10 responses to “How to Share Christmas

  1. Yes, you are right about the inequality that the holidays bring to various living rooms around the world. We give gifts to the Women’s Habitat at Christmas time. I usually put aside unopened birthday gifts that the kids haven’t even noticed have “gone missing” and donate them in December for the holidays. They also like to get gift certificates for movies and the like for the older kids.
    Thanks for the reminder Lisa, I’ll get those gifts donated this week!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Monique! And you’ve just illustrated how we can help even through organizations that don’t have a formal Share Christmas program set up. Many community agencies will still be aware of families that can use the help.

  3. My family has gone through a lot of significant changes and health issues this year and I’m having a hard time keeping my spirits up, mourning the loss of old family traditions. I’ve been wondering how one finds out about charitable events one can get involved with that involve interacting with people, i.e. carol-singing at hospitals or visiting sick kids…any hints, Lisa?

  4. Sorry to hear about the difficult year, Ann. But great idea to get into the holiday spirit with people-oriented events. One of my favourites at this time of year is gift wrapping – a lot of charities look for volunteer gift wrappers at this time of year. I am one of those freaks who enjoy wrapping gifts, and the interactions with people are positive – everyone’s in the holiday mood. If you do an online search for Christmas + volunteer + [your city], you’ll find a variety of volunteer job listings that pop up. Many of them do not involve making a commitment for Christmas Day but are spread out over the next couple of weeks. Good luck!

  5. Every year I collect toys and other things for families in need at christmas ,this year I collected 6 large boxes of toys candles hygeine things so many wonderful things and so many wonderful people donated things , this year the donations went to a center for children with disabilities.It is a good feeling to know you helped put a smile on a childs face and happiness in a parents heart .My mother had help when we were children from a “secret santa” who left money for my mother to buy gifts and food for the holidays. my mom and started collecting for families together and since she past away in 2007 I will continue in her place to help families have a merry christmas ,I recommend people to do it ,you will love the feeling you get when you help someone .

  6. Thanks for writing, Bertha! I think often when you’ve been a recipient of help, you have a fuller understanding of what it means to someone else when you help them, which can be very rewarding.

  7. Thanks, Angela. I’ll check it out!

  8. Hj! My name is Jeanette Riley I am looking to do a good deed for a needy child also really cheer up a sick child .thankyou

  9. Welcome to 50 Good Deeds, Jeanette! I hope you’ll find lots of ideas on this blog… and lots of support for what you’re doing! You can also try contacting your local volunteer bureau or children’s hospital with your inquiries. All the best to you!

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