Girl presentWhether you’re Christian or not, Christmas has become a huge part of western culture that draws everybody in. People of all faiths and backgrounds take advantage of the season to shower their loved ones with presents, spend a few days with their families and get some discount sales shopping done in the new year. It’s a time for togetherness and warmth and indulgence. It’s when strangers get together to sing and families put aside their petty arguments to exchange gifts and dinner.

Ideally, Christmas would come each year just like it did in the films. All of a sudden, just for one day, everyone is happy, no one is suffering and the snow is soft, fluffy and doesn’t freeze your toes off. And everyone gets their perfect gift and no one has to spend a penny to make it all happen.

Unfortunately, this world isn’t perfect like that. On Christmas day, people still argue, maybe even more than they usually do. Dysfunctional families stay dysfunctional. Some folk can’t afford to give their kids a decent meal or a gift. Homeless people stay homeless, and they’re chillier than ever.

It would be nice if, despite all the panic to make their own Christmas perfect, more people would take some time out to do something for someone less fortunate.

Regardless of your thoughts on the nativity tale or any other Yuletide backstory, it is always a good idea to take a moment to help others.

Here are some things to remember in the build up to Christmas.

GIFTS ARE FOR GIVING

Although it has probably been ingrained into you from a young age to spend these weeks Christmas thinking of all the things you want – don’t do that. Think, instead, about what you want to get for others. Think about making your friends smile when they open the perfect present that you found for them. Let that be enough.

FEASTS ARE FOR FEEDING – EVERYONE

Can you remember a Christmas dinner that didn’t leave you enough leftovers for a weeks’ worth of turkey sandwiches? There are hungry people out there – now more than ever in this time of ‘austerity’. Take a moment to think of those people while you’re picking out the loosest trousers you own on Boxing Day.

TO GIVE FREELY

Every tiny thing you might offer will make someone happy. Leave your 50p change for the tired-looking bar staff. It might be the only tip they’ve had all week. Buy a homeless person a cup of tea or some new gloves. They don’t get to head home and indoors at the end of a long, cold day. Chuck some shrapnel into a charity bucket. It all adds up and does some good.

If you haven’t got anything physical you can share, hand out “happy holidays” as if someone has accidentally left a spare truckload in your garage. Small, effortless gestures makes people smile. And sometimes that’s all you need to do to make a difference.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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