Even people who don't normally give back to their community tend to change their stripes during December. It's amazing how many bell ringers, volunteer gift wrappers, or soup kitchen helpers are out there this time of year. It's wonderful to see.
What would our world be like if that level of community spirit were carried through all year? If we planned on sponsoring hungry families in April, or held swimsuit drives in July so all children could have a nice suit to swim in during the heat?
One way we can affect a sea change is through our kids. When I was growing up, holidays were all about yours truly. How many presents were under the tree for me? Did Santa get my revised list? I didn't really start to change until my own child was born, which is when I was snapped out of my own little world and forced to be a lot of things I hadn't been growing up.
When my kids were younger, Christmas was for them much the same it was for me: all about the stuff. Now, with the oldest three, it can be so much more than that. They've always been taught the religious reason for the season, and Christmas Eve sees our family in church advertising the many reasons why four kids isn't always the smartest idea (Jacob melts, literally starts to dissipate when forced to wear "handsome" clothes. Dress shirts have been known to sear his skin on contact and his behavior usually reflects this). But the lesson of giving in December has been somewhat downplayed, only because I wanted them to think about it all year, too. And because they were babies.
I think if I can get my kids to see that Christmas is about giving, during the most kid-centric time of year, then it may just seep into them year-round.
This year, we've taken a play on the 12 Days of Christmas and cut out 12 trees. On each tree, we wrote something we wanted to do as opposed to buy for Christmas. At least four of the trees had to make other people feel special, and this has replaced the laundry list of presents they want for themselves. They're aware that Santa will still make the rounds at Casa Get in the Car, but what surprised me was their willingness, even excitement, to do this.
Some of the activities:
make fudge (see pic)
collect all spare change in house (we have those big crayon banks everywhere) and cash in to buy canned food for food bank.
make cookies and drive around giving them away to friends and family
Volunteer at food bank
Go to the movies as a family
You all probably do this stuff anyway - what is neat to realize (sometimes putting things to paper is all we need) is that all we really need at the holidays is to be happy, which rarely involves things. The togetherness and pulling together as a family and community are what make December extra special.
I would love to know what you all do during the holidays - we would love more ideas, and I think it becomes contagious!