The holiday season is all about joy and good things like seeing long-distance family, getting together with friends, and savoring holiday traditions. Yet, sometimes, it's hard to find that joy amidst all the things that are going on around us and around the world. It seems like every day there is some new tragedy happening, and the news is always ripe with bad but significant news. Add in our own personal circumstances, both good and bad, and it’s no wonder people are having a hard time finding joy in any area of their lives. Let alone mustering it up for the holiday season.
Still, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of focusing on the negative this holiday season, let’s focus on how we can bring each other joy and spread this cheery feeling around this holiday season.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The first thing we need to focus on is Jesus, the reason for the season, and how we can spread the love and joy of the gospel to others. We can do this by getting involved in church holiday activities, sending religious Christmas cards, and donating to Christian charities.
We can reach out to those around us who don’t know the Lord and start a conversation or ask if they have questions to help guide them in the right direction. This can also be as simple as smiling at a stranger in passing or sharing a compliment or a kind word. People are looking for connection, especially during the holiday season, and this may open the door for you to share more about your faith.
There are many ways to spread joy this holiday season and make the world brighter.
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1. Acknowledge Someone
We live in a world where some of the most important jobs get the least respect. Jobs like daycare teachers, fast food workers, grocery workers, baristas, retail workers, restaurant servers, etc. It’s very easy to forget that if people didn’t do these jobs, we couldn’t function in our everyday lives.
Even though we make it look easy, these are some of the hardest jobs on the planet. I was a daycare teacher off and on for eight years and I enjoyed it, but kids can be hard to handle, especially during holiday time. I worked in the deli in two grocery chains early in my working life, and it was very hard work. You are always multi-tasking, and there is always something to do.
This holiday season, when you come into contact with these folks, send some joy their way. Thank your server for their hard work. Take a small gift like a handmade ornament, cookies, or a simple card to your favorite grocery worker. Buy a small gift for your child’s daycare teacher or give them a card with a heartfelt message.
I had wonderful regulars who would bring me ornaments and goodies when I worked in the deli, and I had amazing parents showing their appreciation. I promise you, it will go a long way.
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2. Get Involved
Make a list of your favorite causes and instead of just donating money this year, get involved too. Buy some things that are on the animal shelter wishlist and spend a few hours donating your time. Go to the soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help cook and get to know the people you are serving. Get involved with the toy drive for the local children’s group home, and then volunteer and get to know the kids who live there. There are all kinds of ways to get involved and spread joy this holiday season.
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3. Bless the Bell Ringer
If you are out and about this holiday season and see a Salvation Army bell ringer, give a donation and buy them a drink. When I lived in Illinois, our winters would be freezing. Thankfully, our Walmart had a Mcdonald's in it, and we would often ask the bell ringer if we could either buy them a drink or lunch/dinner. They were always grateful and appreciative.
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4. Help Someone
Helping someone during the holiday season is always a great way to spread joy. Some ideas are:
-Help your older neighbors decorate for Christmas.
-Buy a homeless person a meal and give them a blanket for those wintry nights.
-Help your neighbor carry in their groceries.
-“Adopt” a family that is struggling and give them a great Christmas including food, decorations, and gifts.
-Have a Christmas wrapping party with friends.
-Have a cookie swap with friends to cut down on baking this holiday season.
-Babysit for friends and family for a few hours so they can get things done.
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5. Surprise Someone
The holiday season is a great time to surprise someone. Shovel or snow-blow your neighbor's driveway and sidewalk. If someone you know is having a car issue and you know car mechanics, offer to have them order the part and you will install it for no charge. If you see a rescue worker (police officer, firefighter, or EMT) at a restaurant or drive-thru and you can catch them, offer to buy them a meal or a beverage. Surprise your neighbors with baked goods or other goodies.
This is also a great time to send surprises to the people who make your life so much easier. Send a box of cookies to your veterinarian from your fur babies. Send a small gift to your child’s bus driver. Give your hairdresser or barber an extra-large tip. Send some treats to your doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or leave something to surprise your housekeeper.
Other fun surprises include planning a trip home to surprise loved ones or planning with a loved one for them to come home for the holidays with no one else knowing.
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6. Treat Your Immediate Coworkers
Take some time to stop by the local donut shop or coffee house and buy each of your immediate coworkers a treat or a cup of coffee. You could also bake a treat to take in as well for a more economical choice.
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7. Get Fashion Festive
Buy that ugly sweater, those blinking earrings or necklace, or a wild Christmas hat. Your festive attire will guarantee smiles and chuckles everywhere you go. Especially when you see kids, they love all the bright lights and fun of the holidays.
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8. Jazz Up Your Christmas Display
There is nothing like an outdoor holiday light display to bring smiles to everyone’s faces and joy in their eyes. If you can, add an extra inflatable or some extra lights this year to help ramp up the joy of the season.
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9. Spend Time with the Kids
Kids love all the magic and fun of the season. If you have younger brothers and sisters, nieces or nephews, cousins, or even friends with young children, offer to spend some time with them.
You can take them to an event like a Christmas play, a Christmas movie, ice skating, or even shopping for their mom or dad. Other ideas include having a craft day, baking together (if it is age-appropriate), or decorating your Christmas tree together.
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10. Gift Randomly
This is something you could do on a small scale this year and plan to do even bigger next year. Decide on a set amount of money and buy some store gift cards in small amounts. Then keep them with you and when you go shopping, surprise someone with a gift card. This will infuse some joy in people’s lives and next year you can plan on going bigger if your budget allows.
There are various ways to spread joy. Now pick one or two and go light up someone’s world.
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Originally published Wednesday, 15 November 2023.