Christmas cheer cannot always be found underneath the tree tied in a silver bow, pretty gift wrap, and a labeled with your monogram on the gift tag. While this time of the year is dubbed, ''The Most Wonderful Time of The Year'' for many, the holidays can be a trying time due to various circumstances. You do not have to be one of Santa's scout elves to help spread a little holiday cheer of your own. In fact, a good way to think about the holidays is that there is a reason for the season — giving back to those who need it most. Your charitable gestures need not be large in scale to be considered grand or anything less than merry. It is true that little acts of kindness, love, and sharing go along way into making holiday time the most wonderful time. Be inspired to share your own cheer with the following cheerful ideas below.
1. Ring in Good Cheer
Red is the color most associated with the holidays. However, the color red is also synonymous with the Salvation Army and their red kettle bells ringing loudly for those who need a bit of cheer this time of year. Volunteer to ring the bell for the Salvation Army with their Register to Ring program. In a few simple clicks, you'll be signed up to ring a bell for a worthy cause in your own community.
2. Bake a Batch of Cookies
Know a friend, neighbor, or possibly a co-worker that could use an unexpected holiday pick-me-up? One of the tastiest ways to brighten someone's holiday is by baking a little extra the next time you're in the kitchen. Packaging a box of chocolate espresso snowcaps or a few extra darling gingerbread people is certain to make any day leading up to Christmas merry.
3. Pay Off Someone's Layaway Bill
We have all seen the good news stories of a Secret Santa paying off everyone's layaway bills at their local superstore. You can do this too. It's not likely that you can pay off everyone's layaway bill, but just helping out one family is more than thoughtful.
4. Pay-It- Forward
The next time you are at the drive-thru picking up your morning cup of Joe why not pay for the car's order behind you? With any luck, they'll do the same keeping the pay-it-forward game going all morning long.
5. Write a Christmas Card to a Stranger
Who doesn't love receiving holiday cards via snail mail? Better yet, who wouldn't love to send a holiday card to one of the many troops serving our country this holiday season? While there are many programs you can sign up with to send cards to our troops, the American Red Cross is sponsoring a military card sending program called, Holiday for Heroes. You can visit their site for the full details. Just know that even sending one card to an active hero means a great deal.
6. Show a Teacher Your Appreciation
You've bought something for just about everyone on your list, but did you remember a gift for your child's teacher? Teachers are one of those figures that are always there to answer any uncertainty, offer advice, and make sure you exceed to your personal best. Which is why it's important to remember when spreading seasonal cheer not to leave the teachers out in the cold. Think of something crafty to gift the teacher in your/your child's life that will be enjoyed past the holiday season. Something sweet and homemade will do the trick like a pretty batch of homemade sundae sauce. In a beautiful glass jar, of course.
7. Be a Good Friend to Someone You Don't Know
Sometimes, time is more meaningful than something that is prettily packaged. Lending an ear to a friend or a lonely neighbor is often more cheerful than an extra large cup of hot chocolate. Although, chatting with a pal while sipping something hot, chocolatey, and sweet isn't a bad idea either.
8. Be Kind to A Homeless Animal
Being an animal in a shelter no matter the time of the year is a sad place to be. Christmastime however, for a pet to be in a shelter seems a bit more depressing. If you're willing and have the right home accommodations, fostering a shelter cat/or dog for the Christmas season might not only make the animal's holiday brighter but yours too.
9. Help Someone Keep Warm
We often take for granted a simple coat or pair of mittens, but keeping warm and safe can be a challenge for those in need during the winter months. Donating any extra blankets, coats, etc. you may no longer need to your local shelter surely will be warmly received by those who are less fortunate.
10. Don Your (Not) So-Ugly Sweater
This idea is simple, by wearing one of those ugly/kitschy holiday sweaters and smiling is the quickest way to spread holiday cheer to anyone who is near. After all, anyone will agree (even Santa) that smiling during the holidays is contagious and is the quickest way to catch the Christmas Spirit.
Hopefully, you are now feeling a little more inspired to not only be merry and bright but to help make someone else's holiday that way too. And if you're sending someone homemade cookies, here's a giftwrapping idea from Martha: