The Challenge: 25 Ways To Have A More Meaningful Christmas
In preparation for the biggest and happiest celebration of the year, why not choose activities that will have more significance to our lives? Why not be more generous of our time and presence to others,
In preparation for the biggest and happiest celebration of the year, why not choose activities that will have more significance to our lives? Why not be more generous of our time and presence to others, just as Jesus did when He came down to be with us? Pick out to do one or two from the suggestions below and see its impact on your life!
START A GRATITUDE LIST
There are a lot of benefits for having a grateful heart. They say a heart that appreciates is a joyful heart. Like laughter, it’s good medicine for the body and soul. It’s also said to be a magnet for miracles and the start of something great. So, start
December by listing down at least five things that you’re thankful for the day to cultivate a heart full of gratitude.
Write down on your journal – be it a notebook, your phone or laptop – big and even small things that made you smile that day. A bird that chirped by your window, a surprise phone call from an old friend, a kiss from your son bidding you goodbye when you left for office, you didn’t forget your car keys this time, and the list goes on.
After a week, read your previous entries and watch yourself glow with joy. Start on December 1 and end on the 31st. Or maybe, continue on to the New Year.
VOLUNTEER IN AN ORPHANAGE
Visiting an orphanage is usually on the top of our list come Christmas time. So, it’s good to book your chosen home early because most have full bookings on weekends at this time of the year.
But, for a change, why not, be a volunteer for a day or a weekend, whichever fits your schedule. Grace to Be Born, a shelter for women in crisis, for example, accepts volunteers to help and teach young women care for their babies.
LEARN A NEW DISH AND PREPARE IT FOR THE FAMILY’S NOCHE BUENA
By learning, you don’t just buy the ingredients, get a cookbook and follow the instructions on Christmas eve itself. No, do trials until you’ve perfected it. You can ask friends or colleagues to sample it and give their comments.
Excite your family with your special dish and tell them what preparations you’ve been doing for the special meal. When feasting on your recipe, tell them at what great lengths you went through to achieve your culinary creation. They will appreciate the dish more and your efforts.
GO ON A SILENT RETREAT
Prepare yourself for the big celebration of Jesus’ birth by being at peace with God and yourself. A retreat or any type of meditation aided by spiritual formators is beneficial. Check out Cenacle House of Sprituality in Quezon City and Cebu City for the different retreat courses available.
SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO AT LEAST 7 NEIGHBORS A DAY
Neighbors here don’t just refer to people who live near your house but also those who sit next to you in church, the security guard who opens the door for you, the elevator girl, the waiter who takes your order, the receptionist who checks you in a spa, your masseuse, or the janitor you pass by the lobby, your Uber or Grab driver, get it?
This shouldn’t be hard. Just smile your sweetest and utter a Christmas greeting and watch the joy in their faces. As in your gratitude list, start on December 1.
OFFER FREE SOUP ON WEEKENDS
Getting an unexpected hot treat from strangers is a sure perk-up, especially for street children, children in the slums, or school children in public schools, like Payatas Elementary School.
You may find cooking sopas or arroz caldo easy enough for you to do. But it’s best to do this activity, especially the distribution part with a group, like your family, friends, colleagues, church mates and your kids. Start your children early. Teach them to have compassion for others and share not just their treasure but their time and presence to the underprivileged.
BABYSIT FOR A SISTER OR A FRIEND
Do you have anyone in the family, or a friend who badly needs a day to pamper herself but couldn’t because of a newborn baby? Why not offer to babysit for half a day or a full day if you can? Give this mom a day to herself to relax at the spa, parlor, or at the mall for shopping.
READ THE BIBLE
It has been said that the Bible is God’s love letters to us. It would be good to read at least a part of it as we commemorate His greatest expression of love through the Lord’s nativity.
Starting with the Book of Matthew, read one chapter a day and meditate on His Word. Or, use Mass readings as guide. There are several websites that you can check out for guide, like Catholic Online and Kerygma Family.
SURPRISE FOR YOUR HOUSEHOLD HELPS
You can choose to cook a special meal for them complete with dessert. Ask your children to help out. Or, clean up your own room, or the kids’ room, again with the kids. Or, give your kasambahay a day off on top of their usual, and with a GC to enjoy at the parlor or spa.
TREAT ONE OR TWO STREETCHILDREN TO A MEAL
Any time of the year is a good time to treat a child for a meal at their favorite fastfood. Why not do this for a child who may have not even been inside one before? Take time to get to know them and listen to their stories. Some can be real talkers, others will be quiet. But all for sure will have twinkling eyes and will be smiling from ear to ear throughout their meal.
TIP YOUR WAITER OR WAITRESS WITH SOMETHING GIFT-WRAPPED
If you’ve been happy with your server at the restaurant, why not do something extraordinary and special by giving him or her a wrapped gift. Tip: you have to have something generic, like a mug or towel, gift-wrapped already before going to dinner. It’s not the gift that counts, but the gesture. If you insist to still tip with cash, why not?
ADOPT A CHILD OR A FAMILY
There are orphanages with existing Adopt-A-Kid arrangement during Christmas holiday, like Tahanan Ni Maria Foundation in Bulacan.
If you want to do more and adopt a bigger group, why not invite a family living in the streets, or under the bridge, for Christmas breakfast or lunch? Or, someone you know like the family of your labandera, office janitor, or a church worker with poor means.
By bringing them to your home, your children, even without you preaching to them, will learn to love their fellowmen by your example.
OFFER TO SPRING CLEAN YOUR BEST FRIEND’S KITCHEN
Did your friend’s kasambahay just march out of the house leaving her having a hard time juggling house chores and work? Or, maybe it’s your sister having this dilemma. Why not offer to spring clean the kitchen or any part of the house that needs a real clean-up? It would be fun doing it together, too!
Maybe it’s your parents who need this general house cleaning. Be a darling and rescue them.
Tip: You can cheat and bring in your own househelpers.
HARANA FOR LOLOS AND LOLAS
Christmas is not just for kids, but for oldies too. Spend some time and share your talent in singing and dancing with the oldies in homes for the aged like Anawim and Golden Acres.
But don’t forget your very own grandparents, too. If you can do that for others, you can definitely do the same for your own blood. Also, make time to listen to their stories and care for them this season, even if it means driving hours to see them. They will definitely appreciate it.
When you do so, always bring your children, nieces and nephews with you. Let this be a learning experience for them.
USE OLD NEWSPAPER TO WRAP GIFTS
We are always told to reduce, reuse and recycle. This is your chance to do so this season by not buying new gift wrappers and gift bags. Instead, use your old newspaper or magazines to wrap your gifts. Use your creativity. You may decorate it with red ribbon, or use crayons to color and decorate it for a festive mood.
THROW A PARTY FOR KIDS WITH BIG C
You can do this at the Philippine General Hospital’s Pediatrics Cancer Ward, or at Bahay Aruga, a halfway house for kids with cancer.
Spending a few hours with them singing Christmas carols – live or recorded – can brighten up their day and yours.
Other than food, you may want to give them coloring books and crayons which they can use for their leisure. You may also ask the caregivers in advance what the kids need on a daily basis or what the center is short on, like tissue paper, cotton, face mask, milk, etc.
SING CHRISTMAS CAROLS TO INMATES
Let us not forget our fellowmen who are lonely inside their prison cell. How about arranging a group from school, church or office and sing Christmas carols to those locked up in the Correctional Institute for Women, or Bilibid Prison.
They will surely appreciate your gesture and you will receive brownie points in Heaven. Check your Bible for Matthew 25:36. Like feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, this is also one of the corporal works of mercy but seldom practiced.
SEND ANONYMOUS CHRISTMAS CARDS
Make your own Christmas card with Bible verses or inspiring quotes and sign it with a pen name, like Santa’s Helper or Lady Who Loves Christmas. Drop the card at your friend’s or neighbor’s doorstep, or at your colleague’s table to surprise them.
But before you go that far, why not start in your own home, among your family members. Put the card in your husband’s car, under the door of your sister’s bedroom, on your child’s bedside table or pillow. It would be more fun if you could see the amazed look on their faces.
PAMPER YOUR MOM AND DAD
Go on a date with your parents. Just the three of you. Do something you haven’t done with them before, preferably something you know they like to do. Give in to their wishes, make them choose – a pilgrimage to Kamay Ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon, or it could simply be lunch at their favorite restaurant which they haven’t been to for a while. Or, let them watch the glorious Manila Bay sunset and be their photographer. Be creative.
CAR WASH FOR THE BOYS
Let’s face it, men love their toys, their babies – their cars. For most husbands, boyfriends, dads, brothers, sons, not a week goes by without them bringing their baby out for a carwash.
Surprise them by bringing their car for a wash or wash it up at the garage. If neither is possible, buy something that will go with their baby – from extravagant magwheels to simple car freshener. Again, it’s the gesture that counts.
BAKE CUPCAKES FOR CIGARETTE VENDORS
If you like to bake, why not use your skill to spread cheer out on the streets. Prepare some cupcakes and give them away to people who least expect it, like hardworking vendors in the market, that ale selling her wares on the sidewalk, that mama selling fishball or cigarette vendors.
TUTOR A CHILD
They say education is the answer in breaking the cycle of poverty. You can help ensure that underprivileged kids are maximizing their potential in school by helping them understand subjects, like Math and Reading.
There are socio-civic organizations that arrange to send tutor-volunteers to public schools. Why not band with your family and friends and offer your services to gradeschoolers in a nearby academic institution?
ORGANIZE A FREE DENTAL CLINIC
Many diseases can be prevented through good oral care. You can be saving kids and their parents from preventable illnesses by
offering free dental check-ups, or by just giving away toothbrushes and toothpastes and giving a short talk on the importance of keeping one’s mouth clean.
LEARN TANGO WITH YOUR HUSBAND (OR BOYFIE)
Tango after all is called the love dance. Christmas is all about love but not just agape. It’s also for romantic love. And when you train for this dance, you don’t just learn the dance but you get to spend time with your loved one and rekindle your love for each other. Think of it as preparation for Valentine’s, which is just around the corner.
PLANT A TREE
We need oxygen to live and so, we need trees. By planting a tree or two, you don’t just give yourself a real breather but even those around you. You will not only benefit from cleaner air, you will also get a dose of happy hormones. Studies show that living near trees can give you health boost. Ever heard of tree huggers? Tree hugging shouldn’t just be for hippies. By touching a tree or a plant, you change your body’s vibrational pattern and this gives you some sort of healing.
And if it’s a fruit-bearing tree, you can be harvesting fruits some years later.
You can do any of the above any time of the year, but doing this on Christmas makes it more meaningful, especially if you keep HIM in your mind and heart as you offer and complete your activities.
Text by Rhoda Osalvo
Illustration by Paul Fabila