Do you want Christmas to be more than the dazzle of gifts and tinsel, either for yourself, or your child or grandchild?

When my four kids were younger, we struggled with this every year. My desire to infuse the season with greater meaning grew just as fast as their wish lists!

We always tried to focus our family on the joy of helping others and the value of giving to others. Was there a way to incorporate these values into the holiday season?

One year, I surprised myself by sewing an advent calendar. Made of felt, it had 24 pockets, each with a number or holiday symbol.

The first year I used it, I filled each pocket with a piece of candy or a small toy and let the kids take turns having a surprise.

That was certainly fun, but I wondered what else we could do.

The Season of Giving

I thought of some acts of service my kids were capable of doing, either by themselves or as a family. I wrote them on slips of paper and placed one in each pocket of the calendar.

In the days before Christmas, my kids were challenged to think of others, not just themselves. It proved to be a valuable exercise, one which was repeated for many years to come.

We came to call these good deeds ‘compassion capers’. We called them capers because we challenged the kids to do these things, as much as possible, anonymously, without expectation of recognition or reward. It’s easy to do things for others when you know you will be thanked.

As for the deeds themselves, I focused the activities on our family interests. Here are some you might consider:

  • Bringing a bag of cat food to the animal shelter;
  • Shoveling a neighbor’s walkway;
  • Making a ‘get well’ card for a fellow church member;
  • Hand-making a special gift for a sibling;
  • Making cookies for the neighbors.

What Can You Do?

What are the needs and opportunities in your life? One year we faced a strain of sibling relationships, so we focused on building those relationships and having the kids bless one another. If your family has a volunteer project, like visiting a nursing home, you can relate the tasks to their needs.

You don’t have to think of 24 things to do either! Add them as you think of them.

And you don’t have to sew an Advent calendar. Use a calendar you already have – or use paper cups or bags to number for the 24 days before Christmas.

But I Don’t Have Kids in My Life

What if you don’t have children in your life? No worries!

We all have good intentions floating around in our brains. This is the perfect season to act on them and do something meaningful for others.

It’s the true spirit of the season!

What ideas, or capers, can you think of to bring some light and joy into the lives of others this holiday season? It could be within your family, your neighborhood, your faith community, or the world! Now is the perfect time to share and give to others!

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