gold hair slides
red tartan scarf

I always remember that, throughout my childhood, the start of Christmas time meant getting bundled up in our big coats, hats and gloves, to go out delivering food hampers and tins of biscuits to all of the elderly people in our village. We (my mum, dad, brother and I) did this alongside our neighbours; they were the ones who organised it all and we simply helped with the delivery. But it was so rewarding to give these people gifts; people who couldn't get out much (especially in the snow), who didn't have much or who were lacking a close support network. And I guess that shows the major positives of living in a small village doesn't it? Because our neighbours worked with the woman running the local post office to compile a list of recipients, gathered donations and planned the deliveries all off their own back. 
I don't remember when this all stopped, but I believe somebody else in the village took over the role. And I kind of miss it? It was such a tradition, knocking on old ladies doors and seeing their faces light up at the unexpected gifts, before going back to our neighbours and all having a warm drink. This is exactly what Christmas should be about! Did anyone else do the shoebox gifting through their school too? Where you'd fill a shoebox with gifts for those less fortunate and send it off, that was another thing I always looked forward to. Along with (obviously) presents and food and family time! But at the end of the day, I think giving is much more important than the receiving at this time of year.

snake print dress

So when my friend Natasha suggested we look into volunteering over the festive period, I leapt at the chance. I don't know why I haven't before, fear/nerves/laziness, take your pick! But unfortunately at the middle of November we were already too late, which I guess is a good thing, because everywhere we asked was fully booked up with volunteers right into the new year. There were (obviously) opportunities still available, but we're not able to commit to long-term partnerships at the moment. Something to definitely bare in mind for the new year though.
Instead, we've looked at donating money/gifts instead of time, so I thought I'd share a few options if anyone else is wanting to do more this year:

Donating Gifts
  • We have Magic radio on in the office at work quite often, so I've heard multiple adverts for 'Mission Christmas' which they're collaborating on with Bensons for beds. They're working to ensure that every child has a gift to unwrap this year and with 640 drop-off points across the UK, all you need to do to help is donate a new and unwrapped toy. You can find all the info here! There's also options to donate money towards gifts if you're unable to get out and buy one/there's no drop-off location nearby.
Monetary Donations
  • How many people really take notice of the Christmas cards which they receive? Or even bother sending them at all in 2018 when you can send a text/whatsapp/tweet/facebook post/instagram DM or whatever else? There's a few people I've known who would instead opt to donate to a given charity, tell everyone that's what they were doing and encourage others to donate instead of needless paper waste. And I think it's a great idea! It also works if you've got relatives/colleagues/neighbours who you usually just exchange gifts with out of politeness and get things you don't want nor need. Ask them to donate that money to a charity of your choice instead and do the same for them. Do you really want another generic gift set with zero thought?
  • If you want to donate your money to a specific cause, there are many charities who offer those options! Centrepoint: you can buy a homeless young person a Christmas dinner for £10, a Christmas gift for £13, a set of toiletries for £15, or a safe, comfy bed for the night for £35, among many more options. Refuge: there's a 'gift list' where donations are used to buy specific presents for women and children or, alternatively, you can buy refuge parcels, e.g. a Christmas dinner parcel for £5, an Emergency parcel for £10 or a Safety and Independence parcel for £50. These are just 2 amongst a number of charities with these kind of offerings!
For the animal lover
  • I was initially gonna recommend WWF here for adopting an endangered animal as a gift, but then I found out that they're sponsored by Canada Goose and are all kinds of dodgy so I found some alternatives! Wildlife Trusts offer options to sponsor an array of animals from hedgehogs to dolphins in aid of protecting UK wildlife. Blue Cross have pets that you can sponsor including cats, dogs, horses and hamsters and Dogs Trust have even more dogs to choose from. But if you're an animal lover yourself, it's worth thinking of the animals in shelters over the winter. Donating blankets to your local shelter is sure to be a big help, as is donating your time to help if they have vacancies. January is always a busy time for shelters (A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, etc.).
Food banks
  • Giving to food banks is probably most peoples first though when wanting to donate at Christmas, and it is something which can easily be done now as lots of supermarkets have donation points in store; you can simply add an extra couple of items to your trolley and pop them in at the end! If you want to do something a bit more for food banks, a reverse advent calendar is a great idea. (I know we're already on the 5th December so I'm a little late in recommending this, but sh!) You simply donate one item each day of Advent and to make the most of this, you can check out what your local food bank is most in need of.
Helping the elderly
  • Not everywhere will have systems set-up like we had in our little village, but there are different ways you can help elderly people. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours, just to try to visit them more, ask if there's anything they need when you're going to the shop (especially if it's snowy!). Sometimes they just need a friendly face and a little bit of company. Age UK have lots of advice on small acts of kindness that you can do to help!
red lipstick

And it's not just giving through charities that's rewarding at Christmas, but buying gifts for your loved ones. It should never be about the money spent but instead the thought that's gone into the gift. Please shop small if you can! One of the gifts I've got for my mum this year isn't expensive but it's something that I know she's gonna love and I just keep wanting to tell her about it. I'm too excited to wait!!

But the important thing about giving and donating is to only offer if you can and what you can. Don't feel pressured to donate if you've saved to buy presents for your loved ones and don't have the extra cash; don't give up time to help your elderly neighbour if it means compromising on work or visiting relatives. Be logical and be reasonable, a little goes a long way.

emma copland

What's your favourite thing to give at Christmas time?

Loves. Emma.