spirit

A Christmas smile

“It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime.” – Steve Maraboli

Boy in Christmas elf costume

Making someone smile makes you feel good too

“A smile costs nothing but gives much.It enriches those who receive
without making poorer those who give.
It takes by a moment,
but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.”
Unknown poet

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward

Giving smiles

I love the philosophy of If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours. It truly is a simple ting to give away but can have a huge impact on others – I know there are times when a smile from a stranger as I go for a walk has made me feel great so I try to give smiles to ‘pay it forward’.

The happier human has collected some quotes about smiles and reminds us of some smiling benefits (like lower blood pressure, strengthen relationships and reduce stress. Smiling is good!

For me, Christmas brings smiles. Not just for the fun and beauty of Christmas trees, Christmas lights and decorations, not even for the smiles on faces as people open lovely gifts, but for the spirit that often brings out the warmth and generosity of people around Christmas.

Busy people in crowded shops sometimes forget to smile, but I think this is the time we need to focus on sharing smiles and helping ease another’s day.

And maybe if the day is just too tough for you to manage a good deed Santa would be proud of, perhaps sharing a smile or two is manageable. Or maybe just getting yourself to smile will make your day a bit brighter.

This week’s smile

I have just come across a blog that has a weekly smile section. Basically, each week, people share something that has made them smile. The resulting blog post is therefore positive and encouraging, and hopefully brings more smiles. It started form a desire to find more kind, compassionate, loving and beautiful things and behaviours, which is something I admire and can fully support.The weekly smile icon

So I’d love to share smile inspiring things here – what has made you smile recently? What have you done to make others smile this week? Please let us know in the comments below, or share your Christmas story directly onto the Love Santa blog.

As for me, a few things have made me smile this week – seeing my daughter calmly prepare for exams, catching up with an old friend, working on some Christmas blog posts, and ticking off some overdue tasks. But the biggest smile this week has been from pride of watching my nine year old work on a project to help others – she has made over 30 get well cards for sick children and is contacting a local hospital to deliver the cards, some money she has fund raised and to offer the services of herself and her friends for an afternoon at the hospital.

Wishing you many smiles today and always!

Pending coffee and snacks

Today I heard about pending coffees for the first time.

Maybe I’m a bit behind or maybe it’s just because I don’t actually drink coffee or buy many drinks in cafes! Whatever, I love this idea, especially as we head into the Christmas rush.

Chirtsmas bow on a mug beside a plate of mince pies

Sharing a drink and snack is truly part of the Christmas spirit – at any time of year!

What is pending coffee?

In case I’m not the last to know about it, let me explain.

Some people walk into a coffee shop and ask for two coffees – one for them and one pending coffee. The shop takes money for two coffees but only serves one.

Later, a person with financial worries comes into the shop and asks if they have any pending coffees. The shop then serves that extra coffee they’ve already been paid for.

It’s a really simple way of giving to those who need some help.

And of course, it doesn’t have to just be a coffee (in my mind anyway!) It could be a pending snack at the café or a pending bucket of chips in a take away shop. As long as hungry people know a shop is willing to serve pending drinks/snacks, it’s there for the offering.

Do you order a pending coffee or snack?

As I said, I don’t drink coffee and hadn’t heard of pending coffees before so I haven’t done this, but I intend to do so. Have you ever done it?

I’m curious as to how shop people react if they don’t already know about this means of Paying it Forward

Maybe we need little signs in shop windows to tell people they are welcome to offer or request pending drinks and snacks there.

Making Christmas frugal

I like to think of Christmas as a time of giving, happiness, love and friendship. The spirit and magic of Christmas and Santa are about kindness and sharing a celebration.

The decorations add to the atmosphere and magic, but are a bonus.dollars hanging on Christmas tree sketch

Gifts can be a lot of fun, but I think they should be secondary to the real Christmas feelings, but it takes effort to avoid the commercialism of Christmas in the western world.

So if we take away the expensive trimmings, Christmas doesn’t have to cost us a lot of money.

If we keep a lot of the trimmings, it will cost us but here are some ways to minimise those costs. Hopefully others will add to my list so we can all have a Merry Frugal Christmas this year!

  1. make Christmas gift tags and cards instead of buying them
  2. make paper chains out of junk mail as a cheap alternative to tinsel or bought streamers
  3. if hosting an event, ask people to bring a plate to share
  4. when cooking for Christmas events, make a green salad, rice salad or pasta salad instead of a plate of char grilled vegetables or other expensive vegetable options
  5. plant lettuce, tomatoes and others so that they will be ready for harvesting at Christmas time and you have a really cheap salad or vegetable dish to present
  6. where appropriate, you could regift some things
  7. make some gifts – choose ones with materials you already have or can get cheaply. Some good simple gifts I’ve made include bath salts, cake ingredients, herb vinegars and beaded necklaces
  8. use a plain red sheet as a table-cloth – brighten it up with glitter, tinsel or baubles off the tree and it will still be cheaper than most purchased Christmas table cloths
  9. find inexpensive alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper – use kids’ artwork, use brown paper with some stickers or drawings on it, recycle last year’s paper, buy in bulk, use gift bags that can be reused, etc.

    collection of brown boxes with purple gift ribbons

    Simple brown packaging can look stylish without costing a fortune

  10. get the kids to make decorations – this saves buying decorations, gives the kids genuine self-esteem and is probably cheaper than many other entertainment options for the kids!
  11. have a tree of thanks instead of the common decorations – cheaper and very special
  12. when people ask what you (or your kids) want, tell them! It may not save you Christmas money but if you are given something you need it will make your overall budget go further. And that includes getting others contribute to a large gift you want to give your kids
  13. make vouchers so you give the gift of your time and skills rather than things that cost you money. Try vouchers for babysitting, walking dogs, gardening, spring cleaning a house, giving a massage, running errands or doing admin tasks.
  14. think of resources to give as gifts. For instance a list of good books or information about choosing a computer could be really valuable to others
  15. do your Christmas shopping throughout the year. This gives you the chance to grab things on sale (and avoid any mark ups in December) and spread out your spending (which may not save you money in total but makes it easier to bear – and it can save interest payments from over used credit cards)
  16. set a budget for gifts. Personally I find this very hard to do but if you have a budget it does keep things under control. $10 a head for 20 people is $200 – if that sneaks up to $15 or $20 for even half those people it will now cost you $300  – it adds up quickly so think about what you can afford in total then divide it between the number of people (evenly or otherwise).

OK, 16 is my favourite number and I’m about out of ideas for now but they will all save you money and get you thinking of other things to do. Have you built up any traditions or habits to make your Christmas more affordable?

Maybe you don’t like the idea of a frugal Christmas at all – if so, let us know how you manage…

 

 * Images courtesy of 123rf & Love Santa

The magic of Christmas…

Houve covered in bright Christmas lightsCan you feel it in the air?

Every time you see Christmas lights and smile, feel a twinge of nostalgia at a carol, go back in time at the smell of pine leaves, get excited over presents, or otherwise enjoy the moments of Christmas, you are feeling the magic of Christmas that I love.

Many people complain about this time of year, and I agree that it can be overwhelming to have many events to prepare for and meeting commercialised expectations of gifts, but I think it is lovely to stop and enjoy the magic occasionally.

There are people who will steal this magic away, and it’s up to us to keep it safe. I try not to listen to the anti-Christmas crowd, and I certainly don’t include their comments in this blog (this blog is about Christmas and Santa  for families and comments out of that mind set are rejected – sorry if that offends but that’s my prerogative.) Even science, which brings us many things, has its limits and has no real place where people are knowingly enjoying the magic and spirit of the holiday.

How do you deal with people who try to destroy your belief and pleasure in the magical aspects of Christmas? How do you keep the wonder alive and spread it to others?

So we wish you a Merry Christmas full of the magic and wonder felt by children everywhere.

Christmas spirit of giving

I’m not talking about commercialism and gift giving, but the true spirit of giving at Christmas time. I don’t do enough of it myself, and I’m not sure just thinking about it counts for much, but I think Christmas giving is important.

What giving do you do at Christmas time? Do you see it as a burden in a busy time or something that is just worthwhile and a priority?

Here’s some of the things I’ve thought of – can you add to the list?

  • time for poor – serving Xmas lunch at a homeless shelter or helping hand out goods at a charity centre
  • invite lonely people to join a Xmas celebration with you
  • give to charity instead of giving token or joke gifts – a group I was in did this one year as we choose gifts for children and gave the bundle to a charity
  • give charity gifts
  • send cards to those not expecting it – maybe that shop assistant who smiled at you during your toddler’s tantrum, the nosy neighbour or a volunteer in your community (one you don’t deal with yourself)
  • smile and be nice to people in Xmas crowds – not always easy but give it a go!

Taking down the decorations…

Ah, it’s a sad task but the Christmas decorations can’t stay up all year.

I mean, I’d love the magic and spirit of Christmas to be with us always, but it wouldn’t be so special if we saw Christmas trees everywhere and lived with tinsel around our houses all year.

So it needs to come down, be packed away carefully and stored until next December.

But when should they come down?

I have heard many times that it is bad luck to still have them up on/after the 6th January, and others say it is bad luck to start the new year with the Christmas decorations still on display.

The twelve days of Christmas ends on the evening of January 5 – just as Christmas starts at night fall on the 24th December (traditionally, days ended/started with the light, not at midnight.)

Traditional decorations were mostly ivy, which were believed to hold the spirit of the trees. Taking down the decorations and putting the ivy outside releases the tree spirits back into nature; leaving the tree spirits trapped in the house for too long would prevent plants growing and the arrival of spring (obviously not an Australian tradition!)

When do you take down your decorations? Do you make it fun or is it just a task to get done quickly?

Where’s the spirit gone?

For many years now, our family has done a Kris Kringle for the adults – each family still gives something to the kids.

My mother has suddenly decided that this is the last year – from now on we won’t give any presents. When everyone else argued against her decree, she muttered about ‘saving everyone the hassle of choosing a present to give’ – nice to know that’s what we mean to her. Especially as even the KK has shrunk as family members have moved away and can’t join us anyway…

In the end, we overruled her and Kris Kringle lives – and with a higher budget, too (yep, Mum’s idea to reduce it to $20 a few years ago. I mean the idea of introducing KK in our family is to get one decent present instead of many small ones – not so good with a $20 cap!)

But it just made we wonder – where is the spirit of giving? The ‘it is better to give than receive’?

A tree of thanks

If you want to have a Christmas tree that is a bit different or has a different significance, you might like this idea. It can be in addition to your usual Christmas tree or instead – and it is a lot cheaper, too.

So, get a tree – it can be the branch of a tree, an artificial Christmas tree, a candelabra or even a pine cone!

Make the decorations for your tree – maybe once a week or once a day, or make lots early in December and randomly choose one each day to hang on your tree.

The decorations are all hand-made by everyone in your family/household. They can be squares of paper with a few words, or you can cut various shapes and draw pictures on them – whatever feels right for you.

What is important is to write on each decoration about what you are thankful for. It can be anything, but some examples to get you started are:

A Christmas Tree made of Thanks

Being thankful in the Christmas spirit

  • thankful the family is healthy
  • thank you for a great year
  • thanks for having a place to call home
  • I’m grateful to be part of this family
  • thanks for the spirit and magic of Christmas

Each time you look at this special tree, you will be reminded of the good things in your lives. And you can make a special time on Christmas Eve or even Boxing Day to read the decorations together and value what is important.

It may be a great activity in the middle of Christmas Day if the kids are getting too caught up in presents.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for sharing the spirit and magic of Christmas with us.

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