Everywhere you go during the holiday season you’re blasted with Christmas music and blinded by blinking light displays. The cheer of the holiday can disappear under such a thin veneer of commercialism and the worst versions of beloved songs on repeat. It’s enough to make you feel as if the holiday cheer is a myth.
It doesn’t have to be! We’ve got some ideas to help you hold on the joy of the season, and spread a little of it around, too.
Holiday Cards with Pictures
So many people send e-cards that the message and cheer get lost in inboxes overflowing with sale flyers, newsletters, and spam. While e-cards are cute and can involve elaborate animations, music, and interactive messages-- nothing beats the charm and cheer of a hand-written card sent through the actual post office.
It doesn’t take much effort-- in fact, the hardest part will probably be deciding on which card to send! Even if you have a small family, it’s a cheaper price to buy a bulk package of holiday cards. And thanks to an ever-diversifying population, you can find cards that celebrate each and every holiday popular at this time of year. We’ve found some really beautiful Christmas cards, general holiday or season’s greetings cards, Kwanzaa cards, and even Winter Solstice and Yule cards. Let’s not forget Hanukkah, either!
Once you’ve purchased your cards, stop by the post office or a grocery store customer service desk and purchase a book or two of stamps, depending on how many cards you need to send. It’s worth checking out if they have holiday-themed ones for an extra special touch. Next, make sure you’ve got the right addresses for everyone!
Receiving a holiday card in the mail is a really happy-making thing, but for that extra oomph of holiday cheer, add a few pictures inside the card. Many people even turn their family photographs into the holiday card itself-- now that’s thinking! If that’s not your style, adding a family photo inside is enough-- you could even start a new tradition of exchanging copies of older family photographs that other family members may not have of each other or their ancestors.
You don’t have to write much inside a holiday card. Often, the cards have a message already printed-- it’s perfectly acceptable to simply sign your name (or names if you have a family of your own) and add a few “xoxo” or a closing such as “holiday hugs & kisses.” However, for really close relations and friends, it’s more meaningful to add a few words that express your appreciation for their presence in your life. During this busy time of year, it may be the only way they know someone cares.
If you have any extra leftover cards, we have some ideas for those! If you have young kiddos, let them write to Santa & Mrs. Clause, or Rudolph or Frosty. If that’s not your family jam-- or if you don’t have kids-- there are plenty of folks who would be delighted to receive a holiday card. Think troops who are deployed abroad, the elderly in nursing homes or hospice, or members of an orphanage. You don’t have to add a return address if you’re not comfortable with the idea, but you never know what kinds of friendships can blossom if you do! Who knows-- you might get a little cheer in your life that lasts beyond the holiday season.
Sending a really good care package is just like choosing a gift-- it should be thoughtful and meaningful, with the receiver’s needs, wants, and personality taken into consideration. It’s also good to keep their lifestyle and status into consideration, too-- you wouldn’t want to give someone who has celiac’s disease a basket full of items that have gluten and wheat products.
And do us all a favor. Don’t send cookies, candy, or junk food. Just don’t. It’s the holidays, people-- everyone has more than enough junk food in their houses as it is, nobody needs or wants more. And don’t get us started on the calories and other health concerns!
So what CAN and SHOULD you send? Especially if you’re in a rush and can’t remember if it’s Aunt Suzy or Cousin Sherry who’s gluten intolerant?
If you’ve got a cook in the family, send them a care package full of spices from around the world that are easy to use. Penzeys Spices has a great price on theirs, and they have DIY gift boxes that hold either four ¼ cup jars, two ¼ cup jars and one ½ cup jar, or two ½ cup jars of their amazing spices and seasoning blends. Or, the Spice & Tea Merchants has small packets of spices and proprietary blends with a bogo offer.
What to purchase? Aleppo pepper is a lovely bright chili pepper that’s surprisingly mild-- though the heat does build a little-- that is gaining in popularity. Curries are super-popular, and there’s one to suit everyone’s heat level. We also recommend picking a blend or two that’s exclusive to the spice shop, or a twist on a classic-- such as Penzeys Roast Garlic or the Spice & Tea Merchants’ Smoked Hot Paprika.
If you have a spiritual family member, sending them a care package with some intention candles and crystals is a very sweet idea. We like amethyst for relaxation and anti-nightmares, Shungite for its purification and detoxification properties, and selenite for recharging and getting rid of negative energies. By the way, if you really want a cool gift for your spiritual family member, consider getting them a water bottle that lets them infuse crystals into their drinking water. Shungite is especially cool this way because it helps the body get rid of free radicals. It and amethyst are water-safe-- Selenite is definitely not. Mookaite is also a beautiful gem with properties that help around this time-- it’s very grounding, and helps aid in the release of stress, blockages, and with difficult decisions.
Cold weather leaving everyone with cold feet? Gift them with a package full of knitted sweater socks, slipper socks, and feet warmers. We also like these thermal insoles that use your own body heat to generate heat around your feet. Include at least two pairs-- one for their dress boots and one for their everyday boots. Throw a few fun pairs of novelty socks in for extra flair, or tantalize them by saying the care package is a glimpse of things to come and include the novelty socks with their Christmas present.
If you know anyone who will be traveling with kids, create a diy kid’s entertainment kit with coloring books, chubby crayons, and activities. Bring it back old skool by including a good length of string and a book on string games such as Cat’s Cradle. Include some Mad Libs that are kiddo-appropriate and always include at least one storybook. Activity books that are grade or age-appropriate are also a good idea to keep their brains sharp over break.
Finally, what else says “holiday cheer” like decorations? Whatever holiday your friends and family celebrate, there are tons of decor ideas floating around. Shop small at local boutiques or on Etsy to nab a few really unique ornaments, menorah candles, Kwanzaa candles, or winter solstice ornaments. Pack them carefully with plenty of tissue paper (and maybe bubble wrap) and send them off to their receivers! This is an especially good idea for any family or friends who have just moved into their first homes, as they are probably still building their decoration collection with a minimal budget.
Spend less on gifts, more on time with people
The ultimate way to spread holiday cheer is to do it in person. We know that you’re busy-- we are living our holiday season, too-- but it really is the best thing in this guide. And you can do it in several different ways.
You can start early, by helping someone to decorate. Putting up a Christmas tree, or holiday lights outside, or even holiday baking is always easier-- and more fun-- with help! If there’s anyone on your visit list who already has their decorations up, ask them for a tour and see if they have any stories to tell about decorations that came through family members or funny opportunities or backstories.
You could also organize a craft night with snacks and holiday-themed drinks. Everyone spends time together and goes home with memories to accompany their new decorations.
We also like the idea of volunteering your time. There are tons of opportunities that even small towns need. Visiting the elderly in nursing homes or the hospital brightens their day like nothing you’ve ever seen-- many of them are there because they don’t have family members nearby or who are capable of taking care of them. Visits from family and friends are rare, so imagine how special a chance to meet someone new would mean to them! Ask them for their life advice or stories about the holiday celebrations they had as young men and women. Who knows-- you might walk away with new recipes, ideas, and even a new friend.
If you live near a children’s hospital, there are opportunities to rock babies to sleep and help stressed out families with caring for any healthy children they may have living at the hospital with them while a sick sibling is receiving treatment. Many children’s hospitals have programs such as adopt-a-grandparent that pairs volunteers with sick children who want that connection, but are far away from home. It also gives the parents a much-needed break to sleep, have a date night, or even get some of their own holiday shopping done. Check at the front desk to see if the hospital has any upcoming events with which they need help.
There are many other ways to spread holiday cheer-- we’ve just listed a few of our favorites. What are some ways you use to spread holiday cheer? Comment below!