1. Bake in holiday style. Baking takes time, preparation and precision – so it’s no wonder that it’s not an everyday activity for most people. But if you’ve ever spent a day baking Christmas cookies and treats with your mom, grandma, best friend, etc.; you know that something special happens when all the incredible holiday ingredients come out of the pantry. Who says sugar cookies and butterscotch haystacks are only a December thing? Plan a Christmas-themed baking night or a cookie exchange with your youth group in a random month to bring a little bit of the holiday cheer to the table.
2. Give when it’s not asked for. December is ripe with opportunities for giving – it seems everywhere we go, we can donate time, toys, canned food and jackets or adopt a child, family or senior citizen for Christmas. Those needs aren’t isolated to just the holiday season. But oftentimes, we give during Christmas specifically because it’s asked for and then the rest of the year we sort of forget. Why not break the mold and develop a year-round habit of giving? You can find those opportunities by contacting a homeless local shelter, school or senior center. If you need some help, ask your church staff if they have ideas to get you started.
3. Gift without the occasion. Obviously the concept of gift-giving isn’t strictly limited to Christmas (birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays), but the concept of gift-giving without the occasion is a little strange for some people. Giving a gift to someone just because you thought they would like it isn’t weird, it’s thoughtful. Buying a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you isn’t creepy, it’s kind (unless you make it creepy. Don’t make it creepy). Gift-giving is an expression of kindness, encouragement and generosity. Here’s the best part, when you give an unexpected gift you get the privilege of experiencing that person’s joy with them.
4. Make time for family and friends. From November to New Year, the list of friendsgivings, feasts and family get-togethers gets long and the calendar gets full. But after the New Year hits it seems we’re content to go months without seeing extended family and friends outside our immediate circles. This year, be intentional about planning a get-together with loved ones you don’t see outside of the holidays. Even if that means you all meet up for a quick ice cream cone on a random Tuesday in April.
5. Revisit the Christmas story. No, not the pink-bunnied, pole-licking, can’t put your arms down classic Christmas movie (though it’s also a good watch year-round). Read the story of Jesus’ birth! Sure, every Christmas you hear it at church – you may even read it at home as you work your way through the advent calendar. It is an incredible story that reminds us all of the hope that Christ brings as we celebrate the true reason for the season. But try reading it without the hue of the Christmas season, and the themes of faith, humility, obedience, courage and hope emerge and provide a powerful pick-me-up throughout the year.
5 ¾. Be a kid! This is only a ¾ point because unless you’re actually a kid, you can never go full-kid again (you have responsibilities now). Kids at Christmas see the world through different lenses. They wonder at twinkling lights and sing and dance with wild abandon. They delight in the simple and willingly surrender to hope without doubt. May we all be like kids at Christmas through the year.