Christmas is the season of goodwill and while it is a great time to reflect on all the good things that happened in the year, it is just as important to give back and help those in need.
At Christmas, we spend so much time exchanging gifts, sharing food and spending quality time with our family we can sometimes forget about those who are less fortunate.
It's a sad truth that many families across Ireland are living on the bread line, without a place to call home and our food banks and local community charities are crying out for help from members of the public.
If you want to do some good this Christmas, here are some charitable ways to help those in need.
Make a reverse advent calendar.
This is a fairly new Christmas tradition that is storming the nation for all the right reasons. A reverse advent calendar is the opposite of a normal advent calendar. Instead of breaking open a box for small pieces of chocolate you fill a box, crate or bag with non-perishable food items and donate it to a food bank once filled. A typical food parcel will include tea, coffee, pasta sauces, beans, breakfast cereal, selection boxes, chocolate, biscuits, packet or tinned soup, pasta, rice, condiments and non-food items such as toiletries and feminine hygiene products.
Donating blood costs absolutely nothing other than a half-hour of your time and the rewards are unbelievable. By donating blood, you are helping someone by potentially giving them years they may not have had otherwise. The Irish Blood Transfusion Network need at least 3,000 donations a week to keep their supplies on target.
When you buy local, it stays local. By shopping from locally-owned independent businesses, more money is kept in the community because local businesses tend to buy from local service providers, companies and even farms, keeping everyone in the business.
Perform a random act of kindness.
Make the world a little kinder this year by performing random acts of kindness is your area. During the holidays it is important to focus on the joy of giving rather than just receiving and it's a wonderful thing to instil in children from a young age.
This year why not:
Let someone go ahead of you in a line.
Pay for a stranger's coffee.
Feed the birds.
Take supplies to an animal shelter.
Candy cane bomb your neighbour's cars.
Leave a waiter or waitress a generous tip.
Buy dinner for a homeless person.
Make homemade cards for friends and family.
Donate to a charity shop.
An extremely popular way of helping charities is through donations of clothes, books and toys. This year, give the littles an empty box and ask them to fill it good quality books and working toys that they no longer play with. Not only will it help make space for the new toys, but it will also teach kids the importance of helping those in need and will raise vital funds for the charities you believe in.
Donate your Secret Santa budget to those in need.
If you practice gift-giving in your workplace, why not consider donating the budget of your Secret Santa present to Barnardos, LauraLynn House, Friends of the Elderly, ISPCC, The Simon Community, Make-A-Wish, ISPCA or Focus Ireland who each do stellar work all year round, not just around Christmas time.